Saturday, August 2, 2008

Be Fruitful

This is really just rambling about something that's been on my mind lately. Having babies. Well, more specifically, things like deciding how many to have, or *not* deciding how many to have, "planning" your family size, or using no birth control and "letting God decide".

We have friends who are in all camps, those who are struggling to have babies, who have lost babies, who are pregnant and have several small children, who are using no birth control or family planning, who are purposefully spacing their children out... I see them all in prayerful consideration about what God wants their families to look like.

With the anniversary of Matthias' birth and death approaching, and having recently had another baby, I have been thinking more often about these things - giving birth, raising children, having babies who die, deciding when and if to have more. I know families can -in faith- reach different conclusions about family and children issues; I'm trying to work out what I think, what God is teaching us, calling us to as a family.

I know I love babies, love being pregnant, love the act of birthing, love breastfeeding and having a baby to hold and love and mother. My eyes well up with tears even now, thinking about the day when I will be done having babies. I have heard of men who struggle to think of Heaven being perfect when there will be no sex there. I struggle with thinking of there being no birthing and babies. I know, I know, the bad theology in my reasoning, the idolatry in my heart. But that's just the way I feel sometimes, when I'm not feasting my eyes on Jesus.

Anyway, I don't necessarily want to open the whole birth-control can of worms (have I already done that?). It's more just feeling so strongly the GIFT that children are, the incredible, indescribable blessing they are. When your baby dies, or you can't conceive, or you watch a mother whose baby is fighting for life before he's even born, it's difficult to blithely accept saying, "no, we don't want any children right now." Saying no to children just makes me feel... sad.

At the same time, wow, I just don't think I could handle raising 12 kids. I would want to have 12 babies, but 12 toddlers? Twelve teenagers? Could I do that? It sounds awesome and terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.

Obviously, our culture leans way more towards having only a few, if any, children, and for some really ignorant reasons. That makes me really sad.

So I guess I'm not saying, what's your stance on birth control. I think birth control issues come second to figuring out your basic understanding or view or philosophy about children. Are they a blessing? A blessing in moderation? Is it poor stewardship to have a dozen? Should we always be saying "yes" to children, or should we try to space them perfectly 4 years apart? When (if ever) is it okay to say "no" to having a baby?

I'm really still working through this. A friend who is pregnant with her third baby, after having lost her firstborn son several years ago (and then having a healthy daughter) was talking about this the other day; just how your view on this issue can change dramatically after you've lost a baby. All of a sudden you know - really know - how fragile life is, and how it really is God's prerogative to decide how many children you have, and suddenly you think differently about saying, "No thanks, no children right now. Maybe later."

Anyone want to share their views?


Stephanie said...

Surely a touchy subject - especially among Christians. Not being a mother yet, I don't have first hand experience; but, being a married women hoping to become one soon, I've spent A LOT of time thinking/reading/talking about the subject. As a Catholic convert, I've also been forced to come to terms with the Church's teaching on the matter as well. What I learned during my investigation, and what has been exponentially proven, is that a person's response to the entire issue is based on their worldview. And the Church does not usually give clear cut, straight-up answers; what it does provide is guidelines to shape a God-centered worldview regarding children, birth-control, and marriage (because they are all related and can't be separated!). Discovering the teaching of the Church has been AMAZING!!! I would seriously recommend any thoughtful Christian to look into what the Catholic church says on the matter - and has always said on the matter. [A few good places to start - Christopher West's "Naked without Shame" 12-CD set. Any essays by Janet Smith ( Janet+Smith+-+Published+ Articles.htm)] I could write my own lengthy blog entry on this subject - and I have pretty strong feeling on the matter - I'll restrain myself here. But, I will say I think your view of children being seen as a GIFT is spot on. And it IS a shame when a human being - designed, created, called into existence by God Himself, loved, valued and made for eternity, united with God - is seen as a burden, less important than a tree, someone who "leaves a carbon footprint." And what sort of person could say, after holding a child in their arms, "the world would be a better place with out you in it?"
So, God bless you as you raise your kids, as you consider having more, as you rejoice in the gift they are.

melissa said...

Thank you, sister. I appreciate your insight and your thoughtfulness on this topic! I am looking forward to continuing our conversations on the issue as we both venture further into the realm of motherhood. :)

Leah Miller said...

I love babies- but I am already so weak, so patientless, so sinful in my mothering, that I am choosing to say, "not right now." But if God overrides that (by convincing both Eric and I in prayer, or by "accidently" getting pregnant), we will absolutely know that he/she is a gift... and maybe even more so, since I didn't ask for him/her! :)

melissa said...

I totally hear what you're saying, Leah. I really wonder if I COULD be a good mom to more kids - I know I already fall so short.

By the way, your mothering puts me to shame. I have really gleaned a lot from watching you with your boys, and I hope I can be more like you!

e&e said...

One day Eric came in to find me crying while nursing Mari. He asked what was wrong and I replied, "I just can't imagine that I won't be able to do this in Heaven!" I too cry thinking about the day when the possibility of having and nursing babies will be done.

Eric and I both were in the "do whatever is good for you" camp in regards to children and family size. However, after now three miscarriages and struggling to conceive, and after having two beautifully healthy children and getting to enjoy pregnancy again now, we have definitely swung way over to the "It's not up to us" side.

Children are a BLESSING from the Lord, no matter how or when they come. People often ask if we are going to have 15 kids then, and I always say it's not up to me, but if that's what God has for my life, which isn't even my own, then who am I to say no? Yet I realize I am ill-equipped to have them NOW, and I realize Jesus is going to have to do some major work in my heart (and my organizational skills) if that were to happen. But the truth is, all I can say is for now He's blessed us with two on earth, three in heaven, and one on the way, and I'm grateful for that.

By the way, I hope you know that Matthias' life and death, and seeing you and Richard grieve through that, has had a profound effect on my thoughts of children and having babies as well. For some reason, the Lord drove little Matthias into my heart; I remember exactly where I was when I got the email about his delivery and his death, and I remember so clearly his funeral, which doesn't seem that long ago.

Thinking of you and all your children this week,

Lorrie Morgan said...

Children ARE a blessing from the Lord! And after enduring 2 miscarriages, I have come to cherish the 3 living children I have so much more. But with that said, we have all seen real-life examples of "too much of a good thing"...even amongst Christians seeking to do the right thing. For myself, a dozen children would certainly be such an example. I believe that we must learn to know our limits and also to discern God's calling on our own lives. If the Lord asked Scott and me to raise a large family, we would definitely say yes, knowing that He would give us the wisdom and strength to carry out that mission. For me, these kinds of decisions fall into the realm of "working out one's own salvation." I believe that because of the miraculous nature of conception, it can be easy for Christians to go to extremes in their thinking surrounding it. I had a friend who struggled for 3 years to conceive. Upon asking her if she was considering fertility treatments of any sort, she said, "No way. If God wants us to have a baby, we will." I asked her if she would refuse treatment had she been given a cancer diagnosis, and she said, "I guess not." Physiologically speaking, when a sperm and egg join, a new life is formed. That is the way God designed our bodies to work. I don't mean to deny the sanctity of life--but it is, also, a bodily function. I doubt that if a woman's body was not producing milk, we would tell her it wasn't God's will for her to breastfeed, yet Christians have been known to say thus about conception. So on the flip side, if a woman is highly fertile and able to bear many children, should we say that that is what she is to do? It seems there are very few people who don't use some form of birth control. Even NFP is what its name states...natural family planning...a form of birth control. I have been blessed by your blog, Missy. Thank you for opening up your life to us.