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Give Me Children, or Else I Die

Nobody can understand the heartache of wanting children and being unable to carry a child to term. Not unless you've been through it.

Me? I haven't.

I was married in June of 2008 and found out I was pregnant in December. I've had five pregnancies and I carried four of them to term. While I have been tremendously blessed I know many women, many couples, who haven't.

Because of them, and many others, I have been afraid to write about the problems with surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, and other reproductive technologies.


Because I love them.

Give me children, or else I die.

I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to drag something up that will upset them. I don't want them to think, "Well, yeah, it's easy for you to say this. You have your babies." Most of all, I don't want to hurt their chances.

What if I say something and they decide I'm right and they don't get the child of their dreams? What if I write something that causes them to doubt their past choices? What if they think I'm judging them because of what they chose?

Give me children, or else I die.

But, what if I don't? If I don't write about it perhaps they won't think about the ramifications of their choices. Maybe they'll make a decision and it will hurt them and I'll know I should have said something. Perhaps later they'll be angry with me for being silent.

Or, I could present the facts as rationally as possible and let them choose. Not just my friends, not just the people I know, but everyone. Too many people have stayed silent on this topic because we're afraid to offend. We're afraid to give people the facts. We don't want to seem callous or judgmental.

I want you to see my heart. I don't know what you're going through, but I love you. I don't know how you feel, but I want to be there for you. I don't really understand, but I'm praying for you.

Give me children, or else I die.

I also believe in you. I believe that you can look the facts in the face and make a good choice. I believe that you can hear the hard truth and pick yourself up and move on. I believe that you can read what I'm writing and understand that everything, every blog that will cover these topics, is based on these truths:

1. You are a beautiful person made in the image of God.

2. I don't pretend to understand what you're going through or how hard it is.

3. I love you no matter what.

4. I'm not judging you for your choices, whether you've made them yet or not.

5. Your child or children are not less valuable because of how they were conceived. A human is a human, no matter what.

Every blog post I write on reproductive technologies will link back to this one. This is an incredibly tough topic. The stakes are high and emotions are raw. The quote, give me children, or else I die, comes from the book of Genesis. Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, is unable to conceive. She has the love and esteem of her husband, but no sons.

Her sister, Leah, was foisted on Jacob by trickery. They got him so drunk* that he didn't realize someone had swapped out the ugly older sister for his beloved. Do you know how long she had her husband to herself? One week. She got her wedding week, all the while knowing that her husband was furious with her and longed for someone else.

But she had one thing that Rachel didn't have. She had sons. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Four sons. Four heirs. The Bible tells us that God saw that she was unloved so He opened her womb.

So what did Rachel do? She went to her husband. She told him, in Genesis 30:1, give me children, or else I die. Jacob became angry with her, he asked her if he was God that he should open her womb.

Rachel had a plan. She had, what we might call today, a surrogate.

In this case, the surrogate's name was Bilhah.

Bilhah's wishes aren't mentioned. Did she want to have a child with Jacob? Did she want to bear children for another woman? Did she want to permanently bind herself to a family that saw her only as a vehicle to fulfill someone else's wishes?

We don't know. What we do know is that Bilhah conceived. She had two sons, Dan and Naphtali. At Dan's birth Rachel said, "God has given me a son." Naphtali's name is also interesting. When he was born Rachel said, "I have wrestled with my sister, and indeed I have prevailed."

What did Bilhah feel when she successfully, with no small risk to herself, brought a child into the world only to hear that his mother of record saw him as a triumph over another woman? We don't know.

Give me children, or else I die.

Next, Leah realized she wasn't getting pregnant anymore. So, she went and got her own surrogate. This woman's name was Zilpah. We have no more insight into Zilpah's wishes or feelings than we do into Bilhah's, but Jacob is not recorded as arguing this time. Zilpah conceived and bore two sons. Gad and Asher. Leah's triumph at "her" new children must have equalled Rachel's. Now, Leah had six sons. Rachel only had two.

The next part of this passage is interesting. Leah's oldest son, Reuben, finds some mandrakes. Mandrakes were supposed to have some ability to influence fertility. Rachel, as the beloved wife, demanded that Leah give them to her. Leah snaps back, "Is it a small matter that you have taken away my husband? Would you take away my son’s mandrakes also?" Rachel then promises Leah that she can have Jacob for the night if Leah will give her the mandrakes.

Does that seem weird? Well, Jacob must have been used to this, he went along with it and Leah conceived another son. Issachar.

The score is now Leah: 7, Rachel: 2.

Then another son for Leah, Zebulun. Then, a daughter, Dinah.

Give me children, or else I die.

Remember, at this point Rachel has yet to conceive a child on her own. Can you imagine how this must affect her relationship with Bilhah? Not to mention the tension from sharing a husband with Zilpah and the ever-fertile Leah.

Finally, Rachel conceives. She bears a son and names him Joseph. Further along in the text we find that she has yet another child named Benjamin. She delivered him into the hands of the midwife, but his birth cost Rachel her life.

Do the names of these boys sound familiar? They should. They're the twelve tribes of Israel.

This story is old, but the pain of these women reaches across the centuries to tug at our hearts. We live in a different culture, a different time, but our heart's cry is the same.

Give me children, or else I die.

Rachel and Leah fought with one another, and probably their husband, because of the children they wanted but couldn't get. They dragged two other women, their servants, into the domestic strife by instructing them to have children with their husband. They wanted children so badly that they seemingly were willing to do almost anything.

Today, it looks much different. There are drugs, aids, and therapies. There is artifical insemination, donor sperm, donor eggs, and in vitro fertilization. Science has given us what women like Rachel could only dream of.

Where do we draw the line? When does something become wrong, even exploitative?

Over the next several weeks and months I'll be writing about these issues. Please, though, know that I hear your heart. Your cries aren't silent, I know that you're hurting.

But, I believe you deserve the truth. That's my only goal.

Read, listen, wrestle with what I am presenting. God will guide you.

*OK, he was probably drunk. The Bible doesn't say exactly. They were feasting and then he slept with the wrong woman. I suppose it could have been something else.

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