Friday, January 31, 2020

The size of families

My great-grandmother, Angelina, died in childbirth.  She left eleven children.  My grandfather, Frank, was just four years old.

My grandmother, Jane, also had a large family.  After her eighth child was born, her husband Frank moved out of the marital bed and slept on the verandah. 

My mother, Ella, gave birth to seven children.  She then had a hysterectomy and pelvic repair.

I ponder the realities of death, abstainence. sterilisation.  
 
My forebears were fertile.  From the time of marriage they expected to welcome a new baby, sometimes two, every couple of years.  Most mothers were busy with the work of feeding and caring for their families. 

My generation, born after the Second World War, had new contraceptive options.  Women were no longer expected to stay at home looking after children for the rest of our productive lives.  My husband Noel and I joyfully welcomed our four children, and decided that four was enough.  We did not question the fate of the potential babies that we carried in our bodies.  We sought to care for the four children we had, and to be satisfied with them, and with each other. 

I remember when I was pregnant saying, "I don't mind if it's a boy or a girl.  As long as it's healthy."  
What right did I have to demand or expect a healthy child?  How ignorant!


The size of families, and whether or not to have children at all, is a topic that should concern the present generation of potential parents.  We face a social environment in which many women are unwilling to submit to pregnancy, childbearing, and the nurture of the young; where both men and women protect their freedom and don't want to be tied down to a family, or women leave their run so late that they face infertility.  The failure of today's generation to be willing or able to become parents is no less a societal disease than infectious diseases that wiped out babies and children of previous generations prior to vaccines and a scientific understanding of infection.   


In reflecting on this topic, I was drawn to a well known Biblical passage, written at the very dawn of the Christian era.  The Apostle John wrote: "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God; children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband's will, but born of God."  (John 1: 11-13) 

The point that is clear in this statement is that John identified decision-making processes that were recognised as the norm.  In our day, we can add "a woman's choice".

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