I didn’t share my pregnancy with my fourth child with anyone until it was impossible to hide it. It wasn’t because I had no joy that he existed, but because I had a great deal of anxiety about how other people would react. These days, it seems that once you hit the “acceptable” 2.5 children, everyone expects you to send your ovaries into early retirement.
If you’re the mother of more than two or three children, you’ve likely heard at least one of these infamous remarks before — yes, even from complete strangers:
- Don’t you use birth control?
- Don’t you know how ‘that’ happens?
- How many kids are you going to have!?
- Are they all yours?
- Was this one planned!?
- I hope you don’t plan on having any more!
- You’ve got your hands full!
So, what gives? Why are children considered too much of an inconvenience to bother having? Why is everyone so eager for you to have your first baby only to drop their jaws in horror when you announce a third pregnancy? When did children become burdens instead of blessings? Well, the story goes like this…
Fears of overpopulation took hold
In the 1960s, Americans were overcome with fear of mass starvation due to overpopulation. The Population Bomb, a book by Stanford University biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich, sold millions of copies. He predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation in the 1970s, and Earth would simply be unable to support human life by the mid-1980s. Obviously, this never happened, but Americans are still terrified of overpopulation. But humans are a smart and innovative bunch: American plant scientist Norman E. Borlaug created high-yielding, disease-resistant crops that have helped to feed the world and its growing population.
According to global population writer Fred Pearce, the world’s wealthiest half billion people make up only seven percent of the world population yet account for half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. On the other hand, the poorest 50 percent of the world’s people only account for seven percent of carbon dioxide emissions. If this is accurate, then perhaps the greatest problem isn’t really the number of people.
Industry replaced agriculture… and desire for material possessions outweighed desire for family
In addition to overpopulation and environmental fears, when the Western world began to leave agriculture behind for the industrial revolution, children were no longer needed to run farms, and large families were no longer in vogue.
Fast forward: We now believe that children must play every sport, participate in every activity, and have the best of everything that money can buy. Having children — especially more than two — means you won’t have as much individual freedom to spend money on lavish things. Yet we haven’t birthed a better world by birthing fewer children. We are a much more self-centered society now that our focus has shifted from diaper pails to iPads.
Birth control advocates said motherhood would be an obstacle to women’s success
Going right along with the focus on individual freedom came the birth control revolution of 1960s and 70s. And what gets in the way of casual sex between unmarried, non-committed people? Babies. Conceiving children with mistresses or one night stands wasn’t (and still isn’t) a welcome idea. And just like that, babies were no longer seen as a natural result of the bond between man and wife.
A more industrial society meant more women working outside the home. The birth control movement marketed the idea that parenting was an obstacle to women’s success (and they still do). An entire generation began to find it appealing to avoid having children in favor of having the nicest home and the best tech gadgets. “Must-have” items became more important than raising families. Plus, daycare is unaffordable and most businesses don’t allow mothers any paid time off. Children = sacrifice. Birth control became the norm because it was marketed that way.
And birth control made room for legal abortion. In fact, the “mother” of the birth control movement and founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, infamously said, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.”
Sacrificing your child’s life in favor of consumerism and false equality became the “right” thing to do. Women were fed the lie that in order to be equal to men they had to give up their fertility. Here we are, over 40 years since Roe v. Wade, and abortion hasn’t given women “equality.” Instead, when a woman faces an unexpected pregnancy, she’s frequently forced to choose between her education or job and her baby. Men, however, are not forced to choose. Instead of killing babies, we should be providing supportive resources to families such as in-house daycare, paid parental leave, and on-campus housing and daycare. Many pro-life pregnancy centers are already doing much of the work in creating these benefits.
The perfect storm — population control, birth control, and abortion — led to hostility toward children
All of these things – population control, birth control, and abortion all have one thing in common: control. Women haven’t gained freedoms — we have lost them. And our children, or lack thereof, are the ones paying the biggest price. Here we are, in a society that devalues and discriminates against our most vulnerable humans.
People complain about children in restaurants, children on airplanes, children at resorts, and the children of their coworkers. They see a large family and roll their eyes in judgment. A couple announces a third, fourth, fifth baby is on the way and no one even cares to mutter a “Congratulations!” Many employers don’t offer more than a few (unpaid) weeks off from work after having a child and benefits such as health insurance are nearly nonexistent. Meanwhile, there is concern that there won’t be enough people to keep the American economy growing. We are below the replacement rate needed to sustain the population and the birth rate is the lowest it’s been in 30 years.
I cried for months after learning I was pregnant with my fourth child, and it wasn’t just because I knew people would judge me for having four children. I had the added “bonus” of not knowing if any of my children would have cystic fibrosis (CF), as my firstborn does. Despite major advancements in treatments that have extended the life expectancy from childhood to age 40, people with CF are being aborted at staggering rates. After having one child with the condition, many couples turn to IVF, during which any embryos that test positive for CF are tossed or donated to science while the “healthy” embryos are kept.
What does that say about us? It says fear has won and that a person is only as valuable as how healthy they are. Women are bullying other CF moms for choosing to have more children naturally. They are told they are selfish and irresponsible — as if devoting their lives to caring for another human being could ever be selfish or irresponsible. I cried because I knew that if I announced my pregnancy on Facebook, many CF moms would call me these things.
I was shamed into not sharing my preborn baby with the world. I was guilted into thinking that I wasn’t a good enough mother to love my child for who he was — who God created him to be. Each of us, including my children — with CF or not — is created with a purpose and a plan. Who are we to say no to that — to them?
The ONLY thing we should be saying to pregnant women (and women with large families) is, “Congratulations!” before extending a helping hand.