Mother’s column: From flight shame to birth shame


Christian Life

Neline, CNE.news

Flying is controversial nowadays, from an environmental point of view. Should the same apply to getting children? Photo ANP, Koen van Weel

I routinely switch on the news radio as I drive down the street. I fall into the middle of a conversation. I hear the presenter ask her studio guest, “Did you suffer from birth shame?” I frown. Embarrassment of giving birth? Is that what you feel during labour? When you no longer have the energy to pretend to be nicer than you are and that the midwife is right there with you?

Or is birth shame perhaps the feeling that falls upon you when you have to tell your employer that you are pregnant? Of course, he congratulates you warmly, and you have no reason to doubt his sincerity. Still, meanwhile, you can see him thinking: again? Or: her too?

Surely the continuity of the work is at risk with a young woman in the team. Finding a replacement for yet another pregnant colleague will be quite a task.

Neline op de fiets.jpeg

Neline is married and the mother of five: Martha (8), Abel (6), Jolijn (5), Reinout (3) and Sifra (0).

And when you tell people you’re expecting your fifth and your eldest is seven, the thought can almost be read of their faces: you have certainly never heard of family planning? Whether that is correct or not, it makes you feel a little uncomfortable.

So far, my suspicions. It turns out that the radio reporter is interested in something else. The thought behind her question is that giving birth is the new flying: it is bad for the environment, so you should feel guilty if you do it too much.

We are major consumers

Having many children always ends up high on lists of unsustainable behaviour. We are already major consumers ourselves. Suppose we are also raising a whole series of new energy guzzlers. In that case, a little bit of waste separation and shorter showering will never compensate.

To be honest, the thought sometimes gnaws at me. Of course, one of our children may one day make an important discovery that makes the world a lot more sustainable. And we try –by trial and error– to lead our offspring in a frugal and conscious life. But then again.

Suddenly I remember what I once learned during a lesson about family worship. The Puritans saw large families as a blessing because they firmly believed that God would build His Kingdom through the generations. Perhaps I should listen less to the radio and more to the Puritans to get the proper perspective.



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