paradigm shift

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I was making post-partum rounds the other day on a young mom. We were chatting about her future plans - the FOB (father of the baby) bailed out on her at the onset of the pregnancy (very common in my patient population), and she was getting her support from her family. I strongly support these mom's decisions to choose abstinence from sexual involvement as their 'family planning' method. So I was kind of joking around that I probably wouldn't be seeing her for her next baby until she met and married the right guy. And then she said something that made me really think about how differently our culture views sexuality and procreation. She said, "Or not", meaning that she might get married and still choose not to get pregnant. I realized that marriage has an entirely different meaning to the majority of the people living in our culture than what it meant 50 years ago.
Fifty years ago, it was still pretty generally recognized that sex leads to pregnancy and that pregnancy leads to parenthood. Yes, there were contraceptive methods out there, and there was also the early stages of awareness of the natural rhythms of female fertility, but generally it was accepted that if you got married you would have children, and probably several children. The culture frowned upon non-marital sexual relations, and if a young couple became pregnant through illicit relations, it was expected that they would marry and that their families would help them to make the best of it. Failing that, the young woman would leave her community to give birth, placing her baby for adoption. Abortion was considered a risky and immoral event, even in the situations of rape etc. There were undercurrents of the sexual revolution, but for the most part the generally accepted values connected marriage, sexual activity, and procreation. The idea of a voluntarily childless marriage was foreign to the general consciousness. "If you don't want children, why get married?", seems to be what I remember hearing as a child. Women with serious medical conditions were not advised to use contraception so much as they were advised to never marry.
Somewhere, somehow, it all changed. Now we have a culture that considers childbearing as entirely voluntary and sexual activity to be as necessary as eating. Marriage is all the relationship between the adults, and the kids are so much excess baggage - or parenthood is about the kids and the other partner is so much excess baggage. We are way out of balance here, folks. The more I observe the culture in which we live, the more worried I get. I read the Didache, and the early church fathers. I see that they were concerned that Christians not become part of their surrounding culture, where divorce was easy, where children were disposed of before or after birth at the whim of the parents, where the wealthy were slaves to their bodily lusts and the poor were kept enslaved by 'bread and circuses'. Then I look at what is going on in our world today and I become very much afraid.


Very much afraid is how I'm made to feel. Sex is quite simply nothing more than another form of entertainment -- its sole purpose the "feeling" you get -- not unlike watching the latest crime shows on TV or eating your favorite ice cream. It's all the same.

Gotta say that while it scares me, I still believe there is hope. The evidence is all around to give one hope!

Take heart, Alicia. I was 19 when I became pregnant with my son. He was born a week after my 20th birthday. I vividly remember my OB walking into my room the next day and telling me to use birth control or I "WOULD" see her again in nine months. In my head I said "Oh, no you won't!" It wasn't until he was born that I realized how much he deserved, and how much I had robbed him of by not being married and not allowing him to be adopted. So, I stayed with my parents, I took whatever help they would give me. I went to nursing school. I wondered if The Lord would keep me single forever, I certainly didn't have a lot of time to date! God had other plans. I met and married my husband (a cradle Catholic) we've had two more children and I have joined the Church. My husband is trying to adopt my son, whom he loves. God has spoken to me clearly about what he wants for our family. I still work (part-time and at night), I homeschool, we are open to the children God would like to give us. There is hope, for every patient you see. Keep praying, and I will pray right along with you!

As John (above) says, there is hope. But it is a scary world and you've done a great job of defining one of the major problems.

I can see how this sort of thinking has infected my own family. I was talking with one of my daughter's about how I wasn't born until my parents had been married 6 years. They had pretty much come to the conclusion that they would never be blessed with children and were pleased and amazed at my imminent arrival. daughter says to me, "Oh, so you were an accident?" That caught me so off guard. My response was something along the lines of "No, I was a miracle." (I didn't mean miracle like I'm such hot stuff, but that any baby would be a miracle. And my little sister was a miracle.) And I am baffled by people wanting to dodge as many miracles as possible....

There is always hope.
There is never anything to fear so long as we live in Christ.
I don't know. I see every birth as a witness to the Love of Christ and I believe that so long as a mother chooses life over death for her children the hope lies in that choices imitation of Christ...that He died so that we might live.
Christ makes all things new...
Take heart.

I think one thing we can do personally is to support parents in what they are doing. If you see a woman in the grocery store with several children, don't ever neglect to say "What a beautiful family!" Say "Oh, how wonderful!" when you hear someone is pregnant...before the person telling you can start to say, " I don't know why she is having another one when she can't take care of the ones she has..(This prpbably means they wear clothes from the thrift store, not that they are neglected.)" If you are the one having the children, let everyone know you feel blessed. Make it clear in little ways that you expect the next baby to be coming along don't want to cut off these maternity pants for shorts, because next time, i might be pregnant in the winter and wish I had them... ( I said this in my doctor's office, back in 1977. What strange looks I got from the other two women there. For them pregnancy was an isolated event, to be undertaken, at most, twice in a lifetime, and the thought of thinking of the NEXT pregnancy during this one, was utterly foreign to them. Whether my cheerful acceptance that there would be another after this one had any effect on them, I don't know.

Maybe we should all start giving baby items at wedding showers!

When forms ask me to list my children and then only give 5 or 6 or 7 blanks,,,especially on line forms with no way to squeeze any more in, I always find the place to comment the webmaster or the head of the association (ie such as a college alumni association) to ask...Why do you have only six blanks for children?

Priests should insist on using the traditional blessing "May your wife be like a fruitful vine, your children like olive plants around your table." at weddings. If we hear people planning a wedding we could say ..."I love that blessing about children like olive plants...." to encourage people to use it.

It is hard to know what one person can do about such a widespread attitude. But, lets all try .

Susan Peterson

The problem you discuss here has it origin in this fact: in modern thinking, personhood is equated with egohood. To deny any person's ego what it naturally wants -- to avoid all pain and experience all possible pleasure -- is seen as denying said person's very humanity. Hence the view that sexual activity is as necessary as eating.

To undo this paradigm shift, the culture will have to rediscover personhood as a category of being unto itself.

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This page contains a single entry by alicia published on September 27, 2004 3:24 PM.

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