Having children is amazing, but let’s be honest, with 7.4 billion people on the planet, and counting, things here are not quite as abundant as they were back in the days of Adam and Eve. And having succeeded beautifully in “going forth and multiplying,” the challenge is no longer to spread life, but to take better care of that which is already here. Yes, being alive is extraordinary. Indeed, in just achieving a “state of being,” we become instantaneous evolutionary lottery winners. And yet, for the billions who are born, live and die in poverty, the potential of life’s glories is less real than the suffering.
The existential question that frames life, “what is our purpose,” helps define what it is to be human. The answers lay in the choices we make, both in terms of what we do with our life and what we do about bringing new life into the world. WVD is more than just a family planning movement, but a challenge to those who care to dig deeper into the very meaning of life. It is the reason I don’t tire of this movement.
When we came here to Kenya, I started asking men some basic questions. The first was, “How many children is your ideal number?” The most common answer is 3, then 2, then 4, then 1. Two of the 143 drivers said, “a football team’ The second question was, “Is it important to you that you have control over your fertility or do you prefer to leave that up to a woman?” With very few exceptions the men always answer, “Very much so.” When I probe a bit deeper, they explain that if they leave it up to a woman, they’ll have at least one or two more than they would want otherwise. At first, I assumed they were talking about their wives, but I soon realized that they were also talking about “lovers.” Apparently, in Kenya, as in most of the world, fidelity is the exception, not the norm.
The final question was the most important to me. “How important is it to your sense of manhood and well-being that the quality of life you provide for your children be better than your own?” Every man without exception answers the same, “This is the single most important thing to me. It is everything. It is why I work so hard.” And it’s not just men in Kenya, but men everywhere who say this.
When you realize that men want to limit family size, they want to have a voice in the decision and they want to do all in their power to help their children lead productive and positive lives, the conversation about vasectomy is easy. And I’m not saying that all men are living their lives accordingly, but that’s not the point. We know that men, like women, have a wide range of behavior that we’re capable of exhibiting. But if you have no choice, then you make whatever choice you have. And if the choices are good; you’re more likely to make a good choice.
Right now, we all know there are no other choices but a vasectomy for men whose families are complete and are equally certain they are done making babies. It’s not necessarily what men desire first, but given that there is no alternative it is a simple choice. We just have to do a better job of presenting it.
I believe that in an ideal world, people should be able to have as many children as they want, but trying to raise them to a quality of life that exceeds our own is not easy. At the end of the day, it’s not the number of children we have that determines the size of our heart, but the size of our heart that determines how much love we bring into this world.
At WVD, we say, much more important than bringing another billion people onto this planet, is doing a better job of taking care of the 7.3 billion who are already here! So let’s work together to treat life as the extraordinary sacred gift that it is.
We can’t do it alone. Join us. Visit our web page, like our Facebook page, connect with us on Twitter, and if you can, please consider supporting our crowdfunding campaign. Share your vasectomy stories, get a vasectomy if the time is right and help us spread the movement as we commit to building sustainable vasectomy programs the world over.
Photo: Sheila Gabeya