[Not for very young readers]
Bethany, from "The Apple Cider Mill" blog, is doing a series of posts on Openness to Life. So far, I have greatly enjoyed reading both the posts and the comments, even though they, obviously, weren't written from a Jewish perspective (Bethany is Catholic). It has been a while since I read something so intelligent, graceful, and eloquent on the subject.
To read the first post, about abortion, click here. To read the second post, about contraception, click here.
Bethany most certainly ruffled some people's feathers, by saying that "The use of artificial contraception makes a mockery of the marital act. It poisons marriages. It hardens our hearts against being truly pro-life. It is taking a precious, beautiful gift from God, wresting it from His hands into our own power and desecrating that very gift."
However, I think that even those who were offended by Bethany's words, sense more truth in what she said than they would like to admit. I believe that few things can taint the beauty of married love like having to worry about its most natural, God-ordained consequence. And few sensations are more liberating than letting go of fear and giving it all up to Him.
The Jewish religion is not opposed to contraception for valid reasons. But what should be considered valid? A woman who needs to undergo chemotherapy in order to save her life? A family who went bankrupt? Not having a spare bedroom?.. Different rabbis could present a variety of opinions on this subject, and many Jews - even Orthodox - will use contraception without seeking a rabbi's counsel at all.
Which form of contraception can be considered acceptable is also a matter of discussion. Ironically, most rabbis are inclined to authorize, of all options available, the Pill and other methods of hormonal contraception. That is because barrier methods (such as the condom) lead to waste of seed - the sin of Onan - while with hormonal contraception, intercourse itself takes place in a non-hindered, natural way.
Personally, I see a very, very, very grave problem with that. The Pill is potentially abortifacient. It carries serious risks to women's health and future fertility. If a woman becomes pregnant while using the Pill, it carries a danger to the unborn baby. If she uses hormonal contraception while breastfeeding, it can affect her baby through milk, and it could also cause her milk supply to dwindle. I believe that eventually, Orthodox rabbis will be forced to see the many dangers of hormonal contraception, and will collectively rule against it.
Not long ago, I had a dream where I became the mother of another little girl. In the dream, Shira was only eleven months old. While this scenario is not very likely, it isn't at all unrealistic. It would be hypocritical to claim that I'm completely unconcerned by the possibility of having another child so soon. While my pregnancy and Shira's birth were wonderfully easy compared to what some women may experience, two pregnancies very close together do put a strain on a woman's body. Also, I love and cherish every day spent with my little darling, and each child born to us will be equally welcome and treasured, but will I be able to adequately care for two babies?
I know many new mothers, not just me, have thoughts such as these. But in the first month of Shira's life, I worried excessively about all the What Ifs of future, of marriage, of motherhood. I ended up feeling trapped, and when I realized I'm not even looking forward to being back together with my husband, I knew something was very seriously flawed in my way of thinking.
After talking about it, we decided to let go. Just let go, and trust in Him. And I wish I had words to express how wonderfully freeing it is to offer myself, my very life and every cell of my body, to His glory. No other resolution could have felt so natural and right.
Interestingly, in Hebrew, the words "rechem" (womb), and "rachamim" (mercy), have a common root. Somewhere I heard that those who close the womb, also close the door to God's mercy. While I don't know who is the author of this analogy, and therefore can't stand completely behind it, it sure gives matherial for thought.