Over at Feminist Philosophers, there’s a great little series of posts by an anonymous female philosopher about her experience of becoming infertile. It’s well worth a read: part 1 is here; part 2 here; and part 3 here.
I’m going to take the liberty of reproducing the penultimate paragraph:
My partner and I are a family. We are a childless family, but that doesn’t make our family any less real or legitimate. The implication that people who don’t have children don’t have families – don’t have parents and siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, partners, friends, pets – is beyond insulting. People have sometimes clarified their comment by saying that they were talking about a “nuclear family” (whatever that means). But just as I have an extended family, I also have a nuclear family. We are simply a family of two, rather than some n greater than two. Likewise, people without children and without romantic partners have nuclear families just as much as I do – those families are simply composed a little differently than my own. Whatever child-bearing abilities infertile women may lack, they do not lack families.
Yes! There’s lots of ways to have a family. Sometimes it involves a genetic link; sometimes a gestational one; sometimes a genetic and gestational one. But it doesn’t have to. A person can have kids that are neither genetic nor gestational; or they can not have kids at all. And they’re all possible ways of having a family.
And in that case, the surgeons mentioned in part 1 who suggested deferring surgery in order to preserve the chance of having a family… well, they were just plain wrong. Doubtless well-intentioned, but plain wrong.
(Thanks to Catarina for the pointer.)