Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Premarital Counseling

I have a stack of books next to my bed about 15 deep, and I decided I needed to just start reading them off, one by one. Most of them I have started and am about 2-3 chapters into them. So, I picked up Start Your Family by Steve & Candice Watters. I really don't know why I need to read a book subtitled "Inspiration for Having Babies", but I am. The book is a fast and easy read- nothing too spectacular, but they do quote a lot of great thinkers and hit on some tougher issues facing today's modern family (and specifically woman). Here are some passages that I really appreciate:

"The promise of growing a bank account before growing a family is that it will make the parenting enterprise much easier. There's something to that thinking. Obviously, a couple has to have a basic financial foundation in place to cover the costs of children. The problem in our day is that our context for establishing has grown out of whack. The baby industry, for instance, plays on the fears and desires of new moms with gear, gadgets, videos and more, promising safety, comfort, cuteness, and a leg up on the other less pampered babies. It can be easy to think that much of that stuff is essential for a new baby, even though most of us turned out okay with a fraction of those things." (95)

"In talking about why women were upset about the ads [ads from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine featuring the words "Advancing age decreases your ability to have children" under an upside-down bottle dripping sand granules towards the nipple] magazines like TIME publicized the campaign's implication: your fertility has limitations. Just ask the director of the largest fertility clinic in San Francisco. 'Most of the women who come in here are healthy...they're here because they are forty.' " (86)

"Remarkably few women realize in the 20s that their fertility begins a decline at age 27 that quickens after 35 and plummets after 40. And how many men even think about their fertility beginning to dwindle starting at age 35? For those couples who do conceive naturally, many report not having as many children as they would have like to." (88)

" 'Of all the explosive subjects in America today, non is as cordoned off, as surrounded by rhetorical landmines, as the question of whether and just how much children need their parents--especially their mothers. In an age littered with discarded taboos, this one in particular remains virtually untouched...For decades everything about the unfettered woman-her opportunities, her anxieties, her having of not having it all has been dissected to the smallest detail...the ideological spotlight remains the same: It is on the grown woman and what they need and want.' " ( Eberstadt qtd. in Watters 118-119)

" 'So far as I know, there has never been a poll done on three and four-year olds, but if there were, I doubt the majority would say they are "happier" and "better off" with their mothers away all day....A six-year old is indifferent to the arguments of why it is important for women to be in the office, rather than at home. What children understand is what they experience, vividly, every day, moment to moment; and for thousands of children who are placed in full-time care before they have learned how to express their first smile, that is the inexplicable loss of the person whom they love most in the world.' " (Critterden qtd in Watters (119)

"Oh that God would give every mother a vision of the glory and splendor of the work that is given to her when a babe is placed in her bosom to be nursed and trained! Could she have but one glimpse into the future of that life as it reaches on into eternity; could she be made to understand her own personal responsibility for the training of this child, for the development of its life and for the destiny --she would see that in all God's world there is no other work so noble and so worthy of her best powers, and she would commit to no other hands the sacred and holy trust given to her." (121)

I appreciate that Steve & Candace Watters discuss finances in detail. I have often found myself lamenting the fact that I can't build the "cutest" nursery for each baby because we don't have the funds. I recently saw a post about a cute nursery that the couple called "budget" because it only came to about $800. I laugh because Madeleine's nursery was free. A hand-me down crib. An oversized filing cabinet as a changing table. A wheeled printer desk as a changing station and lovely gifts from my family including a rocker and her "Jungle Babies" bedding & linens. Keegan also made me some lovely fabric covered letters that decorate the wall. I find myself mentally limiting what we, and God can do because we live in a small(1200sqft), overcrowded (2 adulst, 2 babies, 2 dogs, 2 cats) house. But that is when I forget, it's not about the nursery, it's about the newborn. And I think this is just more and more of our culture twisting my mind to desire self. It started with weddings; do you remember the last cake and punch wedding you went to where the wedding cost under $2000? Today's weddings are grandiose events that take years to plan...and sometimes that planning and the vision become so consuming that the bride doesn't even realize that the person whom she chose may not be the one for her at all. Because she is worried more about her dress and the venue than his heart and their growth in Christ. This explosion in making everything "an event" (yes, I'm speaking to myself- I am planning MJ's 1st b-day too) is only fueled by gorgeous Martha Stewart photo spreads and design blogs that make everything so pristine, beautiful and "perfect". This perfectness ideology has translated to the baby industry where parents deck their kids' rooms out in expensive and new stuff. Why? Kids bang on things, they throw stuff, they are messy and destructive until they are trained, and even a well-behaved kid may tear a page or two in a book or drop juice on the floor. Even perfect little Madeleine likes taking our cup coasters and playing with them on our coffee table (another hand-me-down). I struggle, and it's my heart- when I see lovely homes and organized nurseries and lots of space and playrooms and stuff because I don't have that, and I can't afford to duplicate it. Even at Target, items add up. I would just hate to limit my desire for kids because I felt that I couldn't give them the lifestyle our culture claims they "need". Does that make sense?
So, I've been thinking about this a LOT, and I really have a burden about it because I see so many young people getting married or contemplating marriage and I really want to say to them "Hey, have you thought about kids? You should talk a lot about kids because the amount of time you'll be married WITH kids far outweighs the amount of time you'll be married WITHOUT kids." Children can really change your lifestyle, and I hate to see young women bury themselves under school or consumer debt in such a way that they are required to work into marriage. Then they postpone kids because they cannot afford them due to debt. Does anyone see this vicious cycle? Or, they amass such a luxurious lifestyle on a double-income that the inertia of maintaining that high-budget blitz for adults-only never allows room for children.

I would also tell them to think about the purpose of marriage. What does being married allow you to do that dating doesn't? For godly couples: sex. What is the purpose of sex? Again, the world has skewed our thinking to believe that it is about mindlessly engaging in passionate sexual acts that are fun, exciting, and pleasurable with no thought to the biological and functional outcome of intercourse. I mean, isn't that what the Pill allows you to do? You don't have to think about getting pregnant, you don't have to be conscience of the idea that when you engage in intercourse you might become pregnant. The pill and iuds and other chemical forms of birth control allow the annoyance of tracking and being aware of your fertility to fade into the background. How many young women are conscience of their fertility, cycles and ovulation? It seems to only become a focus when couples want to conceive, yet cannot. So, for the majority it becomes anywhere, anytime, no thinking- just sex. But God did not want us to be mindless about our sexuality. He wanted us to be engaged- to be conscience- to be aware of His purposes for our passion. And believe me, there can be passion! It doesn't have to be one or the other either. I am fully aware of my fertility and my cycles, and also have exciting, fun, pleasurable romps on a very regular basis (was that TMI?). And as I've said before in another post, the same attitudes that leads an ungodly person to seek abortion is the same attitude of the ungodly who seeks to disregard God's intention for sex regarding procreation: "We're not ready"; "We're so young"; "We have to finish school"; "We have to establish ourselves"; "We'd like to buy a house first"; "We don't want a baby yet"; "We can't afford it"; "We want to have our own adventures first"; "We can't handle more than two or three or x..."; "We have plenty of time" (so you hope). All these statements are about me, me, me. They involve no sacrifice, and as every parent knows, children demand sacrifice. These thoughts are of the same Spirit which drives a woman to abort her child. Read them again with abortion as the end in mind this time.

I do not understand why more time isn't spent with engaged couples on their desires for family, their planning with family in mind and godly views on birth control options. I really want to tell young engaged couples: don't put it off. Have kids in the Springtime of your youth, when you have the energy and drive and stamina to discipline and train and play and enjoy your kids. Don't put it off in hopes of attaining a lifestyle that makes you feel comfortable, because if you wait until you are "ready" for kids, you'll never be ready. Don't cheat yourself and your own parents out of long, beautiful, and plentiful years with children. Not one person leaves this earth saying "Gee, I wish I had acquired more things and had fewer kids." God created marriage for the begetting of offspring. He was looking to create a nation, a people, a royal kingdom from families. That is why Christ is the Bridegroom and we are the bride- every Christian is an adopted CHILD- we know this!!!!! Why have we taken on the world's attitude toward children and marriage? How can we ever, as a godly man or woman say to another Christian: "Seek your own desires, then have kids."? If you have the chance to counsel engaged Christians, challenge them with what the Bible says about children, and why they might be postponing at all.

Psalm 127:3-5
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Deuteronomy 7:14
You shall be blessed above all peoples. There shall not be male or female barren among you or among your livestock.

Malachi 2:15
Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are His. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth.(NLT)

Love, Lauren


Rose Starr said...

Love it Lauren! I tell younger couples that they should not expect to easily get pregnant in their 30's. We live in such an odd culture...esp here in Denver where adults are so self focused...it's wild. I'm so happy and grateful that we had our kids young. They are a blessing to us and our parents and have caused us to grow in so many ways. Like you said, and i agree...no one is ever ready to be a parent! God has so richly provided for our family in so many ways...truly amazing.

I too struggle with wanting perfection and perfect living spaces. That is such a lie from the enemy...only God is perfect and I have to remind myself of that and give my longings over to Him.

Thanks again for writing!!!!

Alison said...

I agree with you 100% on everything! This is such a very well-written article and argument! A great chapter for your future book! You should actually fine tune this and submit it somewhere so others can read it! I love it!!!!!

Our culture is very off indeed!

Bergon Family said...

thanks you guys, i was half expecting to come back to someone saying this post is very offensive, etc. i don't mean it to be, but i truly have a heart for reclaiming what i believe God calls young, married godly women to pursue- a calling the church in general has largely allowed young couples to disregard in the pursuit of their own desires. adolescence truly does reach into the late 20s in our culture.

jmosizzle said...

this is really helpful for me as a woman turning 30 in july, i just got married in march and am expecting my first child in december : ) i read up on contraception and prayed a ton and my husband and i both felt a calling to trust God with his plan for our family. It is God who breathes in life and opens a womans womb. I also read a small book called Open Embrace, A Protestant couple rethinks contraception. Wow! it really confirmed what God was doing in my heart. here is the link below.
Thank you for posting this : )


Sarah Elwer said...

Lauren you blessed my spirit with this! Once again you challenge and encourage me. I pray that the Lord will use your voice to challenge many, your wisdom is great from your time with the Lord!