Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Three Decades of Fertility

Three Decades of Fertility

 

Three Decades of Fertility: Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life was a fascinating read. Each chapter is written by a different woman sharing her story of how she and her husband decided to stop using contraception and to give their fertility over to God’s control. They are all open and honest about their plans and dreams for their lives. Some, like Natalie and Stacy, embraced the idea of children and being full-time mums, while others, like Sue, were feministic in their views and had no intention of ever having children. Indeed, Molly, who planned to go to the mission-field, firmly believed that she and her husband ‘would be most effective for God’s kingdom if [they] were unencumbered with children’.

While each woman’s story is unique, they all have one thing in common: at some point in their lives, they decided to trust God with their fertility and welcome the results. These couples recognised that children are gifts from God, and believe that it is not up to us to say: no thanks God, we’ll decide how many children we want and when. Because if children are gifts, it is up to the Gift-Giver to decide when they arrive, how many are given, and how long we may keep them.

A brave step to take, especially in today’s society where children are not always seen as precious or valued, where abortion and child abuse are common-place. These couples had to deal with other people passing judgment on them and their larger-than-average families. They have been perceived as ‘irresponsible’ in having babies into their forties. But, for all the couples in the book, it has grown their faith in God – in His promised provision as creator and Father. These are just ordinary couples who do not have huge incomes, but who have seen God provide for all of their needs. Some did not stop at having their own children but reached out and adopted others.

For someone who has never been pregnant and is infertile, this book provided an intriguing insight into that mysterious world of pregnancy and labour. I admired the women’s honesty in sharing their aches and pains and battles with morning sickness. Some of the women ended up spending the second half of their pregnancies on enforced bed rest while others seem to breeze through the whole nine months. Those who suffered miscarriage share about it honestly, explaining not only how they dealt with it individually but as a family.

Some of the women have had periods of infertility while others have now reached the end of their child-bearing years, and they discuss their feelings of grief and the need to accept each new stage in their lives. I realised that the grief over not being able to get pregnant is as real for infertile couples as it is for those who already have a family yet long for another baby.

At the end of each chapter, the women answer various (very personal and searching) questions such as: how do you deal with the fear of increased miscarriage, infant loss, or birth defects? How do you balance life with older kids and babies? Is it being greedy to want more babies at the risk of not being able to meet the needs of the rest of the family? How do I deal with extended family members, friends, and even the medical community who disapprove of our continuing to want more babies as we get older?

The last couple of chapters are contributed by professionals who look at maintaining good health during pregnancy – physically, mentally and emotionally – and the role nutrition plays in aiding fertility and supporting the body during pregnancy, post-fertility and the menopause.

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It’s radical and compelling. What these women advocate makes sense. But they do not push their biblical conclusions on the reader, they just share their journey with God. I have already ordered a second copy of the book as a present for a friend. I think one of the most important things this book says is: it’s okay to have a large family, so enjoy your gifts from God whether they arrive through pregnancy or adoption.

I believe that each of the women who has contributed her story to this book also writes at Visionary Womanhood.

I am grateful to Cross Focussed Reviews for providing me with a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of writing an unbiassed review.

4 Comments

  1. Clare Weiner

    03/09/2013 at 7:16 pm

    Mmm: food for thought… As a mum of three, (and one who didn’t ‘make it’ so is that really 4?) – and having had a few year’s infertility in between the 1st and the twins… I am really very blessed indeed.
    As someone who has studied the topic of fertility (not as a medical expert I add), I have reservations about trusting God in this kind of way. Having babies into your 40’s is what our granmothers/great grandmothers found they ‘had to do’: we don’t, and for th ewoman and th ebaby’s health,I’m not sure it’s the best especially if youalready have several healthy kids. A baby with chromosomal abnomalities is morelikely, and it may be drain on the family, the marriage, the income, and the child themselves. It can be said “God sent us a handicapped child for a special reason’… I know some people say that…ask the siblings, it may’ve caused a great deal of stress and grief, wounds they carry into adulthood.
    I’m absolutely certain, though, that this book is a page-turner.
    Of course it’s okay to have a large family: until you look at the birthrate/immigration figures, we need to be responsible with resources. BUT I don’t want to be a kill-joy: I just thought I’d put a few thoughts on the opposite side. And certainly being one of say 4 kids is a good experience for growing up. Beyond that, I’m uncertain God is sending gifts along: but we getinto complicated theological areas don’t we, debating that one. I was in a babysitting group years ago with a mum who had 11 kids: she loved babies, but lost interest as they grew…

    • Mandy

      04/09/2013 at 9:30 am

      Thanks Clare. I think your comment is probably a general view these days. What I found refreshing and intriguing about the book was the fact that they expressed the opposite view. Some of the women in the book did have children with chromosomal abnormalities and they wrote about how they and their families dealt with this. If I remember rightly, I think one family even adopted a child with Down’s syndrome.

      I guess it comes down to personal choice in the end. It certainly was a page-turner and I can highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of their views on large families. Appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment Clare – thanks!

  2. Thank you so much, Mandy, for reviewing Three Decades. I’m grateful to God for using it to encourage you in spite of the fact that you are a mother still in the middle of the journey and have yet to experience the joys of raising a child here on earth. I pray that God will fill your heart with joy and peace as you wait on Him to see how the story of your own earthly life unfolds for His glory.

    • Mandy

      04/09/2013 at 5:16 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind words Natalie. I absolutely loved the book. Thank you!

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