Political Physics: To Birth or Not to Birth – Vasectomies and the Biological Imperative


a blogumn by Monique King-Viehland

Photo by Sarah Macmillan
Photo by Sarah Macmillan

Recently I was corresponding with an old friend that I had not talked to in years and I was asking whether or not he had any children. He replied that he did indeed have children, but that he felt “guilty for bringing them in to this fucked up world.”

Then today I was at five-hour interview session with a group of colleagues and two of us were discussing our children. A third colleague mumbled under his breath something about not understanding how anyone could have children “these days.”

As a relatively new mom, I cannot seem to turn off the loud echoing of these two statements over and over in my brain. Nor can I escape a sense of guilt as I ponder whether or not I made a responsible choice when my husband and I proactively decided to have a baby a little over two years ago (and as we are in the process of trying to have another child right now).

We are in the midst of an economic downturn that economists say may rival or even surpass the Great Depression. Our country is fighting two wars. The US “threat level” is yellow or elevated, meaning we are at “significant risk of terrorist attack.” And a few weeks ago North Korea stopped dangerously short of formally declaring war on the United States.

And I haven’t even mentioned wars outside of out boundaries, increases in HIV/AIDS rates, famine, violence and other issues across the globe. According to Micronutra.Com “these are tough times. The words war, recession, terrorism, and downturn are popping up way too often in conversation, and the negativity is beginning to show. With the increase of job loss and home foreclosure, we’ve seen a decrease of vacations, parties, and long-term security.”

Am I an irresponsible person for bringing a child into this mess?

Should I have curbed my biological imperative?

And if I am [irresponsible and curbing to my biological imperative], am I alone?

During the Great Depression, birth rates plummeted to 2.1 million. In the 1970s they were down to 1.7 and successive recessions have also seen smaller decreases in the birth rates. And the Lowell Sun recently reported, “In a tough economy, vasectomies are on the rise. Lahey Clinic has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of men seeking vasectomies so far in 2009, compared to the same period last year.” Micronutra.Com concurs noting, “Although the numbers are not yet [final], people who keep tabs on fertility, pregnancy, and child rearing are noticing a few changes in trend. Men seem to be scheduling more vasectomies, and canceling their vasectomy reversals. [And] adoption organizations see fewer faces at their information sessions.” According to the New York Times “recent anecdotal data, if they hold, would have a historical parallel in the Great Depression, when the birth rate fell sharply.”

Yet in 2007 there were 4,317,000 births in the United States, which just beats the record year of 1957 during the post-war baby boom.

So I am not alone in bringing children into this world. But the question still remains about whether it is irresponsible?

Yes, the world is in chaos (and I do not say that lightly). I keep myself up at night worrying about the challenges that my son will face or the even more terrifying question of whether or not he will have the opportunity to face those challenges.

I believe that my choice to proactively plan to get pregnant was not irresponsible. If you’ve seen Idiocracy you may think it would have been irresponsible for me not to.

I assessed my personal circumstances, scanned the world around me, stressed, deliberated and stressed some more and then made a decision (not necessarily in that order and it took a significant amount of time). I took what I felt were the necessary precautions (as much as I could) and attempted to prepare. And now my son is here and there is no looking back for me.

Between 1946 and 1964, there were 76 million babies born in the US. The baby boom occurred even though the United States was battling War World II and the Korean War and was consumed with building bombing shelters in the event of a nuclear attack and fears about the “Red Scare” and communism abounded.

And even though North Korea might be planning right now to nuke us, I have to believe that I made the right choice for my husband, my son and me.

Of course, that could just be the biological imperative talking.

What about you? Do you think having a child today is irresponsible given the myriad of issues we are facing as a nation and a world?