Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Desire to Control

It is difficult for me to read about women in the Quiverfull/Militant Fecundity movement. Aside from the not being allowed to vote, go to college, or get a job; there’s also the fact that some of the women have a baby nearly every year. It might seem strange to be writing this article when I’m not married but believe me; I have a good grasp of anatomy and have done my research. (I’ve also posted links at the bottom to other resources.) One young Quiverfull/Militant Fecundity mother has given birth to four children in four and a half years, at risk to her health due to requiring an emergency c-section for baby #3 and a life flight trip to the hospital for a D&C after baby #4. Quite frankly, this is not normal or natural! Don’t get me wrong, I love children and I want to have as many as God wants to give me…. (The Quiverfull/Militant Fecundity crowd has an annoying way of taking something good and making it an ugly, idolatrous route to "perfection".) However, when the time comes, I want to have children naturally. “Wait, stop!” You say, “Quiverfull is natural! They’re not using birth control!! It is God’s design!” Uh, no, it is not God’s design for a woman to give birth every year or to be pregnant again within 6 months of her last pregnancy. Women’s bodies are simply not designed to have children this quickly. When I see that a woman has four children in four years, I don’t see God’s design for family; I see a desire to control. It is known that many Quiverfull proponents are not exactly proponents of attachment parenting. I highly doubt that many Quiverfull women co-sleep, exercise, eat correctly, or do anything to maintain a healthy body. I also doubt that they continue to nurse for an extended period of time. It saddens me to write this but most of the women in the movement look as if they never lose their baby weight―a fairly telling sign that they aren’t nursing correctly. My guess is that early weaning and blanket training is the norm for most Quiverfull mothers. In fact, an old friend of my mother’s is a proponent of attachment parenting and is in with the Vision Forum crowd; she was very sad to find that many women in the Vision Forum crowd are fairly hands-off with their babies. Purposely weaning your child, making them sleep in a crib, and blanket training them is a way of controlling how many children you have. It is birth control… in reverse. It’s not in line with biblical custom either if you want to think along the lines of their culture. Hebrew children were not weaned until they were at least two; most commentaries on the first book of Samuel agree that Samuel was at least three by the time Hannah brought him to Eli. Again, women’s bodies are not designed to give birth every year; it is unhealthy and risky for both mother and child. God is good and He knows that having a child every year is not good for a woman’s body or for the wellbeing of her other children. He has designed a healthy, simple way of controlling fertility. “How food-foraging peoples regulate population size relates to two things: how much body fat they accumulate and how they care for their children. Ovulation requires a certain minimum of body fat, and in traditional foraging societies, this is not achieved until early adulthood. Once a child is born, its mother nurses it several times each hour, even at night, and this continues for a period of four or five years. The constant stimulation of the mother’s nipple suppresses the level of hormones that promote ovulation, making conception less likely, especially if work keeps the mother physically active, and she does not have a large store of body fat to draw on for energy. Continuing to nurse for several years, women give birth only at widely spaced intervals.” (1) When a woman breastfeeds on demand, her fertility declines. If she carries her baby with her in a sling, sleeps beside her baby and nurses him or her at night, doesn’t use a pacifier, or even continues to nurse a toddler or young child, her fertility will decline sharply. (2) “It has long been observed in cultures where breastfeeding is common that nursing a child has a prophylactic affect against conceiving. In fact, this phenomenon has been so consistent and observable that it has been named: lactational amenorrhea, the absence or suppression of a woman's menses (or menstrual flow) due to breastfeeding…. Studies show that this method provides more than 98% protection against pregnancy during the first six months after birth. Many women find that breastfeeding is effective as a prophylactic against getting pregnant well beyond this six month period. Sound incredible? There is actually a perfectly logical, or, more to the point, physiological explanation for this phenomenon. Here's how it works. As a baby nurses at its mother's breast, the sucking action stimulates nerve endings in the areola, which send messages to the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that controls metabolism. This in turn signals the pituitary gland to release two hormones (oxytocin and prolactin) which work together to produce and release the mother's milk. However, in addition to contributing to milk production, prolactin has another effect: high levels of prolactin in a woman's body helps to suppress ovulation.” (3) We in the U.S. are pretty culture bound (4) when it comes to babies, as this quote from the Anthropology textbook will tell you: “As a case in point, consider the fact that infants in the United States typically sleep apart from their parents. To most North Americans, this may seem normal, but cross-cultural research shows that co-sleeping, of mother and baby in particular, is the rule. Only in the past 200 years, generally in Western industrial societies, has it been considered proper for parents to sleep apart from their infants…. Recent studies have shown that separation of mother and infant in Western societies has important biological and cultural consequences. For one thing, it increases the length of the child’s crying bouts. Some mother’s incorrectly interpret the cause as a deficiency in breast milk and switch to less healthy bottle formulas; and in extreme cases, the crying may provoke physical abuse. But the benefits of co-sleeping go beyond significant reduction in crying: infants also nurse more often and three times as long per feeding; they receive more stimulation (important for brain development); and they are apparently less susceptible to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS or “crib death”). There are benefits to the mother as well: frequent nursing prevents early ovulation after childbirth, and she gets at least as much sleep as mothers who sleep without their infants.” (5) And this is in a secular textbook!! :-D Perhaps one truly unfortunate aspect of young women not going to college is the fact that they are less likely to be exposed to sociology and psychology classes which contain a lot of useful information about marriage and family. I never thought I would learn so much about childrearing as I have in my Psychology and Sociology survey classes. Did you know that people of other cultures consider cribs to be “cages”? One missionary to New Guinea who visited my church explained that the people there wanted to know why she put her baby in a “cage”. Take a moment to study all the other cultures that practice co-sleeping including Korea, China, and Thailand, and allow your eyes to be opened to how the rest of the world functions. And for the “you’ll roll on your child!” crowd, here’s information on sleep cycles from a psychology textbook, “Even when you are deeply asleep, your brain somehow processes the meaning of certain stimuli. You move around on your bed, but you manage not to fall out of it. If you sleep with your babies, you will not roll over and suffocate them (assuming you are not intoxicated). The occasional roar of passing vehicles may leave deep sleep undisturbed, but the cry from a baby’s nursery quickly interrupts it. So does the sound of your name―a stimulus our selective attention responds is ever alert for. EEG recordings confirm that the brain’s auditory cortex responds to sound stimuli even during sleep.” (6) Yes, I am a proponent of the family bed. (Read some articles by Dr. Sears and you will be as well.) I believe that babies and children are entitled to as much love and cuddling as they want and I believe they should be allowed to nurse as long as they want to nurse. I believe that blanket training and letting a child “cry it out” is neglectful and even abusive. Now, I know not all Quiverfull proponents wean early or blanket train but I ask you, can you name one? My Mom’s friend in the Quiverfull/Vision Forum crowd who was a proponent of attachment parenting did not speak up! She was and still is too intimidated to say anything! If there are those who understand natural child spacing or attachment parenting in the Quiverful/Militant Fecundity movement, they need to speak up! Can you imagine how wonderful it would be for mothers and babies across this country if Michelle Dugger was a proponent of attachment parenting? A perfectly good opportunity lost! Militant Fecundity (I hate that term!) really is a good name for this type of child raising/training because it is much more akin to a military campaign than normal living. It is also just as toxic as a war zone to mother, child, and family. Quiverfull and Militant Fecundity are NOT pro-family nor are they Biblical; those who believe that these movements are beneficial are sorely mistaken.


November 5, 2014,

I’ve gotten so many comments on this post that I feel a few explanations are necessary. So, I’m taking a minute here to address a few things that have confused several readers…

1: I’m not advocating NFP here. I’m explaining how patriarchy claims to be “natural” and “God’s design” but really is not at all. I truly believe that God designed women’s bodies to self-regulate and space out pregnancies. However, we live in a fallen world and sometimes things just don’t work how God planned due to genetics, disease, and etc. So, while NFP can be a good option, I don’t think it’s for everyone. 

2: I think some forms of birth control are a perfectly fine option and plan to use some sort of control when I get married. The reason? I don’t want to spend 10-15 years of my life able to become pregnant at any point. There are many personal reasons for this but one of them is simply practical: I have seasonal allergies and I take medications for them. I get migraines sometimes and take ibuprofen. I wouldn’t want to worry about unknowingly becoming pregnant and having medications affect the baby. Because I care about stuff like that and I think it matters.

3: Let me make something clear. In this article, I’m taking about parents within the patriarchy movement… not parents in general. There’s a big difference. I don’t care if you have one child or ten or how closely spaced they might or might not be–unless you’re having all of them because some system made up by random people told you that you should. You should have children because you want to have them and love having them–not because some guy somewhere decreed that you needed to have kids. But please, space your kids out as much as possible, for your own sanity, there’s usually no need to have them all at once. ;)

4. Seriously, I don’t care about your baby weight. Like really. Please stop telling me about your baby weight. Life happens. I believe in being healthy and keeping a healthy weight, even during pregnancy. I do firmly believe that pregnancy is not an excuse to eat whatever and whenever you want. That is a recipe for disaster. It’s actually one of the times when you should be most health conscious. And any doctor you ask will back me up on that. Just please, I beg you, no more comments about your baby weight. That gets awkward for me and for you and it just ends badly. So please no more. :D 

Works Cited

1. Haviland, William, et al. Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Belmont, CA: Thomas Wadsworth, 2008. Print. Page 9.

2. Now please, don’t start giving me the, “Well my sister/friend/cousin tried the nursing thing to limit her fertility and it didn’t work. She ended up with another baby 11 months later!” I’ve heard that many times before and all I want to say is: “But did she co-sleep? Did she use a pacifier instead of nursing? What about slings?” All of the mothers I know who nursed on demand, co-slept with their babies, didn’t use pacifiers, nursed more than one child, and etc. had child spacing of 2-3 years. It is always possible that one spacing might be closer than another just as another could be longer.
3. Overton, Larry G. Breastfeeding and the Bible.
4. Culture Bound - “Theories about the world and reality based on the assumptions and values of one’s own culture.” As defined in Cultural Anthropology.

5. Haviland, William, et al. Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Belmont, CA: Thomas Wadsworth, 2008. Print. Page 9.

6. Myers, David G. Exploring Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers, 2005. Print. Page 210.


1. Family friend with 10 children (who is not Quiverfull influenced!) Proponent of the family bed and natural child spacing via extended breastfeeding. http://www.themotherscompanion dot org/index.php

2. I <3 Dr. Sears! http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/sleep-problems/co-sleeping-yes-no-sometimes

3. Has a great article right now about not letting your baby cry it out and co-sleeping. http://parentingfreedom.com/