I don't deserve a baby.



I never would have thought it during the time that the grief was so bleeding raw and crippling. In the days and months after our miscarriage, I felt angry and sad and shocked and despairing. Losing our baby ripped my world apart and it felt like it would never, ever be quite right again. In the years since I’ve realized that while the grief lessened and the wound healed, the life – and loss – of that baby changed me forever. Losing a baby taught me things that I don’t think I could ever have understood otherwise. Perhaps greater and more important than all of these lessons, though, is this:
I don’t deserve a baby. No one does.
While mourning that baby was good and right, that baby did not ultimately belong to me. A baby is not something to which I have a right and should never be treated as anything other than the undeserved gift that he or she is, however short the time it is given. This is the lesson that crept into my heart and has grown with each subsequent pregnancy.

The Christian worldview is different from so many others throughout history – and still today – in that it sees in each and every human being the image of God. It unequivocally expects its followers to treat every person as such. Each and every human being is a separate and unique person with equal dignity, their worth never to be found in their ability, their usefulness, their attachment to another, their heritage, any personal character trait, their sex, color, or size. This is why slavery is an abomination. This is why we see the disabled as precious and equal in worth to anyone else. This is why women are to always be treated as equal in dignity to men. This is why racism is abhorrent. This is why a child is not considered the property of its parents. A child should always and every time be a gift.
And this is one of the reasons why Christians cannot accept procedures and rituals that treat a baby as something one can create at will or that someone has the right to have. No one has the right to a baby because no one has the right to another human being. Husband and wife open themselves up in their love to the gift of a child but it is never something that can be demanded or expected or earned. A child is entrusted to its parents and the parents receive the gift of caring for this irreplaceable and unique new image of God, not because they’ve somehow shown how much they deserve it but because God willed to give it. It should always and every time be freely bestowed, not demanded or manipulated. We do what we can to make sure our bodies are working according to the way He designed, that they are healthy and functional and working properly, yes. But the ultimate gift of a new life placed in that body is His to give.
Babies and children are to be treated with equal dignity and worth as any adult. Care and teaching and guidance are needed, of course, and they are not equal in intelligence or ability or usefulness. But that is of no matter to the Christian. Their inherent dignity is always equal to any other human being, from the moment, nay, even before the moment, that they exist. While natural and divine law give the husband and wife authority to welcome the gift of a child and the rights to make decisions in the care and wellbeing of that child, they are never to be seen as somehow earning or owning the child. They must be treated with respect and love and their dignity never violated. Likewise, their worth can never be attached to how much they were wanted or planned, sick or well, convenient or not.
The gift from that child we lost to his or her younger siblings was a mother who knows well she doesn’t deserve them, a mother with new eyes to see the fragility and profundity of the gift. With each new life we have since been given (and with each subsequent year as I come face to face with the extent of my own limitations and failures as a mother), this knowledge and conviction grows stronger. I am weak. I am undeserving. I am not at all worthy. There are certainly other women out there struggling with infertility who seem so much more suited to the task than I am. But His ways are not our ways. Every new life given is only and every time a gift from Him. God help me if I take that for granted or treat them as anything other than the beautiful images of God that they are. God help us to create a world where every child is seen only as an undeserved and beautiful gift.
“A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift.” 
Catechism of the Catholic Church 2378


9 comments

  1. Hi - Interesting post. But what about infertile couples seeking medical assistance to have a baby, assuming no embryos are destroyed in the process? It seems harsh to say that God doesn't want you to have a baby, when medical assistance might help make it happen. Interested in your thoughts.

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    1. Thank you, that's a great question. My heart aches for couples who long for a child and I pray for them often. It doesn't seem fair, does it? There are so many struggling with infertility that would make great parents. The Church isn't at all opposed to medical intervention to assist in correcting and healing infertility. Anything that helps the body to work as it was originally designed is a great gift! So, as long as the intervention isn't something that takes the creation of life outside of the physical marital act and respects the dignity of the human person, it is okay and good. The problem is when we get into things that distort the design of the marital act or treat the baby as a commodity rather than a gift.

      When talking about the gift of a child, we believe that: "A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. the "supreme gift of marriage" is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged "right to a child" would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right "to be the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of his parents," and "the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception." (CCC 2378)

      If you're interested, the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 2374-2379 are a great starting point for understanding more. http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a6.htm

      I hope that helps! God bless you.

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    2. There are a lot of church approved infertility treatments, most of which have higher success rates than IVF and often allow for treatment of the underlying medical issue for the husband or wife. It's just the creation of a human life outside of sex (ie in a lab via IVF, etc.) That is not approved of. It is totally fine for a Catholic couple to seek assistance via surgeries, various medicines, charting, etc. to help conceive. My husband and I have struggled through infertility as Catholics and have had to stop yo remind ourselves that nothing we do makes us deserve a child, which makes the gift of the few children we do have seem that much more precious. :)

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    3. Thanks for your thoughtful reply Mary. While I can completely understand that IVF that leaves embryos in a refrigerator forever, or destroys them is immoral, I'm not convinced that IVF that doesn't do that is a moral wrong, especially having known more than a few Catholic families that went that route and are faithful loving parents to their children. We don't need to debate it - I don't intend to hijack your blog. :) Just wanted to express my opinion.

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    4. It's a really sensitive and difficult subject, I know. And no worries, I think it's important to talk about it. I don't at all doubt that those parents love their children fiercely and it's important to remember the amount of desperation someone must feel to begin that process. However, I'm not sure it's ever possible with IVF to protect every baby that is created since in most offices, the embryos are tested and the "unfit" are discarded. And they always create at least several embryos either to implant all at once in the hopes that at least one "takes" or to save and freeze for another possible attempt. We can see that if we believe that life begins at conception why that might be a big problem. From a Christian perspective, sexual intimacy should always be both procreative and unitive, open to the gift but not demanding it. Whenever we split those two essential components of the act, we distort it and it turns into use. I think in the deepest parts of our hearts we know that creating a human life in a petri dish isn't okay, as well as the process to procure the sperm and egg and then implant the embryo. But it certainly is with compassion and mercy that we should treat anyone who is tempted toward or who has already tried to have a child this way. I haven't been in their shoes and their struggle and suffering is apparent in the lengths they are willing to go to have a family. I truly appreciate your comment and thoughts. These are certainly tricky and sensitive subjects but very important ones.

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    5. Thanks Mary. Your compassion shines through this response. I will think about it some more and do some more research.

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  2. As someone struggling with years of secondary infertility, I really struggled with deleting medical interventions personally, but in growing in my faith realized that the treatments I sought in line with the Church did as much to heal my body as treatment of any other illness.

    It's a hard, sad cross, but there are so many good doctors working in conjunction with our Church to heal and restore the fertility of women. It's a beautiful thing to see them working in concert with God's design.

    I had surgery with one of those doctors just last month and pray it will yield just such a blessing.

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