The Prairie Doc Perspective

The dance of parenting

By Richard P. Holm MD

As a father of four, I have shared the responsibility for raising now-adult kids with a marvelous spouse, and also with a community of relatives, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, church counselors, doctors and so on. Certainly the parenting experience has, for me, been one of the most challenging and yet rewarding of life experiences, and the love, joy and worry doesn’t change as these kids grow up. I remember hearing my dad utter a similar comment.

I should add, some couples elect not to do the parent thing, knowing the call to parent is something they simply do not want to take on. I believe that option is a reasonable decision, as parenting can be more demanding and heartbreaking than any other experience in life. There is something about human nature so powerful that a parent would rather give up her or his own life than see their child suffer. And as a physician, I have had to watch parents, helpless, at the bedside with their sick or dying child. It turns my blood cold to see it.

But most parents would probably agree, the joy is worth the risk of pain. As Garth Brooks sings, “I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

This overwhelming wish to parent doesn’t always bring babies, however. We know that, try as they might, something like 12 percent of women in the childbearing age have trouble getting or staying pregnant, and that infertility is caused one-third of the time by male problems, one-third by female problems, and one-third by a combination or unknown cause.

Many of these couples still become fertile, sometimes by simply improving life styles of both the mother and the father, such as avoiding smoke, exercising more (but not too much,) eating better, and maybe just giving it more time. After that, sometimes an exploration for causes, followed by complex and often expensive treatment with medicinal and surgical methods is required.

The final, and maybe most important point is this: if these methods don’t work there is always adoption. As a parent of one adopted child, I can say that the love, the joy and the worry is exactly the same as the non-adoption kind of parenting.

So for all those yearning for a child, remember that there are parentless kids out there who could really benefit from a parent. Garth Brooks words would work just the same. “I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Dr. Rick Holm wrote this Prairie Doc Perspective for “On Call®,” a weekly program where medical professionals discuss health concerns for the general public. “On Call®” is produced by the Healing Words Foundation in association with the South Dakota State University Journalism Department. “On Call®” airs Thursdays on South Dakota Public Broadcasting-Television at 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain. Visit us at

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