My mother had her last child at age 29—I do mean last, and not first—a handful of months before she turned 30. This sounds unbelievable in the modern context, I’m sure, since nowadays many people start having children after 30 or even 40.
There is a whole lot of benefit to starting childbearing early. Older women are on hand to help out with childcare and to teach children about all those intangibles. At this time, my mother’s mother or who we would call my grandmother was a ripe young 45 and her mother, my mother’s mother’s mother, or my great grandmother, was a fresh looking 59. All that history, all that knowledge, all that feminine goodness was around to benefit the children.
All this to say that when women back in those days looked back to say they lived full lives, they really meant it. For them, a family tree was not an overnight assignment sketched on unlined paper for full or partial credit in a colonial mission school. The family tree was a lived experience present for all to behold, cherish, love, and marvel. It was present in warm baths and goodnight kisses. It was present in hugs and laughs and wiping off baby tears. It woke you up in the morning and tucked you in at night. It was not a series of black and white pictures behind glossy sheets in albums. It was a real, tangible thing. It was the essence of life.
In this current age, grandparents and great grandparents are for personal reflections, memoirs, stories, folklore, and photo albums. Grandmothers and great grandmothers are mere memories, or just elderly people, but not active people in the lives of their children. Grandmothers and great grandmothers today do not engage with their own children as they did years ago.
The ways of life have changed, especially for those who moved in hordes to cities or forcefully or voluntarily to other parts of the world. For many women, the family trees of yore are impossible in today’s world. The capitalists’ hope is that the presence of the villages erodes with the emergence of more and more city dwellers. The capitalists’ hope is that our children leave the village, the home, the parents, and the grandparents to go to daycare and school, so that the parents and grandparents can give their bodies to meaningless labor.
For women of age, childbearing is discouraged and delayed or deferred indefinitely. Capitalists abhor that women can dedicate their bodies to village-making. Capitalists demand women’s bodies rather for their labor, and consequently place little value on their wholistic lives. To further capitalism and to feed the greed of a few, many young women have succumbed to disparaging narratives that berate their childbearing capabilities as irresponsible, reckless teenage pregnancy and put it on par with engaging in risky behavior.
For some women, childbearing is frozen in time but not in kind. They freeze eggs through what is touted as some scientific breakthrough, some act of magic but ignore the real social, psychological, physiological costs that accompany these modern practices of manipulation of the human body. They are blinded by the gluttonous appetites of the capitalists whose craft demands this manipulation of the female body for the sole goal of wealth extraction for the few and for the sole purpose of economic deprivation for the many.
Nature has given us a time and a course, and there are severe consequences for diversion from this path. Just as there are severe consequences for manipulating the natural climate with fossil fuels, there are grave costs for manipulating the female body out of sync with its natural course. When young women and their mothers abandon their traditions, which are based on the observable course of nature and rather digest modern discourses that disregard the normal functioning of the human body, they unwittingly further their own procreative demise and they sabotage their own good health.
Most of the women who have children today do not have their last before age 30, as my mother did, but might begin their first well past age 30, giving rise to all sorts of complications with pregnancy and delivery. But we have been given a framework in which to include this alternate scientific way of interpreting the female body and the woman’s purpose. We are told by the same capitalists to forge stronger ties to our capitalist families and abandon our biological ones. We are told to embrace our work, our colleagues, and our employers as alternate family trees.
The great irony is that: as women, we are blessed with these capable bodies that perform miracles such as giving birth to autonomous life and free-spirited, free-thinking individuals, yet we are taught to repress this gift and scorn those who express it. The same people who say that their spiritual or religious all-knowing being does not make mistakes are the ones who ironically believe that a young woman’s body bearing a child at a time when it is biologically and physically ready is a mistake, a sin, and should be discouraged or worse still, aborted.
In the modern life, we and our children are sadly missing the fulfillment, knowledge, wisdom, and roundedness that comes with having generations of women in our lives. The tradeoff for giving our bodies to capitalism is that we cannot truly experience our family trees. We cannot truly experience life in its fullness and natural glory.
My mother would call this modern way of life a misfortune. My grandmother would call it a tragedy. My great grandmother would call it a travesty. Their commentary is needed in society. Their presence is valued. But in order for this to be possible, we must all understand and appreciate the worth of living within a family tree and not the indebtedness of living in imagined ones for the sole purpose of supplying our bodies to be manipulated, exploited and discarded by the greedy—by the capitalists.