To continue my journey from my previous post, I want to explore some of the issues I’ve grappled with to come to the point of trusting God with the size of my family, or more succinctly put, how many kids I will have. Let me say, I once saw the logic in using birth control. I believed much of the rhetoric and propaganda put forth by the medical community, feminists, and even the church. The pill is safe and reliable. Too many pregnancies are a health risk for women. A woman should have the freedom to have a career and not be burdened with too many children. It’s too expensive to raise a large family. Children are a blessing, but only in small doses.
First, let me address my views of the medical community. I am not totally anti-medical establishment. I see good reasons for regular doctor visits, prenatal care, and hospital deliveries. I would be dead and/or my baby would be dead if I had resisted any of these. However, doctors are humans. They make mistakes, honest mistakes in most cases. They cannot know all aspects of any situation and accurately predict outcomes. It’s not a character defect or a lack of caring. They are just not God. Simple as that. Therefore, when a course of action is deemed safe by a doctor, even a majority of doctors, that does not make it so for all people. Every action has a reaction, and it differs by degrees for each person. So, while “the pill” has been marketed as a safe birth control alternative, it causes a reaction. In effect, it contributes to increased risk of some types of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. I, personally, don’t see the sense in taking something for convenience that puts me at greater risk of developing a condition of far greater inconvenience.
Now for how the pill works on a woman’s body. It uses a synthetic hormone to “trick” the ovaries to not release an egg by making them think they’ve already released one. It also thickens the mucus of the cervix to prevent fertilization. Finally, because it thins the lining of the uterus (causing lighter and shorter periods, which is one of the selling points of the pill), a fertilized egg that has defied the odds until now has trouble implanting properly. It all sounds innocent enough in medical terms. Except for the third. When do you believe life begins? If you believe at implantation, then you won’t have a problem with the pill. However, implantation is the result of a fertilized egg. Therefore, logically life begins at fertilization. A fertilized egg is a conceived child. Now, you should have a problem with the pill. Because if a fertilized egg, a viable human being for the moment, is prevented from implanting to the uterine wall, then an abortion is in process. This is not the same as a miscarriage, though the medical community uses the term interchangeably. A miscarriage is usually the result of a woman’s built-in mechanism to end a non-viable pregnancy, one in which the fertilized egg is not developing properly and cannot grow into a baby through no fault or action from the mother.
Finally, how many pregnancies are too many? Let me refer back to my comment about what is deemed safe, or unsafe in this case, for most is not universally true for all. Not all women who avoid birth control have large families. In fact, many do not for various reasons. My own parents tell me they did not use birth control between the birth of my brother and I because they wanted more than one child. Yet, they only had us, and we are 10 ½ years apart. I’ll say it again. Doctors, while they are highly educated and trained (and I’m glad they are), do not have the ability to accurately predict the future in all cases. There is no such thing as a crystal ball. Only God knows, and I trust his wisdom and decision more than anyone else’s. With that in mind, as I have passed the medically acceptable number of pregnancies, I work with a doctor, sometimes a team of doctors, who support me and my pregnancy. It sometimes may be against their better medical judgment, but they are supportive, both emotionally and medically, nonetheless.
Now, for everyone’s favorite hot topic. A woman should have a career and not be burdened with a large family. What Bible verse supports that opinion? Proverbs 31, maybe? I think not. Verse 28 says “Her children arise up and call her blessed.” That noun would be plural, not singular, indicating multiple children. Verse 30 says “a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” If she respects and trusts God, which is what feareth means, not cowering in terror as some would have us believe, then she is submitted to his will for her life, including the size of her family. I, myself, work. I own a network management business, a professional endeavor by anyone’s standards. It is not easy to juggle both a job and a family. Often, I feel neither gets the best of my attention. If I had to choose, and I will one day, it will be my family. If I closed my business, nothing of lasting value, beyond some good friendships, would remain in a year. However, my children are arrows in the hand of the Lord. They are eternal souls that will impact this world for good. They are a godly heritage to my husband and I and will produce a godly heritage of children, as well. There is no other job or career on the face of the planet that is as important as that of a mother. William Ross Wallace’s poem, “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Is The Hand That Rules The World,” is undoubtedly divinely inspired.
To suggest that a woman’s mark on the world should be through a career is a large part of Satan’s plan to destroy the godly seed of the church, and it’s working. Some studies estimate that as many as 70% of young adults leave the church when they leave home. They don’t embrace the faith of their parents. Why? Because their parents, namely their mother, is not modeling faith for them. That’s because she’s not at home! You can’t model anything with any continuity in 2-3 hours a day. Weekends aren’t enough, either. It’s not the popular, culturally acceptable viewpoint, but it’s the truth. A mother’s role is in the home nurturing her children in the Lord.
“But it costs so much money to raise a child, I have to work,” you say. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average two-parent-two-child family making between $56,670 and $98,120 per year will spend between $10,000 and $15,000 per year per child. They consider housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care and education, and miscellaneous expenses in their computation. Fair enough. They estimate that 15% of the income goes to housing. According to their chart, that is 15% per child. Why? The house doesn’t change for each additional child. We live in the same house we bought when we got married. It’s a tight fit, but all seven of us live in a 1,700ish square foot house, and the mortgage is about 20% of our yearly income. Add utilities and it comes to roughly 30%. It would be 30% with or without children. I also roughly compared our percentages in their other categories against their estimates and came well below most of them, but that’s just us. Every family has different financial priorities.
Here’s my two cents regarding their miscellaneous category, which should be re-named discretionary. Most, but not all, expenses in this category are totally unnecessary. When money is tight, video games, media players, cell phones, and most extracurricular activities are not must haves. It is not abusive for a child to read library books, play outside, ride bikes, or do chores and hands-on projects. A child will not wither away if not participating in a dozen sports activities and organizations. No one is going to implode without yearly trips to Disney World. Every family is different, no doubt, but you spend what you have. If you have more; you spend more. If you have less; you can find lots of things that are wants and can be tossed with little residual pain. The time and attention of a mother is priceless and of far greater value to a child’s future than a Wii or a private school education.
One last thing in regard to finances, which tends to be the basis for most negative comments made to me. If we think that children are a direct blessing from God, then why think the entire financial burden of raising them is square on us? I’m not suggesting applying for welfare or other financial support, though it is there for people experiencing short-term, unexpected emergencies. Rather, I’m reminding the Christian that God cares for your needs and provides for them. I can list off the top of my head a dozen situations where I believe God provided supernaturally for our needs and even some of our wants. No pot of gold appeared on our doorstep, but rather friends, and sometimes complete strangers, gave us gifts or referrals or grace or help at just the right time. Often no one knew our need. No one, that is, except God. We have not gone without a meal, though most of our meals are rather simple, but healthy. We have not gone without a home, though it’s a bit tight and not lavishly decorated. We have transportation, used with lots of miles. We all have a good wardrobe, but not necessarily designer brand (except for my husband who was given an entire wardrobe of Tommy Hilfiger after a friend’s father passed away). Matthew 6 has a lot to say about what our attitude toward financial gain should be. Verse 20 tells us to lay up treasures in heaven. Verse 21 rightly says that where our treasure is, there our heart is. What do you treasure most? Your children or a new piece of jewelry? Verses 25 through 34 are the most thought provoking and convicting. The problem is not the things we strive to attain, but rather the attention we pay to them in the first place. Our attention should be on doing the Lord’s will, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, Then, He takes care of our needs.
Now, we move to the church’s stance on children. It’s not much better than the world’s. Church programs are often designed to separate the family by offering lots of programs for adults and children. One church we attended had dozens of home groups to minister to its members. Only a small fraction of the home groups included children, thereby requiring the parents to hire babysitters in order to receive ministry or to minister. I’ve heard of other churches that ban children from the sermon time. They have elaborate children’s programs setup to entertain them, but offer them little in the way of true faith and biblical teaching. Women in the church are encouraged to get involved in Bible studies, community outreach, and ministerial support. All are valid services, but in excess become a hindrance to a mother’s ability to minister to her most important mission field, her children. By insinuation, the church is telling Christians that family size should be limited in order to effectively minister and to be ministered to. That’s just so wrong.
So, I’ve shot a lot of holes in most people’s theories for why they can’t have more children. There are more, and everyone probably feels their reason is the most valid. Rationalizing it is not the point. Seeking the Lord’s will is the only alternative, even when it’s not comfortable. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25. My take on this is that by preserving my preferences and selfish wants, I stand every chance of losing it all. But if I take a step of faith and adjust my attitude to match Jesus’, then the payback is eternal. This is true in all areas of the Christian life, but even more so in a large family.