I have to share with you a letter I received from a dear friend this morning.
Although it was sent yesterday, it arrived in my inbox within an hour of a significant conversation with my husband this morning regarding a decision about whether or not to continue/resume using birth control. I believe it was a direct answer to a prayer for guidance and direction. It comes as confirmation of our hearts' desire, though we know that our extended families and most of the friends around us don't agree with or even understand our choice.
As we have sought to allow the Lord to bless our family with another child, I have experienced at least four miscarriages over the past two years. Concerned that a hormonal imbalance or some other physical problem with my body might be causing these babies to die, we made a choice several months ago to resume using birth control while I underwent thorough testing to be sure I was not chemically or hormonally "off" in a significant health-related way.
Well, those test results are all in, and they reveal that there is nothing wrong with my body beyond the "old eggs" (and the commensurate increased chance of genetic defects in the babies created from them) expected in a woman over the age of 40.
This has, of course, thrown us into quite a decision-making process. We have had to wrestle significantly with many serious things, including our thoughts about God's sovereignty, about His heart regarding families and children, and about our perceived "right" to orchestrate matters of life and conception.
Additionally, we have come to recognize over the past few years that sex is better without birth control, not only physically but emotionally and relationally. We have always been unwilling to utilize any forms of birth control that are abortifacient, including the IUD and oral birth control pills, because we've been unwilling to create and then destroy babies. We have, however, utilized various "barrier methods" of birth control at various times in our marriage. And we have increasingly become convicted that they are just that... a barrier. They are a barrier to the full physical pleasure God intends for us. They are a barrier to spontaneity. They are a barrier, for us, to full emotional engagement and complete unity. And they are a barrier to receiving the gift of children, which God - in the Scriptures - always and unequivocally calls "blessings."
And so, after our final doctor appointment, we fell into a quandry. Do we continue to use the birth control we began using during the testing, in light of the information revealed? We have come to despise it, for the reasons listed above, and yet we have had to process and engage a great many things since we have received the test results. We have had to think about the toll of repeated miscarriage on a woman's body... about the possibility of Down's syndrome or other genetic abnormalities... about "imperfect children" and how we'd feel about having one... about the reality of having a child who spends his last decade at home with really old parents, without brothers or sisters...
We have had to acknowledge our growing convictions against birth control, our heightened hopes regarding the possibility of another child in our family, and our fears regarding repeated miscarriage and genetic abnormalities. We have gone round and round and round, and we finally desperately asked the Lord for His wisdom and guidance in these matters.
That was early this morning. Within an hour, I found the following letter in my inbox:
Happy Sunday, friends and family, I chose each of you to receive this e-mail for the role you have played in our family and vision for family. We have been burdened lately about what to think about family and missions. We have beloved friends who are convicted to limit their children to a minimum in order to tread lightly on the earth and have more room to adopt the "unwanted." We love and respect them. Among them is a dynamic couple doing Christian environmental work in Africa. We also have beloved friends who believe their responsibility is to have as many children as God will give them. We love and respect them. Among them is a couple who serves in Darfur. They have lost 3 children in a year, one of which was almost term and was lost after she was beaten up while on a walk in Kartoom. Their missionary team-mates have told them that their kids and lost pregnancies are a drag on the ministry and team. As we prepare for number 4, we have been torn about how to view children and our future as missionary servants. With details still to work out, we have been rescued by a painfully direct sermon by African-American Southern Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham. I wanted to share this with each of you and thank you for your role in helping us see all sides of this wonderful and sobering issue. Please listen and comment. We are listening, too, and have much yet to learn about being and becoming parents.
And so I post it here for you, too. It has challenged and convicted and moved and encouraged us in a variety of arenas. It speaks about the concept of contemporary "youth ministry" as well as to various parenting issues. I would value your thoughts as you listen, as well.
The Centrality of the Home by Voddie Baucham.