Myth vs. Fact: Maternity, Motherhood, and Matrimony: A "Beyond Bethany" Presentation

Marie MacPherson


On April 2, 2019 Marie MacPherson join BLC's Beyond Bethany club to share some insights from her nearly 15 years as a wife and mother. The advertising for the event was as follows:

In this round robin conversation, join “Mrs. Mac” on her birth, baby, and bridal soapbox. An educator, author, speaker, and mother of six (on earth), Marie will guide a discussion on how to “have it all” (myth!), with topics including pregnancy, breastfeeding, parenting, marriage, and grace (fact!) … always grace! Informative for both guys and gals, bring your questions!

The (sometimes controversial) statements below served as the outline for the presentation. Each member of the audience picked up a slip of paper with one of the statements, and read it aloud to the group, grappling to answer whether the statement is a myth or a reality. Marie moderated the discussion, adding her own thoughts and perspective as a summary, which are listed below. These summaries do not always directly state a true or false answer, but give additional points to hopefully broaden the audience's horizons.

If you are interested in having Marie present to your group, contact her here.

Marriage

Christian couples should be good stewards regarding their fertility.

This phrase is often invoked by people who feel a need to defend limiting their family size. While it is true that Christians should be good stewards of all of God's gifts, including fertility, this doesn't necessitate that a couple should choose when or if to try to bring children into the world. God has already programmed the natural stewardship of fertility into the human body. Children are spoken of over and over as gifts in Scripture. What Christian would want to limit God’s gifts? I have especially learned this after losing two tiny babies to miscarriage. It may look like I have a “big” family, but it would be even bigger but for the mystery of God’s giving and taking away beyond comprehension. The conception, bearing, and rearing of children is a good and beautiful and hard and difficult thing. How does one know how many one can handle? Won’t God provide? Trusting God with one’s fertility is a dying to self and learning to live a life sometimes bearing a cross, but a beautiful good cross that consists of more people to love and learn to be Christ-like. More than any other choice, the choice to be open to God’s gift of children has taught me so much about the Christian walk and sacrifice, and made my marriage stronger because we need each other, and knit me together with my children because it quells my independent nature and forces me to be accountable to others. The book Ladylike points out:

Christians want to grow God’s kingdom, but when it comes to the growing of families, we say, "Not necessarily," or "Only if it’s convenient," or "Sure, if that’s your thing." When a child is brought to His font of rebirth, the Lord and Giver of life never looks at that baby and groans, “Another one?” … He sees not another college tuition or carbon footprint but another saint bought with Christ’s holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.

13 years of constant pregnancy and/or nursing has been a sacrifice of my own desires, but to be honest, it has been a beautiful and blessed life. I am grateful and have no complaints. I wouldn't wish away any of my dear children for the life I once thought I wanted.

Marriage is the foundation of society.

From a Biblical perspective, the natural family is the building-block of government. Husbands are the heads of their families, and from them, local government derives its power. When each family unit takes responsibility for its own offspring, society is healthy. When families break down, there is little the government can do to promote a healthy community. However, this isn’t to say that unmarried individuals have no place in society. Celibacy is a positive gift, given by the Good Giver, even if not necessarily chosen by the receiver. Whether you are single by choice, or as you wait for the Lord to send you a spouse, individuals who are not married contribute in many important ways to society and the church and have intrinstic human value.

Parents need to learn to balance family and work.

The Bible never talks about “balancing” work and family. It says we should “redeem” the time (Eph. 5:16). To flip the phrase more positively, parents need to learn to prioritze family over work. No matter how important your job is, your family is more important and it needs to be prioritized. Even if your job is needed to bring in money for your family to survive, when you are at home, be present with your time. Your time speaks. You must spend time with your spouse and children intentionally, at the sacrifice of things that may be more entertaining. This is a calling of family. I’m also going to be edgy here and say it is very, very difficult for families where both parents work full-time to show with their time that their family is their priority. Our culture will tell you that you can “have it all.” In reality, life will stretch you, and you will need to make choices. You may need to have a job, but don’t give it priority over your family when you are at home.

Mama better wear the pants in the family if Daddy doesn’t.

This analogy leaves many questions unanswered. I can only answer the analogy with another analogy. Daddy can’t wear the pants if he can’t find them because Mama put them in the wrong dresser! Ladylike posits that Mama should wash the pants, fold the pants, put them in the drawer, and tell him: “Honey, I just did the laundry and your pants are right here! They look so great on you!” If Mama is concerned with her children's spiritual well-being, she will gladly allow her husband to shine in his role as head of the household. Research shows that a father’s church attendance is statistically more important than a mother’s attendance to the question of whether their adult child will attend church. This is something young Christian women should reflect on when looking for a husband.

Better to divorce and find happiness.

I am intentionally swinging to an extreme as I respond to this because our culture, and even sometimes our churches, take an opposite extreme. When you take your marriage vows before God and congregation, you should understand that divorce is not an option. You both go into marriage never having been married to the other before. It is a great unknown. Everyone in the audience knows that no one knows what the future will hold for these two individuals: addiction, terminal illness, infertility, temptation, depression, deployment, paralysis, children with disabilities. And yet, the vow, made before God and these witnesses is the quintessential part of the ceremony. Yet, some would say that if one spouse breaks the  Sixth Commandment, the other may suddenly break the Second. Why? Haven't we all lusted against our spouses? That breaks the Sixth Commandment, too, and all sins are equal in God's eyes (even if they do, in fact, have greater or lesser earthly consequences). In fact, haven't we all committed adultery against our Lord? Isn't that the basis of most of the major prophets in the Old Testament? And yet, God's unending love and forgiveness for each of us remains.

If you or your children are in danger from your spouse, separation is a good option. Seek help and counsel with your pastor and other Christians. But with God as your witness, marital vows do not disappear because of bad circumstances, unless you vowed, "Until death or adultery do us part." Even if you have you been threatened or feel unfulfilled, before you take your wedding vows, choose to not abandon your spouse, even if you feel abandoned.

Many marriages have been saved after adultery by a spouse demonstrating Christ-like love, and they have become stronger and deeper than ever. Marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church in our world. Your commitment to your spouse, under even the worst circumstances, reflects that picture. If you are not ready to weather any possibility with this person, regardless of your feelings, don’t make those vows. Christ, who has forgiven you for all of your sins will empower you to forgive your spouse for all of his or her sins. True happiness will be found only by seeking God's ways, serving one another in love, and reveling in His grace.

Pregnancy

A natural, unmedicated childbirth is something very few women can accomplish.

Over 3/4 of women who took a specific natural birth class and were able to birth vaginally had unmedicated births. Now, this kind of birth certainly doesn't elevate one method over another, but for those interested, it can be accomplished through education, exercise, and practice with relaxation. Modern medicine, pain-killers, and interventions certainly have a valuable place for birthing mothers. But, all medications and interventions in birth have side-effects and can lead to a slippery slope of choices being taken away. This doesn’t mean a family needs to be fearful of necessary intervention, but knowing their options and being informed helps them make the best choices they can. Low-risk pregnancies are extremely safe in birth centers or at home, and since medications are not generally administered by these kinds of birth assistants, the locale aids families in accomplishing unmediation childbirth. Whether birthing in a hospital, birth center, or at home, whether having a natural birth, medicated birth, or a C-Section,  a doula is invaluable resource for families.

Excellent nutrition and exercise is the foundation of a healthy pregnancy.

Many things about pregnancy are beyond human control. But, as for the things that can be controlled, nutrition and exercise do contribute to healthy pregnancies. Many kinds of exercise, including stretching and low-impact strength training are wonderful and help mothers with stamina, both during the pregnancy and during labor. Eating well and exercising helps keep a women low-risk, and low-risk patients have more choices. Many women experience nausea during pregnancy and have trouble eating well. They shouldn't feel concerned or guilty about this, but simply do their best to eat what they can. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, and thus, amazingly resilient. There are also medications used to treat major nausea which help a mother which the ability to keep food and water down so the baby can grow.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a boy or a girl, as long as it’s healthy!

It’s true that both boys and girls are wonderful gifts from God. The problem with this statement is the awkward assumption that healthy babies are more valuable than sick babies. Surely all parents do pray for a healthy baby, but not all parents have healthy babies. Isn’t God listening? How can a loving God allow such a meaningless tragedy as a sick or terminally ill baby?

There is tragedy in the world because there is sin in the world. God is in control of all things, yet He does not inflict suffering upon us as a punishment. He has already punished Christ on our behalf. God is making all things new, and one day, we will live in Heaven where all is perfect. In the meantime, God aches with us when we ache. He uses our pain to draw us closer to Him. He blesses Christians to be witnesses to His love during tragedy. He teaches parents His own selfless love as they care for sick children.

I wouldn’t wish a sick baby on anyone, but if it happens to you, I trust God will give you the strength that only He can give, that He will bring Himself eternal glory and bring more sheep to His fold through your heart-breaking experience. Our heavenly Father knows what it is to have His Son die, yet He gave His Son up over to death for you, for me, and for every human born, whether a boy or a girl, whether born sick or healthy, whether dying at a ripe old age, or in the womb.

Labor and delivery is like the movies—screaming and excruciating!

I don't watch many movies, but those I have seen featuring labor and delivery seem pretty inaccurate! Labor can be as short as a few hours or as long as a few days. Contractions are strong, stretching sensations that open the muscle of the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus, to allow the baby to be born. They are not constant, but grow from being 30 seconds long with 10 minutes in between at the beginning of labor, to about 90 seconds long with 1 minute in between right before the pushing stage. When all is going well with labor, contractions are not unbearable until the last ½ hour or so of labor. Even then, there may be overwhelming fear, but usually not screaming! After the cervix is open, it is time to push, but this isn’t as scary as it might sound! This is often the “fun” part of birth! Moms get to “do” something and actively participate in pushing, rather than just work to relax through contractions. As the baby is crowning, which means the head is stretching the most narrow parts, sometimes a mom will scream or groan, but it only lasts for a few seconds, and then, there is total ecstasy as you meet your squishy, sweet new little baby! While the birth of the first child is more challenging and painful than subsequent births, however, even an intense birth does not normally include constant screaming!

Breastfeeding is easy and natural.

Breastfeeding is God’s design for mothers and babies, but it is not easy for most mothers, especially not at first! However, it is totally worth fighting for! Like learning anything new, it takes lots of practice, for both mothers and babies. It may be uncomfortable for a few days, but it should not be painful. By the time your baby is six-weeks old, it will probably feel like you’ve always known how to do this. And, any subsequent children that you are blessed with will have an experienced mother, so it’s almost always easier the second time around, even though the baby has never done it before. Husbands have an especially important role being supportive and encouraging the mother during those hard early days of breastfeeding.

You may hear sincere women say, “Oh, I couldn’t breastfeed.” Medically speaking, however, nearly all women can breastfeed. Their supply of milk may go down and need to be brought back up again, or they may have to nurse more frequently than they anticipated. But again, nearly all women can breastfeed. This is God’s design for women’s bodies, even in a sin-broken world. Many mothers choose formula for good reasons, but most could breastfeed, given the right circumstances, education, and support.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year. The World Health Organization encourages two years or longer. But no matter how long you and your baby choose to nurse, even for only one day, there are benefits:

While breastfeeding might not be easy in the beginning, it will be worthwhile in the end. Commit yourself to learning more about breastfeeding if parenthood is in your future.

Parenthood

Newlyweds need time to get to know each other. Watch out for those “honeymoon” babies!

There’s nothing like real life, including children, to bond a couple together! If a couple is seriously not ready for a child, they should consider postponing the wedding date, unless they plan a honeymoon in separate suites. After all, God designed sex to lead to babies! A married couple should never really be “surprised” to be pregnant! Couples and the Church should be rejoicing at each and every honeymoon baby conceived! What a gift from God to the world, the church, and its parents! This being said, 12% of couples experience infertility. Many who would willingly avoid a honeymoon baby actually hope and long for elusive babies later. And just because a baby is conceived doesn’t mean a baby will be born. As many as one out of four pregnancies end in miscarriage. Fertility is precious. Life is precious. Babies are precious, no matter when they are conceived. Don’t take them for granted.

You should follow government and medical recommendations regarding your child’s health.

The Fourth Commandment guides citizens to respect authority and the Fourth Petition acknowledges good government as part of our daily bread. With that in mind, however, not all doctors and government agencies are agreed on just about any issue! Take the controversial issue of vaccination, for instance. The CDC is one part of the federal government. The Federal courts are another. The CDC recommends childhood vaccinations, while also admitting major risks associated with them. The Federal Courts are also part of the government, and have awarded $4 billion dollars to over 6,000 families who have been permanently injured by vaccinations. Just as the government has no united stance regarding this topic, neither do doctors. While many family doctors encourage vaccinations, others are concerned about a 414% increase in injections recommended for today’s children since 1950 and the toxic ingredients in them. The choice is not clear-cut. It is not black and white. There are definitely benefits to eliminating childhood illnesses, but to seek disease-elimination by means of vaccination isn’t without risk. With vaccines, as with all parental decisions: Do your research, ask questions, don’t decide until you are satisfied, and be willing to revise your position as new knowledge comes to light. Make the best choice you can with the knowledge you have and respect other parents as they do the same. Be open to learning, whether that is from professionals or other sources. Parents know their children better than the government or the medical community ever could. God holds you responsible for the choices you make for your child, not the CDC or your family doctor. And He will give you what you need to make good choices, forgiving you for any failures.

All parents should home educate.

All parents educate their children, whether they want to or not! Children are sponges and learn what they see from the most influential people in their lives. In fact, God commands home education in His Word, "These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6). When it comes to schooling options, again, all parents do home educate; some also choose to supplement with outside help from something as minor as piano lessons to as major as boarding school.  Regardless of school choice, God holds parents accountable for their children’s education. Ask God for His guidance and blessing in this important task.

The most important principle in parenting is getting a child to behave.

Teaching a child obedience and self-control is an underrated role of parenting in our culture, but it is crucial for the Christian family. Families work together better when selfishness is curbed and virtue is fostered. When children are trained to obey their parents, they more easily learn to obey their Heavenly Father. But molding a child's behavior is not the most important role of a parent.

Teaching God's Word to a child, and modeling a repentance/forgiveness cycle is the highest calling of a parent. Just as we confess our sins in church and receive absolution, parents and children confess their sins to each other in their homes and reassure one another of God's unending forgiveness in Christ. This process can easily get lost in the demands of a busy household, or in the law-oriented disciplinarian approach to parenting. So, teaching God's Word and His love to your children should be the highest priority. God will faithfully uphold parents for this vital task, promising that His Word will not return to Him empty.

 

Mrs. Marie K. MacPherson, vice president of Into Your Hands LLC, lives in Mankato, Minnesota, with her husband Ryan and their children, whom she homeschools. She is a certified Classical Lutheran Educator (Consortium for Classical Lutheran Educators), author of Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood (2018), and editor of Mothering Many: Sanity-Saving Strategies from Moms of Four or More (2016).



TAGS: Motherhood, Homeschooling, vaccination, parenting

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