the intentionally empty womb
The painting shown here is one I did just before I got intentionally pregnant with our son. I found myself using art making to process some of the ambiguity I felt about that decision. The sacrifice, the sanctification, the vulnerability, the fear (and hope), the requirement. (And just because, here is something I did when I was about 9 mo pregnant with our son.)
I have wondered if it was the birth of our son that doomed my faith in the church, opened that perilous door which led to a very diminished belief in it’s claims to exclusive divine direction. I’m the kind of woman who has never been ‘baby hungry’. I enjoy kids (and love my son) but prefer my exposure to them to be limited to a degree (I’m a much better mother to my son when he is with someone else for a part of the day) and I have never experienced a longing to reproduce. It was with a bit of trepidation and ambivalence that I agreed to conceive; it’s what Mormon couples do after getting married, hubby thought it was a good idea, I was approaching 30, clock’s a ticking. I couldn’t vocalize any good reason not to. So we did. The Pregnancy was fine. Labor and delivery went without a hitch. But then I was suddenly a mom… and I discovered it wasn’t a role that worked very well for me. When the other young mothers around me talked about planning for their ‘next one’ I had a hard time relating. The only possible reason I could see for wanting another child was because it was what God wanted me to do, sort of like commanding Jonas to go to Nineveh. And I was starting to have some issues with the Father’s demands upon my body.
I wrote this guest post at fMh a little over a year ago about why people have children. It was really big on my mind at the time, we were coming to that point where my husband and I were asking “do we have another one?” and I was doing some serious soul searching. This year, my son turns five, I will soon become officially “mid 30’s”, and I have gone through a bit of a cognitive shift. Epitomized, perhaps, by president Beck’s Mother’s Who Know talk; it wasn’t until after I ceased believing in “Prophets, seers, and revelators who… [declare] that ‘God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force'” that I could finally come to grips with and admit the fact that I really didn’t want any more children. That our family felt complete to me. I think for my mother this is painfully personal. To her it is not only proof of my declining faith in the church, but also an indictment against her own effectiveness as a mother (she wonders if I would be more maternal if she had been a better mom.) Likewise there are women who desire (but are unable) to have a child, and my fully capable but intentionally empty womb must seem like a cruel joke. I don’t have answers to those questions. This is just my personal story.
But I am curious, for me faith and family planning seemed so heavily connected, (which is silly- perpetuating the species is what we are programed for) how does this work for others? Are there faithful members of the church who don’t feel any contradiction between believing in the restored gospel and happily remaining childless? On the flip side, know any atheists with lots of kids? What has been your experience with the command to multiply and replenish the earth?