Thursday, December 16, 2010

Being a good evangelical woman

= having lots of children? Lately it seems that in blogland and other places, several people are announcing fourth pregnancies.

Sometimes I feel like a failure. Three kids just doesn't seem quite enough some days in this brave new world of "Biblical womanhood." Some days I dare to think that despite my dodgy pregnancy history, I could go on and have a fourth child. But most days I feel that three is definitely my limit....

And I know there are many women worse off than me. Single women approaching late 30s without a husband yet. Women who struggle with infertility and have difficulty even having one child. Women with secondary infertility who would have loved a larger family but it just doesn't happen for them. It must be so hard for them not to become bitter about the unfairness of it all.

Time to pray for contentment in the family I have been blessed with, I guess.


18 comments:

Sarah said...

Will pray along with you, dear sister.

Karen said...

Thanks. Will keep praying for you as well....

Wendy said...

It's okay Karen, you don't have to risk your health to be a godly woman. Don't feel pressured!

Deb L said...

I totally, totally get what you mean.

Karen said...

Hi Deb! (and welcome!). I sometimes feel very guilty for feeling the way I do....so it's good to find others that can relate....

Deb L said...

Be assured then, I am also a crazy person who feels just a little like a guilty failure when people announce extra pregnancies. Which is horrible because I should be rejoicing heartly with them instead. I've also had 3 caesars and a prem.... I think it might all be related to that somehow. So, you're not the only evangelical lunatic afterall.

Karen said...

Well, I'm happy to hear that Deb! When I hear of people who can get pregnant quickly, easily and repeatedly and then have quick labours and births as well, I feel sadness that my body just doesn't seem to work as smoothly as that, and keep wishing I'd been able to have "normal" births...so I think your theory on it relating to the repeat C-sections and prem labour is on the money. I feel guilty too because I only ever saw myself with three little people, but in a church like ours where more than three kids is cause for great excitement and celebration, it seems as if the expectation is that we should be having more...

Simone R. said...

i felt guilty for years. Or thought I did. Then I realised that I didn't really want a 4th child. I just wanted other women to not have 4 kids. I wanted to win and if others overtook me in # of kids it meant that they were more successful than me. Or at least they had a handicap so I couldn't measure my achievement against theirs.

Stupid and wrong.

Life is not a competition. I will mind my own business.

Karen said...

Oh, I know it's stupid and wrong....when I get right to the bottom of it all, what it's really about is envy, so it's just (another) one of those respectable sins that I need to work on.
I think I need to focus on the positives of not having lots of kids more. The fact that we don't need a people mover. The lower noise levels. The fact that I can think about and do other stuff rather than just "kid" things all the time.
I've done the best I can with having kids with the health and life God has given me. I need to be thankful. Thanks for the reminder Simone.

Jenny said...

It's sad that having lots of children is seen as a marker of biblical womanhood (I'm fascinated that it is a marker). Isn't how you raise those children and how you behave and serve as a Christian woman much, much more important than the number of children you have/haven't got? I have 5 kids but the anger and frustration I feel coping with them makes me regularly feel totally ungodly and certainly nothing special. I feel uncomfortable that other people would see our family as more Christian (or something) because of the number of children.

And btw Karen, where I live in Sydney, three kids is a seriously big family so you should come and live in my suburb!

Karen said...

Thanks for your comment Jenny, I do appreciate it. On reflection I think I have perhaps not worded my original post well and maybe should have thought twice before putting it out there.
In answer to your question, yes, I do believe it's how you raise those kids and serve God that is the most important thing. That's what I need to focus on (and perhaps don't do enough).

Jenny said...

I think it's a great and important topic to raise Karen. You aren't alone on this one. This is a deep, complex and painful issue for many women and we need to be reminded (often) to be sensitive about how we handle it.

Laetitia :-) said...

So glad I don't want kids. It's bad enough that I've had people dumping on me for being "selfish"/"ungodly"/"touched in the head" (surely, as a woman, I MUST want children and just haven't realised it yet)/"foolish" (your biological clock is ticking, you know!) without dumping on myself.

There's no need to feel like a failure - remember that it's up to the Lord to grant children. And I'm pretty sure He doesn't want women to (potentially literally) kill themselves bearing children any more than he wants men to literally break their backs "working by the sweat of their brow".

Nicole said...

Thanks Karen for your honesty about what is going on for you when you hear those kinds of announcements. I hope there wasn’t something about the way I phrased our own recent news that made you feel that way?? I do remember the time we went through a few years ago when everyone around us seemed to be having babies and the only thing we had to ‘announce’ was miscarriages. I look back and am very thankful to God for the people around us in those days who had larger families than ours but who never treated us as inferior or unworthy or unbiblical. Because they saw their kids as a gift from God (and not as some sort of accomplishment or extension of themselves) they helped us in the middle of our pain to keep enjoying [other people’s] kids as a good gift from God, and to keep remembering - in this and other aspects of life - to keep learning to rejoice with those who rejoiced and to mourn with those who mourned

Karen said...

Not at all Nicole, and thanks for stopping in to comment too. I do appreciate it, and feel a bit bad for having maybe been a bit too brutally honest with my words!? I actually made a similar comment re rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep over at Simone's blog, and it is definitely a learning process, isn't it? Until a person has gone through the pain of miscarriages, unexplained infertility or whatever the issue is, it can be hard to understand what some others around us may be experiencing.
I do look forward to sharing via the blogging world in your new arrival next year, and I thought your little video was very cute (I love the posts you write about all of your kids, by the way!).
Jenny and Laetitia, thanks for your comments as well. Jenny, I particularly liked your comment on my earlier post re grieving about the loss of the "baby stage" and I think those words of wisdom were really helpful.
Thanks all for your thoughts and the ultimately helpful discussion. Although it's risky putting this stuff out there, it definitely has helped me with my thinking about all this!

Deb L said...

And I'll just say it again, Karen, that I totally, totally get it.

I really do think it's bound up in the whole guilt/sadness thing of pregnancies and births that haven't gone the way we'd hoped. There's some competitiveness in my feelings too - I'm certainly guilty of that of often enough! But I know I have an achilles' heel in this area and I don't think you and I are alone in that (and I'm thinking here of women who've had infertility or miscarriages etc). It's something you think you've worked through at the time but then it pops back up now and then in unexpected ways when someone announces a pregnancy or you see a movie with a birth(that goes amazingly!)in it.

In my own case, part of the problem has been that I have made a choice not to have more children, rather than been unable to have any more. I made that choice based on good medical advice that I shouldn't have any more due to my previous complications. But I know other people in the same situation might have made different choices. They might have considered the risks I was presented with as not such a big deal and decided that they were happy to trust God for whatever outcome resulted.

So when I hear of others having more kids, I get a pang of guilt and start rethinking the whole thing and asking myself: Should I have just trusted God? Was my decision a lack of faith? Did I really make a sound decision or did I just hear what I wanted to hear? I feel like such a failure as a mother some days - does that mean I couldn't have coped if I had had more kids? Did I make the right call? Aghghghgh!

Not that it's consuming. I just have to remind myself to "snap out of it" when I hear a new pregnancy announced. Which is why the end of your post, Karen, is the best response possible. I too am praying for contentment. God's plan for my life is unique. He alone has shoulders broad enough to carry the burden of all my ifs and buts. I need to learn to rest in his good hands.

Deb L said...

Sorry! That turned into an essay. Oversharing!

Karen said...

Thank you again Deb! So true. I think you've said it beautifully. And all this has really helped me get my thinking so much clearer...