Dear Grace: My husband doesn’t want us to have any more children for a while, but I would like another baby. Should I do what my husband wants or ask him to give in to what I want? What would God say?
© Copyright 2003 Grace D. MacKinnon
This article taken from the book Dear Grace: Answers to Questions About the Faith, coming in March 2003 from Our Sunday Visitor. Order online by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-348-2440. Faith questions may be sent to Grace via e-mail at: email@example.com. You may also visit Grace online at www.DearGrace.com.
It is very good that you have asked, “What would God say?” because marriage, you see, is not a union of two persons, but of three the man, the woman, and God. God is the author of marriage. It was He who created man and woman and gave them to each other (Genesis 2: 18), and this gift of them to one another had a two-fold purpose it was about love and life.
The Scripture tells us that after God gave the man and woman to each other, He then said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1: 28). So, right here we see the plan of God for marriage. Their “marriage” was to be (1) unitive (for the sharing of love), and (2) procreative (to bring forth children). And their sexual attraction was a gift from God so that it would bring them together in a unique and total bodily union that would fulfill His divine plan. This is precisely why the Church has always taught that each and every marital act (sexual intercourse) must be a total self-gift and, therefore, always be open to life.
Pope John Paul II has taught clearly that sexuality is not just something purely biological. In having sex with our spouse, we do not give only our body; we give ourselves. And, he says this self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving. If the person were to withhold something, then by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally (Familiaris Consortio, no. 11).
A baby is not a possession that a couple can either demand or reject from God. When a man and woman come together in marital sexual union and a child comes from that mutual giving, they become sharers in God’s creative power by their cooperation. A child is thus a gift from God and a fruit of the love between a husband and wife. That is beautiful!
So, if a married couple knows that their bodies have been created for this sharing of love and transmission of life, and that it is God’s will for them, they will also know that they are not free to proceed completely at will, as if they could determine on their own what should be done regarding having children. They must seek the will of God, as taught by the Church (Humanae Vitae, 10).
Sex is not merely about physical pleasure. It’s about love and life, and it is sacred. When the reasons not to have a child are serious, however, then it can be morally permissible for a couple to put off or space their children by the use of Natural Family Planning. An example of a legitimate motive not to have a child might be poor physical or psychological health of the mother or father. Or perhaps having a child would cause undue financial hardship for the family. In other words, the morality of this action is not based on sincere intentions alone, but rather it must be based on objective criteria (Gaudium et spes 51, § 3). You must ask yourselves, “What is our real reason not to have a child now?”
Some married couples would like to wait to have a child simply because they want to spend more time “getting to know each other,” but this is not to be considered a legitimate motive. A couple should get to know each other sufficiently before getting married, and they should be ready and willing to assume the responsibilities of parenthood, should God so bless them once they are married.
But even when a married couple finds that they must put off having a child, it is never morally acceptable to use any artificial means of birth control to do so. This is because true marital intercourse unites a man and woman, whereas contraception separates them. Contraception not only separates sex from procreation, in a sense it can be said to separate sex from love in that it makes it a more selfish love one that does not allow a total gift of oneself.
If you and your husband are capable and have the means to raise a child, then open yourselves to this wondrous “gift” from God. It is unfortunate indeed that in today’s world, married couples have been taught that, in order to have a higher standard of living, they should have fewer children. Don’t believe it when the world lures you in that direction. Look into your heart and ask yourself, “What does God want for our marriage?” Hopefully what we have discussed here will help you in answering that question.