Fertility is a Gift

Much has been written in the Lutheran blogosphere about marriage and procreation and arguments for and against contraception have been hashed and rehashed, and I don’t intend to do that again here, at least, that is not my primary purpose. Obviously our ability to have children largely depends on our individual circumstances. Most of these discussions, for better or for worse, tend to revolve around the children, and whether we see them as a bane or a blessing. Perhaps we need to back up a bit and talk about fertility itself. And more specifically, how do we husbands view our wives’ fertility? Do we respect it? Do we see it as a gift? Do we do what we can to help our wives see it in this light, or do we by our words and actions encourage our wives to despise their God-given fertility rather than rejoice in it as a precious gift?

I guess the point I am trying to get at here is that if we husbands want our wives to rejoice in child bearing and see it as a blessing and as something worth going through several times, we need first of all to learn to respect a woman’s fertility and hold it up as a precious gift, and guard against giving the impression to our wives that we do not consider it as such. The other thing I think we can do to encourage a frame of mind like one might find over at CSPP (Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition) is to help create a family and household environment that encourages a willing committment to procreation. Certainly this is where the marital rubber (no pun intended…really!) hits the road. I am hoping the discussion on this post can revolve around the “how” of this issue. What can husbands do to help our wives see their fertility as something of great value when so many other factors in day to day life seem to scream out: “Stop the madness…NOW!” Wha’dy’all think about this?


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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4 Responses to Fertility is a Gift

  1. Rev. Paul Beisel says:

    I’m going to get this thing started. I know that one thing I have done as a husband to discourage my wife from wanting to have more children is constantly saying things like, “Man, I cannot WAIT until we can just go out on our own and enjoy a date!” I think talk like this is counter productive (no pun intended…again! I am just full them, aren’t I). Negative talk like this on the part of a husband is only going to push a wife more and more towards the side of putting an end to child bearing.

    There is no doubt though–no matter how much we try to “speak positively” about having children, and “respecting” fertility, and all that great talk, child bearing is a cross. It is a holy and salutary one, to be sure, but it is a cross. And crosses have this way of killing those who on whom they are laid. They are meant to reduce us and to increase our sanctification. The cross hurts. You can’t get around that. I just wanted to qualify my statements in my post, and be mindful of the fact that this is not just a matter of words or attitudes.

  2. Erich Heidenreich, DDS says:

    OK. I’ll give it a try. What can husbands do to help our wives see their fertility as something of great value when so many other factors in day to day life seem to scream out otherwise?

    First, a couple Luther quotes that talk about the negative attitude you wish to correct:

    For one must also consider that at that time fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. “There will not be a barren woman among you,” he says (cf. Ex. 23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good-for-nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: “Be fruitful and multiply.” From this they understood that children are a gift of God.

    AE vol. 5 (Lectures on Genesis), p. 329

    “Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper.

    AE 5:332

    “Trust in God’s grace and promises…” Luther has put his finger right on the key to understanding our love or hatred of fertility. Trusting in God’s grace and promises, I believe, is the key – and I have a bit of experience.

    As a man who has had to encourage a wife a great deal over the past 17 years in her fertility (we just had our ninth pregnancy – seventh live birth), helping her to bear the heavy cross of a mother (and me to bear the cross of a father), I can say that one of the most difficult things is for a woman (and man) to trust God to give us our daily bread.

    I mean “daily bread” in the broadest sense, especially as Luther explains it in the Large Catechism’s explanation of the Fourth Petition, as in “everything that belongs to our entire life in the world.” And we pray this knowing that God does, in fact provide everything we truly need every day.

    Trusting God and talking about that trust is the best way I know of encouraging my wife in her vocation of motherhood. A dislike of fertility is virtually always rooted in a distrust of God to give us everything we truly need every day. We think we know better what we need, and children get in the way of virtually everything we think we need (or simply want).

    After you have three or four children, you start to feel that it is impossible provide all the care (from discipline and instruction to love and nourishment) that each child “needs.” But this is plain silliness and distrust of God’s goodness. What you can provide in a day is exactly what those you serve “need.” Regardless of our sinfulness and failings, God turns everything to good for those who love Him.

    So, to put briefly: TELL YOUR WIFE SHE’S DONE EVERYTHING SHE NEEDED TO DO, EVERY DAY, AND THANK HER FOR DOING IT! Regardless of whether she got all the laundry done, regardless of whether dinner got burned, regardless of whether the kitchen floor needs sweeping, regardless of whether she lost her temper and flew off the handle at you or the children – at the end of the day, forgive and be forgiven and, together, give thanks to God for giving us all our daily bread Regardless of our sins and failings, everybody somehow got exactly what they needed – even mom, who probably feels she needs more sleep than she’s getting – this too shall suffice as exactly what she needs.

    As you said, Pr. Beisel, “bearing” children is a cross. But often a cross is exactly what we need. We need to think in terms of what we need rather than what we want. When we get past that, and trust that God knows our needs better than we do, fertility is no longer despised, but seen as the wonderful gift it is!!!

    My (initial) 2¢ 😉


  3. Dizziness says:

    I wonder if our culture so often attaches guilt to sex that we allow our Christian marriages to be unnecessarily burdened by guilt. You know, the “day after” syndrome and such. But as the Luther quotes highlight, there is no cause of a guilty conscience in the sexuality of our marriages.

    Disparaging your wife’s fertility has a way of creating real guilt though. We may choose to ignore the goodness of God . The Law works and our conscience is burdened.

    Dr. Heidenreich’s approach (indeed Luther’s) is to test our ethic against God’s Law. The Law burdens the soul of the sinner but is freedom to the Christian, free to live according to the good and gracious will of God. As Rev. Beisel, this is a cross to bear.

    I prefer an unburdened conscience of subjectivity to the cross over the burdened conscience of my own sinful desires.

    Far too much emphasis is placed on Christian freedom subject to the reason and will of man and not the will of God.

  4. GL says:

    Erich is spot on. What men need to do to help their wives see their fertility as a gift is to love them as Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for it. That is, we need to pick up as much of the burden for them as we can — earn a living and help them when we are with them, both physically, by helping with the family chores and emotionally by recognizing and complimenting them for the burdens they bear as wives and mothers.

    In the end, I believe many women fail to see their fertility as a gift because their husbands do not model Christ, but place their own wants and desires ahead of the needs of their wives and children. And this generation of fathers must rear their sons (the next generation of fathers), both by word and by example, to understand this in order that their daughters-in-law will see their fertility as a gift.

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