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t r i b u n e . o n l i n e
the students' voice


Of Babies, Children & Life by Sim Jingwei

The following gives an anecdotal look at the meaning and qualms about couples trying persistently for babies. With the recent furore about fertility rate dropping, this is all the more applicable…

Just the other day, I overheard my mother talking to some friends about IVF (in-vitro fertilization) and other assisted-pregnancy procedures that couples undergo in their attempts to have a baby. She sounded exceedingly knowledgeable, which was reassuring. Unfortunately, the procedures sounded rather traumatic, which was terribly discomfiting. That the "weaker" gender has a supposedly higher pain threshold was no comfort either. Why go through all that? After all, adults usually complain in their momentary fits of anger that they end up working their entire lives to provide for their ungrateful children. Perhaps it is because, as my Dad would say, holding a newborn babe in the operating theatre whilst Mom is being stitched up is a great thrill. This miracle of life, springing from a difficult pregnancy! He doesn't mention it that often now - I suppose the miracle has been worn thin by the way his bundle of joy has turned out. Still, I know my parents believe their kids are an immeasurable blessing to their lives. Doesn't that provide a greater meaning to life, and give hope for the future?

If it does, is it then fair that some find it so difficult to conceive while others they know can have as many as they want and when they choose? Sometimes couples with problems conceiving naturally may cry foul when accused of not being able to produce an heir in the family. Are they necessarily downgraded to some stereotypical un-fillial ingrate? Besides, these problems may be blessings in disguise. Childless parents may sigh silently in genuine relief if my Dad were to recount his experiences about running after a hyperactive toddler every time a brief bath was needed…

Is not having sons to carry the family name a curse? By the traditional Chinese mindset, the daughter-in-law will be regarded by the older generation with extreme distaste if she does not produce a male heir. The newer generation feminists often may ask: why is the female eyed with suspicion and not the male? Scientifically speaking, the one who decides the baby's gender is not the female, but the male. Furthermore, chew on this aspect: do married sons listen to their domineering wives or doting (grand)parents?

Thirdly, is having more children better than less? Answer this in the context of your family. To those who are the sole child, your status of being "single" may be because of a difficult conception or economic choice. By the latter I mean a conscious decision by your parents, due to the limits of time commitment and financial ability to support a certain standard of living for the family. You may enjoy your status (including that annual ski holiday overseas) or you may envy others with siblings, but we can be thankful for what we have although there is a risk of becoming pampered. Those who have brothers or sisters may wish otherwise when every day is a tussle of sibling rivalry. Yet we can honestly say, times of friendship and laughter are times of joy that we would not trade for the world. The testy times make us appreciate the good in our families all the more - the intangible over the tangible.

So whatever your (or your parents') lot, rejoice in what you have. We need not be overwhelmed by confusion and disappointment. Everyone's life is precious. Everyone is important in his or her parents' sight, no matter how many siblings you are blessed (or stuck) with, or how easy it was to breathe life into you.

On a parting note: girls, you can hold your chin up - I have heard it said in this modern age, a girl is worth ten boys!