Sex life: As a lesbian, I never worried about accidental pregnancy

I can’t stop thinking about whether to have a child—and whether my reasons are valid or selfish
February 8, 2024

My desire to have a child has fluctuated wildly over the last 15 years. At 15, I knew I wanted to have a child and was sure that I would someday. At 30, I think that I want to have a child but don’t feel the same certainty that it will happen. 

As a lesbian, the spectre of accidental pregnancy didn’t hover over me through my teens and twenties as it did for most of my friends. Pregnancy would more than likely require careful planning and perhaps because of that, I have interrogated my reasoning all the more and taken note of the sources of the fluctuations.

At the darkest points in my life, when alone and abandoned in the husk of a romantic relationship, or depressed and unable to see a reason to live, I have desperately wanted a child to give my life meaning, and so that I would have someone to nurture and care for. At my highest points I have also craved a child, but less frantically—instead with a sense of wanting to share the overflow of the good in my life with someone else. At my most infatuated I have dreamed of having a child with the object of my affection, something created between us. A child would be a tangible sign of our love that we can nurture together. 

What concerns me is that in all of these motivations for having a child, the child is a vehicle for my own fulfilment. I wonder if it is fair to snatch a soul out of nothingness to add to my own life. We speak about the “gift of life”, but for much of my life being alive has felt like a burden which I have been tasked with and which I did not seek; which I cannot opt out of without directly causing pain to others. I cannot assume that bringing someone into the world who wouldn’t otherwise exist is an innately kind thing to do, or even neutral. I am more than prepared to take on the practical responsibilities of creation, but I cannot answer for the righteousness of the choice. 

Many of my friends who are mothers can’t explain their desire to have a child beyond having always wanted to, or else they offer reasons in the same realm as mine. Some of my friends from indigenous backgrounds speak of the ravages of colonisation and the solemn obligation that they feel to keep their people going in the face of persecution. From a collectivist perspective I understand the need to have children, to continue community and ensure the care of older generations. From an individualist perspective I understand it, too, in terms of gratifying your own desires in life. But I can’t help tearing apart my own motivations and seeing them as self-gratification, wondering what the child would want, while simultaneously being aware that it is a privilege to even be able to consider and choose and contextualise.

I ran into a friend of mine recently who is heavily pregnant, and I asked how it has been going for her. “Amazing”, she answered, “I’ve let go of all my guilt around not being busy enough or not working enough because I can lie around all day and still feel the most productive I’ve ever felt.” I completely understood what she described. That has been one of the intoxicating draws of motherhood for me: the idea that I would be sacrificing myself to serve something greater than me, that I could stop thinking about myself and devote myself entirely to someone else, that any career ambition I was supposed to have could be left by the wayside, guilt free. One could argue that the need to feel “productive” is a result of capitalism, and maybe the use of that word in particular is, but I think the drive itself comes from a far deeper and older place; the need to find meaning in life, a raison d’être.

Is it selfish to have a child because you want one, when the child could be an unwilling participant serving your desire, or is that the only way life should be continued—because the desire of the mother is paramount? I cannot make heads or tails of it, and so I have been saying to friends that I’ll leave it all in God’s hands as to whether I become a mother or not. Meaning I won’t seek it out and if it happens, it happens.