Playing God I

“How did people decide to get pregnant, I wondered. It was such an awesome decision. In a way, it was such an arrogant decision. To undertake responsibility for a new life when you had no way of knowing what it would be like. I assumed that most women got pregnant without thinking about it because if they ever once considered what it really meant, they would surely be overwhelmed with doubt. I had none of that blind faith in chance which other women seemed to have. I always wanted to be in control of my fate. Pregnancy seemed like a tremendous abdication of control. Something growing inside you which would eventually usurp your life. […] What was wrong with me? Was I unnatural? I just hadn’t the normal female compulsion to get knocked up.

“As for [my sister], she writes me once a year to ask why I don’t stop ‘farting around with poetry’ and ‘do something meaningful’ like have quint[uplet]s.

“‘[Y]ou’re still my little sister and I really think you’ve gotten off on the wrong track! I mean you really ought to stop writing and have a baby. You’ll find it so much more fulfilling than writing […] Is that really how you expect to spend the rest of your life? Sitting in a room and writing poetry?’

“‘Well why not? What makes it any worse than having nine kids?’

“She looked at me with contempt. ‘You don’t know a thing about having kids.’

“‘And you don’t know a thing about writing.’

“‘But you’d love having kids,’ she persisted, ‘you really would.’

“‘[W]hy the hell do we need any more? And why should I do it if I have so many doubts about it? Why should I force myself? For whose good? Yours? Mine? The nonexistent kid’s? It’s not as if the human race is about to die out’

“‘But aren’t you even curious to have the experience?’

“Really, I thought, sometimes I would like to have a child. A very wise and witty little girl who’d grow up to be the woman I could never be. A very independent little girl with no scars on the brain or the psyche. […] What I really wanted was to give birth to myself – the little girl I might have been in a different family, a different world.

“I feel a wave of sadness then which is almost indescribable. Sadness and relief. Is it really better never to be born?”

~ Erica Jong, Fear of Flying, Chapter 3: “Knock, Knock”


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