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Contraception and Control

Christianity Today’s women’s blog Her.meneutics (cute, isn’t it? :)) ran an article by Amy Becker on contraception yesterday, particularly the contraceptive pill. This issue has been on my mind since I read Wendy’s post and the links in the comments and encountered the ProWomenProLife bloggers. Contraception is a much bigger question than whether your method is abortifacient.

We thought a lot about contraception when we got married, partly because we came from families with two different views on the subject. We did a stack of research and ended up deciding to go with the pill.  Two of the reasons we chose the pill was because it gave us the least chance of getting pregnant and gave me better quality of life with more control of my body than other methods. Why didn’t we want to get pregnant straight away? Well, I was only 23 so there was no urgency – plenty of childbearing years ahead! But the main reason was probably that I was the breadwinner. Then we were on a ministry trajectory. I can’t count the number of older women who strongly advised me to finish my theological study before having children. Many of them didn’t and, while they don’t regret having children, do regret the lost opportunities of theological study.

Becker acknowledges the complexities of stewardship, using time and resources wisely as we “fill the earth”. This is what I find so difficult to comes to terms with. Part of me thinks life would be easier if I saw a woman’s role in life as entirely domestic. The lines would be clear cut: no contraception, just devote your life to home and family. But even then, for ministry couples (and there are countless other situations this is relevant in too), might the best way to serve your family be to support your husband’s study by working, or to be theologically equipped yourself? The latter is obviously the issue for me. Partly it’s because I want to be a good partner to my husband but partly it’s just stewarding the gifts that God has also given to me. It’s not that I want to ‘have it all’: it’s that there are so many things that I feel would be good and God-glorifying to do.

Perhaps then it’s a question of when to do these good things, the timing of it all? Becker suggests that contraception gives us the illusion that we, not God are in control of our lives and our bodies. We can use ‘timing’ as a baptised way of saying, “I’ll do it when I feel like it.” I hear that and suspect I’ve been guilty of it. Yet the solution to this cannot be to make no decisions about when to do things: that would be irresponsible stewardship. One suggestion is to use contraception, but be willing to have children, acknowledging that rarely is there a ‘convenient’ time to do so and that God is the giver of life. But it’s such a fine line! Motivations are such slippery little things!

So, ladies, what do you reckon? How do you come to terms with this issue? I suspect that those currently using contraception; single women who want to have a family; married women who have struggled to conceive; and women who’ve conceived unexpectedly will all have different perspectives to offer.

Categories: Woman Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

6 replies

  1. I think it’s important to think about what is possible compared to what is “God’s will”. I’ve had several women tell me that they decided not to use contraception because “children are gifts from God” and they wanted to leave it up to God to provide as many, whenever, He wanted. I have uncomfortable with this kind of reasoning. Just because something is ‘possible’ or ‘natural’ does not mean it is God-ordained.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with birth control, provided that it doesn’t create a ‘children are a burden/interruption sentiment’, i.e., that despite using it couples are open to falling pregnant. I could quote the Ecclesiastes ‘time and a season to do everything’ here; I think there’s nothing wrong with pursuing other interests/study that the season of childbearing won’t allow.

  2. Thanks for the post Tamie. I have kept thinking about it too ever since I wrote that post – people have spoken to me, emailed me, commented, etc. It caused me also to think about how we do our ‘preparing for marriage’ times with couples. When we now meet with engaged couples, we have a whole sheet that we give them, raising similar issues that I raised in my post – ie. you are not in control (even though we would like to think we are!) and if you marry, you must be willing to have children. It also covers the range of methods of contraception available and the potential issues with each. We are NOT trying to tell couples what to do and we certainly don’t want them to tell us their decision, but we feel they should be informed, as we were not.

    As I read your post, I found myself thinking that even if you saw a woman’s role as ‘entirely domestic’ that would not necessarily equal ‘no contraception’. I don’t think the one results in the other. Even those whose lives are entirely domestic surely also include being able to support their husbands intelligently (in their ministry or otherwise) as part of that domesticity? And what is ‘entirely domestic’ anyway? – staying at home, having a home business, home-schooling – how could such a thing possibly be defined? By many standards, my life is entirely domestic, I do not work, I care for my husband, children and home. However I also give talks, write bible studies and meet with other women.

    Having said all that – even if one chose the ‘entirely domestic’ route, they could also choose (under God’s provision) that a limited number of children or a certain amount of time between them was wise, considering the physical, emotional and mental toll that having children can be – hence the potential use of considered contraception.

    You are certainly right in saying that contraception is a big question! I’m just glad people think about it, rather than not at all.

    Wendy

  3. Hi Wendy

    Your marriage prep thing sounds like a great idea. Now that I reflect on it, I think the contraception discussion in our marriage prep consisted of “get something that works!” which is helpful on one hand, but leaves a whole heap of other issues out.

    With ‘entirely domestic’, I was trying to put myself in the place of the girl who writes the blog I linked to. I think I saw a simplicity in that that wasn’t part of my life. Although, as you say, I’m sure it’s more complicated than that!

  4. Hi Tamie,

    Interesting post – but am I to infer from the last paragraph that males are not permitted opinions?

  5. Sam, trust you to pick up on the literary nuance! I asked for women’s feedback rather than general feedback because I’ve experienced men as quick to jump in with opinions on this issue when they don’t necessarily live the issues in the same way that women do. That said, of course men are permitted opinions and I’d love to hear yours!

  6. I’m a 50-year-old grandmother. Both of my children were the result of failed contraception. I never made the decision to become pregnant. I was never pregnant at a “good” time; the news of my pregnancies never made anyone happy.

    After my second son was born, my husband and I struggled, but I was able to stay home with my children. Then I stayed home to homeschool them. It seems that my entire life has been shaped by the experience of having children (including a 20 year stint in children’s ministry!).

    What might have been? I don’t know and I don’t bother wondering. I’m in awe of women who plan and then carry through their pregnancies because I don’t know that I ever would have made the choice to become pregnant if it had been entirely up to me. I’m also in awe of women who don’t drop everything in their lives and commit themselves entirely to their children, because that would have been too much life for me to handle.

    Just make the best choice you know how to make and be open to the possibility of children.

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