Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is it better not to have children?

When I posted about my concerns regarding the future possibility of another hospital birth, and about my negative experience last time around, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming response I received, and I would like to thank all you ladies for your thoughtful comments.

This post was induced by my feeling I need to respond in detail to what was repeated in several comments, which can be summed up by saying that, if I’m so concerned about a possible future bad experience in a hospital, perhaps I shouldn’t have more children, at least not right now.

Sometimes my posts produce quite unexpected, controversial replies, but here I was sitting and staring at the screen in puzzlement. I just wasn’t aware of the fact that anything I said could imply that it’s better to stop having children. It’s true that Jews are allowed the use of birth control under certain circumstances, but I don’t believe it applies in my case.

First, I want to have more children. My having concerns about certain aspects of pregnancy and birth doesn’t in any way overrun my deepest desire to be blessed with more children. Could I, if I became pregnant now, close my eyes after 9 months and open them the next day and hold a sweet, beautiful baby in my arms, in my home and my family circle, without any health risks or bad memories to accompany the experience, perhaps it would be ideal. But we don’t live in an ideal world, and children aren’t born into ideal circumstances.

Perhaps if we could have another bedroom that would be great, too. But, again, we don’t live in an ideal world, and children aren’t born into ideal circumstances. My husband is one of five children who all grew up in an apartment so small that by many it would be considered a case of grave deprivation. But were they really deprived? Not at all; they had food, clothes, a roof over their heads, and the advantage of learning to share. These children were raised by parents, who had no more than high school education, and grew up to be wonderfully kind, caring, unspoiled, unselfish, generous adults who now all have beautiful families of their own, are professionally successful, and so pleasant to be around that I feel extremely lucky to have married into such a family.

Common wisdom would perhaps say, “wait, you only have one spare bedroom. You can’t possibly accommodate more than two children with tolerable comfort!” – but bedrooms are of shorter consequence and lesser value than people.

Telling someone who wants to have children but is apprehensive about certain parts of the equation, that she should simply put off having children, can be compared to telling someone who wants to get married but has some concerns regarding this, to just remain single until these issues are resolved. Now, if these issues can be resolved, there is perhaps some logic in the suggestion. But what if we are talking about short-term drawbacks that can’t really be removed? In my opinion, it is then better to take the plunge.

If a woman has pathological fear of everything related to pregnancy and birth, then perhaps she should indeed use birth control while she goes to counseling to resolve her issues. But what I have is an entirely reasonable dislike of the hospital environment, which no passage of time can do away or improve. Whether I have another child in a year, two years, or five years, it is most likely that Israeli hospitals will remain just the same. So, yes, the bottom line is that I might have to endure a few very unpleasant days in an unsupportive environment, but this is trifling in comparison to the blessing of a baby.

My husband and I are both shy, reserved people, with a dislike of large crowds. When we were planning our wedding we at first thought of a very intimate ceremony. But in Israel, things just aren’t done that way – people would think it’s strange, and the numerous relatives would be offended at not receiving an invitation. We had over a hundred guests, and that’s a tiny wedding by Israeli standards. Still, for me it was a huge crowd and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it. Does this mean I shouldn’t have got married, or that we should have postponed the wedding? Not in the least; I endured a few hours of tension, and by their end I was married and it was all over. Again, we don’t live in an ideal world. We can wish for improvement, but sometimes, we have to put up with things.

Some people wish to get accepted to universities, but wonder aloud how they will handle the load of studies and exams. Are they told to forsake higher education altogether? Others plan a trip abroad but are afraid of flights. Are they told they should never board a plane? No and no. But when a problem arises that can be avoided by not having children, we are told not to have children.

You know why? Because unfortunately, we grew up being taught that having children is dispensable, compared to other things which relate to our personal comfort in life, such as a brilliant career, a nice house, or traveling abroad. And I don’t believe this is the Jewish way.

Should we give up raising a large family because of temporary obstacles and temporary discomfort? On this forum I am unfit to go into particulars, but on a general scale, a tendency to smaller families and larger houses strikes me as something which overlooks the eternal in favor of the short-term.

I am now twenty-six years old. I can reasonably expect to count on ten years of fertility still ahead of me, perhaps a little longer, and I don’t know if and when I will actually become pregnant again – no one can guarantee that, and we all know in Whose hands it is. In any case, the number of children I have until my fertility declines is final. The number of bedrooms in whatever home we occupy by then is not. I’m sure that when I look back, there is no way I will regret having more children; but as to the size of the house or amount of possessions, or even temporary feeling of tiredness, all that will be reduced to almost nothing in retrospective.

I ask you please not to go into extremes when you comment. There are situations of genuine concern, such as ill health, financial ruin (and I mean actual ruin, not a modest stable income), and other circumstances which should be taken into account. There are women who are in such chase after their declining fertility that they even forsake nursing their babies so that they can have as many children as possible without even the reasonable spacing breastfeeding usually provides – something I feel very strongly against, by the way. But overall, the blessing of children, in my eyes, outweighs negatives such as dislike of doctors or the lack of a spare bedroom.


Sigalit Chana said...

I totally agree with you =) and though not nessassary, I appreciate your follow up post. Well said =)

Ronit said...

I misunderstood your last post. I assumed that you were afraid of being pregnant again, of adding another kid, in which case pregnancy is best avoided. I didnt realize that the issue was just with birth in Israel itself, which can be worked around.

I understand you about the wedding comparison- my husband also hates crowds and the fear of being the center of attention made him want to push off getting married, but my convincing him that nothing about that would change by waiting was what convinced him to go ahead.

Lady Anne said...

Anna, I'm sorry I didn't make myself very clear when I posted yesterday. My husband comes from a culture that encourages large families; his mother was one of fifteen (!) and that was part of my concern. It's also the reason we *don't* have a large family. He shared a bed with his brother and sister until she was fourteen.

The Psalmist says "Your children shall be like olive trees", but farmers know that planting too close together is not good for the plants or the soil. I also know olive trees put out "baby shoots" which protect the parent plant, so he was painting a slightly different picture. But still, the ground needs to lie fallow for a season to allow time for the natural nutrients to restore themselves.

I enjoy reading your blog so much! I have learned a lot from you, and I admire you tremendously. Please don't ever take my questions as hidden insults, because they are not.


Elena said...

Really well said. I totally agree with you. One question (regarding also last post): can´t you have your babies at home, or find a doctor who shares your views? In Spain giving birth at home is rare, but it is usually possible to find doctors who don´t intervene that much, and let the woman give birth as she likes.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lady Anne, I didn't only mean your comment specifically, but also some others, including some I didn't publish.

Also, I don't think most people will naturally have fifteen children, even if they never use birth control. I doubt I am physically capable of having a family half as large, taking all into account (age and previous gap between children).

Rightthinker said...

Beautiful post! I've written many of the same sentiments on my own blog.

My husband and I are the "perfect candidates" for sterilization/birth control. We have 6 so far, and two sets of them are 12 months apart and 15 months apart. I was recently pregnant with twins that I lost, and they would have been 15 months younger than our youngest.

If we truly believe that it is God who opens and closes the womb, then we must be prepared for submission in this way. Our fears will be resolved by our faith in Him.

I totally understand where you were coming from in your post..and never once did my mind say, "well, if you have apprehension, you'd be better off controlling your family size artificially rather than with faith in God to see you through your fears".

God Bless!

Anonymous said...

Dear Anna,

I think that the comments of 'not having another child for a while' were also motivated by you often speaking about having low energy levels, and needing lots of peace & quiet. I think there is an element of genuine worry: will you be able to cope? Not because I doubt your parenting skills, you seem like a wonderful, loving and dedicated mother, but because you seem to have limited energy reserves to go around.

All the best, E.

Leah Brand-Burks said...

"...a tendency to smaller families and larger houses strikes me as something which overlooks the eternal in favor of the short-term."
That was hitting the nail on the head! Well stated, friend.

Star said...

I agree with what you said and nobody should tell anyone else what to do with their lives, but, and it is a big but, don't you think there are too many people on the planet already? Perhaps we should all show some restraint and stick to two? I have three and feel guilty about that, so guilty when I see how so many people don't have enough food to eat.

Jessica said...

Very aptly said! I completely agree! The negativites of a hospital do not outweigh the Gifts of the L-rd.

Kate said...

Amen. Well said and a good follow-up post. I didn't read all the comments on the last post (only the first few that were posted mostly involving the suggestion of a home birth). That is SO unfortunate that it is a more expensive option for you! Here in the US it is actually a less expensive option.

AnneJisca said...

I want to encourage you in this! I'm a random reader, following a link shared by a friend on facebook, so I don't know much about you or your blog or history. But I have two children (so far!), and my first birth was extremely difficult and hard. It was not something I ever wanted to repeat, took 4mths just to heal physically. Yet I knew I wanted more children, in God's timing, and I knew I could endure the "temporary" pain of childbirth for a lifetime of having more children. My 2nd child is now 6mths old and God blessed me with a much much better experience! Yes, the temporary discomfort is worth it for the precious life it brings into the world! God bless you and your family!

living from glory to glory said...

I am so happy for your ability to share your heart with so many people. It still amazes me how we all differ on so many things. Yet it is through each of our own parents allowing us now to live and it is up to Him for our very breath. I encourage all women ,wives and Mothers to love and care for all the children that are given to us! No matter how fast or many. Or how they come into our lives. Shalom Roxy

Humble wife said...

When my children were small we lived in a one bedroom small~small home on an acre of land. We built for the children berths like on a ship. Each child had 28 inch high 6 foot long bunks. One side was the side they could climb up on and the other down so no one would get their heads hit.

I made little curtains and they loved this arrangement. Our bed did not fit so we had a sleep pad for my husband and I that we rolled up in the morning. This was a time of great memories and of taking what we had and making it the best instead of not doing something just because.

Keep on in your faith and beliefs as you are a lovely light in the world.

New Mexico

Rose said...

Which is exactly why all you got me was an enormous hug. :)

Schy said...

Great post. The worlds is starting to view children as a commodity and that is so tragic. Children are more important than he number of bedrooms in a home.

Mrs. Anna T said...

I appreciate everyone's concern about my health, but even if there are stresses and fatigues in my life (and remember, I don't really reveal all that is going on), why would you think my children are the source of them? For me, children are a source of occupation, but not stress.

Mrs. Anna T said...


First, I believe overpopulation is a myth - and I won't go into details in this thread, because it isn't the place, but I have read and heard enough to be convicted.

Second, even though there are densely populated areas on our planet, other areas are *not*. Would it make sense, for example, if the Finns all decided to stick to two children per family, because of overpopulation, while their country is one of the most sparsely populated in Europe?

Would it make sense for an ecologically conscious family in Russia to only have two children because of overpopulation, while the Russian population is actually on decline, which is a very serious problem for them?

I live in an area which is not at all densely populated, and furthermore, I belong to the Jewish people, whose numbers were tragically reduced by Holocaust a couple of generations ago, and are still reduced today by assimilation and intermarriage.

So, in my eyes, the more children Jewish families have, and especially here where we live, the better.

Anonymous said...

My own family was helped enormously by a woman who was an unexpected 11th child born to parents near their 50's. I do not think it is overstating the truth to say she may have saved our lives literally ,I am happy to be caring for her in her old age as she never married or had children. I have seen many old letters from her relatives thanking her for the help she gave them financially and encouragement as they started their own lives. And yet one of her neices said to me" due to this womans mother being overwhelmed and emotionally frail at times, it would have been so much better if they had only had 2 children". NO!What a much harder place this world would have been for several families if this woman had never been born.
I hope that you will beable to make a personal conection with an ob dr. as you may be seeing one for years! and making a personal conection may be the way to better care in your country . In the USA the Dr. seem very willing to do things differently if you let them know you have done your research . Just an idea and hopefully an encouragement. Karen

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you Star, who feels guilt over the presence of her third child. I hope you might think about God being in control of your family and His providing your children. It's not only your decision or actions that create children, as if God wanted to make an example of your family to only have two, then He could easily have prevented the third life from beginning. Be careful that your third child doesn't pick up on your struggle over his existence, as he (she?) could easily apply that and begin to feel guilty as well for existing. That would be a horrible place for a child, to see himself as a burden to the world instead of a instrument for good works.

If you are concerned about people in the world facing hunger, which is a real problem and you are rightly compassionate and loving to be concerned about it, then involve yourself and your children in charities and programs that work toward meeting the needs of those people. Who knows, your three children may grow to be three powerful and influential workers in the realm of fighting poverty and hunger. You have the chance to raise and influence them toward compassion and giving of themselves toward the less fortunate. You may do more to fight hunger by the raising of three such productive adults than six families raising only two children who think only of themselves.


Mrs. Parunak said...

Dear Mrs. Anna,

Once again you've written just the post I needed to read! With my fifth baby born three months ago, I've been tired and overwhelmed sometimes with figuring out how to discipline all the children, manage bickering, etc. And I've felt so alone because so many people would just say, "If it's so difficult for you, stop having babies--problem solved." But I LOVE my babies. When I look into my baby son's smiling eyes, I think, "what if I'd missed this, what if four was 'enough' and I'd stopped?" No, the solution lies in my growing as a person and learning to manage all these precious, precious children. Thank you so much for the encouragement today!

CPass said...

Anna, your post was well thought out and gracefully presented. I cannot imagine giving birth in a place where I did not feel listened to or supported by the staff. Thankfully, it sounds as if your husband is someone who will advocate for you and comfort you.

If G-d does bless you with baby #3 I'm sure he or she will be well cared for, loved, and cherished - and IF you have a bad experience in the hospital it's good you can take comfort that it will not come close to negating the blessing of your sweet baby.

As an aside, my mom is one of seven children (all daughters) who grew up in a 2 bedroom home. They are all healthy, happy, well-educated and now as older women (60's and 70's) they happily remember sharing rooms and beds. Spare bedrooms are overrated :-)

Anonymous said...

I would imagine that the majority of your readers are Americans and you may not be aware that medical care (for pregnancy or otherwise) is not a sure thing. I kind of found your post a little ungrateful and insensitive.

I do hope in the future you are able to contiune to write about your dislike of doctors and hospitals rather than be telling us how they saved the life of you or one of your family members. Not all are so fortunate.