Thursday, August 07, 2008

Repro Ramble

*Bit of a ramble, processing, catharsis*

So much is made of the sacrifices involved in parenting, the financial burden and the physical toll, the psychological tally and the time spent. But what are the costs of NOT procreating, especially if this is voluntary? What is the price of a womb that does not bear fruit, of the years of blood and eggs and hormones flushed into drains and soaked up in cotton wool? How much are we paying NOT to participate? How much have we LOST?

Have been pondering my desire to lactate and to research and write about lactation, and the choice of other childless 'women' I know to work on topics that bear much relation to female reproduction- maternal sexuality, breastmilk banking, ART. Speaking to one such person, who makes a lot of uteruses, and she suggested that we are all dealing with GRIEF. I think she is right. But what are we grieving for???

I can only speak for myself of course, and even then much of it is supposition and hypothesis. I am childless partly by circumstance but largely by design. Having always pictured myself as a potential 'earth mother' type, it occasionally still surprises me that I have reached my mid-30s sans infant, with rapidly diminishing desire to have one 'of my own'. Then what is the grief about? My biological buck stops here, no genetic inheritance-- but am I a cul-de-sac or a dead end? Maybe I need to make compost, recycle the energy and the matter, maybe I need to harness the flows, divert them, make use of their power?

A friend was referring to a practice from another culture, though which he was not clear about, where women who have not had children sort of dedicate their wombs to some other cause, and their uteruses become places of creativity on other levels. Is this how I feel about my breasts? Do I need to make some other use of their power? Is this what I am trying to do? I want to tattoo my ducts onto my breasts' surface, declare their potential, articulate their wet dreams and desires.

And what is it that I have suppressed my menstruation for years and now have found myself calling that other (mostly) 'feminine fluid'? Have I just internalised the 'milk be life and pure and good and blood be death and dirt and bad' discourse? Am I just wanting flows on my own terms, when I can make them come and go as I please? Do I want to feed other people's babies but not produce my own? Do I not want to be reminded of my childlessness but somehow mimic maternity, where menstruation ceases and milk comes in? Oh dear. Perhaps that last suggestion is it. Perhaps.

I am thinking I need to look more at women saints and mystics who remained virgins/unmarried (and thus childless) as this is one of the few places where the always-and-ever-childless female body is not seen as barren, bereft, unfulfilled and unable to participate fully. Nuns too. And many witches, though their activities are not quite so widely sanctioned. St Zoo at your calling?

Now, back to thesis, to the academic version of my personal debates and debacles and desires...

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