Vulnerability is... being honest with yourself about whether you want to have babies or not.

Selective attention is a process that's happening when you're picking out certain messages out of the millions of data points that hit your brain every minute. You're on a diet, all you see is food. You just broke up with your partner, all you see is couples. You're wondering if you want to have a baby, all you see is babies.

Is the decision to procreate or adopt rational or instinctual? Does it vary by type and culture?

The basic functions of survival are handled in our amygdala, or "lizard brain". It's been handling necessary responsibilities to keep us alive and out of trouble for, well, ever. Also known as the ticking clock, it's probably the survival instinct that makes women feel now's the time to have babies.

Since the world has changed and our brains have evolved and developed the pre-frontal cortex, dealing with executive decision-making and organizing all those neuronal inputs, women (and men) are able to think about whether having a baby or not is a good fit for them. All of us have access to both Thinking and Feeling functions, so we're able to make decisions based on analytical logic and personal values. The instinct to procreate is also probably present in most of us, as are the emotions that go with becoming a parent. Whether you should rationalize this decision or not is another question. While I'd love to have neat explanations for everything, I'm quite prepared to believe in love and faith and inexplicable irrational gray areas that make sense and are the right thing to do, even though you can't explain them.

Many of my Latin American friends say, "un niño siempre hace falta" - loosely translated: there's always need (and room) for a baby. The Chinese introduced their one-child policy in the 1970s. The birth rate in Germany is currently in negative digits, meaning there are more deaths than births, and if this trend continues, we'll die out eventually.

I'm almost 38 and am growing to resent the awkward pause after answering, "no, we don't" to the question if we have children. Even worse, being put on the spot and asked, "Why not?"

When was the last time you asked a mother why she has children?

All I'm saying is treat both sides of the coin with equal enquiry!

And those buds of self-defense are why I know that I still haven't completely made up my mind, and that there's still an area of vulnerability I need to deal with. What if, horror of horrors, I don't have kids and end up regretting it? When it's too late, because the biological clock ran out? Will I be doomed to turn into cat lady, substituting children for furry four-footers? And what's so wrong with that?

It's scary to think about these big questions, but it's necessary. I'm leaning into the vulnerability by continuing to ask myself what it is that I want, and listening to both my amygdala and my pre-frontal cortex. And by being grateful that we live in an age where I have the choice and role models like Liz Gilbert and Helen Mirren. Thank you, ladies.

PS congratulations, primo Gonzalo, on the birth of your son! :-)

Image by Janine, Flickr, Creative Commons License.

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