Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Children are not accidents

A call to change our vocabulary, change our perspective. 

I'm the youngest of five children. There are thirteen years between the oldest and youngest and a six year gap between the closest sibling and myself. You might call me "the caboose" of the family. Growing up, and still today, my mother has told me about how I came to be that caboose - how strongly she felt that one more child needed to come to our family, despite being content and satisfied by the thought of being finished. Having grown up with the Mormon musical "Saturday's Warrior," my young girl heart could relate to this idea, even felt empowered by it. I was that special spirit wanting to come down to the family - "Jimmy! Don't forget your promise!" (Oh, the corniness!)

Ok, so while Saturday's Warrior isn't exactly how it is (although wouldn't it be cool if we really did spend our pre-mortal life clad in silky, pastel leotards, dancing around in white mist?), I now know exactly how it feels to have your heart tell you that a spirit child of our Heavenly Father is waiting to receive a mortal body, and that you have that power within you. That's what we believe of the Plan of Salvation. And that's why Justin and I are having another baby.

This baby girl growing inside me will be 22 months younger than our little Sophietje. And can you believe it, people actually ask me if this pregnancy was "planned or not?"

In our Mormon woman culture, I think we tend to talk loosely about "planning pregnancies" and "timing our children's ages" to fit in with our lifestyle. Of course I think it's natural for us women to want to plan everything, but let me give you an idea of how this mentality gets out of hand: 

I look very much like my two oldest sisters. Many think that we're just a year or two apart when they are actually 13 and 11 years older than I am. One time, after my sister introduced me to her friend and indicated that no, we have quite a few years between us, this woman replied in her best Utah Valley Girl: "Oh my gosh! Girl, were you an accident?!" 

I think she was trying to be funny.

I balked, just as I do every time somebody thoughtlessly asks this of me. Excuse me? Accident? "Was I an accident?" First of all, does ANYBODY want to be called an accident? To be considered unwanted? Second, what makes this woman feel entitled to comment on my parents' sex life and their decisions to bare children? 

This is where I think we could use a change in vocabulary, a change in perspective.

I love birth control (Pause. If you're a woman, you know how ridiculous that statement is. No woman loves birth control. We loathe it. But I've come to grips with the fact that I'm either going to be hormonal because I'm on birth control, hormonal because I'm pregnant, or hormonal just because I am woman). I love the freedom that it allows me to enjoy intimacy with my husband to the fullest, without worrying about becoming pregnant with each -ahem- encounter. Because, yes, as a woman, we worry about that. (We worry about everything).

Because birth control has empowered women the world over to be worry-free, a new way of thinking has come as a result - that we are in control. That we control when each child should enter our family. And while ideally, yes, I myself would prefer that my children come when I feel ready to do the "nine month pregnancy thing," that's not always the case. Because what I'm trying to intimate here (ha ha ha) is that birth control can not and will not allow us to thwart the plan of nature, the ultimate plan of our Heavenly Father "for the eternal destiny of His children." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World") Because birth control, unlike it sounds, is not in control. 

Being in the married and parenting community, I hear so many flippant comments about this or that child being an "accident" or a "whoops baby"- the parents were on birth control and/or had not planned on having kids for so many months/years. While it may be true that it wasn't expected, to remark that this child was an "accident" is saddening. (Take it from someone who gets asked constantly if she's in that category.)

Think, also, of the couple yearning for a child, but because of miscarriage or infertility, cannot even have an "accident." How would we stiffen to hear such a casual comment tossed around if faced with their challenge?

I completely understand that a pregnancy may not come at a "convenient" time in life - while attending school, excelling in a career, coming very soon after the last baby, etc. I get that, I do. However - once we get over the surprise (or even in some cases minor or gross disappointment), do we continue to feel inconvenienced because we aren't fully realizing that this is what we signed up for when we became married and sexually active? That these are not only the natural consequences, but the divine purpose of our very existence? If we profess to believe that He does indeed have a divine plan for each of His children, can we really believe that taking a pill (or whatever form you prefer) is going to trump that? To disturb it? 

Are we mistaken in thinking that we were fully in control?

I'm extremely lucky. Both of my pregnancies came as a result of a strong impression to have another baby and both occurred pretty immediately after getting that impression, so I confess that I do not know what it is like to be surprised by that little pink plus sign. But I feel deep inside me that if our perspective is such that we know that God is in control and that we are his partners in creating that little life inside of us, that we would know absolutely that in our Father's plan for us, there are no "accidents."

We promise and covenant to use this sacred power granted to us to "multiply and replenish the earth." Sexuality in marriage is an enormous blessing and strengthens the relationship in ways I can't ever describe, but what is the primary purpose? To perpetuate God's eternal plan by allowing each of his spirit children the mortal life and experience. This is our purpose. And we must have faith that His timing is better than ours. 

My friends, these are my thoughts, inspired by too many questions and conversations about "accident babies." I'm not suggesting that you change anything in your own "family planning," only suggesting that we step up and embrace the procreative powers that we as wives and mothers have and own up to having children, not accidents