Monday, February 16, 2009

On Children as a Blessing Revisited

Now that I have 3 beautiful girls, I must confess there have been times of utter chaos! And now that I have been through childbirth without pain medication (which is the hardest thing I have EVER done!), I must confess I have wondered if I will ever be able to do it again...or if I ever even want to!

But, watching my three girls grow and change and talk about Jesus, I also wonder what my other children will look like and be like and who they will become. So my heart is still seeking to know what God's plan is for the number of children we will have.

One of my friends sent me an email that I thought was helpful. It was helpful to take a glimpse into another couple's struggle with this very thing. I hope you find it encouraging in your own journey. I've added some helpful links to her message.

Hey Shannon,

... this is a huge issue for us as well and one that has been unsettled for the entire five years of our marriage. :) ... I'm not willing at all to be prescriptive, I will just be descriptive of the road we have traveled and where we are at now.

When we got married we used the pill. After a year in seminary, we were so convicted we couldn't continue using it. A month later I was pregnant.... We had gotten pretty hard core into trusting God to decide the timing and size of our family. We continued in this thinking after L's birth, and K was conceived when L was just 7 months old. I only had one cycle in between the two of them. :)

After K was born we moved [overseas] with L at 18 months and K at 8 weeks. We were so overwhelmed with language learning, cultural adaptation, all things new, that we were seriously stressed with the thought of another child. Language goals wouldn't be met, etc... already I was barely scraping by, keeping clothes clean, figuring out how to cook. We definitely wanted more kids, we just started feeling like we wanted some more space. We began to re-search the issue in Scripture, in what others had written like Piper, Mohler, Baucham, others.

We really wanted to come to a position on it instead of continuing to say "for this season, we will________." We were constantly reevaluating our position on it and never could have complete peace in any camp. I think really thinking through it and praying through it together was what we needed to do, instead of listening to people in the quiver full and saying, "That sounds the most Godly. We'll do that." :) Even in that, I think I almost felt pressure to "prove" my trust in God by giving him our fertility. Like if we didn't do that, we didn't truly trust him. I'm not sure that's Scriptural...

We did a study on what else is called "blessing" in Scripture. Turns out quite a lot. Two in particular that helped us were these: Matthew 5 talks about being blessed when we are persecuted. Acts 20 [vs. 35] says Jesus said it is more blessed to give than to receive. So persecution is a blessing. But in practice, we see Jesus and Paul purposefully avoiding it for a season, because they felt the Holy Spirit or just knew it wasn't God's plan for them at that moment. They hid themselves from it in order to avoid it, knowing that it would come later, in order to bring more glory to God. You can apply the same analogy to giving and receiving. We felt like we could appropriately apply these same treatments by Jesus and Paul to other blessings. Knowing that we are called to a life overseas where we do not have much community around us, no access to babysitters or those who could relieve us when we need it, so much travel that is taxing on little ones and mom and dad too... not to mention the increased difficulty and work on a mother in this kind of life. We felt like, in order to bring the utmost glory to God, it was not sinful for us to give ourselves some space between our children.

Additionally, I have come to think that God did not give us a predictable cycle in order to give us the ability to becoming pregnant every month so much as to give us a measure of understanding in our reproductivity. It is easy to use the knowledge of our cycle to regulate our fertility. Even bush women in Africa who can't read do this. So I don't buy the argument that "back in Biblical times" people had no option for birth control. They did. They could use the knowledge of their bodies. And I'm sure they did!

Last, knowing myself like I do, I feel pretty certain that if we had had an open womb, we would naturally conceive every 16-18 months. I know that having 4 kids in under five years would bring me to burnout pretty quickly. I want to run the race of parenting well, train my children well, and glorify God in the process. We truly feel that by postponing pregnancy for 6-12 months after I'm done nursing will enable us to have more children in the long run.

So our belief now is that there is nothing wrong with using our bodies to bring children into the world when we feel our family is ready to handle another one. We just see God giving us so much freedom in other areas of decision making, like when and who to marry, what career to pursue, buying a home, etc... and it doesn't seem consistent for God to then say "This one you have to leave to me." We see him acting with us in all other major life decisions. I do have issues with hormonal birth control and will never use it again. Now we are using Natural Family Planning, the Protestant version. We do the charting and temperature taking, etc. It's easy to see when I'm fertile once you learn it. We just use a barrier during those times .... The fertile period is usually 7-10 days, so it's really only 2-3 times a month that we have to use something like that, which isn't that bad.
...
...
Many blessings to you as you guys sort through this. It is so difficult, and I feel that it is something each couple has to wrestle with the Lord about individually. This is what it means to work out our faith in fear and trepidation. :)

blessings,
megan


16 comments:

  1. Well said Megan! :)

    On that same line.... I'd highly reccomend Taking Charge of Your Fertility.

    XOXO

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  2. I really like what she had to say. Thanks for posting this and the links.

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  3. Thank you SO much for posting this letter. My husband and I have have struggled for an answer to this question for three years now. And we currently have three children, we've had one miscarriage, and now in an early pregnancy state again. I am so glad to have our kids, they are a blessing, but I am tired (and I don't want to burnout), and need an answer. I know there is no black and white answer to this question. I am learning some of the same things that Megan mentioned in her letter, so this has been an encouragement to me.

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  4. Samantha,
    I'd never heard of "Taking Charge of Your Fertility." Thanks for the recommendation.

    Emily and Anonymous,
    I'm so glad you found this letter helpful. I know I certainly did.

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  5. Thank you so much! It seems like the Protestants are either hormonal birth control users or quiverfull. So, I've had to go to the Catholics for answers. I would be interested in finding out more about the "Protestant version of NFP". Another question I have is, "What about when you're all done? Is sterilization ever right? Is it o.k. to avoid pregnancy indefinitely?"

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  6. Hey Lady Jen,

    First about Protestant NFP. I'm sure googling you can find a lot about it. Basically, we just use the traditional NFP chart, chart temperature and other signs of fertility to know when I'm fertile. According to Catholic teachings, barriers such as condoms or diaphragms are not allowed because every act of union between husband and wife should be open to conception. So Catholics tend to use NFP to avoid intercourse during their fertile period (anywhere from 7-14 days on average).

    As Protestants, we (my husband and I) don't feel that every act needs to be open to conception. Therefore, we have no problem with using a barrier during that fertile time. Other Protestants feel differently, though, and just do "other fun stuff" during the fertile time. I hope that answers that questions! :)

    As far as sterilization goes, I feel like that's an issue you can only seek the Lord about. I've known people I really respect who've done it, and people I really respect who've done it and had it reversed later because of a deep conviction it was wrong for them. My husband and I don't believe it's something that we would ever do, because we believe that part of being married is being open to children, no matter how old we get. :) I do think we'll reach a point where we think we're all done, and will probably work to prevent pregnancy long term, but won't presume to think we KNOW we're all done and take measures to ensure it, not allowing God to do something different than what we think is best for us...

    blessings,
    megan

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  7. What an EXCELLENT perspective, especially the correlation to persecution! Fantastic!

    A lot of wisdom there.

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  8. Thanks for the info, Megan! By the way, thanks for the post. I just posted on the subject of kids being a blessing today myself at http://joyeverafter.blogspot.com/2009/02/whats-real-problem.html
    We can't be reminded too much!

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  9. I got here through Life More Abundantly. I agree with what has been said. I have left our pregnancies up to God for about 3 years now, and we have one child here on earth and another in heaven (miscarriage). We don't do the charting, but we do use barriers when there is even a chance if we don't want to conceive. Sterlization might be an option, but I am leaving that to God. If I have a boy next time AND have to have a c-section (like I did for my daughter), then we probably will. Otherwise, we won't.

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  10. i'm glad to read this. something i've been thinking about too.

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  11. Again, Megan, Shannon, well said!! :)

    TCOYF is the one book that I recommend to all my friends when they are thinking about trying to conceive or are struggling with the birth control pill "problem". That book and FertilityFriend.com are how we've avoided {and now attained again!!} pregnancy.

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  12. This is something we keep on thinking about (five kids in seven years:)) and yet, I really do believe that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. We are free - I think that being too rigid, too legalistic on this can burden people too heavily. At the same time I think there is wonderful blessing to be found when we trust God with more of our plans!

    Thanks for your post!

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  13. This is such a problem. We have 2 lovely children and one on the way (+2 miscarriages) and we just can't decide what to do after he/she is born. Except for when we briefly used NFP we have concieved on literally every cycle and our third child is comming despite very careful timing (beware!) We are despirate not to have more Children but neither my husband nor I feel it's right to use anything artificial. We have discussed sterilisation but that seems just as bad. He is absolutly adamant that I shouldn't use anything and has offered to use condoms but I don't think that's safe in the long term. I don't know what we will do in the end ? And by the way we are not even believers so it's not just a problem for Christians !

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  14. hi there, I just found your blog and I enjoy it. This is something my husband and I discuss almost daily. We have 2 under two and are doing no sort of "planning" right now. I guess my struggle is we are talking about human beings... eternal souls! I just don't feel any amount of bad pregnancies ( I am on drugs for chemo patients during my pregnancies because I puke so much) or "burnout" can account for reasons to stop from having children... I feel selfish and I know that in order for me to truly live I must die. I look at my children now and I think: "if we did any sort of planning neither of them would be here." That bothers me. I am trying not make such extreme statements though, so, for now we are saying we are just letting number 3 come as the Lord wills and when I say that I feel at peace... when I try to plan or stop life from coming I am not at peace.

    I started looking to everyone else to get their opinion/view point. Those who let the Lord plan their family had points that really resonated with me. My husband would sometimes say: "well look at so and so, they are godly and they only wanted two kids." I found this verse (rom. 14:23) shortly after:But the man who has doubts (misgivings, an uneasy conscience) about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith. For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin [whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful].

    I know that I have "eat" what I feel the Lord is leading me to eat and not pay attention to what others feel is "okay" or "not okay". It really comes down to being a decision between a husband, a wife and their Lord.

    Thank you for the posting!

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  15. My husband and I had never considered birth control until we were expecting our third child (due in July). I was 25 when we married and fell pregnant almost immediately. Apart from a very early miscarriage the other two have come almost as quickly, I will soon have 3 under 4 and although they are a blessing, we would prefer not to have a larger family. So we are now agonising over what to do. I find this a very difficult subject especially so for a women. I have absolutely no experience of contraception (and my gut instinct tells me it's wrong to use it) so the views of others wrestling with the same problem helps a lot. I hope I don’t sound too naive, but here are my thoughts.

    First I believe that children are so much part of marriage, it is wrong to use birth control until you already have a family and are able to consider their welfare and happiness, not just your own.

    Second both partners have an absolute right to children so before doing anything you need to agree 100%. To be honest I desperately don't want to go through pregnancy / childbirth again. But I fervently believe that it is the role of a wife to bear children (if she can) and that no woman should ever try to avoid or prevent pregnancy, whatever her wishes, without her husband’s consent. Equally of course it’s wrong for a husband to ask his wife to do anything against her conscience.

    Finally I believe that a woman’s body was created to bear children and should always be open to conception, it’s just not up to us to change that.

    So I we have ruled out sterilisation for me (although I sympathise with the girl leaving it in God’s hands dependent on a possible caesarean) and given our age we don’t really think it’s an option for my husband as none of us know what the future has in store (maybe I would feel differently about this we were in our forties). The pill and the coil are also out (in any case I understand that these sometimes work by stopping an egg implanting after conception which in my view is ab*rtion).

    Personally I think the ‘Catholic’ approach using NFP is probably the only truly acceptable form of birth control, but since we don’t believe that everything we do necessarily has to be aimed at procreation we have come to the conclusion that the barrier method is acceptable. I like the fact that it leaves me able to conceive if God engineers an ‘accident’ and it seems right that it puts my husband in control and able to change his mind if he wishes. We haven’t tried it but hope the physical inconvenience won’t be too bad and if it reminds us what we are doing every time then maybe that’s a good thing too.

    Sorry to ramble I’m sure you all understand how hard this is and I hope my contribution helps others a little.

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    Replies
    1. I've been thinking about this a lot too. On the one hand, I've got my cycle back 4 months after our son was born, and since he was a C section (stubborn breech baby :) )Its probably better to let my womb 'heal'. I'm terrified of miscarriage, seeing the psychological impact on someone I love. But I heard a friend speculating on the subject, is it better to never exist that to not be born?
      God knows what He's about.
      The whole persecutions=blessings, babies = blessings, avoid persecution, avoid babies, thing seems kinda loosey goosey on hermenutics to me. Kind of like Jesuitry. Like doing gymnastics with the verse to make it what we want. If we followed "A=B, C=B, therefore A and C can be treated alike", we could prove almost anything from the Bible. (this feels too much like the "Ray Charles is blind" "Love is blind" "God is Love" "Ray Charles is God"
      I know women who regret, so much, that they quit having kids after number 2, and then regretted it when it was too late...
      I guess thats the clincher for me. I don't think, I will look back and say my kids were a mistake (even with the view from a mental asylum?), but I don't want to look back on emptiness, and say, as I have heard atleast 3 older women I know well, that they wish, they wish, they had trusted God with it, and had the missing children.
      Its a tough decision to make.

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