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Beware of Baby Envy


Sep 23 2013
Since biblical times, women have struggled to rejoice at another’s pregnancy.

Pregnant women are everywhere. At least, it often feels that way for women who desperately want children. And, this time, we might have the stats to prove it.

As The Wall Street Journal recently declared, "America's baby bust may be over." Reporting on new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the article asserts that women who delayed pregnancy during the economic downturn are finally ready to start a family. Some of those babies will come right on schedule, and many happy couples will shift their savings to pay for maternity clothes and baby name books and nursery furniture.

But for other women, fertility, pregnancy, and children will remain elusive. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," says Proverbs 13:12. For these women, being in community with others—receiving yet another birth announcement or shower invitation—can seem excruciatingly painful.

A few weeks after miscarrying our first child and facing the prospect of surgical intervention in order to get pregnant again, my husband and I attended his family's reunion. Still grieving, I walked into the cottage and saw my nephew, the beautiful baby of my sister-in-law, sleeping peacefully in his swing. My eyes filled with tears, and I turned away from his tiny fingers and toes, to see my husband's aunt— a woman who already had two teenaged children—her hands resting on her pregnant belly.

It was too much. I ran out of the room and sobbed in my husband's arms in the driveway. How could they have babies when I had none? How could the women in my church and neighborhood be surrounded by chubby cheeks and dimpled fingers when I had only emptiness and death? I knew I should be happy about other people's children, but I couldn't figure out how.

Watching others get the things we ourselves desire can devastate our fellowship with them. Recently, Amy Klein wrestled with this topic in her New York Times essay, "Baby Envy." When Klein's friend called to announce her pregnancy, Klein's first reaction was bitterness. "Infertility," she writes, "unleashes in you terrible jealousy of other women, women who conceive easily, without thought, without drugs, without dozens of days lost to medical intervention. Women whose biggest problems are swollen feet."

Christian women are not immune to this. Sarah and Hagar, Rachel and Leah, Hannah and Peninnah, all experienced broken community as a result of baby envy. Modern women, too, find that our insistent cry of "where's mine?" can keep us from delighting in God's goodness to our Christian sisters.

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