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The Sad Part Again

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Some of you have mentioned this before: it's not the fear of never having a husband. It's the fear of  never having children.

That's a real, respectable fear.

But it's also a pre-Christian fear because after Pentecost, having children was no longer the be-all and end-all of a woman's existence. Christians began to seriously question whether or not marriage and reproduction should be anywhere as central to human life after the Incarnation as it had been before.

St. Augustine was among the theologians who argued for the goodness of Christian marriage, and the goodness of ongoing reproduction. However, at least one of his arguments was that Christian reproduction was great because it produced more Christian virgins. St. Augustine was in no doubt that the highest form of Christian life was a life of perpetual celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom.

Not a single early Christian theologian argued that Christian marriage was a great way to have as much sexual enjoyment as possible without catching a disease. Carnal enjoyment was just not  on the the theologians' list of priorities. On the contrary, they ordered men not to treat their wives like prostitutes. And, indeed, throughout the ages Christian men have accorded their wives respect just for being their wives and the mothers of their children. If the wives lost interest in sex (or the husbands were jerks), the husbands often found mistresses. Until the 20th century, they usually didn't just divorce their wives so they could give their mistresses promotions.

(No, men ought not to have mistresses. However, I think that may have been better than the current system of revolving door marriages. I'm working on this line of thought, and it is subject to correction.)

Marriage was primarily for children, and goodness but didn't Bishop LeFebvre throw a fit when it looked as though the Second Vatican Council was redefining marriage in a way that made children the number two priority and "unity" number one. And before the Council, Saint Edith Stein was much more interested in the motherhood aspect of marriage than she was in the "unitive" aspect. Indeed, if I remember this correctly, she thought the ideal relationship was that of mother and child, epitomized by the relationship of Our Lady and the Lord Jesus.

Saint Edith Stein did not have children herself, of course, although on her way to Auschwitz, she took care of similarly imprisoned children, washing them, and dressing them and combing their hair, for their real mothers were too terrorized to do it. (I always cry when I read that part.) Saint Edith Stein was one of the most accomplished woman thinkers of her generation, but when push came to shove, the most important thing she could do was care for and comfort other women's children.

I find that very comforting because, dear readers, a doctor just called me back with the results of my blood tests. To sum up and quote a Deepa Mehta film a the same time, "No eggs, madam."

And I turned down horrible Frankensteinian experimentation IVF yet again.

I don't trust a system that kills thousands of unborn human beings and mistreats quite a number of born ones, too, so I am most definitely going to be getting a second opinion. But at the same time, I am 42, so chances are that the second, third and fourth opinions are going to be identical to the first. And this means that, more than ever,  I will have to fight for the principle  of spiritual motherhood, not only for unmarried women, but for married women in my situation.

It's funny. The new "perfect" mother seems to be the Yummy Mummy. You know--the woman who has children and yet remains a sexy glamour queen. She looks like a fertility goddess, like Venus, surrounded by cherubs. And Venus is so sexy that she even has a somewhat wonky relationship with Cupid and gets tremendously envious of little Psyche. And thus Venus is completely antithetical to spiritual motherhood. Could anyone ever be a Yummy Spiritual Mummy? No.

I doubt it. And that makes me sad. There is something so awful about sterile sexuality, but on the other hand sexless motherhood seems awful too. It makes me feel like I'm a grandmother without ever having been a mother. I'm not ready to relate to men like a grandma yet. I don't want to be old. But an overattachment to youth, beauty, sexuality and all of that is not the Christian way, is it?  And we must stay rooted in reality, even when reality really hurts.

Update: A serious comfort: my own mother is still alive, so I could call her up.

Update 2: And B.A. has been great.