Monday, March 9, 2009

Being open to life

[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.


Anonymous said...

Nice post. And true. My conclusion is same as yours. Although after sleepless nights with my two blessings I suggest to God that He shouldn't not entrust me any more children because I do not feel able to hendle them the way they deserve, I fully trust Him and not close way to the Life and Love into our family. It feels so good, so warm, so full of mercy and meekness. I feel our marital love is blossoming in our decision.
BTW I had 2 cesarians and dr-s suggested we sholud wait at least 1 year before I got pregnant, so our decision not to use conception was brave - in world's terms. But guess what - I belive Him, and my baby girl is 9 month old and I am still not pregnant. So, God takes good care of me. And always will, no matter what.
God Bless!

Persuaded said...

dear, you are wise in trying not to concern yourself with all of the what if's... it only leads to fretting and we know what the Lord says about fretting!

if it is of any comfort to you, this old mama found that the first few months of motherhood were **by far** the most difficult, stress and worry-filled of any of my other years of this journey. i found that all of the other challenges that came my way: children close together, diagnosis of special needs, adoption, illnesses and hospitalization all paled in comparison to that intitial adjustment to motherhood. and i was (as you are) a mature, stable woman greatly looking forward to and prepared for motherhood. don't borrow worry, my dear... it only poisons the treasure of today.

you are doing a marvelous job of mothering, and i've no doubt that you will continue to do so, no matter what challenges come your way:)

faerieeva said...

I just wanted to thank you for speaking both of the joys of being open to life, as well as being open of the fact that it feels as if you have your hands full already. It is wonderful to see women speak openly not just on the joy of womanhood according to His plan, but also on the challenges we face while doing that.
Be loved and blessed,

Mrs W said...

Anna, as you know, I have an 19 month old, a 8 month old, and a little one on the way (I'll be 17 weeks this week). While it DOES take a toll on your body, God will sustain you. It helps if you were healthy to begin with, and I wasn't totally healthy.

My children are wonderful blessings. I get a lot of comments, even from people in my church about "how do you do it?" and stuff like "only Catholics push out baby after baby, it was not God's design for us" (no offense Catholic ladies, this is comments that have been made TO me not BY me.

My best friends in the world want me to use the pill or something similar as they say "you can't just have a baby every year".

I also tend to believe something very unpopular: that trying to prevent life by using contraception is almost as bad as abortion because BOTH are anti-life. One is not wanting the life to start in the first place, and the other is murdering the life once it has started.

I really DON'T want to get pregnant again right after this baby, but we have to trust the Lord with these things.

Rachel said...

I often find that when I am offended by something it's b/c I need to change my behaviors or way of thinking. Being offended can come from knowing we need to change, but not wanting to change.

MamaF said...

Dear Anna,

another beautiful post i agree with.I'm the mother of 4 blessings, my boys are 26 months younger then their older sister and my younger girl is 20 months younger then the boys. The 4 of them were born in a 3 years 10 months spam. My body had some medical consequences from all this, especially being really short the twin pregnancy has been hard on bones and muscles, but still i hope for more babies to come at some point. My youngest is 5 now, i suspect the Lord is giving my body the right time before sending me another gift.

Have a wonderful week !


Anonymous said...

I think 'putting oneself in G-d's hands' is open to vastly subjective interpretations.

Yes, G-d gave you the gift of fertility, but he also gave you the science to control it, and as long as it doesn't involve abortion, I don't see the problem. Almost all rabbis consider the pill as OK (they do not hold the same view as conservative Christians that once sperm and egg meet, a human has come into being. Implantation is also considered a necessary step, and halachically it's not a big issue to prevent that).
I pray though that one day soon a new pill will be discovered with no negative effects at all. Open to use by both men and women.

I don't consider the first poster who replied here as 'brave'. Defying doctors' orders, getting pregnant soon after a caesarian, is not brave, it's dangerous. I know one woman who had 6 c-sections and one who had 5, despite the dire warnings of their doctors (It's not wise to have more than 3). I think they forgot the command 've shamartem le'nafshotaichem' ---look after yourselves!! It's the responsibility of the individual to do the utmost to take care of his/her health. You do not just 'put yourself in G-d's hands'. You get out there and do your all to make sure you are safe and healthy.

Many rabbis will say that the command to be fruitful means that one should have one boy and one girl. After that, many will allow birth control for a year or two. But I don't agree with some of the rabbis on many issues anyway, (they have become extremely conservative in the past century) so I'd rather focus on the personal issues.

Of course birth control (and I include all 'natural methods' here) interferes with the marital act. You need to think, get ready, perhaps avoid certain days. But having baby after baby interferes far more. You are nauseous for months, or too big to move, or recovering from birth for a month, or attached to a breastfeeding infant.

I have had 5 children. The first two were spaced very closely; I had my second when my first was but a year and 3 months, and let me tell you, it was VERY, VERY difficult (and by the way, of all my 5, only these 2 don't get along). It was almost like having twins, but harder, since each had different needs and opposing schedules. I never again 'let things happen'. I took control, as much control as one can take anyway, since ultimately the big scheme is not up to us. I did not wrest control from G-d; he GAVE me the ability to do so, just as he gave us the ability to control diabetes or pneumonia (le'havdil - of course these are negative, but the argument remains).

It is up to each woman (and her husband) to decide when to open themselves up to the gift of fertility and when to ask for a rest. This is one gift that requires total dedication. A child is not a vase that sits by prettily. A child needs, and needs, and needs, and not every woman can give, and give, and give at every moment of her life. It is up to each couple to decide whether they can give what it takes. And each couple has their own standards of what needs to be given, be it enough food to eat, a roof over one's head, quality time, a peaceful parent, or even a spare room.
I can't think of anything that could potentially 'poison' intimacy more than feeling each time that one was being pushed over the edge, into giving more than you can sanely or physically handle.

Shorty said...

I so enjoy reading your blog.

I admit, not too long ago, my husband and i decided not to have children. I was on the pill for a long time, but emergency surgery forced me to end that. To make a long story much much shorter, I have rediscovered Hashem, who i believe never left me to begin with, and now we want to have a baby.

I have also changed my tune about the whole issue, and I am like you - I believe in letting Hashem "decide" what should or shouldn't be. Is it easy? Of course not. If it was MEANT to be easy, then the whole process would be easier.

Have a wonderful Purim!

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

Dear Mrs. T, thank you for a lovely post, so eloquently put. Many Catholics use "natural family planning" which use temperature charting and (excuse me) mucous signs to determine fertility. If one wants to "postpone" pregnancy for "valid reasons" (i.e., nursing baby, mother's health, financial reasons) the couple abstains from marital relations during the fertile time of the cycle (usually 12 - 14 days). I have been married almost 12 years, I have three beautiful boys and NFP has helped my husband and me become even closer because we discuss (and pray together) EVERY MONTH whether or not we will be open to God's gift of a new pregnancy. NFP is not difficult to learn and the only materials needed are the charts and a basal thermometer. God Bless you, Mrs. T.

Mrs. Rabe said...

Motherhood is the most challenging, difficult, wonderful, amazing task that anyone has ever been given to do! You mentioned Mercy and Womb having the same root word. That is so neat - being a mother has made me aware of another word - Grace. God is rich in Grace and abounding in Mercy! When we need the grace for situations in our lives, it is there. The grace to handle two children very close together, isn't available to you now, you don't need that grace. But if you do have two children close together the grace you need will be available to you!

I am going on too long, but I so appreciate your willingness to address these topics.

God is the giver of all life, He calls it a blessing, who am I to reject it?

Mrs. Anna T said...

Just a sidenote: I have a BIG problem with the "one boy, one girl" rule!! Some people can NOT have boys, for example, because they were exposed to certain sorts of radiation early in life.

Anonymous said...

Just a question. What is the meaning of a "quiver full"? I have heard that different quivers carried different numbers of arrows. Just wondering - I'm not trying to suggest anything. If I had it to do over again, I would have allowed the Lord to decide how many children we would have.And, I'm with you, Anna - if a woman gives birth to ten girls, is she NOT fruitful? So silly.
(Annonymous this time)

Anonymous said...

"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."

This is more of a religious question, If Jews have a personal relationship with their God, why do they always have to ask a Rabbi about what decisions to make? It seems they put a boatload of trust in a Rabbi. What if the Rabbi has his own agenda, is wrong at times, etc? I mean, every human being is a sinner and imperfect, right?

Anonymous said...

I agree there are issues with the 'one boy, one girl' interpretation. Theoretically, one could have 12 boys or girls and still be required to keep on going....but to each their own.

I am aghast that some consider contraception poison but NFP perfectly fine. If anything, NFP is the most unnatural one of them all. Studies have shown that women's desire for intimacy is at its height on the most fertile days. So NFP would prevent a couple from being together on the very days when intimacy would be best.

One poster above who practices nfp states that she and her husband 'discuss (and pray together) EVERY MONTH whether or not we will be open to God's gift of a new pregnancy'. Is that not taking control of fertility, wresting the reigns from G-d?? What is the difference between that and bc?

I don't condemn NFP, just think it's strange to promote it and oppose all other forms of bc on the grounds of them 'taking control' (I do understand Catholics and others opposing bc for other reasons).

For the record, Judaism does NOT consider the pill an abortificant, and holds a very different stance from Catholicism on when and how life begins (which is why Jewish halacha will allow for IVF or stem cell research). Preventing implantation of a fertilized egg is allowed by Jewish law, and certainly not any form of abortion.

Obviously those who practice NFP see a need to limit the number of kids they have. So why call others who limit family size 'anti-life' for doing so? Why are we branded as people who consider children burdens, but those who use NFP obviously see them as blessings? What's the difference?

Mrs. Anna T said...


Judaism is not just about a personal relationship with God. We obey a most complicated and extensive Law, the details of which a rabbi knows better than the average, even Orthodox, Jew.

Mrs. Amy @ Clothesline Alley said...

Although I struggle with the opposite spectrum of trusting God when it comes to such matters, the "what if we are given no more children?" area, your honesty on this subject is very refreshing, Anna. When Peapod was first born, many "what ifs" swirled around in my head and I wondered how on earth I could possibly handle another child, so very soon, feeling as exhausted and overwhelmed as I did at that time. Now, of course, my worry is quite different, "how will this ever growing larger age spacing impact the relationship between siblings?"

Anonymous's question about personal relationship is a interesting one, especially as it was not until the Protestant Reformation occurred that Christians would ask such a question. Both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have a system of church government that decides many issues of doctrine and tradition for the followers of their faith, including matters of birth control and openess to children. Compelling theological arguments do exist that argue this is the original church structure the apostles were instructed to set up, as the reality of truth being known and traditions to be followed is addressed on numerous occasions throughout the New Testament books.

Even as somebody who is not Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, I do have a special appreciation for the idea that *somebody* is supposed to interpret the important words and laws that God has given to man. If we all go around interpreting what we feel these words to say, we wind up with a myriad of conflicting opinions, all claiming to be from God, leaving us with many variances of the nature of God and truth, which is problematic according to Scriptures that state contrary facts about God. As Anon states, we are fallen creatures and could easily have difficultly swallowing the truth and instead twist words to mean what we would like them to. I know I have done this on many occasions and still grapple with this shameful reality even now. :o(

Mrs W said...

Just to clarify: we don't believe in using birth control, and that INCLUDES NFP, because like some other posters have pointed out, it seems hypocritical to be "against" birth control while using a "natural" form of it yourself (that isn't really natural as it makes you act in an unnatural way by not having sex for a lot of time).

I know some have a problem with the pill and other methods that can cause abortion, and these are the methods that I have two problems with 1) they can cause abortion, and 2) they are birth control.

Our culture is a culture of death. If we have already conceived a baby we don't want, we think we can murder it. But if we haven't conceived the little life yet we make sure we don't. Both of these are AGAINST life.

Anyhow I know this is unpopular thought so I am going to leave it alone now, I just wanted to clarify any possible misunderstandings.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree.

Not having sex to specifically not get pregnant, is birth control.

It is interesting to see all of the vehemence against the pill, when many women are instructed to take the pill for the reasons of fybroids, fybromyalgia, or hormone levels in menopause.

I notice you did not list that reason as a valid one, but I, along with many people, believe that those reasons, as well as not wanting to be pregnant, make the pill an obvious healthy choice.

Bethany Hudson said...

Since I'm the one who wrote the linked to article, I figured I should at least chime in.

Mrs. W - No offense here about the Catholic comments. I always find the one about "it's not natural to have so many kids" rather amusing...if it wasn't natural, why would it

For those who are claiming NFP is a form of birth control, I would have to disagree. It is true that NFP CAN be used as a form of birth control when it is used with a contraceptive mentality. Moreover, as one poster pointed out, many woman are most sexual during their fertile period, and abstaining from sex during this time is not always conducive to a healthy marriage. When NFP is used properly, both in method and in spirit, it is used to prevent conception ONLY in grave cases. We must remember that NFP is not just for avoiding pregnancy, either. Many couples use the method to boost their chance OF conceiving. And, it can also be used to help diagnosis problems with a woman's reproductive system. I will actually be posting on this topic this Thursday, for those who are interested in a more in-depth discussion on the matter, so I won't write a tome here in Anna's comment section.

One poster analogized birth control pills to treatment for diseases such as diabetes. I cannot understand this analogy. In order for it to work, we would have to view fertility as a disease that needs treatment--it's not! Fertility is a good thing; it's a healthy thing: ask any couple who is struggling with INfertility. Because it is not a disease, fertility, unlike diabetes, does not NEED to be medicated or controlled. It's a healthy, normal thing. To me, the idea of medicating our fertility is akin to medicating our natural breathing so that we take only a certain number of breaths per minute. It doesn't make any sense. Why would you medicate something that isn't "wrong?"


Mrs W said...

Anonymous, I have fibromyalgia, and am pregnant with my third child in two years. It is hard but with the right supplements it can be done. HOWEVER, the way I feel sometimes I would totally understand someone else with fibromyalgia NOT wanting to have more children. Not the choice I would make, but certainly I understand it.

If I ever came to a legitimate reason to use b/c, I must admit I still couldn't use the pill or anything else that could possibly cause abortion.

But, it is very tough and although I have strong opinions about such things, it is between an individual couple and the Lord.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to add that Judaism definitely encourages taking control of one's fertility, in certain circumstances. This is most apparent when it comes to battling infertility. As I stated earlier, IVF is allowed, among other things. Rabbis will encourage couples to do everything permissable by Jewish law, any medical procedure, that will help a couple conceive and bear a baby. This attitude is opposed to the approach of not interfering as it would wrench control from G-d (can one do that, really?)

I respect other religions and those who oppose bc or IVF because they hold different beliefs. I understand why one would use NFP because other bc is considered to cause 'abortions' in some religions. I just don't understand how one can use NFP because other birth control is a sin, a taking control...NFP or refraining from natural intimacy does the very same.
Tammy the last poster...the pill is not a healthy choice. It has some good effects, and has been used to great success to reduce acne, or feminine cramps, or regulate periods...but I would never recommend it as healthy on the whole. If you don't need it, don't take it, it's just a load of chemicals on the system. The pill has come a long way though, and hopefully will continue to improve with time.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Anna,
Yes, it is true that a woman can get pregnant very soon after childbirth. That is not the norm though. And even IF you should be so blessed, remember how precious your gift-from-God husband was to you in your 1st pregnancy! Would he not be as much of a blessing to you in a very early 2nd pregnacy? God gave you an excellent husband, a rare gift today, be encouraged. Whatever child spacing God decides for you will be for your good! Though it can be a time of stretching for a young mother of many very young children, this too will pass. Your season of getting only the 'essentials' done would last longer IF you were blessed with another child so soon after giving birth to your sweet daughter.

My daughter just gave birth to a little girl just 10 days ago. This is what I would say to her if she was expressing the same fears. Just to put your focus in a different slant on the postential situation...

Blessings of very closely spaced children (not by any means an exhaustive list!):
1)those children will likely have a very close relationship
2)they will both grow into your helpers nearly at the same time
3)their training will be fairly similar, not exact of course, but very similar due to their closeness in age
4)your organizing skills will be honed
5)many times the training that you would have waited to start will be started in the first child out of necessity, thereby teaching that child to work (and we are to work 6 days!!). Many times children are capable of doing muchmore than we parents think they are able to!
6)You & your husband will be put to the test in training obedience from #1 sooner than many parents think that training should be started, resulting in a well trained, obedient child who will be a blessing to her mother and father. I liken it to getting to the essentials EARLY!
7)Your creative skills will be stratched and honed in finding ways to keep #1 creatively busy while you are unavailable with #2
8)your trust in the Lord will increase as you rely on His provision for your time, sleep, health, etc.
9)Your love for your husband will increase, just as it did when little Shira was born
10)(for levity) just think of how much good use you will actually get out of all those nearly new newborn things!! LOL

You, dear Anna, would be living the dream of every woman who prayed for Rebecca before she left to meet her husband Issiac for the very first time. As too for Hannah, who wept bitterly for the lack of children, you would be living her very prayer. Childbearing is the peculiar function of woman with a glory and dignity all its own. And the hebrew words for womb and mercy being the very same root, that I did not know. Give yourself to your husband without hesitation or reservation and with all joy, focusing on him. You will be blessed. Your husband will be blessed. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understainding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths!

As for the excessive worry about the “What Ifs”, a few quotes...

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. (Mark Twain)

Worry is imagination misplaced.

Worry is interest paid in advance for a debt you may never owe.
May Blessings Abound to You & Your Family,
~Mrs. R

L.H. said...

Thanks for this post. I actually just wrote about this issue on my blog as well. My husband and I are letting God plan our family and as a Christian I have not found any sound biblical support for two healthy, married adults to do anything to prevent procreation.

God decided procreation would be a natural result of the marriage bed, when did he authorize us to change that at our discretion? I don't get it.

I think that really at the core of contraception for healthy couples is fear and selfishness. We don't want to suffer or go through what it might take to welcome whatever children may result from our marriage. Also, because its so rare in American society today, it seems even more "crazy" and not "feasible" or even "worth it." But, God can see so much further and knows so much better what is best for us.

I'm praying that God will continually strengthen my convictions and open up my understanding on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. T said: I believe that few things can taint the beauty of married love like having to worry about its most natural, God-ordained consequence.

I had to read this sentence three times because I kept thinking, "Well, yes, I agree completely! That's WHY I use birth control!!" Then I realized you were porposing a different solution - to stop worrying about it. I only mention this because I got a chuckle out of my misunderstanding.

I agree with Tammy. We take steps all the time to control the "natural" course our bodies would otherwise take. We don't sit back and passively wait for death when we are diagnosed with cancer. Instead, we go in for chemotherapy or other medical treatment without worrying that we are thwarting God's will. I don't see this as any different.

- Pendragon

Anonymous said...

It also seems to me that disallowing contraception in marriage would create a strong DISINCENTIVE for women to get married. If marriage means a complete sacrifice of any control over one's health and one's body, it seems like it would be a tough sell to get women to sign on to this, particularly in this era when a woman needn't live in poverty for lack of a husband.

- Pendragon

BellaMama said...

I think it is wrong to assume that having children "too close together" is hard on the body and you should give yourself a couple/few months break. I know God knows what He's doing and I wouldn't have been blessed with most of my children if I had followed this advise.
Also, if you consider children blessings from God, then you must consider where he speaks in the Scripture of blessings and cursings (Deuteronomy 28).

Mrs. Anna: I believe that you are truly blessed. It is good to hear that you and your husband have made this decision and you have God's wonderful peace!
After our 6th was born, I didn't want to have another baby right away (my closest are 13 months apart). I believed that God would let me have a time until I was ready. He hasn't failed me yet!!

Rina said...

Anna, this is actually a comment for Mrs. R (who posted as anonymous) so if you'll excuse me talking over your head for a second...

Mrs. R, if you're reading this I wanted you to know that I really LOVED your list of the blessings of closely spaced children. I would love to re-post that on my blog (, if you would grant me permission to do so? I also loved your quote on worry:

"Worry is interest paid in advance for a debt you may never owe."

That's wonderful!


(BTW, Anna, I agree wholeheartedly with your stance on birth control.)

Anonymous said...

'I think that really at the core of contraception for healthy couples is fear and selfishness'.

I must disagree. At the core of contraception for most healthy couples is a deep concern to take the best care they can of what they already have. Many couples come to the conclusion that they can take better care of two or three children than of twelve.

It's interesting that many of the replies here are from women just starting their family. It's not difficult to wax poetic on letting G-d plan your family when you are only on your second or third child. I would like to see how many of these women actually adhere to this standard throughout their childbearing years. A healthy couple without fertility issues should have 8-15 children in such a case. Once you get to those numbers, you are at a stage when you can preach to women to reject birth control (I include NFP here of course).

I was the poster who compared birth control to diabetes medicine (although I emphasized one controlled a negative phenomenon, and so differed from pregnancy). I still stand by that. Of course children are blessings, but does anyone pray for triplets? For many women, having a child every year is as exhausting mentally and physically as having triplets, and it is something that must be controlled.

I breastfed my oldest baby exclusively, and on demand, and am proof that it is only too easy to get pregnant. I did when my baby was only 6 month old. I could not handle such close spacing again.

I must also disagree with the notion that everything will be OK once you have another child, and you will just adapt. I know too many families with 8-12 children where the mother is drained to the bone, the house is a disaster, and the older kids raise the little ones as surrogate parents (I have nothing against older kids helping out, but they should not be replacing mom and dad). Of course I also have an aunt with 12 kids and each one is wonderful, a shining jewel, the house is lovely, and she is always an island of calm. She can handle the load. Many cannot.

Rebecca Grider said...

What should a woman do should she wish to be married but not have children? The truth of the matter is not every couple want to have children and some woman simply should not have children. I am one of them - both not wanting to have children and I know I would not be a good mother, therefore should I decide never to marry?

CappuccinoLife said...

Anna, I'm always amazed at how closely your thoughts align with mine. :) I agree with you, letting go of trying to control, and letting the Creator do his job is so wonderfully freeing. :)

I'm sure you'll also get some horribly negative comments. But I want you to know that I'm one of those who agrees with you!

Kacie said...

I became really frustrated with myself this weekend when I noticed some bleeding. Surely at 11 weeks postpartum and exclusively breastfeeding, I didn't get my period back already!

But I think it just might be back. I was worried/angry/frustrated at the prospect of potentially becoming pregnant such a short time after giving birth.

I was even more alarmed at my reaction to my possible fertility. If I say that I'm going to trust the Lord, and then get angry when He might want to bless me .... what on earth is that? A lack of faith is what that is.

I'm praying that I might grow in faith and not have any worries over my future children.

God was really good to me throughout my pregnancy and now. Why wouldn't He be good to me in the future?

Please pray for my faith and trust in Him.

Mrs. Anna T said...


If you believe children can be compared with cancer, I have very little to add...


Indeed, I believe that someone who doesn't want to have children should never marry.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Something else about early abortions: it's true that in Judaism, the unborn baby is considered to have a soul only 40 days after conception, BUT it doesn't mean a rabbi would authorize an early abortion unless for VERY VERY VERY grave reasons! As far as I remember, the reason why rabbis overlook the early-abortifacient effect of the Pill is because abortion is not intentional, and we usually can't know it has really taken place. Such an attitude is akin to burying one's head in the sand, and again, I believe that the rabbinical community will be eventually forced to make the unpopular decision of halachically banning hormonal contraception.

Leslie said...

In regards to your comment about women who don't want kids should not get married, I disagree.
Just because someone has no desire to have children does not make them suitable for marriage. There are men out there who do not want children either.
I cannot have children and my boyfriend does not want children so we match well. And just because I cannot have children does not mean I should be forbidden to marry.
Contraception can be used for medical reasons beyond just birth control. I had to take one for years because of abnormal menstrual cycles of which I would become very ill during for days at a time. But with the help of a contraception, I was able to function and go about my daily activities without the unbearable pain and sickness.
In the end, I believe it must be up to each woman to decide for herself if contraception is the right choice.

CappuccinoLife said...

I would like to add a little comment about the idea that if we don't use birth control, we'd all end up with 8 or 10 kids.

Not. True.

And this is one of the reasons I think God is a better judge of what our family should be than we are. There are healthy, young couples like me and dh who do not have a new baby every year. For no discernable reason, humanly speaking. Nearly 7 years of marriage, *no* birth control or nfp, and only 3 children. Shouldn't we have 5 or 6 by now, according to common "wisdom". And on the other side of that, there are women told they'd never concieve pregnant with their second or third child within just 3 or 4 years!

God knows these things. We don't. :)

And yes, there are many couples who continue with their convictions after their 5th children and beyond. I know white a few, in real life, and online. :) There are probably a few reading these comments and cheering Anna on. :)

Nithy said...

Hey Anna, I'm genuinely curious (not trying to start an argument) as to why you consider the pill to be abortifacient. The combined pill (eostrogen and progesterone) prevents ovulation altogether and progesterone only pills prevent sperm entering the cervix. I'm going to be a doctor and we clearly get a pro-medical education in these things, it'd be incredibly beneficial to me to know and understand what objections people have towards them.

Anonymous said...

Anna, the pill has been approved by the whole spectrum of rabbis, not by just one on a whim. If you believe rabbis know the law better than the common man, as you stated earlier, then you have to trust their ruling in this case too.

Also, I don't think Pendragon was comparing children to diseases. It's just that if you surrender all control of your life to G-d, it should be for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Why should one not actively prevent or encourage fertility as it interferes with G-d's will, and then go and actively 'interfere' with G-d's will in other areas?

Of course, I'm playing devil's advocate. I think people 'interfere' with their fate every breathing moment and that's what life is all about.

MamaOlive said...

Indeed a controversial topic. I personally have been all over the spectrum on this issue.

When I first married, I did what was expected of me (even in a "pro-life" family) and got on the pill. I stopped to have a baby when I felt like it, and got back on until I wanted another baby.

Then I did some research and discovered that the Pill prevents implantation of a fertilized egg, so I knew I would never use that again. (As an aside, if I "had" to take the Pill for some other health issues, I would use other methods to make sure I didn't conceive.) So I started reading what the Bible had to say about children, and my DH and I began to change our minds. We were still thinking about it when I became pregnant again. That seemed like all the confirmation we needed.

I was still in the "whatever God wants" category when we had #4 and #5.

Then I got to thinking maybe the best way to be "fruitful" would be to plan my garden a little bit, and I tried my best at fertility awareness. #6 was even closer to his predecessor than the others had been. So much for doing things my way.

I had a few issues with my body after the birth of #6, and we took firmer methods to delay the next a while. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this. My libido dropped and we have had more tension in our marriage in this time than we've had previously.

Now we thought we had a handle on things, and the minute we stopped using conception control I got pregnant again, and am expecting #7 in Nov.

(my children are spaced at 3 yrs, 16 months, 16 months, 16 months, 14 months, and 2 years.)

I agree with you that a woman who absolutely does not want children should not get married. Malachi 2:15 clearly states that the "why" of marriage is children.

Mrs W said...

Rebecca, why would a young lady seek to be married while wanting to reject the natural fruit of a marriage (children)?

Joie said...

Anna- I would be interested in what you might think about women who suffer and have suffered severe depression as it relates to contraception. Besides depression not associated with pregnancy there is not only post-partum depression but also perinatal depression (during pregnancy).

On another note, I am a priest (and mother!). In seminary I did some theological work on the creative potential of marriage outside of producing children. I understand why our Jewish and Judeo-Christian roots demand progeny. We were in the desert, wandering we needed to build a nation. Certainly, we would want to stand in stark contrast to the societies that promoted infanticide and had a cavalier attitude toward abortion. Life is precious, but what constitutes good stewardship of life?

Just some things I would be interested in seeing you think about and respond to.

Nea said...

Just a brief sidenote about NFP. Practicing it surely is a form of contraception, but when there is a valid reason to use one (for example some medication), it's better than hormonal contraception.

I also feel, that it's better than barriermethods, because while using NFP you are not doing anything against your body. Using NFP is a bit uncomfortable, but (IMO) it's not ment to be used for long perioids of time.

Dirtdartwife said...

The idea that birth control pills and NFP are closely related is like the idea that grandma has cancer and it's ok to kill her because "I don't see what the difference is, the end is the same result = death." One is God driven (NFP), the other is people driven(killing grandma). Yes, God gave us the scientific abilities to "control family planning" but man took that intellect and gave us the "intellect" to use Zyclon-B in the Nazi death camps, abortion, child abuse, pornography and many other ills that man can think of to promote selfish propaganda.

God gave us the intellect to discern what is good for our family, but He also gave us the fortitude to not act like dogs in heat and to practice some self control.

I love your post Anna. I'm sorry if I sound defensive but I have a hard time with people trying to equate birth control pills with NFP. There's a reason all forms of Christian religions denounced artificial means of birth control until the 1930's (my question still remains as to why aren't there equal number of forms of birth control for men as there are for women?) It means it's not good.

Maria De Bruyn said...

How interesting that womb and mercy come from the same root word! This gives me much to ponder.

Kyle, Amanda, and Tobias said...

I think letting go of that worry over the "what ifs" of another pregnancy is the best thing you can do for your marriage. I know that once my natural cycle returned postpartum and I could securely chart my cycle using NFP I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and my intimacy with my husband has improved dramatically. We are now open to another child should I become pregnant, but in general will be trying to avoid. In the end though, better to have an extra little surprise than to suffer from infertility like so many amazing but hurting women I know.

BellaMama said...

I am amazed that rabbis would even think that early abortion would be ok and that the soul comes after 40 days! Do they not know what David said:

"For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.
"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

"My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
"Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."

Psalm 139:13-16
(I don't know how it is found in the Hebrew Scriptures)

I know that life begins at conception. Those who are taking/using things to keep from conceiving know full well that they may have problems that could lead to miscarriage, ect. Can we assume that they don't know that they have taken a life?! *I know there are many Christian woman that would be upset by me saying this. I just believe what God says in His Word - if you have a guilty conscience then you should take it up with Him.

Analytical Adam said...

I wish you were right Mrs. Anna as this is an interesting post to read as a guy and I agree as I have heard it myself and it would seem that the pill is unnatural and not really healthy for a woman. As to Rabbi's banning it sad to say I think the Rabbi's are more afraid of the women who would find that to be too extreme then the women who just feel it isn't good for a woman's health like you and other intelligent women unless there was a real good reason for it or maybe these EXTREME CIRCUMSTANCES you should abstain from intercourse. Also, Rabbi's are afraid to admit an ealier Rabbi has been wrong and are afraid of change even though Rabbi's sometimes are affected by the times around them. Being 35 and being in both Modren and more Yeshiva and Ultra Orthodox communities I really do feel feminism is a problem in all aspects of Orthodxy (and was a serious problem in the 1800's as well) and until that is dealt with I don't hold much hope that they will listen to women like you as the more feminist type women and yes, some do get married and have children becaue they come from a wealthy family and someone else can care for the child the Rabbi's are more interested in courting.
Furthermore, some of the feminism is Rabbinic guilt of certain things older Rabbi's have said which again they have difficulty admitting that a Rabbi can be wrong. I also have to you Mrs. Anna T my family wanted and other relatives wanted to put me on some kind of medication like ritalin and many Rabbi's support puting boys on these kind of dangerous medications and I have to wonder if it is to make up the fact that some women are on birth control which again rather then Rabbi's admitting not everything in Rabbinic Judaism is perfect they will try to even it out in ways that are unhealthy.

The biggest issue is just poor social skills and really listening to Jews who have experiences that don't fit certain Rabbinic dogma and Rabbi's continue to close their eyes to anything that goes against their dogma. THis is unhealthy and to be honest is a religious form of facism and socialism that they feel that they have to believe everything a prior Rabbi said is heart even though everything they see hear and read says otherwise. Judaism doesn't believe a Rabbi is G-d and a Rabbi always has to prove his points from the written torah.

That is the bigger problem Mrs. Anna T and I see little evidence of any progress here. Change sometimes is bad but not always. With Yitro and Bnot Zlephchad change was good. With Korach and today with Reform and Conservative Judaism accepting homosexuality this kind of change is bad.

The only question I do have is what Jews did before controception if let us say they really could not have more children. Did they just obstain.

Sasha said...

I've read the article and I totally agree with the woman,because she says that although hormonal contraceptives are totally wrong,condoms are OK.
And for me the problem in hormonal contraception is the harm it causes the woman. (Also my husband would never let me use it,even if I wanted to) But in your case your are left nothing to do except giving birth to more and more children,which are of course blessings,but they need attention,care,love,and however it may sound unnatural,they will need money.
On the other hand,of course a husband can "let it go",because it's not him who has to go voer and over pregnancies. In no way I want to offend YOUR husband(I think he is a very nice man).
So in your case I really think the only choice you have is NFP...
But anyway I wish you good luck.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Sasha, perhaps there are indeed some husbands that are (sadly) unconcerned about their wives' health. Mine is more concerned about my health and well-being than I am. Even though he's not the one who will bear children, he went through every step of the way with me during pregnancy, and he's such a tremendous help now. And of course the husband is the one who earns the money to support his wife and children...

Mia said...

You're completely right, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on this subject!
In Him,

Anonymous said...

Dawn said: 'The idea that birth control pills and NFP are closely related is like the idea that grandma has cancer and it's ok to kill her because "I don't see what the difference is, the end is the same result = death."'

Usually I don't reply to such wildly illogical comments, but I've got a few moments to spare, so why not dabble on the wild side.

NFP and birth control pills are not only related because of the result. They are related because they both seek to control what some here say should only be in G-d's control. Both NFP and pills and condoms and other contraceptives allow a couple to have some basic control over whether they will conceive. If controlling your fertility is heretic, NFP should be too.

I don't see NFP as 'G-d driven' in the least. I don't see it ever mentioned in Scripture. NFP, if used to prevent pregnancy, forces a couple to abstain during the very days attraction is highest. This can be unhealthy to romance, since it prevents intimacy when the body naturally desires it, which other bc does not. So actually NFP works against the natural cravings of matrimony.

Obviously, for those who believe bc causes abortions, etc, NFP is far preferred, but this does not negate the fact that it is a contraceptive.

CappuccinoLife (love the name) - although 3 kids in 7 yrs may not seem like a lot, if you married relatively young, after 20 yrs of marriage you should have 8-9 children. It's true that fertility declines as you age, but that occurs more drastically with women who have never conceived, and you have more of a chance for twins once you near 40, so it all levels out. Imagine, if you could ultimately bear 8-9 children continuing at this rate, how many a more fertile woman could conceive. In short, most families with under 7 kids have either been married less than 2 decades or have used some form of bc (like NFP). Of course there are couples who sadly struggle to conceive, but they do not make up the majority of families.

As for those who ponder why one would marry, if not to have children....well, I have no words. OK, I do, I'm bored...what happened to companionship? To the joy of having a life long mate? To the joy of becoming an official, socially recognized unit? To the joy of sex, for those who believe it should be saved for marriage?

Perhaps an individual should be deprived of all this if she decides she does not want or like kids, or is not capable of caring for them, or is just infertile.

This tirade comes from someone who chose to have 5 children and could not see living life without them. But I also value my relationship with my husband as an entity of itself.


Civilla said...

What would you say to a couple who cannot have children (sterility): should they not get married since they know they cannot have children? Yes, they can adopt, but should they then be denied marital relations because their union will be fruitless (childless)?

What about elderly widows/widowers? Because they are too old to have children or adopt, should they not marry?

What about older couples where the woman is "past the change." Must they stop having marital relations because they are too old to have children or adopt?

Bethany Hudson said...

Sasha- Just to clarify, I (the writer of the other post) do not believe that barrier methods--or any form of birth control--are okay. I believe that God is clear that all contraception is sin (even NFP if it's used with a contraceptive mentality). However, I believe that using non-life-threatening contraceptives like NFP or barrier methods is not AS GRAVE an issue, since it is preventing life, rather than destroying it. Both sins are very serious--however, I do not feel that those contraceptive methods which do not harm already formed life should be taken off the market or made illegal. I believe that in a free society, the option to sin against yourself should remain a choice that can be made by individuals; that does not, however, negate the fact that it is still sin.

Mrs. Anna T said...

To Civilla and Tammy,

I absolutely did *NOT* mean to say that children are the only purpose of marriage or sex. The value of marriage, and married love, is just the same if one is past childbearing age, or is infertile.

I became pregnant on our honeymoon. Do you think we decided there's no point in sex until we want to have a baby again? ;-))) Far from it! We continued our honeymoon up until it was time to go to the hospital and have the baby...

What I meant to say is that children are a natural part of marriage, and if someone (who is probably fertile) absolutely isn't prepared to have children, they shouldn't get married.

Anonymous said...

Anna, I realized that you did not mean intimacy was only for the purpose of reproducing children.

That said, I think it is a very loaded statement to suggest that a person should not marry if they don't want children (assuming they are fertile). That would create very many lonely people. Or many people 'living in sin'. Why would this be a better scenario?
And how is it our right to assign these individuals to a lonely life? Why should they be deprived of all the joys of marriage just because they do not want children? (And there are many valid reasons not to want children).

CappuccinoLife said...

Here's my thought on deliberate childlessness in marriage.

If a person absolutely does not want children, they should not be having sex. Because birth control fails. If getting pregnant would destroy a woman, her life, her marriage, or whatever, then she has no business "risking" it by getting married and being intimate. Same for a man. If they are not prepared to take on the *total* responsibility for physical intimacy, which includes the possibility of children, they should refrain.

I personally don't think such people should be "assigned to a life of loneliness". I think they should take their rejection of children to God and work on fixing their attitudes, and *then* get married. :)

Leslie said...


You are forgetting that some of us wommen CANNOT have children!!! Would you ban us to a lonely, unmarried life, as well, because of such a narrow minded viewpoint?!?

When will people realize that not all women can have children!!!! You make it sound as if we are irresponsible and should get an attitude check. Humpf!

Well, excuse me, but God apparently saw better than you when He made it so I could NEVER have children.

I find your comment VERY offensive that you would dare to assume women such as myself as being "irresponsible" and in need of "fixing our attitudes" just because I cannot have children yet still want to get married.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rina,
(Please excuse this 'other' conversation on your wonderful blog Anna...)

Yes, you may publish my list on your blog.

The quote is not mine. It was one that came up when I googled for the Mark Twain quote. Though it was not attributed to anyone.
~Mrs. R

Rebecca Grider said...

As I am one of those intentionally childless women, I still don't understand why I should be considered less worthy for the joys and security of marriage than a woman who intends on having as many children as physically possible.

First of all, I may not be able to have children. Without being too indiscreet, I've enjoyed a sensual life since college and even with birth control accidents have never conceived. My mother was warned when I was less than 5 years of age that due to medical conditions existing after my birth that it was possible that I would end up sterile. I think that is probably the case; I shudder to think of a few terrible risks my college era finace and I took yet none ever resulted in children.

That being said, if I had said that I was medically infertile and had no option of having children I doubt I would've received the response that because I could not have children I should never have the chance to experience the joys of marriage.

Yet, because I consciously choose not to do something (have children) for which I have no desire, no interest and no skill, I have somehow forfeited my possibility of standing hand in hand with my own beloved, pledging to share a life together. That doesn't make sense to me.

I am glad that most of the women who comment have children who offer then great joy. I have greatly enjoyed reading about Mrs. T's journey with Shira and the happiness it's brought her. That's terrific and if that is what brings you peace, happiness and fullfillment, then birth a million babies a year - it's all your decision.

My decision is not based on a selfish need to control my life or to actively oppose anyone else's life choice. It is simply because I have never felt any affinity for children, never cared to be around them and was a terrible older sister to my little brothers growing up. Yes, people change as they grow up, but that maternal instinct is non-existent in me. Therefore, I know I would make a terrible mother. This is not fear that will go away; I've felt like this my entire life. Children are not the answer for me.

I realize I'm trying to convince everyone of the validity of my statements but I do wish to ask: in so much of what is written in comments and on the blog there is a desire to be respected for your lifestyle choice in being SAHMs. In every comment I've ever written I've tried to make it clear that I respect those decisions and choices because it is your life, free to be led in any direction you wish. However, in my case, I feel a lack of respect for my choice in not wishing children - instead I'm told that I am somehow not worthy of a loving, supportive and fulfilling marriage because I don't want children.

In response to why I would want to get married without children. Well, I suppose for all the other reasons you wanted to get married outside of children. To share your life, your dreams, your philosophies, your hopes and your experiences with someone else. Someone who loves you, supports you, understands you and celebrates the best in you as you do him. To build a life and, yes, a family (before you correct me, if you met a couple who were physically unable to have children, you'd consider them a family), share my birth family with him, share his with me, to not be alone in this big world but always have my best friend and most ardent supporter by my side. That's why I would want to get married. Aren't those things you also found in your marriage in addition to children?

I am very different than most women who comment on Mrs. T's site and much different than Mrs. T. But I have enjoyed her wonderful skill in writing, her peace and it's helped me slow down in my life and appreciate little things that I once overlooked in my fast-paced, high-energy life. And even though my philosophies differ in so many ways, I've attempted to always comment with kindness, honesty and respect. I admit that in reading that not only am I unworthy of marriage but you question why I would want it, as if I were somehow dense in thinking I would wish to have a little slice of the happiness you have with your husband, I was actually hurt. I feel that you've done what I have never done in these comments: condescended to me and demeaned my choices in life. Hopefully, I misunderstood.

Lydia said...

My mother had my older brothers 16 months apart and I know many families who have had two children before two years. I have also noticed that it is normally only once that happens in a family. Although it may be difficult for the mother it is normally a great blessing for the siblings, my brothers have a very close and dear relationship. God does give grace for each situation he sends. I just think to often people (not you Anna) don't have a scriptural view of children. All to often the reasons for family planning are not Scriptural (though not always). Are children a blessing or not? I firmly believe God meant for us to "Be fruitful and multiply" it is His plan for the human race. Time after time when blessings are pronounced children are at the top of the list.

This is an issue I am particularly burdened about so I will refrain from writing a whole blog post on the comment form. =)

Anneatheart said...

My first two little girls were 11 months apart. Ultimately, it worked very well. Since they were both girls, I didn't have to get anything new. We were still in 'baby mode', having never gotten free of diapers etc. so it didn't seem that much of a change.

However, there are other challenges that makes our situation unique. My firstborn was born with a rare genetic problem, which made her develop very slowly. I also birthed via c-section, which made a hard recovery for both babies. That combined with my lack of knowledge about health, my poor body was depleted terribly. I had health issues for a good while. I am now expecting our 4th baby. Throughout our childbearing years we've wrestled with giving up control to God and it all seems to come down to no matter how we think we have it figured out, we still do not have the control :) The last 4 pregnancies ( a miscarriage too) have not been planned. Yet, they were all appointed at the right time- my second born was needed to help the first one learn skills such as crawling etc.; my third born was a gift to me in the midst of the grief I was experiencing due to the miscarriage; and this one, a child of promise. The Lord spoke to me through many dreams about the urgency of having a son now, and even though we were doing things just right to not conceive, we did anyways, with a baby boy.

Before we never felt right about doing something permanent to cut off fertility, but now I feel differently. For our circumstances, 4 is plenty :) My husband will finally have his son, and we will have the family God planned for us.Anyways, the first few months are hard, and I didn't have a colicky baby! But they are short lived and I am so looking forward to the sweet and cuddly newborn days with this one. But I have to wait till August!

Sarah said...

Dear everyone,

This is a very interesting discussion!

Bethany said, "It is true that NFP CAN be used as a form of birth control when it is used with a contraceptive mentality."

I have been thinking a lot about this, and I basically agree. I think the problem here lies not with NFP, but with the "contraceptive mentality," which assumes that it is possible to effectively and difinitively prevent pregnancy.

The truth is that this is not possible except through complete abstinence, rare circumstances, or very extreme surgical measures. There is usually always a chance, however slight, of conception. Thus, the "contraceptive mentality" (that it is okay to have marital relations while planning unequivocally to have no more children no matter what) fails on the biological level, no matter what "method" is used.

But I can't imagine that a couple practicing NFP would not be open to an unexpected pregnancy. From what I understand, most couples practicing NFP become more open to new life the more they practice. Many end up having more children than they originally thought they would like to have.

Best wishes & thanks for the thoughtful posts.

Sarah said...

Dear Rebecca Grider,

I just wanted to let you know I agree with you wholeheartedly that it is perfectly all right to desire marriage without desiring children. I don't think you need to apologize for choosing the life you have. On the contrary. I admire you for knowing so clearly what it is that you really want.

I agree that being married is a great deal in and of itself, and a most worthy pursuit, whether or not there are children as well.

Best wishes! Hope you're doing well.

P.S. If there were an unplanned pregnancy within such a marriage, I am not sure what would happen-- I personally would hope that the mother would choose to keep the child, maybe give it up for adoption if that were absolutely necessary. But in your case, this does not seem applicable.

Pesky Settler said...

I realize this is an old post, but a FB friend just linked to it for some reason...

Anyway, I notice in your post that you're missing something very key in Jewish belief, and that is Hishtadlut (or Hishtadlus, depending on your accent).

It's all well and good to put your fertility into God's hands, but you need to be proactive as well in trying not to get pregnant or the other side of the coin, in trying to get pregnant.

The woman posted this particular post of yours and the one you wrote about forced abortion. If you read them one after the other as I did, I really can't see how one could say they don't believe in birth control, that it's all up to God.

(ANd yes, I am fully aware that birth control can fail).