The Selfish Gene: Babies At Any Cost

Posted by Irresponsibility

“I wanted a baby at any cost” is the headline to Claudine Farmer’s story in Grazia magazine. A prime example of the Victorian-throwback, middle-class British obsession with children as a form of emotional and spiritual fulfilment, Claudine and her husband ransomed five years of their life and remortgaged her home to pay for fertility treatments. Poor woman? Or total narcissist?

I’m inclined to think the latter. Look at this story from a sane person’s point of view: she and her husband spent £60,000 on multiple rounds of IVF (against much medical advice). The process drove her to see “a hypnotherapist and counsellor” after rational friends suggested she might be better off bowing out of the reproductive race gracefully (“I found their comments terribly unhelpful,” she sniffs). Eventually Claudine left her job to go to New York with her husband where she finally conceived after heavyweight medical intervention. “If I was sitting here now without my daughter… I would feel very, very bitter,” she says – ending the story on the same note it began: ME.

Underpinning the whole uterine shenanigans is a conviction that she is entitled not merely to be a mother but to be a biological mother. From a natural-selection standpoint the fact Claudine and her husband were unable to conceive without medical help would suggest they weren’t meant to. In the 21st century, however, privileged Westerners play god in the name personal fulfilment. Because we’re worth it. Nowhere in this saga does she mention adoption. Presumably her genes are so precious nothing would do but to introduce them into the world. After all, why give some brown brat a shot at the good life when you could squeeze out a lily-white child to perpetuate your legacy of stupefying selfishness?

Anyway, what’s done is done. Claudine and her hubby got lucky and got their extremely expensive baby. It doesn’t end there. Nobody asked baby if she wanted mummy and daddy to undergo years of invasive treatments and run up huge debts to acquire her (“I worry constantly about our financial situation”). What happens when trophy child misbehaves? What if she decides that she doesn’t want to be mummy’s reason for living? My hunch is things will get ugly. Nobody likes to feel obliged – not even children to parents. If the child is as big a narcissist as her parents she may feel perversely flattered at their sacrifices. More likely she’ll resent the emotional debt; the ever-present, guilt-inducing question: “How could you, after all I’ve done?”

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