Meet My Mother
“1 out 100 babies born to single women in Denmark in 2015 was using donor sperm, according to findings from the University of Copenhagen. Data shows that it is less of an age issue and more of an issue of men not being ready for parenthood.”
Excerpt from “The New American Family.”
The men might never be ready.
While previous generations valued marriage and children, we have been raised to value purpose, career, and self-discovery. We still fantasize about finding the perfect partner and starting families, but when it comes time to pick someone, we choose to be single over settling down into what could possibly turn into an unhappy marriage, or worse, a divorce. Many of us are still searching for a partner, marriage, and family into our forties, fifties, and sixties, long past both a man and a woman’s timeline of optimum fertility.
So what happens to reproduction when we delay marriage, if we marry at all?
Well, two things happen: we try to have babies later in life with the accompanying issues of infertility and gene mutation, or we have babies earlier in life outside the context of marriage. Both are happening, as both have become more socially acceptable, but Americans still lean towards waiting for marriage, even if having children might not be an option later in life. In America, we still believe that marriage should come before babies, and that money can buy what time has not afforded us, therefore having the largest reproductive assistance industry worldwide.
In Denmark, however, we glimpse into the future and see where reproduction in America is headed. Denmark is a Nordic country where religion has lost its hold, and with it, the inequality of men and women, and the moral and even romantic reasons for marriage. In Denmark, men are not available for marriage or parenthood during a woman’s most fertile years, so women, aided by free insemination by the government and accompanying health care, are taking reproduction into their own hands and starting families on their own.
Currently, 1 out of 100 babies born in Denmark is to a single woman, says recent data from 2015. And many of those are single women who are not becoming pregnant by accident, but by artificial insemination. They are not looking to stay single forever, and many say they know that a relationship will find its way to them eventually, but in the meantime, they will start the process of forming a family and the child’s male role models can be their own fathers and brothers.
Research that came out the same year from the Netherlands stated that women are correct to start planning their families early, as each year brings a statistically lower chance of reproducing without in vitro treatments, which are expensive, difficult, and still don’t guarantee a live baby. The research says that women who want a 90% chance of having one child should start trying to become pregnant at age 32. And what if you’d like to have a 90% chance of having two children? The research recommended starting no later than age 27! Yikes!
This trend of single women being inseminated without partners is also occurring in the United States, but at a much slower rate, as women must be very financially well off to afford the process. They must be able to pay for multiple inseminations, the high cost of health care for pregnancy and childbirth, and, of course, the cost of raising and caring for the child alone. The cost of childcare is the most expense and the most necessary for a single mother in America as they will likely not have close family to support them in a culture where family members often reside in different states and are not as interested in helping raise children as generations prior, and where the woman must return to work within weeks or months of giving birth.
It’s a feminist’s dream come true: The day has come where we don’t need a relationship with a man to have a baby.
And as scientists at the University of Cambridge announced in 2015, they have been able to make primordial germ cells (which later become the sperm and egg) from skin cells, putting us on our way to full reproductive independence. Maybe one day two women could make a baby using sperm created from one of the woman’s skin cells? Time will tell. For now, it means that women have access to having babies and creating families outside of marriage, which is a huge step forward for women’s rights.
Having just a mother, while a generation ago made you a bastard, now makes you one of the most savvy and trendsetting babies of a new era of empowered, wealthy and maternal women. Take that, American history books!
I bet they never saw that one coming.