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Terry Gross, Infertility and Choice

I just started listening to Earwolf’s podcast, The Longest Shortest Time.  When they state they are a parenting podcast for everyone, they literally mean everyone, even people who aren’t parenting.  Which makes sense because we all have opinions or thoughts or ideas to contribute to conversations.

A case in point: I started with the April 20th episode featuring an interview with Terry Gross from NPR.  She does not have kids by choice, and she takes the episode to explain how she came to that decision, why she stuck to that decision, and whether she’d make that same decision again.  It was the most interesting thing I listened to all week.

(By the way, you can download and subscribe to the podcast, as I did, or you can listen to the episode online as well as read the transcript if you scroll down the page and click on podcast transcript.)

The thought that gave me chills (and made me wish my drive to camp pick up was a little bit longer so I could have marinated on this a bit longer):

I think the main thing we want as women is we want the choice. And the choice only has meaning if there is a choice. It’s great to be a parent when you’re not forced to be – when society isn’t demanding it, when they’re not making it an obligation. And in order to no longer be an obligation, I think some people had to choose to not have children and rewrite the rules a little bit.

Someone had to take the other option — to not have kids — to make the choice to have kids truly a choice.  I was thinking about it in terms of infertility.  We need people to choose all the options in order for there to truly be options.  We need people willing to build their families through treatments, donor gametes, surrogacy, or adoption in order to really be making a choice vs. fulfilling an obligation.  We need people to choose to resolve their infertility by being child-free after infertility.  Again, without some people choosing that option, the people who don’t choose that option aren’t really making a choice.  Does that make sense?

So, thank you, to everyone who has made every choice that has allowed me to also get to make a choice.  We don’t need to choose the same thing, but we do need to support each other’s choices because other people’s choices directly impact whether or not we have a choice.


1 Jenn P { 07.26.16 at 8:23 am }

I love Terry Gross and I like that podcast (though her vocal fry is hard for me to listen to). Thank you for pointing out an episode I should listen to! Maybe I will have more comment after.

2 Cristy { 07.26.16 at 10:30 am }

Now that’s a thought worth marinating over: having actual choices vs. perceived choices. Another layer of this onion is not only having these choices, but allowing for those who are offered them but chose not to take these routes. Having these options is very important, but part of the choice equation is, as you rightfully pointed out, actually having a choice.

And now I’m off to listen to the podcast

3 Sharon { 07.26.16 at 12:36 pm }

I have a few female friends, now in their 40s, who are childless by choice, and they are some of the smartest, most centered people I know. It’s not always hard to choose the path that is opposed to society’s expectations, but I admire the people who do it.

4 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.26.16 at 2:14 pm }

Wow. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but of course it makes sense.

Now to put it in political terms, too…we need people to choose all the options in order for there to truly be options.

5 Mali { 07.26.16 at 5:36 pm }

I’m an old feminist, and I’ve always felt this way! In fact, much of my earlier feminism was resisting the pressure to have children young. I still think many many women – in our own and many different societies – have children out of obligation rather than a true choice. So I agree with Lori’s last point too.

I’m going to have to think about the infertility application, though, for two reasons. One because you could argue that by trying each or all the different avenues available to an individual, they are fulfilling the obligation they feel to have children, so I have to take a step back to think about it on the infertility level rather than the choosing to have children level. And two, because as you may know, I take issue at the idea that we all choose to be childfree when so often that “choice” is made for us.

6 torthuil { 07.27.16 at 6:07 pm }

Interesting idea. I see it more as “somebody lived through this experience, and is here to tell the tale and assert that their life is worth living.” I think that’s an important message. I guess I don’t like to hype up “choice” that much. I want to have good things to choose from as much as anybody else does but at the same time I’m aware of the reality that we don’t always get the choices we want. Sometimes other people are in a position to give us choices, through their skills or support. Other times though, other people have no way to give me what I want, and I have to live with that.

7 Jess { 08.04.16 at 12:22 pm }

Thank you for posting this — I listened to the interview and just loved it. Terry Gross’s voice is just mesmerizing, and I had no idea how much experience she had under her belt! I really love thinking on this idea of other people making other choices so that they truly ARE choices. It’s made me think. Some will never truly be choices (getting pregnant was a choice taken away from me by whatever caused my complete infertility). Some choices are not options to everyone and then you are left with the anti-choice. It’s so interesting to think on, and I loved so much time with Terry (and how she flipped the question to the interviewer!).

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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