The so-called biological urge to have a child is most probably a myth. Danielle Friedman, senior editor of the Daily Beast, reports that “few scientists have actually studied women’s so-called biological drive to reproduce, so no universal explanation has emerged in the literature.” In her article, “Childless and Loving It,” Friedman points to evolutionary biologist David Barash’s belief that having children is more socially acceptable than not having children. He, like many scientists, believes that the drive to procreate isn’t triggered by biology but by culture. In his book, The Surprising Connection Between Sex, Evolution and Monogamy, Barash points to evolution, which has given women the desire for sex and the physical means to bear children, but the rest is free will.
Laura Carroll, author of The Baby Matrix: Why Freeing Our Minds From Outmoded Thinking about Parenthood and Reproduction Will Create A Better World, gives us something to ponder in her Huffington Post article, “The ‘Biological Urge’: What’s the Truth?” “Realizing that a yearning for parenthood is not a biological imperative allows us to look harder at why we think we want children and ferret out how much of it comes from external conditioning.”
To add a one-two punch to the probability that cultural influences shape the decision to bear children, Carroll quotes researcher and psychoanalyst Frederick Wyatt: “When a woman says with feeling she craved her baby from within, she is putting biological language to what is psychological.”
Why then, do so many women want a child from their own body? Carroll asks the question another way. “What is at the essence of this feeling of longing? Is it truly to raise a child, or is it another yearning I think a child will fill for me in my life?”
Is it possible that having a child from our body has little to do with what is considered the greater good of sharing genes or the romantic notion of making a deep connection with a being that comes from our bloodline and is therefore “thicker than water?” It’s not beyond possibility that having a biological child—as opposed to an adopted one—is an ingrained habit of our culture and has so penetrated a women’s (and sometime men’s) psyches that millions continue to believe in its magic.
Modern cultures deserve a degree of shame for foisting outdated traditions on society and for not realizing that there are Enough of Us. As our book points out, millions of children are alone and in need of a nurturing environment. So why create more babies? Tune in to Part II of this column, where we discuss women who haven’t let questionable conventions influence their decisions about whether or not to give birth.
And if you are interested in more of this topic, Enough of Us is available in paperback, hard cover and as an ebook right here.