Any time I speak of the general blessing of children, someone will pipe up to provide a particular instance in which this seems not be true. Since God is not a liar, and He says that children are blessings, there is simply no way you’ll ever hear me say anything to the contrary. However, we live in a fallen world, where things can and do go wrong. There’s no contradiction in admitting that.
I have a heart condition.
I’m so scared of the pain of labor that I can’t even have normal relations with my husband because I’m afraid of the end result.
My postpartum depression was so bad that I was incapable of caring for even myself, let alone a newborn.
I’ve had a bunch of cesareans and my uterus is simply too mangled to do this anymore.
I’m taking life-saving medications that would kill a child in the womb.
These are a small sample of a long list of real situations that have been presented to me, many times by readers asking me what I think of these issues. (Sometimes they just want to tell me off.) I have avoided answering any of them publicly because these are very touchy situations, and I am neither doctor nor theologian. I’m just a hillbilly with an internet connection. Y’all do realize that, right? If you could hear my accent, you’d probably email someone else with these questions.
I certainly don’t have any authority to say what should or should not be done in any individual’s life, but I would like try to answer these in a general way, just to be thorough. We really can’t have a discussion about having babies without addressing the fact that having babies is not without risk.
I do not want women to suffer and die. (Yes, I and many others who agree with me have been accused.)
The rising lifespan of women in the last century is proof that we can lengthen the lives of women by intervening medically while remaining well within the bounds of respect for new life. Longer life is a very good thing, and I am please to see women’s health so improved. However, my hunch is that our increased life spans are every bit as attributable—perhaps much more—to better life-saving technology as to life-preventing technology. (I’ll research this later, if I have time, but if any of you are good at that sort of thing, here’s your chance to write a guest post!) In fact, given the likely health risks of hormonal birth control, life-preventing measures could be dragging life-spans down. Research seems to be inconclusive on that question, but it never ceases to amaze me that many of the same people who worry about artificial hormones that are virtually undetectable in their food and drink think nothing whatsoever about popping synthetic hormones daily in order to prevent their bodies from behaving naturally. In any case, I am all for long, healthy lives for both women and their children. You’d think that would go without saying.
What about those hard cases, though? The ones where a woman has a pretty near certainty that carrying another child would be detrimental to her health? Well, they are hard cases! My insistence that children are a blessing isn’t a refusal on my part to face “reality”, as some have said. I am simply enabled by the Holy Spirit to distinguish between blessings and curses—a distinction that isn’t so easy for the natural mind to make, sometimes.
Children are a blessing. Death, disease, and suffering of all kinds are a curse. In fact, they are THE Curse, and I believe we have license to do many things to try to mitigate the effects of the curse–within the boundaries of grateful acceptance of the blessings, of course.
When I write about these things, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that I’m holding two conversations simultaneously—one with Christians, who know exactly where I’m coming from, and one with seculars and Christians lacking a Biblical worldview. Many of the latter group seem to take me to be saying that all interruptions of a woman’s reproductive abilities are a sin. I need to clear this up: I have never said that. I never will. In fact, I don’t believe that the use of medical intervention is a sin any more than I believe it is a sin to swing a pickaxe. The question is, what are you swinging it at?
Some things really are curses.
If a hysterectomy is needed to ease the suffering of endometriosis, to give one example, then not having any more children is simply an unpleasant side effect of that. There is a big difference between treating a disease (the Curse), and rejecting the gift of a child because of short-sighted worldly concerns.
God is God.
I’m sure this is where those who disagree will stop reading and rush to the comment box. Here is where I start to go a little bit radical compared to even most Christians. Unless I find a doctor who is willing to do a VBAC, I’m looking at a third c-section should I get pregnant again. Most doctors would advise having a tubal ligation due to the dangers of scarring after these surgeries. I have no intention of purposely ending my childbearing years, in spite of that advice.
You see, I’ve handed every aspect of my future to Christ. If I live, it will be because He wants me to live. When I die, that will be at His choosing, also. Unlike nonbelievers, I know this, and so I don’t worry about what might happen to me. As Pam Tebow says so sweetly when she describes how she was told in no uncertain terms that she needed end the life of baby Tim in her womb, “If I die, God will still be God.” (BTW, you can hear Pam Tebow live at the Teach Them Diligently conference this May!)
It isn’t irresponsible for me to have more babies knowing that my life might end in the process, any more than it is irresponsible for me to do any number of other things I need to do every day that might end badly. I drive on highways (at safe speeds) all the time, pursuing blessings such as groceries and dental appointments. These are far less important missions than that of bringing new life into the world. I trust in God to keep me safe in my car, or take me home to be with Him if worst comes to worst. I even wash dishes during thunderstorms sometimes, though I admit I probably shouldn’t do that, dishes being considerably less important than babies.
The bottom line for me is that the worst thing that can happen to me is the BEST thing that can happen to me! I’m saved! I’m going to be with Jesus! I don’t want to die yet, though, because I’m pretty interested in seeing how my kids turn out, and I desperately want to be their mother in this world. I was built for life on this planet, and it would be very wrong indeed for me to desire to leave it before I’m finished. Because of that, I am free to make use of every good medical intervention that mankind has come up with. Modern health care is another blessing that I’m happy to avail myself of. In the end, though, God makes the final call.
Blessings, and not curses. There is a bright line between the act of preventing life (blessing) and attempting to prevent death or disease (curse). This seems to me to be the Biblical place to draw the line of proper medical intervention in reproduction, as well.