It is a terrible thing to want a child and not be able to have one. Such is this sort of tender sorrow of womanhood that it transcends modernity by tracing and weaving itself through human history. It appears in the stories of royalty as well as peasants, saints as well as sinners. It's the stuff of fairytales and bible tales. Infertility knows no boundaries of class, race, nationality or religion.
It's not so much the story of infertility, only the solutions to the problem of sterility that are new and intricate, and those solutions often bring fresh and complex crises of conscience that must be addressed and resolved if we are to maintain any standards of morality in this nation.
How many times have we all heard this one? Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. I know on the surface, we all understand the wisdom of this cloying truism. Yet this is a debate point that seems frequently lost on a good many women in their quest for offspring, their prevention of offspring and the convenience of offspring in general.
We can look to one of our oldest written traditions to learn of the history of two women so intent on keeping custody a child whose name antiquity has long forgotten that they brought their case before King Solomon who offered to split the baby in half to resolve the problem. The real treachery of the story is not so much that Solomon was going to perform this murderous deed (for we learn pretty well that he most certainly wasn't) but that one of the women was actually amenable to his plan. The story demonstrates how women too often grapple with the unfairness of their own biology and their wretched lot in life so that what ought to be quite natural and nurturing becomes unnatural and almost suffocating.
As a child, I remember thinking about the story of Adam and Eve with a general sense of scorn because I didn't like that Eve took the lion's share of the culpability for the fall of mankind. It didn't seem right. Adam ate from the apple of knowledge too. In a world of two people, why was she assigned the antagonist role that brought shame and punishment upon them both?
As I grew and became more educated in the ways of man, I learned that Eve came off so badly in Genesis because history was written by men and men generally won't blame themselves if there's a woman to blame. No. I'm serious. This is what we are teaching our nation's young women to think – that men are what's wrong with women.
Many a philosopher-educator throughout my murky career as a mush-minded student underscored the victimhood of women as the cause for all injustice in the world. I also learned that men used stories like these to keep women in their places, to keep them weak, to make them servants when they ought to be equal.
It's funny though, in spite of ample reinforcement from educationalists and the media…and the culture in general…I find myself less and less inclined to see women as the great victims of unfair publicity. As I grow older, I begin to gain a new perspective on stories such as The Creation narrative as I bear witness the brutality that many women impose on themselves, their own biology and their offspring. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
While perusing the blogosphere in my daily quest for knowledge, I happened upon a story of two women who were, in fact, also fighting over one child but this was not like the Solomon-esque retreads that we recognize as the markers of a good story on true motherhood. In this story, we meet a woman by the name of Crystal Kelley who has been known to rent her womb out to couples and individuals who are infertile and long for children of their own.
The way our tale unravels, this surrogate mother was receiving $22,000 from a couple to carry their child to term. Having carried children of my own, I'd have to say that she's undervaluing her contribution to this couple, but that's a discussion for another day perhaps. They were barren but had produced three beautiful children through the science of IVF. They had two frozen embryos left over from these procedures. For whatever reason, "the couple desperately wanted a fourth child, but the mother couldn't have any more babies." This is per CNN.
And I wish to take a moment to point out CNNs characterization of the biological mother here…she desperately wanted a fourth child. Desperately. That's how CNN described it. That's a significant component to the story and you'll see in a moment why that is.
"With the parents standing behind her, the ultrasound technician at the hospital put the wand on Kelley's stomach. The test confirmed her worst fears: It showed the baby did have a cleft lip and palate, a cyst in the brain, and a complex heart abnormality."
So the biological parents asked Ms. Kelley to abort their unborn child. Their three born children had all come into the world prematurely. Two had been dealing with significant health issues that had kept them in the hospital for months and those issues were still not completely resolved. The parents wanted a better, more humane outcome for this child. They couldn't bear to see the baby suffer.
Ms. Kelley – a divorced woman, an out of work nanny with children of her own – thought the better of this more humane outcome and refused to terminate the pregnancy. She believed that all efforts should be made to "give the baby a chance."
The biological parents offered Kelley $10,000 to see past her prudery and end the life of the child that they had so desperately wanted just a few weeks earlier.
Desperately. See what I mean? I don't think that word means what CNN thinks it means.
Ms. Kelley – after a crisis of conscience…because as an out of work nanny with children of her own, she could have used the cash – declined the offer, had the baby and the baby has since been placed in the home of a family that is willing to care for his or her special needs. The parents, who desperately wanted a baby, refused parental responsibility over their own flesh and blood because he or she was...? Not in keeping with their vision of what a baby should be.
Now, rather than focus on a highly charged debate over the circumstances that led two women to fight over a child that neither of them really wanted, let us look instead at women as a whole and the curse of female biology which is the moral of our nation's ongoing story of contraception, infertility and abortion.
In their complete feminist splendor, how many women shake their fists to the sky and then point to our nation's men as the indicators of our own ill-fated inequities? It's not fair. It's not fair that we are made as we are. It's not fair that men can have all the fun that they want and can walk away with no punishment of pregnancy. It's not fair that men can escape from the babies…the families that they made and take up with someone else thereby neglecting the responsibility of parenting. It's not fair that men can have families and never know setbacks in their careers as those families grow. It's not fair.
Surely, it must be better when women have all the same options that men have and it must therefore be good that science can act as the great equalizer between the two sexes. Men can have fun with no consequence? Now women can have fun with no consequence too. Men can escape from their mistakes and move on to make new ones? Now women can escape too. Men can have families and careers and they never have to make compromises? Now women can be uncompromising too.
Infertility? There are workarounds to such problems. We can make babies in a lab and freeze them until such a time as we want to begin our families. Freeze ten, freeze twenty, freeze as many as we would like and they will be there when we are ready for them. Use them. Don't use them. It's all the same difference. The punishment of pregnancy is under our control.
And if we can't carry a child to term? That's okay. We can hire someone and she can do it for us. And if the baby isn't healthy? We can get rid of him or her and begin again because we have lots of frozen babies in storage and I'm just certain that one of them will live up to the high standards that we have set for the child worthy of birth. The punishment of motherhood is under our control.
And this brings us full circle with a new fall guy to blame for our unhappiness because we find that all this control is unfair too. It's cold. It's too cruel; these choices women find themselves responsible for making now that science has neutralized the inequities of the feminine condition. Forced to play God over life and death decisions as the world slips in and out of fits of always escalating viciousness, but we can't quite trace back to the moment where it all began. When did humanity become inhuman?
If it is true that science is the great equalizer then it is equally true that women are the great civilizers. I don't know why this should be so. Our biology seems to mandate our role in civility. Should it, therefore, surprise anyone at all that the world achieves new heights of barbarism as women become men? As yin becomes yang? As natural balance becomes a flat line of neutrality?
I've wondered why Eve takes the blame for the fall of man when it seems that the blame should be equally shared. Is it because she was the first to blur the differences between woman and man, between man and God? Is this the real lesson of her-story?