Children as Blessings: Says Who?
Growing up, I heard it all the time. “Children are a blessing,” they said. That’s why we were against abortion. That’s why I was the oldest of 7, then 8, and on up to 14. That’s why birth control was worldly and people who only had a few children, or who chose not to have any children at all, were selfish. That’s how we were different.
All children were a blessing. A baby was a blessing. Period.
Even if it had a birth defect.
Even if it was the product of rape.
Even if the mother was exhausted and the parents were dirt poor.
Even if that baby threatened the mother’s life.
It was a blessing.
I was expecting my second child. I had cried when the two pink lines showed up on the pregnancy test; my oldest was 8 months and I had health problems that made everyday tasks daunting. But that baby was a blessing, I told myself sternly. I dried my tears and put on a smile, like all the women I had watched growing up. Everybody cried at least once about that positive test result. That was because we were selfish sinners. But because we were Christians, we wiped our eyes and stumbled on, flanked by nausea, fatigue, and a vague sense of guilt that we weren’t quite thankful enough for our blessings.
During this time, my husband and I were searching for a new church. We had gotten fed up with the holier-than-thou elitism of the congregation we met and were married in, and in searching for a church we were also searching for some kind of social network. I think that’s how I ended up on the pregnancy forum where I walked through the nine months of my daughter’s pregnancy with an unseen group of women due the same month I was.
As I interacted with these ‘heathen’, ‘worldly’ women, and as I read articles on the parenting sites they introduced me to, something started stirring in the back of my brain – a sense that all was not as I had been taught to believe.
I was introduced to a world of women who sat on the edge of the toilet seat in breathless anticipation, hoping to see two pink lines. These women were throwing parties to announce their pregnancies, parties to reveal the baby’s gender, parties to show the baby off after it was born. They had multiple baby showers. They went on babymoons. Their mothers took a month off to come stay with them when they gave birth. Their husbands gave them push-presents. They carefully selected friends and family member to honor with the baby’s name or as godparents. They had maternity photos taken. They had newborn photos taken.
And these were the women who were supposed to think children were a burden.
In my world, tears were a common reaction to a new pregnancy. Women didn’t celebrate with each other; they consoled each other. Only first babies were honored with baby showers, and while we provided a dozen or so meals to mothers who had just given birth and it was common for a teenage girl to go help the family for a week or a month, there wasn’t much celebration of the baby itself.
It was a conundrum to me. Here were the ungodly feminists, using birth control and working outside the home, acting like they thought babies were a blessing, while the godly women I had looked to as role models, the ones who really believed children were a blessing, acting like they thought something else altogether.
What was happening to my nice, neat, black-and-white world?