I used to feel ambivalent, sometimes even frustrated, when friends would share on social media that they were expecting.
Hear me out.
Trump was still fairly new to the White House. Hate crimes were increasing all over the country. White nationalists were becoming emboldened in revealing their hateful agendas. Scientists released a grim report on how little time we have to stop producing greenhouse gases, before the consequences of global warming are too severe to reverse.
In short, the world is oppressive, unsafe, and unpredictable. Who in their right mind, I thought, would purposefully bring new, innocent life into it? It seemed more than just foolish to me, but downright irresponsible.
Of course, these feelings neglect two very important facts: 1), humans are wired to procreate — especially with the lifelong partners we love. We just are.
2), there has never been a time, in the history of the human race, that has ever been completely stable or predictable.
Over the last few months, I’ve started to have discussions with my husband about the future of our family: will we be fur parents forever, or is parenting humans something we might consider? At this point, we have more reasons on our list of cons than pros, most of which are unique to us, and have nothing to do with what’s happening in the world right now (student loan debt being a major factor).
When we had these talks, during which I expressed some of my existential crises — what if the world becomes unlivable within our child’s lifetime? What if the United States engages in nuclear war right when we start setting up the nursery? — Josh reminded me of something: it’s a pretty bad idea to let fear be your driving guide for making big life decisions.
I still believe my concerns about society, and the environment, are legitimate. But I also know that he’s right.
Lately, fear has been the driving motive for a lot of things I’ve decided not to do, or felt apprehensive about doing. Should I cover up my Hebrew tattoo in public, in case I’m standing in line at the grocery store next to a Neo Nazi? Do I never attend a synagogue, or never set foot in a Hillel house, because there’s a possibility that it could be bombed?
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Auschwitz survivor (and stepsister of Anne Frank) Eva Schloss speak at my alma mater. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, since no Holocaust survivors will still be alive by the next generation. I actually considered not going, only because I was afraid that such a widely publicized event would be the target of somebody with a hateful agenda.
But in the end, I did go. I bought an autographed copy of Eva’s book. And it was so worth it.
Josh was right. Fear is a terrible guide for any of our life choices.
As a Christian, too, there’s something else I try to keep in mind: this world is not the place where our great hope comes into fruition. In fact, Christian hope is intentionally foolish, requiring more faith than is considered reasonable. On its face, the entire gospel — that God was born from a virgin, took the punishment of our sins, died, and rose from the grave, promising resurrection and eternal life — is intentionally foolish to those on the outside.
Jesus and the saints had hope. And neither Jesus, nor many saints, lived very long. Their lives were anything but comfortable or safe. But their struggles were not for nothing.
In this way, perhaps my pregnant friends know something I don’t about faith. Having a child is just one way to invest in tomorrow, because life is no longer about you anymore. Even if our circumstances fall drastically short of what we hope for, giving up is no longer an option. Giving in to cynicism and losing hope are no longer viable options.
Hope, then, becomes courageous. It’s a slap in the face of the evil forces that would prefer we cower instead.
Truthfully, I don’t want Donald Trump, Neo Nazis, or climate change to dictate my reproductive plans — or any of my plans. That gives them far more power than they deserve. I don’t want the thought of everything that could possibly go wrong to be the reason I miss out on anything worthwhile.
Hope may seem foolish, but is it ever a wasted effort? Like Abraham of the Bible, it’s possible that the seeds we sow today — perhaps by raising children to be the change we don’t see in our own lifetimes — will come to fruition in ways we never dreamed possible.