Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Stewardship of Your Fertility

(Special note: Today Candice Watters will be LIVE blogging on our comment blog below if you have any questions or comments.)

 

Leslie Basham: There’s an important topic every married couples needs to discuss. Nancy Leigh DeMoss found herself stirring up this topic not long ago.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I met a new couple at church last Sunday and began talking with them. He said that he was 30 years old, and she looked to be close to that age. We were just getting to know each other. They had been married three years and both have their jobs. And I said to them, “Do you have any children yet?” And they said, “No.” Then they looked at me like this is a subject that they had been discussing real recently.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, November 8. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to have children, how do you know your body will still be ready when that time comes? Nancy and some guests will address this topic that was affecting the couple at Nancy’s church.

Nancy: I smiled, and I said to them, “I’m reading a book that you need to read.” The book was called Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. It’s by Steve and Candice Watters. I’ve just had my nose in this book and could hardly put it down over the last several days.

I’m delighted to have with us here on Revive Our Hearts today Steve and Candice to talk with us about this subject and to hear, Steve and Candice, what you would want to say to a couple like this couple who was obviously thinking and praying about God’s plan for their family. So thank you for writing this book, and thank you for being here with us on Revive Our Hearts.

Steve Watters: Thank you so much. This is a privilege.

Candice Watters: It is great to be here, Nancy. I think we were probably that couple. Maybe not that old, but when we got married, we thought we wanted kids. It was something we knew we’d always wanted.

Early in our marriage my sister announced that she was pregnant. She and her husband had been married quite a bit longer. I was stunned at how all of a sudden that’s all I wanted. We had only been married about four months, and I think it freaked Steve out a little bit.

Nancy: I want to hear more about how this unfolded four months into your marriage and the journey that the Lord took you on to having the four children that you now have. But let me introduce you first to our listeners. Steve has been the director of young adults at Focus on the Family, a ministry that we love and respect and have so much admiration for. Now you're currently working at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Candice, you’ve been involved in various types of ministry, at Focus on the Family at one time, and now doing freelance writing and editing. But as you told me a few moments ago, you’re doing more changing diapers now.

Candice: That’s right.

Nancy: That’s top on your job description, right?

Candice: It is, yes. What little writing I have time for is primarily for Focus’s Boundless.org. But yes, lot’s of diapers.

Nancy: So you all have been on a journey that involved college education, grad school, marriage, career, and now are writing about this high and holy calling of choosing to have children. So back to you’ve been married four months and you see your sister having a child.

Candice: We had just gotten married, and we wanted kids. We had talked about it when we were dating. We knew we both valued children. I’m one of five, so to me a lot of kids seemed normal. I also had just started my career. I had just gotten my Master’s degree, and I was starting to work at Focus. Steve had a great job at Focus, and we were able to work together to launch this webzine.

Yet when I heard that Katy was expecting, something inside of me clicked. It was like there was something about the way God made me that I hadn’t really touched before. I think it was a little bit intimidating to Steve.

Nancy: When did you bring it up?

Candice: The minute I got off the phone. I think I started bawling, and he said, “Honey, what’s wrong?”

“She’s going to have a baby.”

And he’s thinking . . .

Nancy: This was supposed to be a happy thing.

Candice: Exactly. He said, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I want one, too.” I didn’t expect to feel that strongly that soon.

Nancy: As the words came out of her mouth, Steve, what went through your mind?

Steve: Well, I was thinking, "Is this something down the road, because we had a lot of conversations about things we wanted." I think most couples have a certain sense of a timeline that we think would probably be right. It would be a couple of years.

Nancy: Is that what you had been thinking, roughly?

Steve: Well, that and I mean you hear people throw around numbers like five years into a marriage is a good time to get to know each other. We had just moved out to Colorado and had some exploring to do out there, and also we had a lot of debt. We joke and say, “When we got married it was, ‘Will you, graduate loan, take this Visa card . . .’” because we brought all this debt together and were trying to figure out how we’re going to get all that paid off.

So it is easy to think, “Well, there are some things we should do first.” Enjoy our marriage. Enjoy the state and get some debt paid off, and then maybe down the road that would be good. So I guess my first thought was trying to get a sense of timing because we knew we wanted kids at some point. But it just didn’t seem like the right time then. So that was my shock was when I would press in, and she was saying, “No, I would like to have a baby now.”

Nancy: So this desire didn’t go away.

Candice: Well, he did help me push the pause button on my biological clock and talked me down from that emotional high and talked some sense into me. At the time it seemed like it would be sensible to wait, to pay off some debt, and we wanted to buy a house. We wanted to put my degree to use for a while.

We felt like that would be the good stewardship thing to do. It was at that point that the couple that mentored us before we got married came to visit, and they said, “So why aren’t you having kids?

Steve: Right now.

Candice: “When are you going to have kids?” They were of the hurry-up mindset, and it kind of brought that back up, that sense of urgency. It was like the Holy Spirit was prompting something and having this older couple there to bounce my ideas off of, to hear this wonderfully mature Christian woman say, “Yes, now would be a good time. What are your concerns?”

So I started laying out for her all the financial concerns and the career path and those kinds of things. She just looked at me, and said, “Candice, how do you know when you decide you’re ready that you’re still going to be fertile?” It was like a bucket of cold water. Nobody had ever asked me that question. Not my Christian parents, not my pastors, not my Christian doctor. I had never wrestled with the notion. I had never thought through that there might be some limits to my fertility.

You have to remember, Nancy, this was before the cover story on Newsweek and before all the headlines we’ve been seeing in the last five years about fertility. This was really before all of that started to break. So I was shocked, and I realized, “Whoa, I have a stewardship not just of my college and graduate degrees, but I have a stewardship of my fertility.” This was a totally foreign concept.

Nancy: How old were you at the time?

Candice: I was 28.

Nancy: So you hadn’t thought that if we wait five years, six years, ten years, that this could have implications in terms of your fertility.

Candice: I didn’t, and why would I because all of the magazine covers trumpet these stories of women who’ve had their first baby at 40. I think most of us as women don’t stop to think, “Oh, they’re news for a reason. They’re news because they’re the exception.'

Certainly the fertility clinics don’t want you to realize or don’t want you to know how hard it gets the older you get, because it’s a very lucrative business. One round of IVF can be as much as $12,000. So what a deception for a young woman to think, "I can wait because I need to build my career, and I need to pay off debt, and I need to get set financially so that . . ."

So that what? I can go pay some doctor $20,000, $40,000 plus to try to conceive a baby now that my body is kind of on the tiring out side and the eggs are getting old. I just hadn’t thought intentionally about that.

Steve: We hadn’t thought about it because we got married at the average age. It wasn’t like we got married really late because we were just about to turn 27. We found out later that’s pretty much about the average age for men and women to get married.

Nancy: Any more it is.

Steve: Yes.

Nancy: It used to be younger.

Steve: That’s right. I mean even though our parents had gotten married in their early 20s, we felt we were chugging along at the average age, and so we had no sense of urgency.

Nancy: So how did your journey unfold? Your mentor said to you, "You need to think terms of your fertility."

Candice: Right.

Nancy: How did you walk through the journey? What did you decide?

Candice: Well, they are a wonderful, rugged couple that like to go hiking and the more wild the better. We went out for a hike, and that’s when Mary and I were talking. Well, behind us were Steve and Hugh, and they were talking. I think Steve could overhear some of our conversation, and maybe he got a little bit nervous.

Steve: Yes, in the book we say that there’s a sign along the hiking path that says “Beware of rattlesnakes.” I think I was more frightened of the conversation they were having—all this stuff about fertility and babies and timing.

But when we got back to the apartment and really spent some time going in depth, I was able to bring up all the concerns that I had. When I would bring up the financial concerns, I really felt like I was showing stewardship, that I was saying it really makes sense to get in a better financial position.

And they said, “Budget for everything except kids because babies are wealth, and they change the whole dynamic of stuff.” It’s not like leasing a car or buying a pet or something like that. This is eternity you’re talking about. You can’t use the same kind of cost benefit analysis that you would use for any other major purchase.

Since then we’ve heard so many couples say, "You will never be able to afford kids so go ahead and get started. Don’t wait for greener financial pastures that are always going to put it further and further into the future."

Nancy: Were there other concerns you had besides the financial one about having a baby that early?

Steve: Well, it was really easy to focus on financial things because I wasn’t going to come out and say, “You know, what I really like is being able to go out and have a date on a moment’s notice and to be able to have Candice all to myself and not to have to share her with babies and to not have to grow up." Really, for me getting married wasn’t as much of a shock to the system as becoming a dad in terms of the new responsibilities and what it means to really be a provider.

Nancy: And a sacrifice.

Steve: Yes.

Candice: Well, it made a huge difference for us to have this conversation with a mentor couple whom we trusted because I was able to hear Steve’s concerns and his anxieties about stepping up as a provider and a protector. I don’t know that I realized just how much responsibility he perceived dadhood to be.

I think women anticipate children with different fears and anxieties but maybe don’t often understand what a man is facing when he thinks about becoming a dad. Suddenly all of the burdens of earning are on him because here I was earning half the money and sharing equally. We had a very partnership kind of marriage. We were glorified roommates, if you will, and children really changed all of that.

So I think after that conversation I knew Steve had a new opening to the Spirit, into what God wanted to do, and I think we both did. So I don’t know that it took much more than maybe a week after that conversation for Steve to say, “I think I’m ready to start trying to have a baby.”

Steve: They were a counter-cultural couple, too. They were the age of our parents, but other people whose parents were their age were telling them, "I think we got married and had kids too young. We’re telling our kids now to wait, to really pay off all their debt, to really spend a lot of time getting to know each other, and then start a family."

Nancy: So a lot of parents are giving that counsel to their young married children.

Steve: That’s right. But this couple recognized just how important this is in the scheme of things from a kingdom perspective. This is something you want to be intentional about and not keep pushing off later and later, not only from a fertility standpoint but just in the sense of this is kingdom work that we’re talking about, and this is going to grow you.

There are spiritual formation issues at stake here in terms of how you’re going to see the world around you differently, what God wants to do through you by giving you this new responsibility and blessing. We appreciated that they were willing to say something different from what a lot of their peers were telling other people our age.

Nancy: You used the term counter-cultural there. I don’t know that there’s any message that we talk about on Revive Our Hearts that is any more counter-cultural than this one. In the book you talk about the cultural trend that you call PAR. Describe that for us.

Steve: Well, we were reading a book by David Brooks called On Paradise Drive. He says, especially for someone who lives in the suburbs, the idea of par in golf is this mindset of your life in order. Everything’s in balance. You’ve got a neatly organized closet. You’re garage is organized, and you live this life where everything is buttoned up and put together.

Nancy: Just like the catalogs.

Steve: Exactly.

Nancy: A picture.

Steve: It’s like a Pottery Barn catalog.

Candice: There are no people in those catalogs.

Nancy: No children, for sure.

Steve: But he said the thing that’s the threat to PAR in the suburbs is children because then they change everything, and now everything is messy. We think of the song by Steven Curtis Chapman where he’s talking about "I’ve got balls and bats in my yard, and I got a spaceman in my seat, and it’s messy." It’s just stuff everywhere. But that’s the tension; the illusion of PAR and your life totally in order, and that kind of design that you control. And then there’s fruitfulness, where everything’s messy and it’s out of your control, but it’s life.

Nancy: And that’s probably even true as it relates to physical aspects of a woman’s body and saying PAR is having the perfect model’s body.

Candice: Muscle tone and the clothes and the makeup.

Nancy: What do children do to that, Candice?

Candice: Let’s just say I don’t buy many things that say “Dry Clean Only.”

Steve: We love how Frank Lloyd Wright says you’ve got form and function. He was an architect, and he was interested in design. You think about our bodies and how our culture loves to concentrate on form. It’s all about having the perfect body. But there’s an important function, especially for a woman’s body, that gets overlooked. Frank Lloyd Wright says form and function should be combined in this spiritual union.

We realized God designed our bodies to be joined in the spiritual union of form and function. But even among Christians there’s a wedge there between wanting what the culture values in terms of the form of the perfect body and then overlooking the fruitfulness of the functions that are available for new life.

Candice: Nancy, when I had our daughter, our second, I recorded a broadcast with Focus on the Family about body image. It just so happened to fall right about the time I had Zoë, so I was several sizes bigger than what I was comfortable being and nothing really fit well. I probably had a little bit of spit-up on my sweater going into the studio.

Yet I remember being in that studio thinking I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I had struggled for so long feeling self-conscious and even self-loathing about my body because it didn’t measure up to the cultural standards. All of a sudden it was like, "God, You made my body to give life and this is so much bigger and so much richer." It’s mysterious that suddenly I could feel at peace with who I was because I was finally letting God do through me what He made me to do.

Nancy: I’m sitting here watching you, Candice, with tears in your eyes, which our listeners can’t see. But what you’re really reflecting on is what Scripture says, and that is that children are a blessing from the Lord. We have really not defined them that way in our culture. We’ve talked in terms of the cost, the sacrifice, the pain, the change, the ways that they upset the norm. But you talk about and you’ve experienced in your own lives, that children do bring blessing to a family.

Candice: They do. I think it’s tragic because our culture has so warped and twisted God’s idea for the family. They’ve warped and undermined the idea of authority and the idea of discipline and the idea of spiritual headship. All of these principles that go into making a godly home where the children can be a blessing.

I know families where their kids aren’t a blessing because they’re totally undisciplined, and my heart grieves for them because they’re missing out on the beauty of what family can be. So it’s not enough to say just make the babies and instant blessing.

This is a lifelong process, and it really does require submitting ourselves as parents to God’s design and growing in oneness as a couple and working as a team and seeing these children not just as the status symbol, as the new thing that everybody is doing, as sort of following what Hollywood says is the hip new trend. This isn’t about babies as status symbol. This is about fruitfulness for the kingdom and souls that actually have the potential to be with you for eternity, for the rest of forever.

Nancy: And I think that’s one of the things that really struck me so powerfully about this book, Candice and Steve, is that you say over and over again it’s really not about us. It’s about God and His glory and His kingdom and this is a calling. This is a holy calling to bear and raise children for the glory of God, so it furthers His kingdom.

But then something else that is maybe a subpoint of that is, and I caught this in the forward by Kurt Bruner where he talked about people who want to be conformed to the image of Jesus. He teaches spiritual formation. Here at Revive Our Hearts we’re very interested in seeing our lives shaped to become like Christ. But this man who wrote the forward to your book said, “I don’t know of any single thing that will further this cause in your life more than parenthood.”

Steve: Candice and I thought we were fairly altruistic, selfless people . . .

Nancy: Until you had children?

Candice: That’s right. We were so mature until we had children.

Steve: It’s not that people who don’t have kids are utterly selfish; it’s just that they haven’t had as much of a crucible experience of being forced on a regular basis to be other-centered. People who go on missions trips, people who work to serve the poor and the down-and-out can put themselves in some situations where they’re in more of a pressure cooker. People who really take on just being sold out and available to God can get in those environments. But for the average person, it’s not until they’re responsible for another life, and this life is looking to them on a regular basis that they finally get to start working out these servant muscles.

We were thinking as we were writing the book, we find ourselves going through these days where we do more selfless acts than we would have accumulated in a month before kids. It’s not even like we expect to be treated special for it. It’s just because that’s the job description.

I started realizing, it’s almost the difference between someone who heroically goes out and saves somebody’s life and then an EMT who does that as their job. That’s really what parenting is. You have to lay your life down.

So that’s why if being conformed to the image of God means, like the Philippians 2 model of looking to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and then we lay our lives down, then parenting is one of the daily opportunities to lay our lives down.

Nancy: To have exposed and brought to the surface all that flesh inside. I remember a woman saying to me years ago, she had a set of twins and then within a year or year and a half had another, a third child. And they were all real little when she said to me, “I was never an angry or impatient woman until I had these three children.”

And I said to that woman—I probably didn’t say exactly these words—but the gist was, “You were an angry, impatient woman all along. You just didn’t know it until you had those little ones to push your buttons.”

Steve: Well, we like to say it’s almost like the family is a reality show that none of us would have the stomach to watch.

Nancy: A real family.

Steve: Exactly.

Nancy: So how have you seen God use children—the Lord’s blessed you with four here on earth, one in heaven—to deal with those rough edges, to sanctify you, to put you in a crucible and you see good things for the glory of God coming out of that?

Candice: Well, I’m thankful that God has a sense of humor because he sent us children who every time we memorize a new Scripture verse, it seems like the very next day there’s an opportunity for them to say, “Now, mommy, I thought that verse said . . .”

Nancy: A little heavenly sandpaper there.

Candice: They are watching. And so observing that they are paying such close attention to how we walk out our faith and knowing that how we walk out our faith has a lot to do with whether or not they will follow in those footsteps is a constant reality check, and it drives me to my knees.

I’ve never been more desperate to be in the Word, and I’ve never had less time to do it. It’s the irony of motherhood. You have maybe 30 seconds, and so you’re reading quickly, or you’re just praying to God for a little bit more time, because I am desperate for truth to be able to pass that on to them and to testify to the truth to them so that they will look to Jesus. I mean that is the cry of my heart and now the mission of my life.

Yet it’s so much fun because as they get older, I think there aren’t any other people I would rather be with. We love to be together and play games and lately turn on the iPod, and they’ll say, “Let’s get this song,” and you just buy it for 99 cents right there in the moment and all of a sudden we’re all dancing or riding our pretend horses around the house or whatever it is. They’re just fun, funny people, and they make us laugh.

So there is the spiritual side and the training side and the discipline side and the heart side. And yes it’s a wearying, bone-wearying job, but it is delightful as they start to grasp the things of God and as they do start to submit to the discipline of being well-mannered children, being likeable, and the more that they’re likeable, the more we want to be with them.

Nancy: That’s why I’m recommending this book, not only to young couples who are considering if and when to start a family, but to older couples, and those whose children are older, and to singles because you get at the heart of conformity into the image of Christ. Whatever season of life God has put you in, He wants to use the hard things, the submission, the embracing of His will, the relinquishing and laying down of rights to perfect in us the likeness of Jesus and really to revive our hearts.

We want to come back to this conversation, and I know our listeners are going to want to join us again tomorrow as we talk more about God’s way of thinking about this counter-cultural, radical idea of having children for the glory of God.

Leslie: The conversation between Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Steve and Candice Watters has raised some important questions. To think these questions through further, I hope you’ll get a copy of the book, Start Your Family. It will be a thought-provoking guide as you or someone you know thinks through important questions about having a family. It will encourage you to bring a biblical mindset to the time, money, and commitment involved in raising a family.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you a copy of Start Your Family. Call with your donation at 1-800-569-5959 or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Here’s one question that pops up after a discussion like today’s: What about the world’s population? Isn’t it too crowded already? Nancy will address that with the Watters tomorrow. Please join us again for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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