Similar to modern day men and women’s desire to unite in marriage, birthing children is a continually desired experience by most women. Despite various obstacles women may face whether a demanding career, single status, or health deficiencies, most have the opportunity to attain a child of their own. Motherhood has been transformed because of technological advancements throughout the past 50 years. The usage of birth control and availability of abortions allows women to seize control of their body’s reproductive capabilities and their sexual practices. Mother nature no longer has control of a woman’s pregnancy cycles, women do; motherhood is a choice and no longer an imposition. These practices described below have allowed a variety of couples and single women to have children without sexual intercourse, often times regardless of health problems, and according to their own timing and preference.
- Artificial insemination: a procedure during which sperm is injected into a woman’s womb
- In vitro fertilization: the process by which an egg and sperm are extracted from a female and male, respectively, and mixed in “vitro” (glass) resulting in an embryo that will then be implanted within a woman’s womb
Other options include: freezing women’s eggs for use when conception is desired, purchasing eggs and sperm (to birth a physically and mentally elite baby for example), and surrogate pregnancies. Contemporarily pregnancies and motherhood are accompanied by various choices,
“They (women) can have their babies pretty much when they want, how they want, and with whomever they fancy.” (124).
Spar comments that despite many technological advancements and choices, the female quest for motherhood remains unchanged:
“…The desire to procreate, to reproduce, to have children and to mother them.” (124)
Spar writes that the number of children, births, and pregnancies are an inherent component of the definition of a woman,
“These crude numbers—of births and conceptions, miscarriages and loss—embed themselves in a woman’s identity and shape who she becomes. It is not surprising, therefore, that throughout history, across time and place and culture and race, women have been driven by the quest to conceive—to bear a child and call it their own.” (128-129)
Whether from their own desire or at the request of their husband, women throughout history have hoped and prayed for the opportunity to birth a child. Up until the 19th century, a woman’s inability to reproduce was considered an ailment. Spar writes,
“Because women are defined so sharply by their reproductive prowess, as feminist critics have long argued, not reproducing becomes a woman’s sin; a sign of failure before her family, society, and God.” (130)
That innate desire to birth a child of her own often overshadows societal pressures, and spouses demands or expectations to conceive; at some point in life, most women yearn for a child. Children are one of life’s most precious gifts, however Spar critiques the glorification of the physical act of birth. The media and modern medicine idealize the actual birthing process as something electrifying and glamorous; the more realistic view of childbirth is that is can be a painful, bloody, experience. Furthermore, she comments on women’s difficulties post birth,
“…There are other issues of pregnancy—medical issues, messy issues—that rarely rate more than a passing mention in any of the “expecting” books or celebrity-mom spreads. Like hormones, for example, and breast-feeding. Every woman, regardless of how she became pregnant and gave birth, will have been pelted by the time of her baby’s birth by roughly ten months of hormones.” (143)
Spar concludes with the idea that while the decision to have a child today entails an array of options, choices, and methods to contemplate, women must be cautious of their strive to “have it all”,
“Yet we must be very careful not to take our expectations of expecting too far, or to fall into the trap of believing that conception and childbirth can ever be bent fully to our individual will.” (146)
1) What are some of the myths you have heard about pregnancy or childbirth? Do you know mothers that claim them to be true? 2) What is your opinion of the usage of artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization? 3) What do you think of our culture’s promotion of couples engaging in child rearing outside of marriage? Discuss your thoughts about the proper time and conditions in which to best raise a child.