Grandma is Expecting: the grandfather's perspective
The following article first appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of SALT Magazine.
GRANDMA IS EXPECTING: THE GRANDFATHER'S PERSPECTIVE
By James McDermott
At one point I thought about writing about the woman who had 8 children by in vitro fertilization. Her case was very unusual, to put it nicely, and many interesting issues were raised. But I think her case was more useful as gossip than for edification, unless there is a hidden groundswell of people trying to decide whether to have 14 children artificially or without a husband.
Anyhow, I have news from my own life that I’m sure will be the source of gossip and small talk on a much, much, much smaller scale than octomom. My 45-year-old wife of nearly 24 years, who has borne me 12 children, had 6 early miscarriages, and who is known as grandma to our two grandchildren, is expecting a baby in 7 months. Perhaps Cindy will write on the subject in a later issue, but I want to share what is on my heart right away.
I am overjoyed that God would bless us with more children. Cindy and I have been praying for more children for some time – and even for twins – but we have never gone this long between children. Our children, when they prayed at meal time and family devotions, would pray that Mom would have “a baby of twins” or something more grammatically sound that meant the same thing. With me at 48½ and Cindy at 45, we soberly realized that our new baby days would end someday and we sadly considered the possibility that our 12th child was our last. But we continued to pray that if it was in accordance with God’s will we would like more children. Now that God has created new life inside Cindy we are delighted. We would like people to share our joy in the blessing God has given to us, but we would also like our brothers and sisters in Christ to be praying for us, since only 2 of our last 6 pregnancies have resulted in live births.
Our children and some of our quiverfull friends are delighted with the news, but it is common – even amongst our believing family and acquaintances – to greet the news with a sigh and a shaking of the head. They do not share our joy.
I have heard many concerns about our having more children. I have been called mean for forcing Cindy to go through childbirth 12 times and it is unthinkable in the eyes of my detractors that I would force her to go through childbirth yet again. The fact that Cindy, herself, wanted these children and wants more is puzzling to them, but they consider Cindy the victim and me the villain.
I have been asked to consider the toll all these babies must be taking on her health and the special risk childbirth is to women of “advanced maternal age.” The fact that Cindy is in excellent health and that there may be even greater health risks – such as breast cancer – for women who try to essentially break a part of their bodies that is working as designed does not change their point of view.
I have been asked to consider the increased risk “advanced maternal age” means to the baby – meaning birth defects and especially Down Syndrome. While it is true that the risk of birth defects increases with the age of the parents, we don’t see that as a deterrent to having children. We pray for the health of all of our babies and for our children. And so far, all 12 children were born healthy. But we would never kill a child with a serious birth defect – as many parents now do – or deny them life merely because they run a higher risk of birth defects. Who are we to determine that a disability makes a baby not worth having and that his life isn’t worth living? When Jesus’ disciples saw a man born blind they asked him whether it was the man or the man’s parents’ sin that caused him to be born blind. But Jesus answered them, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) In this man’s case, the work of God was displayed in his life through his healing. But there are others who display the work of God in their disability. For God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:8) If God determines to give us a perfectly healthy baby, we will rejoice. But if God gives us a child with disabilities we will love him just as much. We have placed our trust in God – that we will accept from His hand whatever He gives us.
Some well-meaning people are also concerned about my ability to raise children in my old age – that is, assuming I don’t die first and leave a widow and orphans. Well, the truth is that I don’t have the energy I did when I first began having children. But I am wiser than I was and I have a pretty, young wife and a bunch of older children to help us. And as for the increasing risk of death: that is simply out of my control and I can’t worry about it. As long as God gives me life – and I have prayed many times that God will allow me to live long enough to see Cindy into her old age and my children out of the house – I will do everything within my power to protect, provide for, and train my children in the faith. But ultimately God is their protector, provider, and Father. If God decides He wants me in heaven, He will see to it that my family is taken care of. I cannot and will not live in fear because the future is uncertain. How small is the faith of the man who does. If I am doing work that pleases God – and having children for the purpose of raising witnesses for Christ in the generation that follows is work that I know from His Word pleases Him – I will not worry about the risks.
Others are concerned that by the time my children are out of my house I will be too old and too poor to retire. But they do not realize that my children make me far more wealthy than people who have only money. They will love me and take care of me if I am incapacitated in this life and, God willing, they will be my glory and my crown in the next. As long as I have strength and life I will be about my Master’s business and I plan to begin my retirement in heaven.
To be honest, sometimes I let the naysayers spoil my mood – and shame on me. I am determined and I pray to God that He will allow me to humbly dismiss the concerns of people – even brothers and sisters in Christ – who don’t really believe children are a blessing or who fear that God won’t prove Himself faithful to the children He creates. I will exalt the name of God, who would bless a poor sinner like me with a beautiful, charming, competent, godly, and fertile wife and all these children. I will also exalt the name of God for the new life He has created in Cindy’s womb – and I hope you will share in my joy.
©2009 SALT Magazine, 2131 W. Republic Rd. #177, Springfield, MO 65807, www. saltmagazine.com