The Possible Miracle
BookTrends - Start Your Family
By: Steve and Candice Watters|Published: August 19, 2009 4:00 AM
You just got married and now it’s time to enjoy your husband.
You just got your dream job.
You want to buy a house.
You just bought a house.
You finally dropped a dress size.
You have a low pain threshold.
You like sleeping through the night.
You think you’re too immature to care for another person.
Your friends who did it never call anymore (and they don’t have much sex, either).
Your sister did it and traded her job for what seems like mindless babysitting.
Strangers in the mall who did it look haggard and irritated.
There are a thousand reasons not to have a baby.
But in deciding against children, or even in just deciding to wait a little longer, you risk missing out on a miracle—a larger-than-life, inexpressible joy. Some women will have to take extra measures to conceive, but the rest of us have a marvelous opportunity regardless of income, education, or background.
You may never get to live in the house of your dreams, be rich and famous, or visit the world’s most exotic places. But most wives do have the opportunity—whether you act on it or not—to hold your husband close, to celebrate your love, and then—in a reflection of God’s creativity—start the process that begets new life. We can, in our act of love, initiate a one-of-a-kind individual with a soul and a unique genetic blueprint.
And in that process our bodies become an almost new thing. Bodies that Nike says can run, ski, and kickbox with the best of them can become a nourishing place for life to grow. At conception, organs and functions we rarely, if ever, noticed begin to execute an amazing plan, preparing our bodies to nurture and give birth to new life. Hormones do everything from adapting the uterus and skeleton for a growing guest at the beginning of the pregnancy to sparking that fabled nesting instinct toward the end.
And the surging life inside is even more amazing. As soon as sperm fertilizes egg, forty-six chromosomes connect, predetermining all the physical characteristics the child will bear. All that’s needed is food, shelter, and time. Yet smaller than the head of a pin, the embryo grows exponentially over the next weeks until a recognizable human form takes shape. Even early on, that miniature human starts to act a lot like a newborn. Brain waves can be measured at eight weeks. Twenty tiny baby teeth form in the gums around week ten. By twelve weeks, the child can suck her thumb. At fifteen weeks, the baby can taste her mother’s meals. As early as twenty weeks, she can hear and recognize her mother’s voice.
Most women are physically able to participate in this miracle. But there are a thousand reasons not to. And too often the reasons to wait—to follow the inertia of routine—prevail. Every day, women postpone conception, turning it down like a second cup of coffee.
Today’s American married couples without children are relatively wealthy, bringing in a median annual income of $64,659, but they still often feel they can’t afford a baby. “I can’t see how we can have a baby and save for a house and have any money for any vacations or fun things,” said a woman named Rachel on her blog on The Nest Web site. “I have always wanted to stay at home at least until the kids go to school, but there’s no way I can do that unless [my husband] got a job with double his salary. Of course, then we’d have to move, which would put another strain on our finances .”
An analyst on the popular real estate Web site Zillow recently blogged about how smaller families are living in larger homes. He pointed out that since 1940, the average U.S. home has grown from 1,500 to almost 2,500 square feet while the average U.S. family has decreased from 3.7 people to 2.6. No longer are the bedrooms crammed with bunk beds and toy chests. The suburbs, once a haven for flourishing families, now boast spacious dwellings with three and more bedrooms filled with exercise equipment, computers, and craft supplies.
American women are better educated than ever before and in more ways than one. They know about sex. All about it. Since the elementary years they’ve been schooled in birth control, preventing STDs, getting an abortion, and more. Yet for all they’ve learned—more than any generation before them—they’re woefully uneducated about their own fertility. Repeatedly, surveys by fertility organizations reveal the majority of women worldwide are ignorant about such basic facts as when their fertility begins to decline, and how rapidly, as well as how difficult pregnancy becomes after age forty despite advances in assisted reproductive technologies.
In 1963, Betty Friedan described “a problem with no name.” She said educated women felt trapped in suburbia, gazing longingly toward unrealized opportunities in corporate offices. Today, women enjoy those opportunities in the workplace, but often find themselves looking out their corporate windows wondering about life with a family.
Writers ranging from conservative Danielle Crittenden to liberal Sylvia Ann Hewlett describe women who find it tragic that their corporate success came at the expense of having the opportunity to invest in children. Crittenden writes, “In the richest period ever in our history . . . the majority of mothers feel they have ‘no choice’ but to work.” “In just 30 years,” Hewlett says, “we’ve gone from fearing our fertility to squandering it—and very unwittingly.”
This is what it’s come to. The successes of women in the twenty-first century are diminished by their sacrifices. For all our relative wealth, we can’t afford babies. For all our learning, we don’t understand the limits of fertility. For all our advances as women, motherhood seems unreachable.
Behind this tension is a decades-old hope that we can have it all—an ambitious, rewarding career and a rich family life—and all at the same time. But it’s increasingly clear that the way to a successful career, a spacious and luxurious home, and a lifestyle of travel and entertainment with your soul mate is to put the brakes on having a baby.
Our tendency, thanks in large part to our cultural upbringing, is to put off the intrusion of a baby as long as possible, or to avoid it altogether. But the interruption of a new life can push and challenge us to rethink our careers and earning potential and, if we let it, move us toward a life of deeper relationships and of greater awareness of God’s plan for our lives.
What miracles might God have planned for you?
Starting a family is a soul-shaping, world-altering experience. Unfortunately, in a culture of competing values and protracted timelines, couples are increasingly backing their way into family with little support, or missing out on it altogether.
There are roughly two million married Christian couples between the ages of twenty and thirty-five who don’t have children. Many of them want to have children—at some point. Some 68 percent of Gen X women say having a child is an experience every woman should have—compared to just 45 percent of Boomers who said it back when they were of childbearing age.
But desire alone is proving insufficient. According to family researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, “Life with children is receding as a defining experience of adult life.” Popular culture “portrays the years of life devoted to child rearing as less satisfying as compared to the years before and after child rearing,” she says, adding, “the society, too, is more oriented to the work and play of adults than to the care and nurture of children.”
Lacking cultural and community support, couples are putting off starting their families longer. The average couple marries in their late twenties. Their initial priorities are often to get established and spend time enjoying their marriage before considering having kids. Unfortunately, what it takes to “get established” has been complicated by increased consumer and education debt, as well as by inflated lifestyle expectations that require every bit of both spouses’ incomes. As they put more and more into “enjoying their marriage,” many couples start to wonder if they’re really ready to take on the headaches and responsibilities of children.
Since 1970, the average age of a woman having her first child has risen from twenty-one to twenty-five. In 1970, 74 percent of women twenty-five to twenty-nine had already had a child. By 2000, only 49 percent of that segment had. The
Still, as women age, the various reasons to hold off on having kids often give way to an inexplicable biological urge to have a baby. By the time the average couple tries to have kids, however, they are often surprised to find they are already moving past the peak of their fertile years. As a result, the proportion of fortysomething women who are childless (and unlikely to ever have children) doubled between 1976 and 2000.
Perhaps the most telling statistics are those that reveal a growing gap between what couples say is their ideal family size and the number of kids they actually end up having. While only 2 percent of respondents to a World Values Survey say they don’t want any children, fully 20 percent currently end up having none. And while 3 percent say they only want one child, 16 percent find themselves limited to just one.
In many ways, we were an average couple in our approach to family—our ages when we got married, the debt we brought together, and the time we hoped to spend getting to know each other before having kids. And without the influence of the Morkens, we may have missed out on the family we hoped to have some day. We want to help other average couples like ourselves take an intentional path to family.
We realize that the path to family for some couples brings with it the pain of miscarriage or infertility. We faced both of those setbacks. We were grateful during those difficult days to find a range of helpful books on those challenges from a Christian perspective. We were also encouraged to find a growing number of resources for couples considering the redemptive possibilities of adoption. We want to come alongside those books with a resource primarily for couples who have not yet decided to start a family of their own—for those who may have put off having children for several years as well as those who are just starting their marriage.
Our goal is to help you work through the underlying questions related to the why, when, and how of successfully starting a family. We hope to offer a compelling alternative to the “duct-taped” worldview of sex, work, purpose, and marriage that couples often inherit from popular culture and that keeps so many from fully embracing God’s great plan for family.
In the midst of what some have called a “post-family culture,” we still see significant reasons to be fruitful and multiply. We believe there are pressing reasons to number our days aright when it comes to the timing of starting a family. And we believe that in the places where the tension is strongest—where your desires for children clash with financial realities, logistical nightmares, anxious hearts, and more—God can be trusted to do exceedingly, abundantly more than you can ask or imagine.
Ultimately, we hope we can be for you what Hubert and Mary Morken were for us—bold mentors who lovingly challenged us to the point of awkwardness, but made sure in the end that we didn’t miss our possible miracle.
Steve and Candice Watters are co-authors of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies.
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Moody Publishers, © 2009
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