Friday, August 12, 2011

babies.

Today I read two articles. The first was about the decline of babies born with Downs Syndrome. Notice I said born, not conceived. There are still lots of conceived babies with Downs, but they aren't apparently worth enough to make it out of the womb. The second was about a little term "pregnancy reduction". It refers to a practice where they reduce a pregnancy of multiples to a singleton. The following is one woman's argument for it ...

“Things would have been different if we were 15 years younger or if we hadn’t had children already or if we were more financially secure,” she said later. “If I had conceived these twins naturally, I wouldn’t have reduced this pregnancy, because you feel like if there’s a natural order, then you don’t want to disturb it. But we created this child in such an artificial manner — in a test tube, choosing an egg donor, having the embryo placed in me — and somehow, making a decision about how many to carry seemed to be just another choice. The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.” 

The article goes on to explain how this is still a fairly stigmatized process, but I have no doubt that given the current culture that we won't see the stigma last that long.

Both articles impressed upon me how selfish we are as humans. We are always thinking about ourselves, about how much time this will take us, what burden we'll have to carry as a parent, etc. I also think it's really easy to look at other people and caricature them to the point that their selfishness has nothing to do with us.

The fact is, the Christian community often has the same perspective, just not so far developed. When the discussion of children are brought up, how often is the biblical perspective of children as a blessing shared? Children take lots of time, they take lots of energy, they take lots of prayer and sacrifice. They mess up the house and they require you to fulfill mundane tasks that don't leave you feeling necessarily satisfied with your life. However, they are 100% worth every sacrifice and ounce of energy.

I'm so tired of hearing reasons why Christian couples don't want them (yet). They want to travel, they want to spend time how they please, they want more money, they want to get financially (more) secure, they like having control, they just aren't ready.

There is not talk in terms of what God wants from us. It's in terms of what we want. It's usually a reason that benefits ourselves. Is this line of thinking so far from aborting a baby with Down's syndrome so that we don't have the emotional and physical burden of caring for them? That decision is definitely not for the child - Down's children are some of the very happiest people on this planet. Is the decision to reduce a pregnancy from two to one so that there will be less demands on ourselves, so very different than putting off having children because we want more for ourselves?

Obviously one involves killing another human being, and the other does not. There is a defined difference. But the heart's desires in both circumstances are very similar. It's about me. It's about how this affects me.


I believe there are valid reasons for not having children at a certain point in our lives. But I don't think that many of us have valid reasons and I especially don't think that we are cultivating a biblical perspective on having children. God gives children as blessings. They are good things from God. They are not time-sucking monsters that must be avoided or put off as as the last priority. If we're to make inroads into our culture that devalues children enough to kill them, we've got to change ourselves first.

 

14 comments:

Joyce Wassink said...

I agree with you heartily, Sarah. Thankds for writing this up! It's convicting and concise and I hope many will take the time to read it. :)

amymom24 said...

Amen, Sarah! I think it's good to consider the true motivation behind our decisions regarding family planning. I'm sure that most times they are indeed very selfish...

tamsen said...

great post- i wholeheartedly agree, but I'm never able to put it in the right words!

Rachel said...

Well-written Sarah! I couldn't agree more. Thanks so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I have to say I deeply disagree with this article. From the perspective of a woman who doesn't have children (but deeply desires them), I cannot condone the comparison of waiting for children vs. aborting a child because of a disability. I find it truly sad that as Christians, we tend to be the most critical towards other believers. While my husband and I wait to have children, I am content and perfectly happy to use the time to deepen our relationship whether it be through travel, date nights, and having the extra freedom to do what we'd like. It's not selfish, but rather a wonderful time in our life that we have been able to grow closer to each other and the Lord.

Anonymous said...

PS: I should say that it was not either of our choice to delay having children, but rather a medical issue that is in the Lord's hands.

Rachel said...

Anonymous:

From what I understand of the author's intent she is not trying to bring judgment on those who, for various reasons, have been unable to have children or have chosen for GOOD reasons to wait (there are, I believe, valid reasons for waiting). From one who has had to defend multiple times my decision to have children immediately after getting married and at an age that culture would deem "early" by today's standards, there is, however, an attitude of children being a hindrance rather than a blessing. Too often it is thought that we need to accomplish a, b, & c before we can have kids, rather than allowing God to do the leading. THAT is what I understand the author is saying. In no ways does it mean we shouldn't enjoy our season of life without children or feel that we cannot live fully without children. Children are one of many blessings that God has given to us. I know many who LONG for children and to hear others who carelessly throw out comments about pregnancy 'scares' or talk about how children are 'ball and chains' is heart breaking for them. I think the author just wants to remind people that children, whether they have downs syndrome or are perfectly 'heathly' are are BLESSING and to be cherished and sought after, not cast aside and left until WE feel the time or circumstance is right. I hope that that makes some sense and I pray that the Lord does one day answer the prayers of your heart with regards to having children!

Blessings,
Rachel

Sarah said...

Dear Anonymous - thank you very much for your comment and perspective. The reason I wrote this article was not to further cause hurt to those who desire children and are not able to conceive. I have not walked your road but have watched close friends do so and can attest that the heartache is deep. The article was written to address those who can conceive children but do not so that they may pursue indefinitely other personal interests and priorities. We are all selfish by nature and I'm not trying to be critical of others so that I can look good. It's just that I see a lot of us vs. them surrounding the issue of how the world treats unborn children while at the same time I see a lot of choices in the Christian community that communicate that our real desire is for ourselves and that we will only fit children in when we feel like it. That philosophy is the underlying current of our world.

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
While I agree that the worldly view of children as a burden, and the fast pace of our society, has caused even young Christian couples to view children as something to wait for while they pursue other things, there are other ways to deal with this issue than grouping all of them together as selfish and telling them to smarten up. Although that can be effective, there are other things we can do to help young couples along. First, I don't think that this topic is discussed plainly enough among young people in formal church meetings (young adult goups etc) in order to prepare them for this decision following marriage. Maybe young couples need more formal teaching and direction to prepare them for this. Second, this topic should be covered more plainly and thoroughly in pre-marrital counselling as well.

Also, the next time that someone tells you that they are waiting to have children for one reason or another, instead of being 'tired' perhaps you should consider that there are other reasons for their answer. It could be that they are unable to have children or have recently miscarried and they don't want you to be privy to that information. Consider how painful it is to give one excuse or another every time they are asked, hoping that the topic will change and that you won't ask again. Or it could be that they have had enough of nosy church 'family' members asking them about their intimate sexual relations.

Sarah said...

Anonymous,
I too agree that there needs to be more teaching/discussion on this, at the fundamental level we need to be taking the view that children are good things and working that out into making decisions about birth control, etc.

Thanks again for your perspective on people's answers. I realize that there are reasons why people say things that deflect. I have been there myself with people asking me about being pregnant and get the annoyance of answering questions about your sex life! :)
There are good answers that still convey a right perspective on children however. Instead of "oh we're just enjoying our life right now - there's plenty of time for kids", how about "we'd love to have children some day, it's just not God's timing right now".

It's my hope that when the topic of children comes up, there will be less of the focus on the freedom that will be lost and more focus on what God says about children. I re-iterate that this post was not to create shame or guilt for those who desire children but are unable to have them, or need to wait for valid reasons.

I will keep you and your husband in prayer as you live with the circumstances that you've been given by God and hope that your desire for children is answered!

Sarah

Grace said...

Great thoughts. I agree with you. I also get so tired of everyone going on and on about why they are delaying having children. I always feel, ultimately you are delaying your personal growth. Children suck out selfishness and make you cry out to God for help because they are exhausting, they are demanding and they too are sinners. However, they are also the absolute greatest earthly blessing!

Anonymous said...

It seems like a vast overstatement to say that secular culture devalues children, full stop. You are setting up a straw man to give your rant some traction. Does someone who has an abortion as a teenager, but has children later in life, love or value her children any less than you do? She might have made a wrong decision because her view of when life begins (etc.) is wrong or because she erred out of desperation, but one would have to be God to go much further than that. Sure, there are probably many people who don't hold children in as high esteem as they ought, but I think that you've overstepped in your judgement. I know many secular professionals who held off having children until their late 20s or even early 30s, and they value their children greatly.

I also wonder if Solomon's statement (in Psalm 127) that children are a blessing from the Lord really means that all couples who CAN conceive MUST do so. This seems like an big step to take, not to mention a very narrow and judgemental one. In any event, thinking seriously about the time, money, and other factors that go into having and raising children is a responsible thing to do! Doesn't God want us to be thinking, responsible people?

And didn't Solomon have hundreds of wives and concubines anyway? He probably had hundreds, if not thousands, of children as a result. That could change the meaning of that oft-quoted verse significantly. Perhaps Solomon had his own political power or his personal legacy in mind? Like arrows in the hands of a warrior indeed. And if God is in control (as the whole of the psalm suggests) of our lives, we get into interesting questions about divine v.s. human agency when we suggest that people not having children as soon as they can are somehow rejecting God's gifts or will... I don't question the widely believed meaning of the verse to suggest that the Bible does not have a positive view of children...but I do wonder if the issue is as clear and universally binding as you're arguing.

Indeed, I wonder if some young mothers in various Christian subcultures sometimes feel insecure about their decision to have children early, and are therefore taking out their frustration (or insecurity, or whatever) on other people who have made different choices - which are not necessarily as selfish as you seem to think. Why get sick of hearing why other people aren't having children yet? What business is it of yours anyway?

I would recommend reading something other than Challies, Mohler, and Piper. Self-assured chauvinists such as they, who think they are qualified to comment on most anything, can make one quite narrow and ungenerous to non-Christians AND to Christians who disagree with them.

Sarah said...

Anonymous:

With such a highly opinionated comment, I’m disappointed that you didn’t leave your name! If you feel so strongly about your views then perhaps you can be so kind to actually sign your name behind them next time.
First, I don’t agree that I’m setting up a straw man and then knocking him down just so it works for my own personal rant. I understand that the entire world is not trying to kill children or that every secular mother hates her children. Far from it. What I am saying is that I see people’s decisions to have children are not about the children, and even more importantly, not about God’s priorities. They are about themselves. Abortion – it’s about the mother. When to get pregnant – it’s about the parents. How many children to have – it’s about how it will affect the parents. Of course, most parents love their children when they come – thank God for his common grace in that – but the initial ‘when to have children’ talk? That discussion is more about what is ‘best’ for me.

I am not anti-birth control, nor do I believe that we should have as many children as we can as soon as we can and as long as we can. I also believe that God wants us to be thinking, responsible people. However, I think that the Christian community has imbibed a lot of the secular philosophy regarding children without realizing it and that our thinking about what “responsible” means, is skewed. “Responsible” now means that we need to take time to travel and see the world before having children. It means that we need to have all of our financial ducks in a row – something that takes increasingly longer to do in our economic state. “Responsible” means putting off children in a woman’s most fertile years so that the couple can enjoy their youth on their own terms and not have to deal with children interfering with the freedom and experiences they want.
Those reasons have less to do with responsibility than personal desires.
As to Psalm 127 – Solomon was the man God gifted with the most wisdom ever. This psalm of his was written to be sung by pilgrims on the way to Jerusalem, regular Joe type guys, who had houses and wives and children. I don’t believe for a minute that Solomon was writing this psalm for a personal expression of the way he was procreating to build up his own legacy.
God is in control; he does have ultimate power. He could impregnate any woman at any stage of her life without her even having sex. However, God chooses not to usually deal with us in that manner and instead gives us principles and guidelines for us to follow his will. Principles that include valuing children, being fruitful and multiplying, denying self, wisdom as to when a woman and man are best suited for child-bearing and raising, etc.
Finally, though you are welcome to your own opinions about the men you listed, I will not stand for you slandering them on this blog. At the very least, they have the courage and decency to stand behind what they say.

Sarah

Anonymous said...

"Also, the next time that someone tells you that they are waiting to have children for one reason or another, instead of being 'tired' perhaps you should consider that there are other reasons for their answer. It could be that they are unable to have children or have recently miscarried and they don't want you to be privy to that information. Consider how painful it is to give one excuse or another every time they are asked, hoping that the topic will change and that you won't ask again. Or it could be that they have had enough of nosy church 'family' members asking them about their intimate sexual relations."

the "reasons" Sarah said she was tired of hearing are those given voluntarily, not in response to a query. she doesn't make a regular practice of questioning young Christian wives who haven't yet entered motherhood. these are typically discussions initiated by the other person(s).

"Indeed, I wonder if some young mothers in various Christian subcultures sometimes feel insecure about their decision to have children early, and are therefore taking out their frustration (or insecurity, or whatever) on other people who have made different choices - which are not necessarily as selfish as you seem to think. Why get sick of hearing why other people aren't having children yet? What business is it of yours anyway?"

frankly, considering the consistency & context of these comments, i would be more likely to pin the non-mothers as making excuses against a guilty conscience than the mothers as making excuses against oppressive inquisitions. but really, what good is our speculation going to serve? the original article dealt more with the spoken words than the hidden thoughts, and appropriately so.

- Kevin (Sarah's husband)