Whose baby? "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. " This is how the poet Kahlil Gibran expressed the mystery of childbirth.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
This is how the poet Kahlil Gibran expressed the mystery of childbirth. Have you ever wondered about it? For nine months babies are invisible to the outside world, and seem to be part of your body. Yet they are not. They are attached to you only by a cord. Your body produces the umbilical cord and the baby’s little life-support system, the placenta, but the baby itself has its own heart beat, it’s own blood supply with its own blood type, its own DNA and unique genetic code.
Years before science revealed this, mothers intuitively knew that the baby in the womb was its own person. They knew that, while the baby was inside the mother, it was not part of the mother, but an individual that would grow up to be a thinking, deciding, acting, living, fully alive man or woman.
We see this intuitive understanding in many societies. Hindu mothers surround themselves with beauty, especially beautiful music, knowing that the baby’s sense of hearing is developed by twelve weeks of life. Traditionally, Jewish mothers read Scriptures aloud to their unborn baby. Modern mothers put ear-phones on their tummy to acquaint their baby with Mozart or jazz. There is growing interest in the effects of outside stimulus such as light, sound, and spoken language, on the unborn baby. Some people even read story books aloud to their baby.
At the same time, we hear things like, "It’s my body, I have the right to do what I want with it." This expression, which is quite valid, is used to defend pretty much anything: jogging, not jogging, vegetarianism, non-vegetarianism, beer-drinking, body-piercing, bungee-jumping, and more radically, reproductive rights. People argue all day and all night about whether sterilization, for example, is a right.
For one issue, however, the justification doesn’t work: abortion. Bungee-jumping and sterilization, it can be argued, affect only one individual. Abortion affects two. No one disputes that you cannot do "whatever you want" to another person.
This is the universally acceptable code of ethics, which Confucius called the Golden Rule. Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you. They might not like it. They might not let you. (If you don’t believe me, just try giving someone a tattoo against their will. It will produce many effects, but probably not a tattoo. You need cooperation in order to so much as shake somebody else’s hand!)
Saying "it’s my body…" to justify an abortion just doesn’t work. Why? Because the baby is not "my body"! My baby is not me.
As I write, I am being assaulted by a battery of kicks from my eight month old unborn baby. It’s amazing that someone so young can be so persistent…and have such good rhythm.
It brings me back to Kahlil Gibran. Just how much authority do I have over this little baby? The baby is not me, that’s for sure. I am polite, and I have bad rhythm. Right now, he is curled up inside, connected to me only by his cord. In six weeks, I’ll have given birth to baby, cord, and placenta, and he’ll be a free citizen. No, he’s definitely not me.
He comes through me, but his origin is mysterious. Well, OK, his father had something to do with it, but neither his father nor I invented the person he will become. We provided the cells for his body, in a way we made what he is. We didn’t make who he is.
His destiny is mysterious. As Kahlil Gibran goes on to say, "You can house their bodies, but not their thoughts. They have their own thoughts." I don’t know who or what he will become.
Obviously, while he is little and helpless, his health, safety, and development are my responsibility. This is a huge responsibility in scope of years, but nothing a girl can’t handle! At least, when I look at the responsibility in terms of day-to-day life, it’s not too hard. At eight-and-a-half months it’s all pretty straightforward: make sure you eat your veggies, get your sleep, put your feet up, go for little walks.
The responsibilities will grow along with the baby. I suppose I will grow with them.