Sunday, November 21, 2010

Life Before Conception

"Careerism--centering life around work, not home--is one of the main reasons men and women view pregnancy as a threat and rely on contraception to prevent it. Christians should have an entirely different view of life's purpose than the surrounding culture. Ours is a life of sacrifice, to be molded after Christ's. Both husbands and wives are called to sacrifice their immediate sexual desires for the good of their union; to sacrifice financial success for the sake of welcoming new life (children); to sacrifice their vocational and personal priorities for the sake of being excellent parents. Our lives are to be poured out for others in love."

-"Open Embrace" by Torode, pgs 92-93

Birth Control.
This is an issue that we teeter on often in our marriage. We've found that most couples, even Christian married couples, take this issue at face value and have not questioned the moral and biblical grounds we should base this decision on. Not that I have found the perfect answer, but I do feel it is incredibly important to discuss, pray about it, and research based on God's Word.

Although we decided prior to our wedding day that we would use no hormonal or 'abortive' birth control methods, as time went on in our marriage, we looked more closely at the heart of the issue of birth control.

Birth Control.

Just those words, when saying them slowly, have a selfish connotation. We are choosing to control when we give birth. That idea haunted us in our first year of being married. We used only the calendar method and condoms for the first 14 months and, at first, we saw that as the happy medium to not killing potential life, just preventing conception from happening...

But then it went to a deeper spiritual level.

Now, I'll admit, my husband was far more in tune to this than I was at first. His conviction grew to the point where it could no longer be ignored, and the question became: "who are we to control when we have children? who are we to tell God when we are ready? are we really trusting Him with our family size and timing?" And although I wanted desperately to give God control, I also wavered in my trust of His timing because I feared the unknown. I felt SO unprepared and terrified of the idea of getting pregnant.

Getting married and experiencing intercourse for the first time was a big step, yes. A lot of unknowns there-- but there is a big jump between Sharing Life and Intimacy with your spouse, and Giving Life and Caring for your child, of whom is completely helpless and reliant on you 24/7. My husband is perfectly capable of making his own meals, driving to work and making money, maintaining personal hygeine, etc. So although there are sacrifices and commitment involved in marriage for sure.... getting pregnant, giving birth, and raising up a child for the next 18+ years is a whole new level of sacrifice that was very afraid I wouldn't be ready or willing to make.

Finally, in October 2009, we took a leap of faith and removed all forms of birth control, save for the calendar method to chart my cycle and estimate my fertility during the month. We ocassionally abstained during my fertile days. It took me a few months to overcome fear of getting pregnant, but I soon saw a change in heart and desires. What seemed overwhelming and incredibly scary soon became a curious anticipation. And six months later, at not much surprise to us, I became pregnant with our son Judah. I am certainly thankful for him and have no regrets.

Contraception, if you break down the word, really means "Contrary to Conception".

About a month before we got pregnant, my husband and I started praying Psalm 139:14-18 together every night before we went to bed:

14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;b]">[b]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

God is obviously NOT contrary to conception. He is quite FOR creating new life, and takes delight in knitting little ones together perfectly and intricately, and knew us deeply and personally even before we existed!

So, considering life starts even BEFORE conception in God's eyes... we must carefully take a look at our role in preventing or welcoming those little ones, and trusting God to see us through every moment.

Now that I'm on the postpartum side, I face a new challenge:
1. I am told that especially due to my pre-term labor and high-risk status, it is medically advisable that we wait at least 12+ months before getting pregnant again.
... I've been warned that if we get pregnant sooner, I will be at even higher risk for complications and pre-term labor. Not to mention this time around I will have an infant/toddler to care for during the pregnancy, which could very well be another bed-rest adventure.
2. Because of my son being in the NICU and not being able to breastfeed but only pump, it is likely that my fertility will return much sooner than those who breastfeed. However, it could be 3+ months before we can consistently rely on the calendar method to avoid getting pregnant due to health and safety reasons.
... and we would certainly like to resume intercourse, especially due to the infrequency of it during my complicated pregnancy and postpartum healing.

Which begs the question: How much of this do we leave up to God and have faith that He will care for us and our future children, and how much of this is our responsibility to take certain precautions for health reasons and to allow time for healing in my body to prepare for the next pregnancy?

That is still up for debate, and we're still praying for God to show us the right answer.

We are certainly not opposed to more children. If it was completely safe to get pregnant again immediately, I would be perfectly ok with that and there would be no need to discuss this issue. We've made the decision to allow God to tell us how many kids we will have in our family. We don't want to prevent children, we only want to have healthy and safe pregnancies if we can help make that happen.

I hope this encourages you in your family decisions, and feel free to make suggestions for what steps we should take postpartum. :)