Dear Young, Christian Husband With a Job and Healthy Wife Who Wants a Baby

keene-mass-empty-bassinetI’ve never met you—I don’t think your wife has, either, so sorry to break into your day like this. A friend of your wife’s asked me to write and tell you something. Your wife has been trying to tell you for a while, but so far, it doesn’t seem like you can hear: your wife wants a baby.

“Wants” might not be the right word; it might make her desire seem less serious. Did you know that your wife spends a lot of time crying about this – when you’re not around, because she doesn’t want to upset you or disrespect you? She calls her friends up when she needs to talk about this and they do their best to comfort her, but it’s really not much. She avoids the baby section of the grocery store because one time she went through it and ended up sobbing in the parking lot without the groceries. She is not being a suck. She is suffering.

If you want to understand how strong this longing for motherhood is for her, it might help to read the chapters in Genesis about Jacob and his wives, where the barren Rachel comes to a breaking point and says to her husband, “Give me children, or I die!” (Gen. 30:1). She feels like death is inevitable if motherhood is impossible. There’s also the first bit of 1 Samuel, where Hannah can’t eat because she wants a baby so badly. That’s not hyperbole: this intense longing can interfere with your wife’s physical health.

Perhaps you are hesitant to bring a child into this world because you think it’s full enough. A road trip from Pittsburg to Portland will disabuse you of that notion. Often, husbands cite financial concerns when their wives express longing for a baby. I hear that’s the reason you have given to your wife for the delay. Maybe you think you’re being financially wise. Maybe you’re acting like a North American with an entitlement complex. If you are making enough money to provide basic food, shelter, clothing, and transportation, then you have enough money to have a baby.

I only know that because for years we lived below the so-called “poverty line” and had children. We didn’t travel unless we had to, didn’t have a cell phone or tv, went to the movies once (it was Amazing Grace), almost never ate out, managed with one car, and shopped at Goodwill. It was a season; we didn’t know how long it would last, but with careful money use we didn’t have to wait years and years to have children. I had a husband who understood my need to mother and the obviously biblical principle that children bring more blessing than cable or a second car or Friday nights at Applebee’s. So we could afford to have children. We have never regretted the trade-off of entertainment and convenient transportation for kids.

If that sounds draconian to you, ask yourself if your money is going to needs or wants. Would you spend nights awake crying for a playoffs ticket, like your wife does for a baby? Are you willing to give up some luxuries and make some adjustments in order to welcome a child into this world? Your wife would.

If you have an income, are healthy, and your wife wants a baby and is healthy, there probably isn’t a valid excuse to delay children. In fact, you could be keeping her from her very biblical longing to fulfill this very biblical calling. What we usually need is not financial security but a biblical alignment to our thinking in this area. Maybe husbands just need more love for their wives. What your wife is trying to respect as your “leadership” actually looks more like misleadership. Are you thinking primarily about your wife, serving her, laying down your life for her as Christ did for the Church, and seeing children as God’s reward to the godly (Ps. 127:3)? Or is this decision coming from selfishness or fear? Is it that you don’t want the work or the cost or the responsibility, or that you’re afraid of them?

Perhaps thinking a little further down the road will help build perspective. Maybe, when you’re finally ready for a baby, your wife will have a difficult time conceiving and bearing children. When you finally decide that you’re comfortable, she might be at a stage where being pregnant and giving birth takes a permanent toll on her health. You don’t hear these sorts of stories because you’re a guy, so I’ll let you in on a couple: the woman whose husband finally agreed to have a baby but she was past peak fertility and they spent thousands at a fertility clinic, being poked and examined, before anything “happened”. Or the woman whose husband finally agreed but now her body just wasn’t up for the natural delivery that she wanted and she haemorrhaged and had to have emergency surgery to save her life and took almost a year to recover. You might want to consider those sorts of scenarios as you decide when you are ready.

Maybe, when you’re finally ready, your wife won’t be able to bear children anymore. You will have permanently taken away her opportunity to give birth to a baby. How is that going to affect your marriage? She’s working hard right now to respect you and follow your leadership. That can evaporate under a burning bitterness towards you as it becomes clear that you were being selfish as you denied her the opportunity to be a mother. Even if you eventually decide (and can afford) to adopt, you will still bear the guilt of seriously and fundamentally denying your wife.

I really hope that your lack of response to your wife comes from a lack of understanding her and her situation. I really hope it’s not a lack of maturity or biblical thinking or love that’s behind this delay. If the issue is a lack of understanding, the two of you should be able to resolve it. But if it’s something else that’s keeping you from having a baby, it seems as though what you need is not more income, but pastoral counseling. Your minister should be able to explore the personal and theological issues behind this, helping you deal with either the fear or the selfishness by pointing you to the cross and the strength and selflessness that can be found through life in Christ. Just as being a godly husband is possible in Christ, so is being a good father. Both selfishness and fear can be overcome by men who are indwelt by the Spirit, seeking to love their wives as Christ did the Church.

Praying for you both.