Her eyes grew to the size of ping-pong balls and her lips, shaped to form the words that were about to come out of her mouth, froze as she took a step back, shielding her young child behind her.
Did I just say I was planning to harm her child? I’m sure all I said was, “I don’t want children.” I looked at her, confused.
Reactions like these taught me about 10 years ago to keep my lack of desire to populate the earth to myself. It meant I didn’t have to constantly explain the difference between hating children and not wanting my own, and that just because I enjoy playing peekaboo with a child, it did not in any way indicate my biological clock had started ticking.
While I would not judge anybody else for their choice to have children, I just never thought it was something for me. I have always struggled with my “point” for having children. Any reason I could think of eventually led to what I felt was self-centredness: having someone to look after me when I get old; to bring more joy into my life; because babies are adorable . . . and perhaps underpinning all of these was the knowledge that the world is overpopulated and under-resourced. And with so many orphans needing a loving home, if I really wanted offspring, why shouldn’t I adopt instead of introducing a brand-new human being into the mix?
And then my husband and I decided to get pregnant, throwing out all my arguments. I could easily blame my husband for my hypocrisy; that he was the one who wanted children, but that would be like blaming him for the fact I’m married to him. So now we’re counting down the months to the start of our sleepless nights after falling in love with the foetus growing inside of me, and I’m still wondering about the point of having children.
But perhaps the desire to have children is as inexplicable as our longing to find someone to love and marry. It’s just an innate personality quirk we inherited from our Father. After all, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and for some of us, that translates to a love for a partner or a child.
God first gave His instructions to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28) to Adam and Eve, in a perfect world. The world may have changed due to sin, but I’d like to think that humans, marred as we are, continue to hold on to the remnants of God’s character and who He wanted us to be, and for some (or many, judging by the number of parents in the world), that means wanting children. Maybe there is no logical point for having children, but as children of God, wanting them (for ourselves or for others) is just part of who most of us are.
Yes, we are about to add yet another human being to an overpopulated and under-resourced world. The only things we can hope to do are to tread lightly on this earth, be responsible for the environment, sponsor as many children as we can through aid agencies, and maybe by our example teach our child to do the same.
Melody Tan is a regular panelist for The Table, the associate editor of Signs of the Times magazine and is now the proud mother of her first child. A version of this article first appeared in Adventist Record magazine.