Friday, June 8, 2012

Thoughts on only having one child

Henry and I both read Maybe One by Bill McKibbon after seeing it referenced in the comments of this post.  The book was written over a decade ago, but it is still so relevant.

There were points when reading this book that I was moved to tears.  It feels so overwhelming to think about what kind of world we're bringing Wolverine into, knowing that environmentally the future looks bleak for him/her.  I know the horrors of climate change and the seeming irreversible path we're on, but when I hear it laid out it breaks my heart in a new way.  I go from feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue to frustrated that no one is doing anything.  I feel compelled to only have one child for environmental reasons, but at the same time I feel angry that I'm considering giving up something I so deeply want when it seems as though the rest of world isn't sacrificing at all.  I want more than one child.  To stop at one feels... incomplete.  Maybe I will feel differently when Wolverine arrives, and Henry and I both agree it will be a completely different conversation at that point.  Right now I am not willing to give up my desire for more than one child, even though morally it feels like the right choice.

Henry and I make a lot of choices based out of concern for the environment.  We don't own a car.  We avoid flying whenever possible (although admittedly we've both emitted more than our share of carbon through flying in our lifetimes up until this point).  We don't use the air conditioning or the heat.  We try to buy in bulk to reduce packaging.  I say this not to brag, or pat myself on the back, but because all of the aforementioned things don't feel like a sacrifice; they feel like the way we want to be living.  Having one child does not feel like that; it feels like the most monumental sacrifice I would ever make.

I was particularly moved by the passage that refer to the "special moment" that we're in.  The idea that trying to mitigate the environmental damage we've already done is a challenge unique to our generation resonates with me.  It may not be fair, but it is what it is and we have to give it our best effort, even if that means giving up some things we desperately want.

Our discussions after reading the book were frustrating for both of us.  I was so emotional that it was hard to rationally discuss the topic and more than one conversation ended with me in tears.  I kept saying that I feel like we would only be having one child "on principle" and that it wouldn't really make a difference since no one else in the world seems to care about the fact that our world is falling apart.  Henry had trouble with my use of phrase "on principle" because he thinks we should be making decisions on our principles, not based on what the rest of the world is doing.  And he's right.  But I am where I am.

Henry is convinced that he would prefer to stop at one, but is open to continuing the discussion post-Wolverine's birth.  I feel I want two children, but also recognize that the most responsible course of action would be to stop after this one (or to not have one at all, but that ship's already sailed).

To be continued after the birth of our child and we have some concept of what it means to be parents.

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