The Empty Womb: Forsaking Fertility in Marriage

I have been trying to write this post for days now, and today I am squeezing the writing into the afternoon as the five month old baby is asleep (for now), the two year old is resisting the urge to get out of bed instead of nap, and the four year old is building with blocks in her quiet time. It has been an eventful day. The baby took a short morning nap, which caused her to be in hysterics for her next nap as I was making the big kids their lunch. I got the chance to nurse her to sleep when the kids were occupied with eating. The two year old is potty training for the third week in a row; it is not going well. My four year old, in anger at being told she lost her naptime story (for lying to me), dumped her milk all over the table. I ask myself, is this the life that I would choose to have: changing diapers, potty training, naptimes, cooking, cleaning all day, everyday, without days off? Why am I planning on having more? There are some married people who have decided to not have any kids, ever. Not just delay kids for ten years and then have a boy and a girl three years apart. These people never want to have kids. 

And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, `Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’’ (Luke 23:27-29)” 

Jesus said these words during His Carrying of the Cross, prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D., but in another interpretation, it applies to those who have forgotten what marriage is for. The marriage debate and the cause for so-called “same-sex marriage” is only making progress because society has rejected children as an end of marriage. 

What I mean by ends is based in Aristotelian philosophy. The human person is directed by nature towards certain ends (fulfilling goals)by nature, and one of these ends is reproduction. Within human societies, marriage is the proper institution for reproduction to take place; to separate reproduction from marriage is immoral and to separate marriage from reproduction is not marriage. To deny this end, to act against this end is an immoral act, acting contrary to the ends of the human person. 

Further a valid Sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church requires the openness to children: “For matrimonial consent to exist, it is necessary that the contracting parties be at least not ignorant of the fact that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman, ordered to the procreation of children (Canon 1096 §1).” Canon law states that if either person in the marriage does not intend the goods of marriage (procreation is a good), then it is not a valid marriage. Society does not agree with this view of marriage, and it began with the acceptance of contraception as normal, divorce, and further abortion. 

There is so much going against a couple who is open to having kids, and they are surrounded by it daily. Take the standard of what a beautiful woman looks like, and it is definitely not that of a woman who has had multiple children. It is just about impossible for a woman to regain her pre-children body, even if she tried, but that is what she is surrounded with whenever she goes to buy clothes, watches television or movies, or is in the check-out line at the grocery store in the magazine rack. A man has to overcome this standard, purge his mind of the women who are not his wife, and see the beauty in his wife who has born the children. 

Still the pictures of the models and movie stars cry out, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!” 

Then there is the pressure for women to succeed in the workplace. If she takes time from her job to have children, she misses the promotions that her male coworkers can take. The movement for women to choose to be at home instead of at work is one positive trend in society, but what about those who feel they can’t afford to, especially those who are used to a more expensive lifestyle? 

When a woman chooses to have children, she sees other women without children who are moving up in the professional world and she hears, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!” 

And then there is the daily toil of taking care of children; either the money spent on childcare or the parents attending to the day to day needs at home. After a long night being woken many times, then a long day full of diaper changes and cleaning up spills, or a busy afternoon driving children from activity to activity, one might envy someone who does not have to do this and think, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!” 

A marriage may seem better if there were no children. The couple has time for each other, can bathe when they wish, take vacations wherever, sleep without being woken up, and focus on loving each other without the distraction of little people. But that is not all that marriage is about; tradition and God dictate otherwise. If we don’t remember what marriage is for, the procreative, as well as the unitive, then marriage will no longer be marriage. And raising children is hard; but it is for the sake of someone outside ourselves. It teaches us to give of ourselves, to love as Christ loved us, and those same children are not for us but for God.