“To Have or Not to Have – Dispatches from one millennial’s uterus” by Katie O’Reilly in Sierra magazine.

My attention span is short these days, so I’ve decided to review articles instead of books. The November/December (2019) issue of Sierra magazine was a special issue examining:

  • gender
  • equity
  • the changing climate

This article about (potential) parenthood caught my eye. Katie O’Reilly writes as adventure and lifestyle editor for Sierra magazine. She was born in the mid 1980s and is now just about the same age as I was when my older son was born.

When she confided her doubts about parenthood to her mother, O’Reilly was informed that HER own conception might have been derailed if her mother had become obsessive about the threat of nuclear annihilation, which was receiving attention from SANE and the Nuclear Freeze movement at that time. I remember! A movie called “The Day After” (about the impact of nuclear war) was released in November of 1983. Activist friends of mine were busy organizing watch parties. Newly pregnant, I just couldn’t deal with it. I stayed home, eyeing my TV as if it could turn itself on and inflict the movie on me.

O’Reilly brought my attention to BirthStrike, an organization for people uncertain about or opposed to parenthood, based on the future livability of planet earth. Governments, in particular, need to listen, as they have had little success in convincing people to have babies.

I also learned about a new psychological counseling specialty, called “baby decision CLARITY counseling”, which O’Reilly undertakes. She does not, in this article, announce a decision, but it sounds like she is leaning towards parenthood.

“ ‘Existential suicide’ may sound dramatic, but letting the climate dictate decisions about my uterus increasingly feels like a sign that I’ve acclimated to a dreary future, that I’ve stopped trying…” In her conclusion, she states “I’m looking forward to help my own hypothetical kid make the most of their time on the beautiful, ephemeral Earth they’ve inherited – whatever it happens to look like.”

Now, I wonder how women like O’Reilly will make decisions about pregnancy in the time of Covid plus (in America) racial turmoil. I’ve been (distant) witness to the arrival of a handful of babies since Covid struck. All, thank goodness, healthy and safe. One part of me wants to shriek “Don’t do it!” to anyone contemplating pregnancy, but I know that children have always been born in bad times, and no one is guaranteed peace and security. But here we are, with no way to know if “the worst” is over. I wonder how the “clarity counselor” has adjusted her practice. Who am I, a woman who gave birth in 1984 (of all years!) to offer an opinion!?


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