Before conceiving a child, it’s important to make several choices, to weigh up your options, because this is a serious business and it requires some serious methodology.
Romance, love, companionship -nebulous notions like that, are not to be considered, so stop with all that nonsense right this minute. Love and procreation are seperable, so never mix the two.
All that matters is cold, hard DNA.
There’s nothing quite like it.
Who needs uncontrollable romance when you can have measurable, determinable, genetic “facts”?
So, decide what you want from a man and for your child. Set out the characteristics you prefer.
Musical? Scientific? Blue eyes? Tall? Dark skinned? Adventurous? Slim built? Intelligent?
Build a profile and narrow it down. If necessary, once a selection of possible mates has been found, set out their characteristics, their likes and dislikes and take the profiles along to your therapist for analysis.
“This man’s favourite book is “A Clockwork Orange” his favourite film “American Psycho” – what does that tell me about his personality and suitability as a mate?”
“Oh, too dark and brooding by far.”
“Okay, then how about this one? He takes great care with his appearance.”
“True, but do you want to encourage such narcissistic tendencies in your child? ”
“Hmm, perhaps not …”
At this point the search for Mr Right may seem impossible. But do not succumb to despondancy. Keep going. Keep on narrowing it down. He’s out there, you just have to find him.
Remember, this is your quest for perfection. This is your mission and yours alone. Everything is in your hands and under your control. Do not falter and everything will be just hunky dory.
I guess this all sounds rather ridiculous right? This search for some fabled perfection? This belief that DNA is all? That a scientific filtering will offer the best possible chance of creating the best possible child?
But when we meet our partners and have children with them, at some subconscious level this is what we have done to some extent, no?
Some inherent filter mechanism in our brains has weighed up the person before us and has decided that, yes, indeed, this is the person I want to procreate with.
Call it desire, call it love, call it fate. Whatever you call it you made a decision and that decision, consciously taken or not, was based, in part, on certain genetic predispositions.
I fell for his smile. I love her eyes. He makes me laugh. She’s so petite. He’s so smart.
Selection criteria disguised as love.
So the modern woman’s trip to the sperm bank to select Mr Right should not seem so strange I suppose?
The decision to be a “Single Mother By Choice” should not seem any more cold or callous or rational or whatever, when compared to the more traditional approach to fall in love, get married, have a baby?
I only ask this, because I was reading an article in this month’s Atlantic Monthly by Lori Gottlieb, in which she details her experience of the sperm bank option.
In itself I was unfazed by this until I got to the part where she takes the profiles of her prospective partners to her therapist for analysis.
At this point in the tale I started to ponder just what it was that Ms Gottlieb was searching for. I began to question her unbridled faith in her approach, her certainty that perfection was attainable, that:
“…by by-passing the uncontrollable world of romance, I was able to chose a man to father my child who might be completely out of my league in the real world. Intsead of marrying a schlubby but loveable man and thinking I hope our kid doesn’t get his crooked nose or bad eyesight or thin hair, I could pick from cold, hard DNA.”
I read this and got the uncomfortable feeling that disappointment was surely not going to be far away.
For one thing, such faith in science and in DNA in particular is naive and misplaced to say the least.
Sure there are certain genetic characteristics that can be determined and screened for, but there are no guarantees. There is no way of knowing that lurking somewhere in those perfect genes, is a strand laid down generations ago that caused great, great, great, granpa Joe to have a crooked nose or bad eyes or thin hair. Hell, perhaps he even possessed all these features.
And perhaps, as is the way with nature and with genes, it is these characteristics that will surface in your child, despite all the rigours of pre-selection that you have gone through.
Perhaps, the longed for intelligence or artistic skill or sporting prowess will simply not come though in your progeny. It is possible. It cannot be ruled out.
I thought this over and wondered how Ms Gottlieb would react should this scenario play out in reality. Would she be bitterly disappointed with her child as a result, were it to enter the world with characteristics and traits that were supposed to have been meticulously filtered out?
And how would that child grow and develop if it sensed that this carefully thought out perfection had not been attained? How would it feel to sense that the high expectations placed upon it before birth were not being met? Would it feel a failure? A bitter disappointment?
In other words would the child, this person that was been created to be “perfect”, be able to cope with the expectations that were being placed upon it?
It seems to me to be an unbearable expectation, and a cruelly unrealistic demand, and yet, I got the impression that it seemed Ms Gottlieb had not considered this.
Perhaps it is generational.
Raised with the belief that everything is possible, that women are equal to men in all things, that independence shows strength of character, that all possibilities are within our reach and control, there is a generation of women that have gone out into the world and striven to prove themselves.
Highly educated, well paid, independent, confident, successful, there is nothing thay cannot achieve. Having it all is most definitely an option.
And power to them. The option to achieve all you can, to feel a sense of self fullfilment, should be one that is available to all of us. I have no issue with that.
However, it seems to me that while pursuing such goals, such lifestyles, such success, we have perhaps come to believe that whatever we want is there for the taking.
In Ms Gottlieb’s case she quite happily admits as much:
“The women I know who are having babies on their own aren’t independent superwomen, In fact, most of us would probably like nothing more than to have a man around to help pay the bills, fix the dishwasher, take out the trash, give soothing back rubs, and change diapers. We want a man to hold the door open for us at a restaurant, and society to hold the door open for us to have a child while we search for the door opening man.”
Having it all and having the right to demand it all. It’s a dangerous belief.
It appears that Ms Gottlieb believes that once her perfect child has been born she can then happily throw her self into the pursuit of romantic love and the perfect relationship. That, freed from the sense that a woman is “only after him for his genes”, a man will feel more relaxed about starting up some romantic liason.
To create a child however, in the belief that you have somehow ensured they have the best possible genetic headstart that money can buy, does strike me as a delusion; as an unattainable goal.
I have no idea what struggles the children of such mothers will have of course. Perhaps they will have none. Perhaps they will grow up to be the happy, stable, confident children that every parent desires.
But should they be wracked by self doubt or anxiety or a sense of failure what will we think?
Will we wonder perhaps that our expectations created too great a strain?
Or will we question the DNA? Will we set the vials of sperm under the microscope to check whether some unseen psychological flaw lay hidden there after all?
Will we blame the DNA or take our share of the responsibility?
I have no idea, and in the end only time will tell if these experiments in love and procreation succeed or fail.
It’s a social and psychological phenomenon to watch though, that’s for sure.