On Dec. 20, 2002, my wife Susan and I shared in God’s gift of life by having our sixth child, Thomas. There is always excitement and interest shown by family, friends, and people in general upon the birth of a child, but now that Susan and I have experienced years worth of reactions from people toward our babies, I now consider myself qualified to make some comments on our experiences.
Our eldest child, Viviana, was a beautiful baby, and naturally we thought she was the most beautiful. We loved to take her with us everywhere and show her off. We experienced many reactions to her as a little baby, such as people wanting to hold her, asking questions about her, commenting on their own children, etc. It was truly a memorable and blessed experience to have had Viviana.
Since the birth of Viviana, I seem to recognize a changing trend in attitudes and emotions toward babies in our society. I am not sure how trends and attitudes toward children have changed over the past 30 years, since my experience is limited to the past 11 years, but even over this short period of time I seem to be witnessing a change in cultural attitudes.
I have noticed an increase in the desire for people to hold, see and touch a baby. It seems that many people are craving the sight, feeling and smell of a baby, more than what would be normal. I think it is a response to a lack of opportunity to experience a baby, probably due to the drop in fertility rates. There are many people who have decided not to have children, or who have not had a child in 10 – 20 years, or grandparents who pray that someday their children will bring them grandchildren.
I have also noticed a greater desire for people to discuss their decisions concerning their timing and number of children.
The fact that we have six children might be the impetus for nurses, friends, and people whom we know to explain why they only had two kids, or to exclaim that they really wanted another child but their spouse didn’t, or that it is too late because one of the spouses has been sterilized. Some people react with the opposite attitude, such as shock that we have six children, as if we are crazy.
I became aware of the changing reactions to babies after the birth of James, our fourth child, James was a beautiful boy, with a full face and gorgeous features.
I recognized a growing number of people who had this deep desire to hold our baby, or who feared holding the child, or who wanted to explain why they had made their childbearing decisions. The births of Genevieve and now Thomas seem to confirm my experience.
Since I have not done an in-depth sociological study to establish whether my personal experiences are culturally relevant, I can only surmise based on my personal theory as to the cause of the cultural shift towards babies. I believe that the change in attitudes by the general public is related to the decline in birthrates and thus, the culture of death.
One of the effects of the decline in the birth rate, and the decline in the number of babies in general, is the lack of opportunities for people to see, hold and talk about babies. I think that there is a natural necessity for people to interact with babies and children. This is natural to the human person. Our current culture, with its decline in birthrates and small families, is denying people their natural need to share, love, and nurture babies and young children.
This is a significant issue for people who want to build a culture of life. The culture of death is feeding itself by the decline of birthrates and a lack of a vivid example of a culture of life. When people hold a baby, it creates within them a desire to have a baby, and to cherish children.
When couples willingly have more than three children, they are pricking the cultural conscience of the many couples who chose not to have children. Couples who chose to have two children or less, and who did so for personal reasons that are often connected to greed or a false sense of personal responsibility, are affected by people who freely choose to be open to human life.
Openness to human life is one of the most effective ways of living a culture of life and one of the most effective ways of challenging the culture of death. Holding and nurturing a baby creates positive feelings towards children and creates hope for our future. I believe that having another baby is one of the most effective ways to change the culture and build a culture of life
In other words, one of the most effective ways to heal our culture is through married couples who willingly decide to have another baby and allow other people to hold and share in the nurturing of their child.
Married couples who remain open to the gift of life represent a clear example of the culture of life. I am convinced that when married couples have one more child, their witness will positively affect attitudes toward children and result in a wider cultural openness to human life, thus building a culture of life.