A woman in Atlanta knew she had a 50/50 chance of passing her own childhood eye cancer onto her offspring.
She gave birth to three children, anyway.
All three have eye cancer. One of them started chemotherapy at a week old.
Somehow, acts like this — this woman isn’t alone — haven’t managed to garner the seething “you’re selfish!” chant the way choosing not to have children, which by definition hurts no one, has.
“Oh, but that mom wasn’t selfish,” someone who’s incorrect might argue. “There was no guarantee her kids would get cancer.”
What would you say if someone approached you and said, “Hi! I have a syringe in my pocket, and half of it is cancer juice, but the other half is a placebo, or something, so you could be totally fine. The thing is, it’s very important to me that I experience the joy of injecting you, so…can I? I swear you probably won’t get cancer.”
I know exactly what you would say.
You would say, “No. No, thank you.”
And if that person then grabbed your arm and injected you, anyway, with the half-cancer juice syringe, you would probably be a little mad. You might even sue that person, and you’d probably win. You can’t just go around injecting people with 50/50 cancer juice just like you can’t knowingly walk around with HIV and have intercourse with people without telling them you’re HIV positive.
We’re appalled by the idea of knowingly giving someone a high chance at a disease that will negatively impact their quality of life, but we hardly blink–as a society, I mean, in the big conversations that take place in the media–when we knowingly inflict a high chance of disease on potential children.
Because babies are “blessings.”
“I feel a lot of guilt, knowing that this is something I could pass down to them. But I also know that I’ve been blessed,”
said the woman who had three children knowing they could all get cancer.
“Er, um,” say all the floating, yet-to-be conceived babies, “if we’re such blessings, could you maybe not play such exciting Russian roulette with our lives?”
“Sorry,” goes the stock, and oddly embraced, reply. “I want blessings. And I’ll be so happy, and I’ll love them so much. Their life of disease (because even when the eye cancer, for example, is eradicated, the person has a greater risk of getting other fun cancers) is but a necessary casualty of my glee.”
We (as a society) are fine with this, I guess, because the “blessing” isn’t the gift of life the child is given; the blessing is the existence of the child, which is purely and simply a self-gift to the person who wants a child.
And people like giving themselves gifts.
A child is a gift many give themselves with little concern for all the risk-presents being simultaneously given to the child.
As an official in the Parent Licensing Bureau says in The Age of the Child, “This is not what we at the bureau consider loving behavior.”
Even so, this is the kind of behavior media outlets will overlook, opting for the gratuitous heart-string value–the kind to be found when a child’s (or anyone else’s) actual, day to day, hour to hour misery makes excellent tear-jerker morning programming.
For example, this is how the article about Cancer Mom begins:
Parents hope to pass on kindness, respect and their values to their children — but not their cancer. The tragic circumstance happened to a local family three times.
The tragic circumstance happened?
It happened three times?
There is no tragic circumstance. There’s a walking tragedy inflictor in the form of a woman who THREE TIMES had children knowing she was inviting them into a life with a 50/50 risk of cancer.
How is this not child abuse?
How is it not something that gets the big media outlets asking, “Why are we okay with doing this to our children?” and “What made you think reproducing would be a good idea?” instead of, “And how are you dealing with this, you unfortunate parents who brought this onto your children yourselves?”
It seems that no matter the horror a child might be brought into, all that matters is that a child is brought.
“You’re giving it cancer juice? Yay! A baby!”
And the people who want the babies regardless of the risk to the child are unapologetic about their desires, possessing a truly inexplicable blindness to their own utter selfishness.
“I want it, no matter who it hurts” is apparently perfectly acceptable if what’s wanted, and who could be hurt, is a child.
Kristen Tsetsi is the author of the novel The Age of the Child, in which “Tsetsi asks provocative questions: first, what would happen if all forms of contraception were illegal? And then, what if those of us who want to be parents had to get a license to do it?” — Elizabeth Marro, author of Casualties
Kristen is also a 1/3 founding non-mother of Childfree Girls, a web series.
*This post originally appeared at the Childfree Girls website.