On Friday, I’m going to announce my pregnancy at The Register. I know that most of the readers will be gracious and congratulatory, just as you lovely people were here. Most of my readers are fairly clear that news of a baby is always good news. The timing may not always be great, and the circumstances might be tough, but the baby itself? Good news, period. Once the child is already conceived, the only civil thing to say is, “Congratulations!” And if you can’t muster that up, you don’t say anything at all.
I’m horribly nervous. I needed to make an announcement, partly because — well, it might explain why my posts get a little feeble from time to time, when I’m typing through waves of nausea; and also because — dammit, it’s good news! I’m happy, my husband is happy, our other kids are happy, and good news wants to be told.
So, by way of announcement, I recycled an old post which I think is pretty funny. But I still know that there are a certain number of people who will be disgusted, even outraged, when they hear that I’m having another baby. And they will comment. They will say that I’m irresponsible, mindless, and selfish.
I expect to get 90% nice comments, plus a few “Kill yourself now, you filthy breeder” comments. I’m also expecting a couple of the following:
“I’m a Catholic, too, but I don’t see how it could be God’s plan to ruin the Earth with even more consumers.”
Well, I am at peace with this false dilemma. First, our family is pretty green, and I feel sure that our children will be, too. I’ve covered this here.
Second, even National Geographic, no conservative rag, openly calls for focusing on the betterment of living conditions, rather than on reducing fertility.
And third, my personal family size has no effect — ZERO, whatsoever — on the overall physical well-being of the world. Even if you still believe that the world is headed for a population explosion (which Hania Zlotnik, director of the UN Population Division, does not believe), then the fact is that the world can well afford for a family in rural New Hampshire to have nine children. I could have a dozen more, and each of my children could do the same, and the environment wouldn’t break a sweat. To think otherwise is just hysterical nonsense.
“I’m a Catholic, too, but you damn well better be able to pay for all these kids. There’s nothing Catholic about financial imprudence.” These folks are the ones that keep me up at night. But my final conclusion is this: if you should really only have a baby if you can pay for all the attendant expenses with cash on hand, then you’ve pretty much told all of Africa to go childless. Think about it. If you should only have a child when you’re 100% financially independent, then you’ve just turned a very basic and very dear gift from God into a perk for the wealthy.
I know that you can take this idea too far, and there truly is such a thing as financial imprudence, of course. But — when we were very, very poor, the only beautiful thing in the house was our baby. Her conception is the thing that brought me and my husband back to God. I wish conservative Catholics would be much, much more careful about how they talk about money and children.
I only have one other thing to say. I don’t think I’m holy because I have a lot of children.
I don’t think I’m a superstar, and I don’t consider it an achievement.
I don’t say or think everyone should have big families.
I try not to use my family size as a marketing tool, and I think I have expurgated all foolish notions about small families from my heart.
We have children for our own reasons, and aren’t trying to say — well, anything to anyone. My children are human beings, not a statement.
And yet, people still see our very existence as a challenge or a rebuke, or an argument to refute. This hurts me almost as much as it hurts me when they see me as a fool or a leech. I don’t even know what’s in my own heart half the time, so why would I have a theory about why you, perfect stranger or casual acquaintance, have fewer children than I do? I don’t need to hear your sterilization story or hear about how your voting history reflects your worldview and is superior to mine.
My baby does not deserve your contempt or need your approval. My baby has nothing to do with you. All I want is to take care of my family and to protect them, most of all the littlest one who has only been here for a few months.
Do I worry about bringing an innocent child in to a world with war, racism, pollution, and so on? No, not really. Probably the world we live in today would have seemed like a dystopian nightmare to our ancestors — and yet I love it so much, and I’m glad I’m here.
No, what I worry about is that, when my baby is born, people will not see a child. They will not see the dark eyes, the sweet, milky, velvety neck, the dark downy hair, the tender, tender being who comes to me fresh from the arms of the very One who invented love itself.
They will see — a threat. How can this be? How can this have happened to the world? It used to be that you didn’t have to have a reason to have a child — if you were married, it was what you did. In my house, that is how it is. I hope my children understand that.
And I hope that, when they have children of their own, they will have a circle of friends who can rejoice with them. Because that is how it ought to be. A baby is always good news.