Look, I know having children—literally producing children in your body—is not easy. It’s a challenge, an adventure, fraught with risks both physical and psychological, and, as Americans delay the age at which they procreate, often entangled in legal and medical bureaucracies. But can we give it a rest with the multi-thousand-word magazine treatments of complicated pregnancies?
I’m thinking here of this weekend’s New York Times Magazine mega-article about how “four women (and one man) conspired to make two babies).” Now, at first, I was kind of hoping for a lengthy literary orgy I could read one-handed. So, when I discovered the story was about the attempt to navigate the world of egg donation and surrogate motherhood, I was naturally disappointed.
But it’s not the lack of sexiness that really bothers me. It’s that I feel like I’ve read all this before—the overlong chronicle of one infertile, upper-middle-class white couple’s attempt to make/adopt/borrow a child. I don’t have time to go through the Internet and find them all (my own child is crying in the other room), but they’re there—many of them, I’d bet, at the Times Magazine.
What’s wrong with them? Don’t they form a good portrait of the way we live (and parent) now? Don’t they take on issues of vital importance to Americans—technology, medicine, aging, the workplace, the law, alternative family structures?
Sure, of course they do. But they all just feel the same to me. And they all seem to end the same way. There’s a lack of surprise to them; the narrative arcs are flat. The couple, faced with innumerable obstacles, finally gets a baby. Wow.
What I really want to read is the same story, but with a different ending. Maybe the infertile couple decides they really can live without a child—and do so without resorting to the usual anti-child rhetoric that the “child-free” people tend to employ. Maybe the story can do without the standard “Plan A vs. Plan B” rhetoric and come up with a Plan C or D or Z that makes it truly unique, instead of a universalist image of Parenthood Today.
Or maybe I just don’t have to read these stories every time they come out.