Childfree Reflections

With Marcia Drut-Davis
September 22nd, 2013 by Marcia Davis

Book Review: “The Baby Matrix”

Book Review: “The Baby Matrix” by Laura Carroll

The last time I read any book on pronatalism, was in 1974. Ellen Peck wrote, “Pronatalism: The Myth of Mom and Apple Pie”. I loved that word repeating it as often as I could.  I felt wise, erudite and filled with delight every time people said, “Huh”? And, sadly, people are still in the dark about pronatalism’s dangers and influences. Briefly, pronatalism means anything having to do with exalting the status of birth, birthing and parenting.  Laura Carroll in her wonderful book, “The Baby Matrix” has accomplished a remarkable task bringing examples of pronatalism from1974 to the present.

In her introduction, she explains her title: ”In the movie The Matrix, the character Morpheus offers two pills top Neo if he takes the blue pill, he will go on with life as he has before, believing what he’s always believed. If he takes the red pill, he’ll find out what the “matrix” really is, and many of his earlier beliefs will be shattered.” She continues, “The Baby Matrix is the red pill”.

Her entire book unravels the old beliefs showing us why they no longer serve us or, why they were never true in the first place.

In every chapter, Ms. Carroll explores the assumptions pronatalism has encouraged. She carefully shows us what the word “normal” means and why we are led to believe the only path to normalcy is through procreation. Those who choose not to parent are deemed to be unhealthy or lacking something. People want to search for the answer. Was it their childhood? It must have been dreadful! Was it a flaw in their upbringing making them selfish or immature? Maybe it’s a psychological defect?

I thought of my own feelings and how I sought therapy because I simply didn’t want to have or raise a child. The joy of connecting to my therapist, Bonnie Weiss, showed me it was a choice and not a biological destiny I had to fulfill. Her forward is in my memoir! I remember a friend who is a psychologist who passed on the introduction to my book because she was afraid it would hurt the many patients she has coming to her for help as a mother facing the stresses of parenting. She is a product of pronatalism.

Ms. Carroll touches on many assumptions we feel should be a part of a normal life: marriage, fulfillment, having offspring to keep a family name going on, and one of my favorites; the assumption if you don’t have children you’ll be lonely and die wishing you never remained childfree. Ms. Carroll reminds us that the old parenthood agreement: “I raised you; now it’s your turn to help me”, is now antiquated. That may have worked years ago when the nuclear family lived around the corner or across the street. Not now

We recently visited my husband’s Godfather who is 93. He lives in a retirement community in Florida where they have banned together to help one another. They don’t have their children helping. Many simply live too far away. Many have their own family concerns or financial limitations. Many don’t care. Ms. Carroll points out had pronatalism never been in these older parents lives, they may have asked questions earlier and planned more carefully for their own retirements. She writes, “Instead of relying on their expectations, parents can take more responsibility for later years before they get there. This can end up not only working in their best interests, but in the best interests of their adult children as well”.

If you are childfree, I recommend this book. It could be the best gift you can give to your own parents, if you still have them or are connected to them, who may be perplexed or worried about your choice to remain childfree. It can also enlighten you and them as to what pronatalism is and why they don’t have to feel they did something wrong in bringing you up! In my opinion, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It will help you in the endless discussions some of you may face after declaring your wish to remain childfree.

Like Ellen Peck’s book, Carroll’s book is also for all of us, whether we are parents or not.  Like no other book, it helps people become very aware of the social and cultural pressures surrounding parenthood, and paves the way to free themselves from those pressures when making parenthood choices. This will result in more people making the best parenthood decisions for themselves, will foster a society in which those who are best suited to become parents are the ones who have children, and one that knows what it means to bring a child into the world today.


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