In the August 2012 edition of Vogue, Pamela Paul wrote an article on a woman’s choice to never become pregnant. She tells the story of a young woman who, from the age of 20 to 25, tried to have tubal ligation. She saw five doctors and all of them refused.
“You’re too young.”
“I thought the same thing at your age.”
“You haven’t found the right man yet.”
These were all common answers to her request. As Paul noted, this woman’s desire to “get her tubes tied” is becoming a more common reality in our culture.
I know something of this reality.
I am married to a woman who has voiced her desire to never have children. Whenever she has expressed this to friends or family there is a look of shock, almost as if she was an alien.
“As a woman, that is what God designed you to be — a mother,” she has been told.
Once she was even told that she cannot be considered a complete woman if she never has children.
Paul raised the issue of the right to choose. But, at least in our Christian circle, we have unearthed a much deeper issue: What does it mean to be a woman?
I will leave that question to one of the woman writers on this blog. But here I am as a man married to a woman who does not want to have children. My wife lucked out, because, as of now, I have no desire for children either. In our community, this has put us on rocky ground.
We live in the south and grew up in a southern Baptist church. We have been told from Day 1 that you grow up, get a degree, get married, get a job or go to seminary, and have children. This is the norm. This is successful Christian living. We have heard phrases like, “The family is the central core of every society,” and “Be fruitful and multiply” all our lives.
We feel like if we do not have children we are hurting the fabric of society and disobeying God’s most primitive command. It weighs heavy on souls. Some tell us that the desire will come. God will grow it in us. Maybe so. We have no desire for children, but we are open to anything God may reveal to us and realize that our desires may change.
But maybe there is a bigger point here. Maybe God is opening a greater scope of possibilities that people aren’t telling us. While the desire to have children has yet to grow, we have begun to wonder if maybe God is calling us to something different.
We have found we can be fruitful and multiply in different ways. My wife’s aunt and uncle have modeled this. They chose not to have children. They are some of the most giving people I know. If you think not having children is a selfish choice then you haven’t met these people. They did not view their choice to not have children as an excuse to have more possessions or focus on careers. They realized maybe they have been called to be the ones in this world that give support to those already here.
I have come to look at it as like a call to celibacy. It is certain that a married couple who do not have children loose a great joy and life-fulfilling relationship. But they gain from it as well — and its not freedom or a selfish lifestyle. They gain the honor and responsibility to have a laser-like focus on bringing holiness to those who are already here. My wife and I have not escaped responsibility — that is not possible with our God. But it is quite possible that we are called to take on a different responsibility. I believe we have a greater responsibility than those who have children to care for the world around us.
You see Paul got it wrong in her article. Not having children is not in essence an issue of the right to choose. And the tradition my wife and I grew up in might have it wrong, too. This is not an issue of what it means to be a woman, man, or married couple. The issue is neither about our will nor our identity. To me, both our will and identity is defined by how we respond to God and those around us. By not having children, we may have a greater impact on the lives that we can immediately touch. For us, that may be our best response to God and others.
Source: Paul, Pamela. (2012, August).
The Other Right to Choose. Vogue, 122-123.
Image credit: justjared.com/2012/07/16/marion-