To feel or not to feel…

[estimated reading time 7 minutes]

In “Day 14”, I talked about the question of memorization — knowing something by heart — in response to the question of the day. But there’s another way to look at this. I know it’s not really the prompt but, having thought quite a bit about that one, I’m going to answer a slightly different question. What do you know in your heart?

I know I am loved.

About ten years before I was born, my parents became aware they couldn’t have children. Unlike the fictional story in Genesis where Sarah ends up putting her trust in supernatural ideas, my parents, children of not just the hippy movement but scientific progress and society, decided that wouldn’t be the end of their love of children (there’s a thing about teachers and children that I’m sure you’ve probably noticed, my parents both being teachers, this makes some sense in many ways) and applied to adopt a child. It took about a decade to jump through the hoops.

In the fall of 1982, they got a phone call telling them they could drive a fairly long distance and collect their first child. Me. I’d been born and, while I have neither the interest nor the means to find out the situation of that birth, I can tell you that the biological provenance from which I was extracted was exceptionally young, unmarried and in no way capable of giving a child either the love or the teaching that are required for success as a small human. My parents, however, were overflowing with love and what they lacked in freely-flowing currency, they made up for in sheer hard work. We were certainly not poor by any stretch of the imagination but neither were we what anyone could imagine in the western world as being rich — I have always been a little curious when the debate about fitness to have children focuses so much on economics that only the rich are seen to be fit parents by one side and the extremely poor are seen to be fit parents by the other, when the reality is that you need enough money to raise a child successfully but you don’t need a huge surplus to do it well. I had a life in which I was extremely well provided for, due to the hard work for often incredibly long hours by my parents, who worked multiple jobs and did everything they could to give me and my sister the childhood they wanted for us.

There is a lot of argument about adoption. People say that it is based on a concept of irresponsibility, that if it is known that there is the possibility of putting a baby up for adoption, the incentive to only have children when there is a clear plan to take care of them is taken away and people will have more children. Not only has that not been borne out by the facts, it’s a silly argument. Let’s just say that there is unlimited adoption, that any person anywhere in the world could put a child up for adoption and there will be a guaranteed recipient. It’s not true but for the sake of understanding, let’s assume it. Now, you find that you want to have sex with someone and you could get pregnant. You have the option of birth control or, if all goes wrong, abortion. But, since you have the option of adoption, you will choose to undergo absolute hell for nine months, followed by what most people foresee as the most painful experience of frequent medical occurrence, childbirth. What would you choose? Exactly. While many people will select to suffer through that experience to have a child to take care of at the other end, although this is not something that I can personally understand, it is not surprising in the least that very few people will willingly go through pregnancy and childbirth only to have no actual child in their lives at the end of the thing.

They also tell me that it’s about abandonment. In some cases, perhaps. But I would suggest that, given the painful silliness that tends to come over humans in the immediate aftermath of childbearing, this is highly unlikely. There is a genetic predisposition among human females (it would be there in males, too, but the plumbing is wrong) to feel an overwhelming attraction to their offspring. It’s genetic. Can’t be avoided. There are some exceptions but most of them come down to damaged and troubled brains. It’s actually the same circuitry that to a lesser degree provides for all kin-altruistic tendencies among humans and other animals. But it’s especially strong as a bond between a mother (especially a first-time mother, by the way) and a young child having just been inside their body for the better part of a year. I suspect this has a lot to do with overcoming the recent pain that giving birth has just caused, to prevent prehistoric mothers from killing their newborn children or abandoning them, as would have probably been the immediate response after such an experience. If you would like to discover just how mindless the argument as to abandonment is, go to a maternity ward and ask the mothers who are in the worst possible situations for raising children — severe illness, overwhelming poverty, threats of family violence, refugee status — whether they would like to give up their children, you’ll get a very clear picture. If you don’t want to go to the trouble, there have been dozens of studies doing just that and their results are unmistakably clear.

So why do mothers give up their children for adoption? That answer is, not necessarily universally but definitely in the vast majority of cases, clear, too. Love. The whole adoption process is marked by something that humans in the modern age are rather painfully lacking in — genuine altruistic love. We are a species that is predisposed to find small things cute — cats on the internet, for example, but I bet if you post pictures of chicks, lambs, puppies and fawns on your social media feed of choice, you will be inundated by positive feedback. It’s not just an internet phenomenon — where do you think the idea of propagating the sale of chocolate at Easter by using bunnies and baby birds and using Christmas mice and personified reindeer (young Rudolph, anyone?) to sell everything from board games to new cars complete with seasonal red bows on top comes from? Babies are no exception. While personally I find the whole notion of a human that has not yet gained the capacity for thought and language intensely disgusting, others of this species clearly demonstrate that I am in a tiny minority. Of course, I find the extremely young to be just as troubling to me and that is a particularly common trait among those of us on the spectrum so it’s not surprising. Given that autism is a genetic trait and that genetic traits are generally propagated through a population proportional to its reproductive bias, the fact that those on the spectrum are generally disgusted by the whole notion of procreation, children and only tend to have sex under the social pressure and duress that comes with modern life, it’s pretty obvious that the fact that we are in the minuscule minority that we are is a result of this, among other pressures — this more than anything, though, I would propose. There’s never been a study on it but there wouldn’t be, as it’s not something for which there are adequate historical records and could only be done going forward through evolutionary time — thousands or tens of thousands of generations. It’s a silly study and, while that’s not a reason for studies not to be funded, I’d like to think it’s a good reason for this one not to be seriously proposed.

Western governments make adoption a nightmarishly difficult thing. I am confused by this. I am a supporter of the right to choose not to have a child. I’m not in the slightest a supporter of the right to choose to have one. But the right to choose not to get pregnant, as far as I’m concerned, is a fundamental human right that should not be denied to anyone. Those who don’t agree with me, one would think, would at least see making adoption easy to access for potential mothers as a way to reduce the demand for abortion but it is the same group of people, generally the reactionary Christian right, who oppose easier access to adoption. My parents, for example, highly-educated people in a stable family situation with enough money to raise a child, a home and no criminal background, respected by their society to the extent any young people can be, had to fight for a decade before being awarded an adopted child. The fact that it is more difficult and vastly more complex, time-consuming and expensive to adopt than to give birth is scandalous and horrendously against any proposed notion of reducing the amount of children born into situations that are unfortunate and unsustainable, not to mention that the population of this planet is many thousands of times too high and adoption is one easy way in which to effect dramatic population reduction without serious social engineering — which is absolutely necessary but is a thought for another day.

While many, if not most, pregnancies are accidental, I can see my existence from young infant to today, as a demonstration of my parents’ unquestioning and heartfelt desire to take care of a young life. My sister and I were the benefits of a huge amount of love that simply would not have had the mechanism to exist for us without our parents’ commitment.

So the next time you think about asking someone about their “real parents” or any such nonsense, keep in mind that, while your biological parents had very little choice about you coming into the world, especially if your parents don’t support the notion of abortion, mine spent a decade fighting for their new children (not to mention the years after I was born that they worked hard to acquire another child, which took four years and ended in my sister’s joining the family). I don’t have “unreal parents”. I have parents. They have loved me and cared for me and they still do and I feel just as strongly about them as anyone whose connection included an umbilical cord. Blood is irrelevant. You love your parents because you grew up with them taking care of you. If you hate them, it’s likely because they didn’t do much of the loving or taking care of. While I’m many months early to celebrate the anniversary of my joining my parents to form a family of three (it’s in November, by the way and we call it our “family day”, celebrated the way most people celebrate their birthdays), it is a subject often on my mind.

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thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.