Pick a religion from any point in history, any of them, and see if there’s not, in one form or another a pregnant goddess figure in there somewhere holding a crucial role. Historically, fertility has been a huge issue for women, but with science offering more options for not only women but same-gender couples to have children, has the petri dish become the new goddess of fertility?
Goddess of Fertility day is just one of those events, seen scattered all across the ancient world through both the Asian and European continents, from Scandanavia to Japan to Rome. Even some African and South American tribes have a similar designation, though with a few more enhancements.
Of course, it is the Roman goddess Aphrodite who is perhaps most familiar with readers in the Western hemisphere, but others might be more familiar with the Ostara or Lakshmi, the Egyptian goddess Isis, or Lady Yunxiao from China. There are easily over a hundred mythologies recognizing a goddess with some influence over fertility, and, interestingly enough, for the greater majority of those religions it is the day before the spring equinox that is given to make offerings and/or prayers to that goddess in hopes of having children in the coming year.
Aren’t you glad we’re past that? Although, I must say the thought of seeing a few hundred naked women dancing in the temple courtyard does sound a bit enticing.
Throughout history, being able to have children has been a critical aspect of a woman’s role in society. The problems we now deal with regarding overpopulation seemed impossible a mere century ago when infant mortality rates were still 165 per 1,000 live births. By 1997, that ratio had fallen to only 7/1000 and it continues to drop. The social demand for a woman to have children in order to propagate the species no longer exists. Add to that the fact that women today have greater control over when, where and how they have children and fertility issues for many seem greatly diminished.
Still, there are a significant number of women who want children and are unable to conceive naturally. We also have an increasing number of same-gender couples desiring children that carry at least one parent’s DNA and others who want to actually avoid passing along their DNA due to the risk of congenital diseases within their family history. All those factors together make fertility just as much a significant issue today as it has ever been. Families trying desperately to have children would probably be delighted if merely paying a tribute to a random goddess would resolve their fertility issues.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) solves fertility issues for a lot of women such as those who have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes or ovarian failure. Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) are possible as well but tend to not have the success rate of IVF.
Still, there is greater hope now than there ever has been, so everyone should be happy that almost anyone who wants a baby can have one, right? You would think so, but that’s not necessarily the case. With the increased use of IVF has come increased controversy from those in religious sectors who say that such “artificial” means of conception are wrong because they are not “natural.”
That’s right, mythology is jealous that science can achieve what tribute and prayer cannot. The matter would almost be laughable were it not a growing subject of debate, to the point it has even spilled over into the fashion world.
When Italian design duo Dolce & Gabbana dedicated their show this past season to mothers and proceeded to send both moms and babies down the runway, it was difficult to not join in the collective awww. At the time, I’m not sure too many people realized there was a socio-political statement being made: Dolce & Gabbana are against in-vitro fertilization, especially where it helps gay couples have children. That would be gay couples such a rock legend Sir Elton John and his partner, who have now joined a boycott against the designers. Then, to make matters worse, Stephano Gabbana calls Sir Elton a fascist. Fashion struck back with designers such as Victoria Beckham and Nicolas Ghesquiere joining the boycott in support of Sir Elton and others. Dolce & Gabbana tried walking back their comments earlier this week, but the matter has brought to light just how widespread and messy the controversy is.
Perhaps IVF parents should adopt their own goddess and mythologies. Just kidding.
Fertility is a big deal. Even among women who say they don’t plan on having children, the majority still want to know it is possible should they ever change their minds. Most people still consider having children a blessing and who can resist the soft, squishy coos of a newborn? There’s a good reason that infant photography is a very popular genre.
So here’s to the women who want to start families, and to those who already have begun their broods. May whichever goddess you prefer bless you with joy and abundance.
We’ll just deal with that ugly overpopulation issue another day.