My dream was to have my own kids–but then I thought of the environment

My dream has been the same for most of my life: To become a mother. To bring life into the world. To have my own kids to call my own. It didn’t waver for a long time as I grew up, went through school, got my degree, and went on to get a job. I stuck to that dream–I wanted to be a mom. And then an intersection of that dream and one of my worst nightmares happened. Studies came out showing how people could lessen their CO2 and, among living without a car and not flying as often, having one fewer child topped the list.

Graph by The Guardian

I’d always been aware of climate change and its overlap with overpopulation, pollution, and all that. I’d been trying my best to combat it since I was young, trying to do my part for the environment. But it never occurred to me that something I wanted with all my heart and something I was fighting against for so long could ever intersect in a way that broke my heart. According to studies, having one fewer child can save almost 60 tonnes of CO2–more than giving up your own car.

It started to make sense. Having kids contributed to the population, one that was already taking up more of the environment before allowing it to replenish itself. They would have their own carbon footprint to contribute to the world, one that, apparently, outweighs even a transatlantic flight. And, not only that, I began to question the ethics of bringing a child into a world that was already struggling.

All these things came together and I started to question my desire to bear my own children, to bring life into a world that was already teeming with it–too much of it. Should I bring more life into a world that couldn’t carry it? And have that child, that life I claim to care for, inherit an Earth that is slowly becoming more and more unable to sustain itself because of how much we take from it and pollute it?

I thought: Is it unethical to bring that life into this place and have them deal with the consequences of our carbon footprint? Is that real love? I began to think very deeply about this dilemma, it grew so big to me that I questioned who the dream was for: Was it for my child, for them to have a life and a future, or was it for me? As some sort of form of self-gratification? Did I want to be a mom because I wanted to externalize my love into a child or because I wanted to feel accomplished? A sense of dread washed over me as I didn’t know the answer.

Until now I’m unsure of my intentions for having a child. I thought it was simple: I had a dream to be a mother. But I realize now it isn’t that simple. There’s so much nuance to it and there always has been, we just haven’t always been able to see it. Making the decision to have a child and add to the world’s already teetering population is not a choice that exists on its own, it affects a thousand strands on a web of consequences that our actions make. That child will contribute to the CO2 emissions in a damaging way, as much as we don’t want to imagine it.

I haven’t ruled out being a mother completely, of course. I still dream of it, but with options that are kinder to the world that I want to still be beautiful for my child. Adoption is always something I can do, to provide for kids who are already here and who look for that sense of family that I want so desperately to create. This, I think, is much kinder to the Earth, and kinder to those already here. Someone I can show unconditional love to doesn’t necessarily have to come from me. I know that now. I’m glad that my dream can stay.

I still have a dream and it may have changed a bit but at the root of it, my dream was to love someone with all my heart no matter what. And I can still do that. If only to show kindness to the world that let me live and grow to be the person I am today.

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