"Why We Have Children"
I hate the memory of it. I hate it.
I hate how stiff my daughter's body felt in my arms that night. I hate how vacant and soulless her face had become, unmoving save for the veined whites of her eyes as the irises fluttered up under the skull.
It happened on a cold October evening, when an early snowfall still covered the streets north of Boston. We parked beside our friends' home, and I noticed the flush of red in my daughter's cheeks. I checked her brow—it was hot. I should have done something more, but I thought perhaps she had simply over-heated in her coat and car seat. So I took her inside and watched as she tried to play. On most days our daughter, thirteen months old, was an overflowing wellspring of energy and laughter and fleet-footed enthusiasm. On this day, something seemed off.
We sat down to dinner, and then it happened. Sitting beside me in her booster chair, she turned her head upward—further, further, and then unnaturally far, as though she followed the path of a butterfly along the ceiling and down the wall behind her. Her arms were clamped to her sides, and when I bent around her I saw her rolling eyes. She looked possessed.
A moment later we were back in the car, racing through the snow-swept streets as I clutched her tiny convulsing body against my chest. Her lungs did not inhale so much as they shuddered in pitiful little gasps. I whispered "it's okay" and "daddy's here," but it was not okay. Every time the orange glow of a passing streetlamp brushed across her face, it showed the same rolling white eyes. That's the memory I hate the most: the memory of what it felt like to be losing her. I was pinned between the immensity above and the miniscule below. The universe of my care, all my joy in the world, was wrapped in this frail two-foot and twenty-pound vessel, this brilliant soul enfleshed. And as the soul slipped through my fingers, I sensed it above me: the endless ocean of grief that would fall and consume me if I lost her.
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Why do we have children? The question lies beneath social and political issues we confront today, from abortion and adoption to declining fertility rates in developed nations and the relative virtues of "eastern" and "western" forms of parenting. In 2010 a whole host of articles and commentaries debated the finding that parenthood does not make us happier. So what is the point? Why do we make all the extraordinary sacrifices that parenthood requires?
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