I Have Something to Say About That…

Thoughts from Author Jenny Proctor

On Babies, Blessings, Choice and Accountability

22 Comments

Alright. I may be wading through dangerous and somewhat murky waters with this topic, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. So… can of worms – you are now open.

Do you know the Duggar family? The Duggars are a family in Arkansas, frequently highlighted on TLC… Mom, Dad and 18 children – all biological. The family is very faith oriented and subscribe to the belief that children are a gift from God, and that as long as He is willing to send children to their family, they will continue to receive them. The oldest of the Duggar children has just gotten married and he and his wife agree that they will have as many children as God decides to bless them with. I do not have a problem with the Duggars, in and of themselves. They seem like truly wonderful people. What I struggle with is the idea that the womb is a veritable window from heaven… a doorway through which God sends blessings until a family is complete, when the babies will no longer come.

Now, first of all, I DO believe my babies are blessings. I’ve had four and have literally felt God’s presence upon meeting each new member of my family – a hand delivered parcel of preciousness – a tiny spirit I KNOW came directly from my Father in Heaven.

I believe that God IS involved in the blessings of creating and raising a family… but so is biology. Biology, and accountability, and the process of making reasonable, practical choices. Take me, for example. Pregnancy achievement has never been much of a challenge… walk past Josh in the hallway and breath wrong. Boom. Baby on the way. Delivery, however hasn’t always been as easy. A set of twins, both breech and a massively huge c-section scar have sealed my fate as an “operating room only” Mom… c-sections all the way with doctor’s approval for one, maybe two more beyond the four children already in my care. Do I assume then, that birth control isn’t necessary because God will simply stop sending the babies when my family is complete?

I don’t think it works like that. I think if I were to keep having unprotected sex regardless of whether or not I felt my family was “complete”… I would keep getting pregnant. Over and over and over, no matter the risks to my personal health and mental stability. Because it’s biology. Because sex creates babies. End of story. Let’s reverse the situation and say that God wants you to have seven children… will the family ever be created if you don’t make a choice to have sex? If you don’t submit yourself to the biology that will create a baby within you in the first place?

If babies were merely blessings, sent to loving homes through the wombs of faithful women… why are there women all over the world, faithful, hopeful, and desperately infertile? Why are there fifteen year old crack addicts pregnant with a second child? Is her womb a window from heaven as well? Her baby a direct gift from God? Is the implication then, that women who do struggle with infertility are struggling because God doesn’t want them to have children? Because He closed the window into their womb? I don’t think so.

I think God set His plan in motion, created us so that we could procreate and then gave us the ability to make choices, good or bad. We are all subject to a fallen world… to infertility and death, heartache and tragedy and the consequences of our good and bad choices. Does that mean God can’t bless us with children? That it’s all simply science, and matters of choice? Absolutely not. I’ve seen my sister have children she never believed she could have. I know that God healed her… blessed her body so that she could have the children she always desired. But is he always involved? I think sometimes, even most of the time, it really is just science.

I hope you’ll tell me what you think…

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22 thoughts on “On Babies, Blessings, Choice and Accountability

  1. You’re absolutely right, sister. And I kind of do have a problem with the Duggans, mostly because I have a problem with fanaticism in all its forms. And I definitely think they’re fanatics.I also think they’re hypocrites. The TV series just sorta calls the whole ‘selfless righteousness’ factor into question for me.There is such a thing as stewardship, and when one God-given ability begins to encroach on another God-given ability or expectation, then the first one needs to be reined in. Birthin’ ’em ain’t enough, folks. You gotta raise ’em, too.

  2. Amen! I’ve been on both sides of this now. Going from getting pregnant by just walking past my husband to losing one and now 18 months of infertility. I am suppose to think that God now thinks I don’t deserve more kids that I desperately want?! God gave us agency and a brain; use’em!

  3. Heh, you said “sex.”Just kidding.I agree with you, and don’t have much else to offer here, other than this: The THOUGHT of having 18 kids makes me want to run to a urologist. RUN.

  4. I totally, full-heartedly agree with this post. TOTALLY.The oldest Dugger and his wife are pregnant right now with their 1st. I wonder if his mom will have a 19th or 20th??

  5. All I can say is … 18 children?? no thank you, not for me. Not even 8 (John & Kate + 8)What I have a bigger problem with is the fact that they are home school … but that's another can of worm, isn't it?I have never watched the show for more than a few minutes, I get a little anxious by the thought of such a big family.My aunt had 5 children thinking the same thing has this family does, how ever many kids the Lord gives us – after the 5th one they got it and stopped …. πŸ™‚ No thank you, not for me. 2 and that's it … if He allows us to have one more πŸ˜€

  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!!I would love to have lots more babies and I am sick of the looks I get from “good faithful Christians” when I say Jake is my only child. I went through the whole maybe it is my fault phase. I am past that now. I have to admit I still feel like I have to give a disclaimer as to why he is my only child every time some one gives me “the look”. I am hoping he won’t always be my only…but if he is I hope I can get past caring about getting “the look” too. Or maybe I am hoping people will just stop giving it to me! πŸ™‚

  7. We have been blessed with the ability to have children, however I’m pretty sure that we are only suppose to have as many as we can afford or take care of. I also have a huge issue with shows like the duggars and John and Kate because then I think we end up with people like the octo-mom and others who are trying to gain fame through having children. (of course, I still watch the shows every now and then lol)

  8. Oh, my. Where do I even begin?First off, a big thank you. Thank you for speaking for me on this one, little sis, because nearly every one of these words could have been mine.And be forewarned: I am hijacking your blog as of this point.When we lived in Memphis, and were at the height of discouragement in the midst of our infertility experiences, I heard a story on the news about a homeless mother in downtown Memphis (a most notorious area of the city) who had just delivered her 8th child, all of whom had different unidentifiable fathers and all of whom were addicted to at least one illegal substance at birth. Finally, after number eight, they were taken from her and placed in foster homes. Who knows how many more she has had since then. I might call that womb a window into hell.I cried for days. That story made me angry, because obviously, or so I thought, the Lord was overlooking my righteous desire to bring children into a stable, loving home where my babies would be raised in the gospel in favor of a womb that just happened to be “open to the blessings of children” so often that it was never really closed.What I have learned since then is that our trials are both beyond our comprehension, and beyond compare. What I mean is, my (former) lack of fertility has nothing to do with someone else’s ability to conceive with ease. My trials are mine, and mine alone, and when you begin to compare your situation with someone else’s, you run into trouble because you assume things about yourself and the object of your comparison that, more than likely, don’t apply. Sometimes, other people make the comparison for you. When MommyJ became pregnant so quickly with Jordan, people were amazed that I was excited for her. They made a comparison that I did not make, and in failing to make that comparison, I was able to find joy in her blessings, even though I was not enjoying the same kind. But because of our lack of family, we were able to enjoy other blessings that would have escaped us had we had children as soon as we wanted them. Thankfully, we escaped CPod’s graduate school with a mere fraction of the student loans that his classmates had. We saw the world through our unfettered travels. We developed a stable, loving relationship, that, if I’m being completely honest, has withstood the difficulties of having three children very close together much better than it ever would have early in our marriage. These are, I believe, compensatory blessings.But the greatest compensatory blessings I have received have been the spiritual lessons I have learned as I really searched my soul and pled with my Heavenly Father to understand His will for me. These are priceless. And I don’t know that I could have learned them in any other way.I think sometimes, we are but a conduit: a means to giving as many little spirits the opportunity to experience life as possible. His laws are His laws, and many of them are physical: sperm meets egg; baby is conceived, regardless of the intent of those donating their genetic material. And I truly believe that those born into such horrible circumstances have diminished accountability for the choices they make in their lives because the degree of difficulty is so much greater than that of, say, my kids. (The book to read is Stephen L. Robinson’s Believing Christ — The Parable of the Divers.)But — I also firmly believe that God is always involved when a baby comes into this world. I believe the moment when a spirit becomes firmly and permanently tied to its corporeal counterpart is a sacred one — it may even be an ordinance — and God is always there to hold the hand of His most precious little ones as they are thrust into an experience that will definitely be different and more difficult to endure than the place they dwelt before. He is there because he is the author of the system. He is there because we are never alone — even when we think we are, even when we wish we were, even when we would turn our backs. As we prepare for the birth of our fourth child this fall, we have had many discussions about what size our family should be. I am not making any life altering decisions until after the baby is here and my hormones have subsided into gentle waves rather than typhoon-induced tsunamis. But I believe that the Lord will help us in our soul-searching. We must consider my own abilities to handle the stress of additional children; We have to consider the personalities of the kids we already have, and their threshold for neglect (let’s be honest, people); we have to consider my husband’s feelings and concerns for his ability to provide for us. Let’s face it — we cannot expect divine guidance if we don’t solicit it. And so that’s what I will be doing when the time comes to decide how “open” my womb will be.

  9. Wow- great post and comments.I’d have to agree with you. I have a hard time when people have a lot of children- especially when they can’t afford or mentally care for them all.I know of people having lots of kids and saying, it’s ok because the church will help and pay for missions and such. grrr!I feel bad for kids that are ignored due to too many kids taking up the parents time. You have to have what you feel you can handle and afford. For most people all this cannot be planned- the number of kids or timing- But it’s still a choice you make and should be accountable for and not leave things up to god to make choices for you.

  10. I 100% agree with you.

  11. Okay, so I have also really been thinking about this a lot lately, and now I am going to open my own can of worms. πŸ™‚ I think it is so easy to look at other people and judge them on how many children they have. Whether it be the family of 10 that sits in the pew in front of you at church or the single mother who implanted 8 eggs and had 8 children, or the couple who has chosen to not have any children. None of these situations require or deserve our judgment!!! I believe that our loving Heavenly Father will make everything right in the end. Those children who were neglected b/c they were one of 12 or the child who was born into a family who couldn’t afford to feed or clothe them, will somehow and in someway be compensated…and maybe not in this life. I think that if we follow the counsel of the prophet and make the number of children in our family a matter of personal revelation, then we don’t need to be concerned about those around us who are choosing what we look at us bad choices. Some of those situations we just may not understand or see clearly as an outsider looking in. If people would spend more time worrying about the choices that they are making and their children are making and stop judging those who are doing things differently, than we would live in a much better world. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be examples, I just think that some people think that being an example means judging everyone around them. I’ve never watched the show you are referring to, but I do think that they must be pretty incredible people if they can have that many children and not go completely insane. πŸ™‚ I don’t know how many children I will end up with. It is such a personal decision that involves me, my husband, and God. I remember being ridiculed when I was at BYU-I because Cory and I had been married for a couple of years and were childless. It taught me a great lesson in judging others for their abundance or lack of children. I’m hoping to have a couple more children someday and be as good of a mother as you are. You are such an inspiration to me. I still remember your mom talking to our Relief Society about how easy mothering is to you and how well you do it. If only I could live closer to you and let you train me. πŸ™‚ Love ya.

  12. You brought up some great points about this can of worms and expressed it so succinctly. Very well done. πŸ™‚ I want to say more but can’t really say it better or clearer or add anything of value, so I will just say that I laughed at walking by your husband and breathing wrong and there’s a baby on the way. Boy, do I know how that goes. :)And I do have to say that there is a part of me that admires the apparent selflessness and faith and organization skills of the Duggar mom. The only episode I ever watched in full was one in which she said, “Our home didn’t always run this smoothly. But when I had the fourth child, I decided that something HAD to change or we were all going to go crazy.” Boy, do I know that feeling, too. πŸ™‚

  13. Thanks so much for the comments everyone.. you’ve all made some excellent points.Stephanie… I love the point you made about people trying to gain fame (or maybe just money) by having children. It’s unfortunate when motives are anything less that one hundred percent pure. Which brings me to my next point… I think the Duggar’s do have a pure motive. I don’t think they are trying to capitalize on anything. I think they are following the convictions of their heart. Of that, I cannot be critical. Melissa, you bring up a good point about judging others and not worrying what decisions others are making. While I don’t judge the Duggars as individuals, I do judge the logic upon which they base their family – because I think it’s faulty and can lead to women everywhere feeling inadequate, or perhaps even unworthy of God’s blessings if the children aren’t flowing like rain, or less faithful if they make the decision to turn off the tap on their own, if you know what I mean. While I absolutely agree that we shouldn’t judge (leave the poor octomom alone, media), I can’t help but be influenced by these situations when forming my own opinions and beliefs and solidifying my feelings about how involved God is with me, on a personal level.

  14. Very interesting post & comments!I was aware of the "full quiver" movement from home-schooling acquaintances years before the Duggars really hit the news. (That was around baby 13 or 14.) I was incredulous, reading on a homeschooling message board, to see women saying that they thought that the trials they were experiencing due to not using contraceptives (many young children, many young children with mother in poor health, repeated miscarriages) were God's plan for them, and so they would continue to not use contraceptives. Do you remember the woman who drowned her children? She had had postpartum psychosis after the 3rd child. Yet they (or he?) believed that God would give them the "right" number of children, and so they had more. To me that whole situation is such a preventable tragedy–if they had used the reasoning skills God gave them to consider her well-being and the well-being of the other kids I'm sure they would not have thought it was a good idea to have more.I have struggled with secondary infertility. After several years of infertility we decided to try a little harder; now we have IVF triplets. Do I think that one moment God's plan for me was no more children and the next moment it was 3 more at once? No. I think that so much of what happens is biology. On my own the biology was that I couldn't get pregnant again. With chemical help the biology was that I was tremendously pregnant. I tend to believe that God didn't cause either of these situations, but that he could and did use those situations to help me grow in the directions he wants me to grow.

  15. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaait a minute.SEX makes babies?Crap.

  16. This is a great post, and I loved the comments too. LOVED Inkmom’s part on trials. Muy good stuff.I think everything I wanted to say has been said.

  17. I love the way you presented this – at it’s core it’s the principle of stewardship. We have been made stewards over things in our lives – our children, our home, or comunity. As such, we have an obligation to not take on more than we can handle. The Dugars appear to be great stewards for choices they have made. I would have been insane by #10!On the flip side, I believe most people are capable of MUCH more than they believe. To put it bluntly, I think most of society today are a bunch of wimps that want everything to be easy all the time. But I’m not living in their shoes, which means I’m being a hypocritcal judge. I only know what is best for me and my family.Thanks!

  18. Bravo! Bravo! This is well said and the comments as well. For the record I think that you are right and I add my blogimony to yours.

  19. I agree with everything you said!

  20. This is a great post (old, I know, but I was reading back entries of InkMommy's and linked over here) and I love your description (if I am not butchering your intent too badly) of how sometimes there is direct divine intervention in situations, and other times a great deal of what happens can be attributed to individual choice and increases in scientific understanding (a woman who would have had no children 50 years ago might be able to have one or more now. Are both situations God's will for her? Or, as you say, should we not understand the number of children someone is "intended" to have to be directly determinable by means of simply asking how many times she is physically capable of getting pregnant?)I also really like Melissa's comment and it really does seem to greatly simplify and reduce judgment if we view such family issues as the number of children to have as a matter of private, personal revelation.Finally, InkMommy's comment: "I think sometimes, we are but a conduit: a means to giving as many little spirits the opportunity to experience life as possible. His laws are His laws, and many of them are physical: sperm meets egg; baby is conceived, regardless of the intent of those donating their genetic material. And I truly believe that those born into such horrible circumstances have diminished accountability for the choices they make in their lives because the degree of difficulty is so much greater than that of, say, my kids." That is an amazing understanding. I see so much intelligent discernment and compassion in this entry and all of the comments.OK, back to lurking. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  21. I couldn't have THOUGHT of put this better!!! I agree with you EXACTLY!!!

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