The fear of an unplanned pregnancy is one of the prevailing realities of modern coupledom. No matter how much we love babies, how much we trust in God’s providence, almost every couple will at some time have tasted the anxiety of possible pregnancy at the wrong time. For some couples, the anxiety may be persistent over many years as they deal with a mental illness, a child with a demanding disability, chronic unemployment or any number of other unavoidable challenges.
For many couples, the fear is grounded in things over which we perhaps do have some control. For example, an unhealthy attachment to financial security or material comforts, over-parenting existing children, or a zealous commitment to career achievement can all lead couples to conclude that another baby at this time would be a disaster.
In truth, for most of us, it’s not so much a fear of another baby, but a fear of losing something we value: control, a lifestyle, career affirmation, social acceptance, etc. When we focus on better and more reliable birth control as a solution, it’s only treating a symptom, not the root cause.
The thing is, no matter how logical or justified, fear is crippling. It robs us of our peace and stifles our spontaneity.
In a marriage, a fear of pregnancy and its consequences can do serious harm to the couple’s sexual intimacy. It undermines the trust in the relationship leading spouses to withdraw from each other and withhold their fertility from the gift of their exchange. The wounds of rejection and distrust can fester, causing long term division and relationship stagnation.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” – John 4:18
We often think that the opposite of love is hate. In Christian theology, the opposite of love is fear. How do love and fear interact? Love implies a willingness to accept suffering for the sake of another. When we fear that our resources are at their limit and our capacity to cope is exhausted, it is natural to pull back.
However, many of our limitations are self-imposed. We assume that without money to buy essentials for our children, it would be a disaster to have another baby. Yet what we classify as ‘essential’ is often overstated.
We fear that another child will overtax us psychologically, but we often are unwilling to address other factors in our life that are adding stress but which we tolerate because we are unwilling to surrender a certain lifestyle or social status.
For the apostle John, God is Love (1 John 4:8) and God is Love perfected. When he says that ‘perfect love casts out fear’, he is saying that God casts out fear. When he says that ‘there is no fear in love’, he is saying that God has no fear; that fear simply cannot exist in the presence of God’s immense love.
God’s unshakeable promise to provide grace, the spiritual strengths necessary to live holy lives, is often the last place we look for assistance when we are plagued by a fear or anxiety. God’s grace is always available if we ask for it, and the Sacrament of Matrimony is a particularly powerful channel through grace is delivered.
Questions for Reflection
- On a scale of 0-10, how open are you to the possibility of another baby?
(0 = completely closed, 10 = can’t wait)
- For anything under 9, what are your main concerns? What do you fear might happen if you had another baby?
Talk about it together and take your concerns to prayer. Ask the Lord to displace your fear with love and to give you the graces needed to live free of fear.
NB: A note for infertile/subfertile couples. For you, the fear of childlessness can be just as crippling as the fear of pregnancy is for fertile couples. You can adapt the Reflection Questions as follows:
- On a scale of 0-10, how comfortable are you with the possibility of childlessness? (0 = it’s overwhelmingly terrifying, 10 = completely at peace)
- For anything under 9, what are your main concerns? What do you fear might happen if you were unable to have a baby?