Eyes Wide Shut When it Comes to Procreation

            We hate to start the new year on a negative note … but you know we’re going to do it anyway. How many would-be parents think about the personal suffering of those with physical or mental illness, ongoing wars, racial injustices, and human unkindness, not to mention our brutal treatment of animals?

            Mark O’Connell, in his article in the August 3, 2014 New York Times Magazine, has mulled over it all.  “What A Raw Deal for the Poor Little Guy,” delves into what children face simply by being born, and his own parental angst about a world that is doing badly.

            O’Connell takes the reader on a journey from the time he was about 10 years old when his father took him to a nursing home to visit a female friend.  In the bed next to the friend another “impossibly ancient and decrepit” woman, agitated with the indignity of old age, said, “look at what’s happened to me.” Her voice was pleading and the young O’Connell was shaken, enough so to upset the applecart of his innocence.

Samuel Beckett

Writer Samuel Beckett. Photo – Wikimedia Commons

           O’Connell first read Samuel Beckett in college, “with his sense that to be born at all was a form of damnation.” In Waiting For Godot, the Pozzo character reminds the reader that “the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

            O’Connell went on to read the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, who stated without apology that “The world is just a hell and in it human beings are the tortured souls on the one hand, and the devils on the other.”  Schopenhauer also posed a bold question: If procreation was not accompanied by pleasure, but rationally deliberate, wouldn’t people feel so sorry for the upcoming generation and that they would spare children the “burden of existence”?

Aarthur Schopenhauer

18th Century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Photo – Wikimedia Commons

            In spite of his philosophical acumen, O’Connell’s wife had a son in March of 2013. While he sat in the hospital with her and the baby, he read the Irish Times. He was horrified by the news: “massacres, rapes, recurrent outbursts of savage recreational violence, a world built on a seemingly unshakable foundation of economic cruelty and injustice, the continuing project of environmental destruction … What a world. What a species. What a raw deal for the poor little guy.” No kidding.

            Kudos to Mark O’Connell. He went into fatherhood with eyes wide open, while he continues to struggle with his simultaneous love for his progeny and his own pessimism about “the world we chose to bring him into.” He thought twice about the pitfalls of life, and the state of the world before making a child.  Given his wisdom, we choose to believe that he is likely to have just one.

Sobering Statistics on Chronic Depression

About one of every nine Americans age 12 and older takes antidepressants. That makes them the third most commonly used prescription drug and the most used by people 18 to 44, according to a study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study involved almost 13,000 people between 2005 and 2008. A 2010 update indicates similar results.

What is particularly shocking about the results is that about four times as many people are on antidepressants as there were in 1988. While it is true that the statistic does not mean that four times as many people were depressed, it does indicate that four times as many people were taking antidepressants.

In the first chapter of our book Enough of us: Why We Should Think Twice Before Making Children, we consider the possibility that the children we hope to create as individuals are not always the happy people we dream of raising.

The results of the study are sobering reminders of just one aspect of the perils facing anyone brought into the world.

A deeper analysis brings even worse news. According to the study, only “about one-third of persons with severe depressive symptoms take antidepressant medication.” And of those Americans who take anti-depressants, more than 60 percent have taken it for at least two years, and about one in seven have taken the medication for 10 years or more.

Another reason for concern is that, “Less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant medication and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.” This could mean that those who are continuing with their meds may not be getting timely advice from a mental health professional, especially for those who are combining drugs.

It deserves pointing out that the study indicates the frequency of antidepressant drug use at any one time. It stands to reason that over the course of a lifetime, a lot more than one in nine adolescent and adult Americans will be candidates to take these drugs for depression and/or anxiety.

We wonder how many would-be parents take the odds of producing contented kids into account before deciding to procreate.

 

When Parents Age, Who Supports Whom?

Last Sunday evening we had dinner with another childfree couple. The four of us got into a discussion about various parents who are acquaintances of ours who, over the years, have challenged our choice to not procreate. From time to time the question, “Who will care for you in your old age?” had come up.

          All four of us had more or less the same response. It goes something like this: “How do you know that you won’t need your elderly parents’ financial help? And how do you know that you will survive until old age, or that you will outlive your parents? How can any parent know that their adult children won’t be living far away and thereby be unable to care for them?”

          In fact, we (the authors) know adults who want nothing to do with their parents.

          We deal with many of these issues in Chapter 9, “Caring for an Aging Population,” of our book Enough of Us.

          In a study by Merrill Lynch in conjunction with Age Wave, which describes itself as a  “thought leader on population aging and its profound business, social, financial, healthcare, workforce, and cultural implications,” came up with some illuminating, if not startling, revelations about roles older parents may play in their adult children’s lives.

          For example, “Sixty-two percent of people age 50 and older have provided financial assistance to family members during the last five years. However, the vast majority have never budgeted or prepared for providing such support.” We wish the study had stats for retired parents.

          More than 55 percent of people in the study believe that a member of their family is the “Family Bank” because that person is the one most likely to be tapped for financial assistance. The upshot is, the more financially responsible people are, the more money they have, the more approachable their personalities, the more likely they are to be viewed as the Family Bank.

Grandparents

Grandparent. Photo – Wikimedia Commons by Steve Evans

         Heaven help the prudent, good-hearted soul who has relatives with few qualms about extending their palms. And get a load of this: Half of folks over age 50 who have not yet retired say they would make sacrifices that could negatively affect their retirement in order to help family members, including retiring later and returning to work after retirement. We wonder if that could mean money lost to adult children might have otherwise enabled older folks to pay for long-term care insurance, assisted living, or retirement village expenses.

          As one focus group member who participated in the study put it, “I thought I would be supplementing my grandchildren’s college funds. It turns out I was the college fund.” But more than a third of those who parted with their hard-earned savings in order to help family did not even know what the money would be used for.

          So while many older pre-retirees and retirees were being supportive of family members, they were undermining their own capacity for remaining independent and self-reliant.

          For younger generations, the anxieties about a long life center on exhausting financial resources. But for older Americans, just as important is the fear of becoming a burden to their families. It seems that the irony occurs at the nexus of being the Family Bank and of becoming a burden when that burden is due to a paucity of financial resources.

          The greatest “burden” fears are:

  • Having family members physically take care of me;
  • Taking my family away from their own lives to care for me;
  • Needing money from family to help pay bills;
  • Being responsible for stress and worry among family members;
  • Having to move in with family members.

          Two-thirds of study participants say they have done nothing to preclude the necessity of moving in with family, if unable to live on their own. The concept that offspring will be available to assist their elderly parents is at best a hit-and-miss proposition. In fact, the reality can frequently be nothing less than a tragic irony. When older parents bail out their progeny, they may be jeopardizing their sustained independence.

          Add that to the aforementioned possibilities of children pre-deceasing their parents, parents dying before attaining old age, children and parents living far apart, plus the possibility of estrangement, broke offspring, and parents not having enough resources because they had been generous to their adult kids, and the answer to the question addressed to the childfree and childless of “Who will take care of you in your old age?” can be turned around and asked of parents as well.

Should we Prevent Devastating Pregnancies? What’s Your Opinion?

            Adopting foster children can be an unending series of trials and tribulations. Maggie Jones’s “The Meaningful Life of a Supersize Family,” in the November 17, 2013 New York Times Magazine, makes the case in spades. The article profiles two families that have sacrificed the niceties of life in order to provide hearth and home for kids who most need it.  

            Misty and Jon already had four biological children. Even so, they discussed the adoption option and realized the $20,000 it would take to complete the process would overstretch their budget. But an ad on a Christian radio station about a new organization that was helping Christians to adopt foster kids helped change their minds. It opened the door for the Misty-Jon family (they didn’t want their last names used) to take in Denver County foster children, with the intention of adopting them. They were able to receive financial help including Medicaid and payment of therapy expenses.

            Their first foster children were brothers, Shon and Cory. They were told that the boys’ mother had dropped them off with a man who couldn’t care for them, and she never returned.

            Of the two, Shon had the worst time adjusting to his new family. He would lie in bed at night, head in hands, staring straight ahead until Misty left the room. He’d wake up in the same position in the morning “as if he were on guard all night.”

            Eight months later, as the adoption process was inching along, a caseworker informed Misty and Jon that Corey and Shon’s mother had just given birth to twins, a boy and a girl. They were dangerously premature at 24 weeks old. Each infant weighed one pound, and the county was asking for foster parents to

Premature ababy and mother.

10-week premature baby being held by her mother (this is not drug-related). Photo courtesy Polihale, Wikimedia Commons

cuddle the babies in the hospital. The boy died days before Misty and Jon’s first “holding” hospital visit, but his sister Olivia survived. Having severe heart problems, she was hooked up to a ventilator. After six months of driving 45 minutes every other night to the hospital to hold Olivia, Misty brought the little girl home, with a tracheostomy tube to help her breathe, a feeding tube, and full-time nursing care paid for by Medicaid.

            Another girl, Raena, was supposed to be a short-term placement. Her mother was on track to regain custody of the four-month-old, who weighed only 11 pounds. A relative’s boyfriend had shaken the child and thrown her into a bassinet, which resulted in two permanent brain injuries. When Raena’s mother lost her parental rights due to drug problems, Misty and Jon, who were caring for this special-needs child, “eagerly” began the adoption process.

            Maureen and her husband Christian heard the same religious radio ad as had Misty and Jon. They also had four birth children, and believed they had a calling to adopt foster children. The result was they adopted two boys. David and Ernesto’s birthmother was 16 when she had David. Thirteen months later, she gave birth to Ernesto, even though she tested positive for methamphetamine. Ernesto struggled with sensory issues: In one instance, he wrapped his torso in duct tape and in another, covered his head in Vaseline. He had screaming fits, hit his adoptive mother, and “grabbed her hair with both hands so that she couldn’t move.” Maureen rightly suspected that he had been exposed to drugs in utero.

             These stories lead us to ask the big question: Is it time to consider laws that prohibit unfit parents (drug addicts and child abusers) from repeating their traumatic, inhumane, and costly mistakes?  Progeny from parents who have no capacity to “think twice before making children,” frequently suffer sad and dysfunctional lives. The families who take in and take care of these children suffer too, both financially and emotionally. Society suffers by paying for services to dysfunctional parents and the children they sire. Citizens witness the cruelty to these offspring with horror, unable to stop the injustice. Why do our laws allow it? Can lawmakers and voters set boundaries that will actually save the yet unborn from a terrible fate?

          What do you think? We’d love to start some dialogue in this topic.

Pass It Forward: Fertility After Pediatric Cancer

Years ago, a female friend was diagnosed with breast cancer weeks before her wedding. Her fertility was uncompromised, so a year or two after a double mastectomy, she remained determined to have children. Her first baby was a boy. No problem. Before her second child was born, she shared with us that she feared having a girl because she didn’t want to go through what her mother had suffered through with her, that is a daughter who contracted breast cancer. Our friend did give birth to a female.  Davida is still young, in her third year of college, and to our knowledge she has not yet been tested for the breast cancer gene.

            In an article on the New York Times blog, “After Cancer, Fertility is Often Within Reach,” a 39-year-old working mother, Karen Cormier, revealed that after developing a “rare form of kidney cancer” at age 5, she assumed she wouldn’t be able to become pregnant due to her doctors’ counsel that the treatments damaged her reproductive organs. Three years after adopting a child, Ms. Cormier became pregnant and had Ryan, “a walking biological miracle.”

            The Times blog post makes the point that many adults who survive childhood cancer struggle to conceive, especially if they had received pelvic radiation treatments, a certain class of chemotherapy drugs, high doses of radiation, or stem cell transplants. After the two latter treatments these youthful patients became completely sterile. Nowadays, though, fertility treatments for both male and female childhood cancer survivors increase their chances of overcoming clinical infertility, leading doctors to surmise that young patients’ ovaries and testes may be more resilient than originally believed.

           Cancer trade magazine According to the Times article, a recent large study in The Lancet Oncology found that about two out of three female survivors who turned to fertility treatments did become pregnant – “a rate of success that mirrored the rate among other infertile women.” Other recent studies found that many adult men with low sperm counts after having childhood cancer (due to side effects of chemotherapy) “undergo procedures that harvest viable sperm, allowing them to father their own children.”

            Although this article holds out hope for many would-be parents who had pediatric cancer, it fails to mention the possible consequences for their biological children, specifically, what about the hereditary cancer that parents with their own early history of the disease might pass on to their child?  

            According to the American Cancer Society, only about 5 percent to 10 percent of all cancers are inherited.  In spite of this low percentage, “cancer in a close relative like a parent or sibling . . .  is more cause for concern than cancer in a more distant relative.”  Also, a family member that had a very early onset or rare cancer should consult with a genetics specialist for their children’s sakes.  

            Due to the widespread media coverage of Angelina Jolie’s recent double mastectomy, many Americans have become aware of

Angelina Jolie inherited her mother's predisposition for breast cancer.

Angelina Jolie. Photo courtesy Georges Biard

some women’s predisposition for breast and ovarian cancers. Had Jolie had genetic testing a few years earlier, she might have decided against having biological children. Indeed, her daughter Shiloh, with a grandmother who had contracted breast cancer and a mother who carried the gene for same, is most probably at high risk for the illness.

            Over the years, in some of Cheryl’s conversations with would-be parents about adoption, many expressed a concern that if the adoption isn’t “open,” meaning that if the biological parent isn’t in the picture (and/or cannot be reached), the adopted child’s unknown health and psychological history could lead to serious medical problems. Yet, some of these same would-be parents seem willing to pass an inherited illness like cancer onto their own biological child!

            So, here’s the message to doctors who specialize in fertility, and to would-be parents who suffered from childhood cancer but yearn to have biological offspring: Think twice before making children. The genetics you pass along may be dangerous for the kids.

Caring for Our Elders – Do We Need More Children?

[Sonia Burke lives in Portugal. She writes this essay in response to our September 4, 2013 column, “No Progeny Necessary – The Boon of Boomer Communities.” (http://www.enoughof.us/no-progeny-necessary-the-boon-of-boomer-communities). For background, we suggest you to read that column first.]

 

          In Europe there has been considerable debate about aging population and the sustainability of the welfare state. The question is, can nations afford pensions and national health care? But instead of presenting people with real solutions, we continue to hear that the solution is breeding more people.

          I’m childfree and I am sticking to that. What troubles me is the lack of will to put forward ideas that will accommodate the ever-increasing number of senior citizens and ensure their care. It doesn’t have to come from the public sector. In fact, it probably shouldn’t. But I am sure government incentives could give the private sector reasons to create appealing spaces in which those at the later stages of life can live and socialize, in contrast to the depressing elderly care homes that none of us would like to see their parent in.

          Ironically, while opting out of motherhood was very clear to me, I failed to realize that I should have a say when it comes to looking after my own parents. My parents were both 40 years of age when I was born. Having had my maternal grandmother living with us–and my paternal grandmother living at my aunt’s – this idea should have at least crossed my mind. Still, perhaps my mind was assuaged by the fact that my mother vowed never to put me through what her mother had put her through. And, let’s face it, if someone was difficult in their younger years they won’t have cute and cuddly personalities as they age. You can tell a child to go to their room, scold them for misbehaviour and expect they don’t repeat whatever they did wrong again. You can’t do that with a parent.

          I love my mother and my late father. When my father died we invited my mother to come live with us (we live around three hours away from her village). As you can imagine, when a death happens suddenly you don’t have time to think about such sensitive issues with a clear head. I lost my father when I was 25 and my life was just starting to unfold. His death brought it all to a halt. Neither my husband nor I imagined this would be a permanent thing. But at the time we felt the right thing to do for my mother was to invite her to live with us. Without much thought I was repeating what my mother did with her own mother, thus ensuring that I brought into my home and my marriage the very same atmosphere I’d experienced growing up. It was not pretty. Luckily, not having children stops me from any possibility of doing the same to someone else. Phew.

          After 10 years living with us, and a marriage that came far too close to ending, I had to tell my mother the arrangement wasn’t working.  Since she continues to be very healthy in every way, she’d have to split her time between our house and hers for all our sakes. This was heart-breaking and still is. No child, and no young couple, should be put through this decision.

           My mother used to say she’d go to a nursing home when she needed one, although now it’s a whole different story; it’s a taboo subject. If I try to discuss the future with her, we don’t get anywhere. I need to leave my country soon (as many are doing throughout southern Europe to find work) and I ask when are the governments going to start helping adult children and face the issue that many seniors need to make arrangements for their future? Many of these elderly, like my mother, are still perfectly capable of making decisions. But nothing  worth considering is being offered to them. You’d have thought that investors would gather around this new demographic reality and together with the government start promoting co-housing options. What we’re currently witnessing is that everyone is brushing the dirt under the rug and preferring to anticipate more babies, when what we’re really giving birth to, as a society, is millions of eventually aging citizens who may not have anyone to care for them.       

A senior residence in Ohio

Senior village in Columbus, OH

   I’m in my mid 30s and my husband is in his early 40s. Even if we did want children, we would not be able to afford them. If you consider that most of my friends who went to university are currently in the same predicament as we are (long periods of unemployment, low-paid jobs and therefore no stability) … how can we look after the elderly? I’ll still have a mortgage to pay when I get to the age of 70. My mother was financially independent in her 30s and retired at 55. My friends who have stable jobs barely make it to the end of the month with money in the bank, thanks to the high cost of living. How can my generation, and the one that’s right behind, care for the elderly when they have to work to survive? (Not to get rich… to survive). Most countries support parents with children to raise. But for adults who need to support their parents, there is no such assistance.

          Many of the elderly continue to enjoy their lives into their 90s. I know many who do and who don’t expect to live with their respective families. But even they are not really planning for the day when they can no longer be independent. I am sure these elderly would, if only there were choices presented to them.

          There are currently only two senior villages (as we call them) in my country, where the elderly can still have their own homes, cook, clean and have assisted care if they need to. The advantage is that they can have their family over to visit anytime, unlike what happens in care homes. Unfortunately no other projects have emerged. Wouldn’t this be good for the economy? It could create jobs. Healthier people in old age have fewer health issues and are less of a burden on national health, surely? Plus, their children are free to pursue their lives.  

          I can’t imagine anything more unethical than expecting people to breed for the sake of economics and to ensure their own care in old age.

 

Lone Star State Deserves Another Star . . . for Mindless Abortion Policy

           The Texas legislature recently passed, and Governor Rick Perry signed into law, a bill that not only closes most of the state’s abortion clinics, it will also increase the number of babies born with serious birth defects. We have often pondered how a state with six of the 20 most populous cities in the country can be so regressive in its thinking.

Texas Governor Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry signed the anti-abortion bill

           On July 11, 2013, Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist, posted a column on Slate.com in which he answers the question, “Who Has an Abortion After 20 Weeks?” In a nutshell, here is how he answers the question: “Comprehensive fetal testing … (is) typically performed just before 20 weeks of gestation. Such scans are critical for uncovering major birth defects.” These defects include severe brain malformations, heart defects, missing organs and limbs, and other serious imperfections.

          Therefore, by virtually abolishing the abortion option at 20 weeks of pregnancy, Texas has almost guaranteed that mothers with fetuses that have traumatic defects, and who cannot afford to seek abortions in other states, are considerably more likely to need various forms of public assistance in order to care for their newborns. State taxpayers, in many cases, will have to bear the burden of care, particularly in light of Texas’s rejection of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

          So while those with money can hop a flight to, say, New Mexico or Colorado, to terminate a 20-week-plus pregnancy, those without the cash … you get the idea.

          But wait – there’s more. Less reliable tests are available at earlier than 20 weeks. There’s just one drawback: they are less reliable. So let’s say a doctor tells the expectant parents that their baby may be suffering from anencephaly (in which a major part of the brain is missing), but that it’s too soon to tell for sure. The parents are now in the position of deciding whether to gamble on a healthy baby or, alternatively, to abort the fetus because they cannot emotionally and financially afford to cope with a severely disabled child. If they opt for the latter, they may be aborting a perfectly healthy fetus.

          Is this what Texas lawmakers were intending? Our guess is they either gave it little (or no) thought, or they were more concerned with mollifying the folks who might vote for them.

          According to Dr. Sanghavi, approximately one-third of all women in the United States will have an abortion by age 45. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are unintended, to no small degree because birth control is not foolproof – 5 percent of women on the pill get pregnant each year.

          Every year “in Texas, about 85,000 women have an abortion,” explains Sanghavi, “of which only about 1,000 are performed after 20 weeks of gestation.” That’s a little over 1 percent.

          Of the 400,000 babies who are born, “16,000 have a birth defect of some type. Of these, about 700 have major brain defects, 600 have major chromosomal disorders, and the rest have any number of other birth defects.”

          In the first chapter of our book Enough of Us, we discuss at some length the possibility that pregnancies will end disappointingly, if not in total disaster. It seems to us the lawmakers of Texas are determined to increase the odds of such unfortunate outcomes.

          As the good doctor concludes in his essay:Pain Capable  Unborn Child Protection Act

          “In the end, restriction on late mid-term abortions may seem motivated by concerns about a healthy fetus; after all, the Texas bill was called the ‘Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.’ But a closer look strongly suggests that no matter what the legislators do, some fetuses and families will still be faced with a great deal of misery.”

          Many Texas politicians decry the intrusion of big government into our everyday lives. They may or may not have valid points to make. But this? These lawmakers are telling a significant minority of would-be parents to take a guess, decide whether to abort or not, and hope for the best. If not, they may be stuck with a decision that will mean disaster to both parent and child. Now, that’s big government intrusion.

Is This how the U.S. Loves its Children?

            As we point out in our book, Enough of Us, Americans extoll the making of children as a great creative act.  Commercials show mothers hugging the cutest kids with the rosiest complexions. Pregnancy is presented in articles and movies as a path to true happiness. As in much that is American, the light and cheery external look of things belies what happens inside countless family homes for so many children: the darkness of child abuse goes on in shocking numbers.

Leg fracture resulting from child abuse

Fractured tibia in infant. Photo: National Institutes of Health.

            Economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, Ph.D., wrote an opinion piece based on his doctoral research at Harvard, in the July 14th issue of The New York Times in which he begs to differ with reports that child abuse and neglect decreased during the our recent Great Recession. In “How Googling Unmasks Child Abuse,” Stephens-Davidowitz explains that by looking at “an analysis of anonymous, aggregate Google searches,” from 2006 to 2009, he learned that mistreatment of children did not in fact drop during the recession. The categories he examined were:

  •           Child fatality rates – Increased during the financial downturn in states hardest hit by the recession
  • “My dad hit me”  key words – Most likely from recent abuse victims old enough to use Google
  • Common classes of Google queries like “child neglect” and “child abuse” – Relevant searches from those who saw something that worried them, so they asked Google about “signs” or “effects” of child abuse.

          Stephens-Davidowitz claims that the number of these Google queries is so large that the “overall rates are telling,” in that they are enormously “larger than in any survey or poll.”

          “I used a novel technique for studying such child maltreatment: an analysis of anonymous, aggregate Google searches … Online, often unobserved, we tend to be very honest.” He examined searches that he analyzed as being likely to have been made by recent victims of abuse.

          So, why were fewer cases of child abuse and neglect reported during the Great Recession? One answer Stephens-Davidowitz gives is that social program budgets were severely slashed in many states.  That had a domino effect that led to overworked mandated reporters such as doctors, nurses and teachers being less likely to adhere to the reporting process. Likewise, staffs at child protective services agencies were stretched thin and worked shorter hours, which affected their abilities and inclinations to report cases.

          In tough budgetary times, it seems the programs that protect children are some of the first to be set back financially, which leads to staff cutbacks.  This is a major way the United States fails its children, especially when they most need government protections. Many factors contribute to this lack of love. To name a few:

  • According to the article, even in so-called normal times, primary care doctors “admit in surveys that they do not report 27 percent of suspicious incidents.”
  • According to the Department of Health and Human Services, most victims are maltreated by their mothers.
  • Children in low socioeconomic families and children in households where both parents are unemployed are at high risk for abuse or neglect.  
  • Neglectful families tend to have more children and/or a chaotic lifestyle where, say, a mother and her children live on and off with others.

          America needs the help of social services agencies that are well funded and staffed to the max.  In 2011, approximately 681,000 children were abused. True societal love for children requires that would-be single parents and parents who are chronically unemployed be educated about the option to avoid, or stop, making kids, in spite of the fact that many get tax credits for each child they produce. If we fail to fund these kinds of programs, let’s admit to our societal, cultural, and political lack of love for children. There are too many young people living in terrible circumstances.  And there are Enough of Us in general.

 

Have Child, Will Abandon Pets

            People love their pets, especially when their dog or cat is put into the role of a child. “Bella (the cat) is my baby,” a pet owner coos to friends and family.  That said, in way too many cases pet guardians’ love loses its luster when they have children of their own.  On babble.com, a blogger mom says it all:

            “This used to be a love story. . . two cats and a puppy found their way into my home and my heart. . . I had rescued them from an uncertain future in the shelter. . .I had groomed them. . . kept them alive for most of my adult life. . .We had been warned that pets would get the shaft once the baby became the focal point of our existence. . .What I was not prepared for was the depth of my hatred for beings I once claimed to love, and how quickly the switch happened.”

            According to 2010 ASPCA statistics, about 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the United States each year. As many pets are turned in by their owners (some animal rights groups prefer the term “guardians”) as are picked up by animal control. 

Photo - CToutandabout.com

Photo – CToutandabout.com

            We feel for pets that have been “replaced” by children and, in essence, disposed of.  The best of guardians see to it that their dogs and cats are sent off to relatives or friends. Those are the lucky ones. But millions are sent to shelters. A big question, of course, is do companion animals suffer about the loss of what was once their “forever” home?

            Although science is inconclusive in this area, some researchers point to the strong bond between humans and dogs, which goes back some 15,000 years when the two species wandered the Earth together. If you have ever pet sat for a few weeks while the human family is away, you can probably draw your own conclusions. Although, we have to admit, we so spoil the dogs we pet sit for that they don’t seem all that thrilled when their “parents” come to collect them. But that’s not the same as being dumped into a shelter.

Indeed, both dogs and cats may mourn as deeply as humans do. Something for parents to think about is that for an animal, banishment from their human family may cause emotional pain similar to what a child feels when separated from mom and dad. 

            We think those who adopt and fall in love with animals before they have children should think long and hard about their motives. Is the animal a substitute for a yet unborn child? Are those who decide to become parents willing to make a lifelong commitment to their animal and realize that this creature is indeed a member of the family? Do the expectant mom and dad have the “heart” to prepare their pet for a new human addition to the family? (There are plenty of tips on the Web about this and veterinarians are good sources of info as well.)

            We also believe it’s imperative that prospective parents think twice about having a dog or cat in their midst. The most compassionate decision may be not offering a home to an animal that will one day be evicted because a child demands too much time and energy. 

 

 

           

           

             

           

           

             

           

 

“If you don’t intend to have kids, don’t get married.” What?

We just returned from a two-and-a-half-week sojourn to New Zealand, where we were able to put non-South Pacific news out of our minds. Those Kiwis are the friendliest people we’ve ever met. Nevertheless, we had plenty to think about when we learned how this beautiful country–the last to be discovered by humans–managed to get its fauna screwed up, starting with the arrival of humans on its shores. For the animals on the land of the Kiwis it became a sad tale. That story, however, is for another day.

But no sooner had we arrived home and flicked on the TV than we were immersed in the controversy over the constitutionality of a ban on same-sex marriage (evidently the so-called budget sequestration issue had been resolved in our absence, as evidenced by the fact that in the five days since we returned, we have not seen or read a single story about it). Stand where you may on the gay rights issue, but one argument enrages us and should likewise raise the hackles (wherever they may be on humans) of anyone who does not or cannot have children.

There are those who argue that the purpose of marriage is procreation. In Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as in Tuesday’s hearing on California’s Proposition 8, the procreation argument came up.

If procreation is the sole purpose of marriage, it raises the following questions:

Should women over age 50 be permitted to marry?

Should infertile couples be allowed to marry?

Should couples who intend to use donated eggs or sperm be allowed to marry, since the donated gamete will not belong one of the prospective parents?

And the greatest stick-in-the-craw question of all: Should ordinary heterosexual couples who have absolutely no intention whatsoever of having kids—like the two of us—be authorized to tie the knot?

And here’s one for “dessert.” If two women want to marry with the intent of having one of them having in vitro fertilization, does that put them above a heterosexual couple who merely want to adopt? … and the beat goes on.

While half of American women who give birth under age 30 do so without being married, the marriage/procreation connection becomes even more tenuous. As for those who argue that marriage for the sake of procreation is the only way to go, we hope that fewer of those folks marry, ideally because it dawns on them that there are already Enough of Us.