Another baby born. Another announcement on Facebook. Hundreds of heart reacts and those “congratulations” comments that Facebook animates with confetti. An algorithmic winner.
And I want to celebrate. I want to feel joy in this most fundamentally beautiful and important part of being a human animal but when I see photos of their most precious, perfect newly arrived creature… my blood runs cold.
I want to shake the parents.
“Can’t you see into the future? Can’t you read the signs?” I want to scream.
I want to show them photos of burning forests and flooding lands all across this tiny little planet. I want to know if and how they plan to teach their child the survival skills that might give them half a chance in the climate apocalypse that everyone is still somehow pretending doesn’t exist even as it is already happening. I want to rip open their chest and place my own broken heart inside so that they might feel the way it beats in fear, so that they might understand the grief that I will forever feel because I have decided that I love my own children too much to bring them into this world and instead I vow to try my best to help protect the beings who are already here, who are surrounded by adults that are doing nothing to face the future we’re dooming our children to.
My best is not enough because I’m far too small. And the denial that surrounds me is perhaps the greatest source of pain that I feel. When I speak to others who have their eyes wide open, I feel empowered and momentarily sane, the Greta Thunbergs of the world are like a breath of fresh, cool air but there’s something about the collective denial about how much trouble we are in that feels like when I have been gaslit, in the past, in emotionally unhealthy relationships. I feel insane, I feel alien, I feel alone.
It isn’t that I want everyone everywhere to stop having children. When I see climate activists and people who are fighting for a better future decide to procreate, I am in awe of their bravery. They see the danger we are in clearly and yet they decide to have children, when they express the difficulty of that decision and how much worry they feel, I am swamped with feelings of love, of hope, of admiration and of sorrow.
In a different world, in a different timeline, there is a Jessie who lives on a farm, in a village, surrounded by wilderness. She has community, she has art and she has children. She is happy and her children are safe.
That world isn’t this one. I’ve known that all my life.
I was speaking recently to my teacher from clown school, Giovanni. He said he believed one of the roles of the artist is to be a parent to their audiences. This resonated with me because I realised a few years back that my maternal instincts are incredibly strong but that they extend to all forms of life, not only the human. I want to grow gardens and make art and protect the entire world from harm. Of course this is an impossible task, but in the Buddhist concept of a bodhisattva, there is an aspiration to awaken empathy and compassion to the benefit of all others and that, to me, felt like a calling.
So I focus on not letting my grief, fear and rage harden my heart to the people who chose to have children and keep their heads buried in the sand. We are, after all, animals with a deep drive to reproduce and the climate crisis is more big and terrifying than we are built to comprehend or hold. I hope maybe there is a way that I can find to rejoice but I cannot allow myself to express myself falsely or disingenuously and so I do not say “congratulations” even though I wish, so deeply, that I could. Instead, I privately process and spit my bitterness out like bile and then I focus on letting my pain soften and open me.
It isn’t easy but it is my aspiration. I want, after all, to be a good parent.