It once was believed that a woman’s role and worth was to bear children. Throughout history it may have been the men that fought the wars but the women produced the soldiers. There was a time that most women gave birth to upwards of six times in their lives. It wasn’t so much a matter of producing large families, but that 1 in 3 children would not see the age of four prior to 1945. With drastic advancement in medical technology, less than .01% of children die from complications at birth in the United States. The infant mortality rate is less than seven deaths per 1000 live births in the US due in most part to effective and safe vaccines.
Not to spit in the face of all the women who fought so fiercely for women’s suffrage, liberation, and rights, but many women today still view having and raising children as a primary focus in their lives. We also balance careers, hobbies, personal lives, and, in my case, writing and blogging, but we are moms and thrilled to be so.
However there is a relatively recent trend in child-bearing that could lend itself to some interesting discussion. The average number of children per family has been falling since the 1950’s. Many parents are consciously choosing to have only one child. To the extent that as soon as their first child is born, one or both parents turn to surgical intervention, such as vasectomies and even as drastic as partial hysterectomies (the latter according to a story found in a local publication, Bethany Magazine…sorry no website available. I know, it’s weird to me too), to ensure their one-and-done baby.
It is both a drastic change in the ideology of the last century and a giant leap of faith in the medical technology of today. If something terrible and unspeakable happens to that one child, those parents will have extreme difficulty producing further progeny, if it is possible to do so at all. Not that another child could ever replace one that is lost, but it is human instinct to reproduce.* The ability to resist this urge represents a drastic change in ideology.
Personally I was an only child, not so much because my parents chose this but because fate interceded and I was it. It was a lonely existence but I made due, turned out alright, and readily admit there were some perks. But I believe that as a result of my experience, I want more than one child. Ideally I’d like two, could be coerced into three, and will consider four only after a substantial bribe involving a large diamond, a new car, a vacation castle on the Scottish Highlands, and a lucrative book deal.
What are your thoughts on it? Are you an only child and has this affected the number of children you have (or want to have)? Are you a one-and-done mom? Are you averse to birth control and up for your own Discovery Channel Special? Do you feel that this trend may begin to have a negative affect on our population rates in the coming years or decades? Do you care if they do?
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*That seems a very bold statement but is taken from my recent reading of Leonard Shlain’s Sex, Time, and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution