Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Is parenthood a "right"?

There's a lot of talk about the "right" to be parents; as in, people who believe it is their undeniable right to delay childbearing for as long as possible, also believe it is their right to beget children as soon as it is desirable. Recently, there was a revolutionary ruling in Israel, which states the possibility of writing two "fathers" or two "mothers" into a child's ID, as opposed to the usual father/mother option. You can imagine the confusion.

Certain Modern Orthodox rabbis authorize single women in their mid- to late thirties to conceive, without being married, via sperm donation, ruling that the woman's "emotional well-being" and her "natural ambition to be a mother" are reasons enough to bring children into this world - children who will never know their fathers and who will, eventually, know how they were conceived. Somehow, nobody thinks to suggest a simple concept which should make perfect sense to a person of faith (and I presume that those who consult rabbis are women of faith): if G-d desires you to have children, He will send you a husband. If He has not sent you a husband yet, it's part of His plan and your task is to find different ways to fill the void, rather than wilfully insisting on creating an unhealthy situation.

Some will say, "easy for you to say - you got married at 22 and had a baby ten months later!" - which is true. I know, however, the other side of the story. 

I was raised without a father. This, unfortunately, isn't unsual, nor was it unusual throughout history - many children were raised without fathers. Some were orphaned. There was always illegitimacy. But it's worse when a child is raised with the dangerous message that a father - or a mother - is actually dispensable, unnecessary. It's very, very difficult to compensate for the defects of such an upbringing. When I was newly married, I thought I'd defied everything I've been brainwashed to believe, such as that women don't really need husbands, and that a woman who "succeeds" in marriage is one who tramples her husband and makes him do just what she wants. Yet the message was ingrained deeper than I had thought. I was absolutely clueless about what it takes to make a marriage work. Almost seven years later, I'm still learning, and sometimes it feels I'm only beginning to learn how much my upbringing had actually hurt me.

It's criminal to deliberately and knowingly create situations in which children will grow up not just fatherless, but rootless - deprived not only of the physical presence of a father, but also of fatherhood as a concept. Divorce - in its current rampant state - is tragic, but children usually still keep in touch with both parents, at least to some extent. Orphaned children can see still pictures and hear stories of their absent parent, and meet their father's relatives. Children created by a sperm donation will never know any of that. It's worse than being an orphan, or the child of divorced parents.

Motherhood, and parenthood, isn't so much a "right" as a duty. Remember that old-fashioned word? You may have the "right" to purchase a house or buy a new car. But there is no "right" to obtain a child. Children are gifts and heavy responsibility above all. They aren't our property, nor prizes to be woven around in false triumph. G-d made it so that children can only be naturally conceived by a man and a woman. He meant for it to be done in the holy covenant of marriage. Defying that only leads to confusion, disorder and grief. 


Anonymous said...

I agree with you... and I disagree.

I certainly do not agree with the new law passed promoting gay "marriage" and "parentage." And I do think that a single woman who wants children should look to adopt rather than conceive artificially.


My husband was conceived via sperm donation. Within a marriage that suffered male infertility, so he did grow up with a father, but still, your arguments could apply to his situation to some degree. Yes, when he grew up he knew where he came from, or rather, what he didn't know. My father-in-law really was dispensable in the marriage, and that was felt, even before he knew his origins.

My mother in law fits your description. She was a woman who wanted children desperately, and yet Hashem did not provide her with a natural option for children (husband capable of fathering them). In fact, her husband was pretty much fine with not having kids. Should we say that therefore she - or any married couple suffering from infertility shouldn't have artificial treatments done to give them children? The biggest orthodox rabbis were consulted in this process and clearly they ruled that it was appropriate (as with many other couples).

So when I think along the lines of your post, I feel so sad. What if my mother in law said that clearly children were a gift that she was not meant to have? My wonderful husband would never exist, our beautiful children would never exist, and I can only imagine - other half of his soul that I am - that I would be living in terrible loneliness - the foster/adoptive mother of children in need, perhaps, but without the most wonderful person who has ever existed (by my estimation, anyway).

Sperm donation does not create a child, it CAN create a child. Whether it does or not is dependant on the Will of Hashem.

Should a gay couple, who chooses to violate the Torah and give up the natural opportunity to have children that awaits them if they choose to search out a partner of the opposite gender - should they be allowed to be listed as "father and father", thus subverting morality? No, of course not.

But should a single woman (or an infertile couple) who sincerely wishes to bring more holy souls into the world, be denied the opportunity? I don't know, and I don't think you can know either. That is a question for the greatest of rabbis (and I'm not sure if the ones you mention fit that title).

Anonymous said...

As the comments are awaiting moderation and I can't see mine, I am just nervous that perhaps I didn't select anonymous. I am the one who posted about my husband - if it does not appear as anonymous, please do not approve it! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well said! Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Well said! Growing up without even the concept of fatherhood...wow, I hadn't considered that until now. Thanks for your thoughts on this.


Anonymous said...

I've noticed another side to the "right to have children". A lot of people here in the US seem to think there should be an application for being a parent. There have been many comments about sterilizing people who choose to have large families. And although the mantra, "My body, my choice" is spouted every day, if a woman chooses to have a large family, her "choice" is viewed as wrong or unnatural.
Basically, it seems as though the majority wants to control who has kids and how many kids and how they are raised.
Sad, huh?


schweigen.ist.silber said...

Dear Anna,
I read your blog regularly and with great interest. I do not often comment, even though you raise many intriguing questions.
The question whether motherhood is a right is a tough one. To be honest, I am not sure whether I stand on this one; I probably need to think through some of the issues. It goes without saying that the best scenario for a child is to have mother and father, who are married to each other. However, I wonder whether devoted same sex parents cannot also create a loving home? Might that not be more important than knowing one's roots? What about devoted single mothers with a set of grandparents / aunts & uncles that are closely involved? Would said scenario really create such a "bad" and incomplete childhood?
I cannot answer these questions myself (yet), because I have not experienced such a situation myself.
I am thinking it would be interesting to hear from adults who were born to single mothers & donors.
Thanks for raising interesting "food for thought".

Rebecca said...

I'm curious about what you would think of a single woman who longed to be a mother perhaps adopting a child who would otherwise not have any parent or stable home life?

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anonymous, when a married couple is struggling with infertility and resorts to sperm donation, it's an entirely different thing, because usually the natural outcome of marriage is children. Such a child would have a father figure - the woman's husband - and would in many ways be similar to an adopted child. Surely he may wonder about his biological background, and perhaps at some point try to find out about it (like some adopted children might), but he would be raised in a balanced family with a mother and a father.

Mrs. Anna T said...

schweigen.ist.silber, thanks for commenting. What I say may sound harsh, but a gay or lesbian "couple" - no matter how good and loving - are two people living in an unnatural and sinful situation. They aren't married and are not "parents". No matter how good their intentions are, they cannot provide the right environment for the spiritual and emotional development of a child.

As for single mothers, it depends. A widow is a single mother. A divorced woman is a single mother. A woman who accidentally becomes pregnant outside the marriage is a single mother too. So what's the difference? These women initially were married, or intended to be married, or at least didn't deliberately become pregnant outside the marriage. But a single woman who goes out to get a sperm donation, or deliberately engages in sexual relations with a man whom she only regards as a sperm donar, defies the very concept of marriage and the natural order of a family. The message she thus sends to the child is destructive: "I PLANNED for you to live this way!". The difference may seem subtle (after all, if there's no father in the picture either way, what does it matter) - but it exists and deeply penetrates the child's mind. Believe me, I know.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Rebecca, I think an adoption by a single mother would be very, very desirable for both sides. Here we're talking not about creating an unhealthy situation, but about improving the condition of a child *who already exists*. There is nothing but good in this. Life with a single mother is infinitely preferable to life in an orphanage. I don't know how that would work practically, because here in Israel, for instance, there are (thank G-d) very few abandoned children and very many people who want to adopt. So of course married couples would get a preference. But in Russia I know that orphanages are overflowing with children, most of whom will never be adopted.

Gothelittle Rose said...

In the matter of gay and lesbian parents, the concern is less that two men or two women are attempting to provide a stable home for an otherwise-unwanted child and more that they are creating children for the express purpose of attempting to prove that two women or two men are *identical* for all intents and purposes to one man and one women; that the genders are fully interchangeable.

They are not content with "Better than nothing". Their goal is to force everyone to deny that one mother and one father is the best situation for child-rearing.

If the debate truly was over whether a child is better off with a gay couple than in an orphanage, my stand would be more compromising.

Carrie LeighAnna said...

Bless you and your wonderful posts. I just love reading everything you write, and this post was no exception.

I'm currently struggling with secondary infertility. I've wanted to conceive again for over two and a half years. It's just one of those things in life- people who don't want to have babies have them. People who want to can't. Of course, not across the board. But the phenomena is there.

Childbirth, adoption, sperm donation... it all centers around parenting. How blessed are those who conceive and give birth! It's just not easy- and often times not right, like you've said. It makes the actual miracle of pregnancy, childbirth and adoption SO MUCH MORE VALUABLE!

Anonymous said...

Anna--this is a complicated issue drought with many ethical, emotional, legal, and individual as well as societal implications. I agree with the distinctions you made i.e. a woman who intended to be married or unintentionally got pregnant vs a woman who intentionally got pregnant etc. But don't forget that it is easy to say what someone should or should not do when you yourself were married at 22 and had a baby at 23 with no fertility issues. Finding and marrying your bashert at 22 is a BIG bracha (blessing) from Hashem. Not every woman is so blessed to find her bashert at a young age and to get pregnant right away. Is it REALLY better for a child to be an orphan than to be raised by two men or two women who are financially stable and willing got provide a child with a good home? And should a single mother who unintentionally got pregnant be forced to give her baby up for adoption lil win the 1950s in America? Or should she raise her own child to the best of her ability with the intention of possibly getting married in the future and and having a step-dad or adoptive dad for her child? Life is weird and has unexpected twists and turns. I was Orthodox Jewish for many years. I simply could not find a Jewish man. I am approaching 30 and found a wonderful human being who is not Jewish. Perhaps some would say I should wait around another 5-10 years waiting for an elusive Jewish man to show up and maybe others would say I am better off single and childless. I am choosing to marry him and produce biological Jewish children B'H" and have a home and a family instead. The amount of single 30-something Jewish women sitting along in shul depresses me. Of course, my family and religious community strongly disapproves. But life is a complicated matter. (A Jewish lady in the USA)

Mrs. Anna T said...

Dear Jewish lady,

Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I'm sorry I haven't been able to answer before.

"Is it REALLY better for a child to be an orphan than to be raised by two men or two women who are financially stable?"

Yes. Yes. Yes. It is far better for a child to be an orphan than to be raised by people who live in perpetual sin and try to portray it as a normal situation.

Also, to the best of my knowledge gay couples don't usually adopt orphans. They create children by order and bring them into the world through a surrogate mother.

It is, however, far better for a child to be adopted by a single parent than to be an orphan.

Nobody should be forced to give their biological child up for adoption, unless they are proven to be abusive parents. You mention a possibility of a woman getting pregnant out of wedlock unintentionally; this is a difficult situation of course, but it's nothing like a woman who defies the very notion of marriage and goes off to become a single parent by choice. This element of *choice* is what makes all the difference.

Finally, I implore you to think again (and again, and again) before marrying a non-Jewish man. I was once on the point of doing the very same thing. I was younger than you and my reasons were different, but the entire situation was heart-wrenching. I can tell you more in a private email.

Children who grow up in a "mixed" home, especially outside Israel, are very likely to discontinue the chain of Jewish tradition, even if halachically they are Jewish. It is unlikely they will even look for a Jewish spouse, because they grew up to see intermarriage as the norm. If you have sons, it is very possible their children won't be Jewish even nominally.

Hashem is good and I know you can, and B"H will, find your true - Jewish - bashert. Perhaps I'm being intrusive, but I promise B"N that if you write to me and give me a way to contact you, I will personally put my best efforts into helping you find a Jewish man.

Anonymous said...

I am an adoptive parent and I know many gay couples who have adopted children.

Some of these children were adopted internationally. They were very sick and malnourished when adopted. Today they are strong and healthy. Mostly likely, they would have led sickly, painful lives without adoption. They might have been weakened by heart conditions, gone blind from infections, or died from hunger. All in the third world orphanage where they lived without love.

Have you adopted any of these children? Then who are you to say who should adopt them? If I was in a third world orphanage, I would far prefer to be adopted by a gay couple than to live my life hungry, sick or neglected.

Mrs. Anna T said...

I'm sorry, but I cannot accept this dichotomy (adopted by a gay couple, or a life of sickness and neglect). Those who truly care for children should promote their adoption by *families*. Gay couples are NOT, and can never be, families.

Mrs. Anna T said...

(Singles can and should also adopt, of course, if adoptive families are in shortage.)