This post might be a bit all over the place, but I have a brief moment of opportunity to get some thoughts out there and I don’t want to wait so bear with me.
In the last two years I feel as though I’ve learned an etiquette regarding ‘family planning’ questions (not that I am an expert, but I hope I’ve become a little more sensitive than I have been in the past). Married couples get them all the time. There are questions coming from close friends, family members, and even total strangers. I used to think asking questions about a couples family planning was totally fine, normal, and fun. It was sort of like the young single college girl looking at wedding stuff asking her friends what kind of dress they want. But, since my first pregnancy began over two years ago I have realized now that these questions are extremely personal, many times complicated, and usually unwanted.
Let’s get a few things straight: pregnancy and children are sacred blessings from the Lord. Babies are made in the most intimate and personal way imaginable. Pregnancy and childbirth are both beautiful and horrifying, empowering and defeating. I think our culture takes this far too lightly.
Let’s get one more thing straight before I go on: for many reasons I believe contraception (any and all forms) should be taken very seriously and should be used as little as possible. Obviously, I think using certain forms can be okay and I am a big advocate for natural family planning. But this post isn’t about that, it’s about fertility in general regardless of contraception choices.
I’ve been made aware that infertility is a major issue that many, many couples struggle with. Obviously, if you know me you know that so far in my life infertility has not been an issue but I will not be one to say that I know it never will be. Only God knows the exact moment we will conceive and He is ultimately the one who decides whether or not that will happen and how long that baby will live (see Psalm 139:13-16). Just because I’ve successfully had two children doesn’t mean I’m safe from experiencing miscarriage or future infertility. Maybe we assume the normalcy of fertility too much.
So, what I want to address here is not that we shouldn’t talk about these things amongst friends. Obviously, we need close friends who will help point us down the right path with godly wisdom and Scripture when making decisions on contraception options, when to start having kids, when to start an adoption process, when to stop having kids etc… These are big decisions and hard decisions and no couple should have to face these things alone. Chances are there is another godly couple around who’s been through something similar and can offer encouragement and advice. What I want to warn against are the flippant interrogations, the jokes, and the assumptions. What do I mean here? Well…here are some examples:
“Awe, you have your son and your daughter how cute. So you’re done having kids now right?”
While I realize that in our culture the average family has two children and most couples want to experience what it’s like having a boy and having a girl, just because I’ve happened to have a boy and a girl doesn’t mean I don’t want any more. This is a rude assumption that speaks volumes about how ‘anti-big-family’ our culture is. Maybe this couple with a son and a daughter disagree about whether they want more or not. Maybe they realize the decision isn’t really up to them but up to their God who decides how many children they will be blessed with. Maybe they aren’t thinking about more kids yet because they are still up every 3 hours at night with a fussy baby. Maybe they don’t want another one yet but in a year they will. Instead of asking this question why not just comment on how cute you think the kids are and congratulate them for the two blessings they currently have. Leave it at that.
“Are you pregnant yet!?”
This question could be in any context or scenario so take your pick. The newlyweds who’ve been married for two months or the master’s students who’ve been married for six years. This question could be serious. It could also be a joke. Obviously, for the couple two months in, there’s hardly been any time. Whether the newlyweds are trying to conceive or not, maybe a light-hearted interrogation about the most personal aspect of their lives (and also, maybe in their case, the most new) will probably be found most annoying and unwanted. For the couple married six years it’s probably more complicated. Maybe they’ve been doing what they thought best to avoid getting pregnant for whatever reason and they are still not ready. Maybe they’ve been trying for 6 months or two years with no success. Maybe they’ve known all along conceiving wasn’t possible so they’ve been trying to figure out when or how to adopt. All of this to say, the biggest problem with this question is that it assumes a pregnancy will happen and maybe we shouldn’t be assuming this so much.
“When do you want to have kids?”
Again, this assumes they want kids in the first place. While I think all couples should desire to have children or be involved in some sort of ministry to children, assuming they want kids might be a little much sometimes. Another problem with this question is that it emphasizes a lot of importance on timing. The timing of pregnancies can be very controversial. The spacing of children can be controversial. Some women have a return of fertility rather quickly, don’t expect that, and end up with Irish twins, or heck maybe they WANTED Irish twins! Some women don’t have a return to fertility for a long time and have a hard time conceiving again. Maybe those newlyweds have their 4 or 5 year plan and are perfectly comfortable sharing that information, but a year into things completely change their minds. Plans change and people change. Maybe the couple has been wanting children for such a long time and every time this question enters their ears they are forced to fight back pain and jealousy because it hits so close to home.
Pregnancy is sacred. The gift of children through pregnancy and adoption is miraculous. It is weighty. Our God created it this way for reasons, some we may understand, some we may not. Fertility is intimate and I wish it was treated a little more so.
For a great read about infertility and the church, THIS (by the Gospel Coalition) is great.
What are your thoughts? What other scenarios should be added to this list? What about your own experiences? I would love to hear more and get a good discussion going about this issue.