In an earlier article, Having a Baby will Fix Everything, we looked at the need to consider spiritual, psychological and material resources before deciding to bring a child into the world. Once we’ve considered these things, how do we know if it’s God’s will for us to have children?
It’s easy to know the will of God about getting pregnant, since He’s the one who creates each one of us. We can create the conditions for a pregnancy to occur, but we don’t “make” the baby, God does.
Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 3)
O SON OF MAN! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 4)
We can pray for His Will, using prayers such as:
By Thy might! I ask not, whether sleeping or waking, but that which Thou dost desire. I am Thy servant and in Thy hands. Do Thou graciously aid me to do what will shed forth the fragrance of Thy good pleasure. This, truly, is my hope and the hope of them that enjoy near access to Thee. Praised be Thou, O Lord of the worlds! (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 262)
I beseech Thee, by Thy name that hath unlocked the gates of Heaven and filled with ecstasy the Concourse on high, to enable me to serve Thee, in this Day, and to strengthen me to observe that which Thou didst prescribe in Thy Book. Thou knowest, O my Lord, what is in me; but I know not what is in Thee. Thou art the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 58)
I have renounced My desire for Thy desire, O my God, and My will for the revelation of Thy Will. By Thy glory! I desire neither Myself nor My life except for the purpose of serving Thy Cause, and I love not My being save that I may sacrifice it in Thy path. (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 36)
I implore Thee Oh my God, by Thy Name the splendors of which have encompassed the heavens and the earth, to so surrender my will to what Thou hast revealed in Thy Tablets that I may cease to discover within me any desire except what Thou hast desired for me or any will except what Thou has willed for me by Thy will. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, p. 242)
In the love I bear to Thee, O my Lord, my heart longeth for Thee with a longing such as no heart hath known. Here am I with my body between Thy hands, and my spirit before Thy face. Do with them as it may please Thee, for the exaltation of Thy word, and the revelation of what hath been enshrined within the treasuries of Thy knowledge. Potent art Thou to do what Thou willest, and able to ordain what Thou pleasest. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 242)
Make me ready, in all circumstances, O my Lord, to serve Thee and to set myself towards the adored sanctuary of Thy Revelation and of Thy Beauty. If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed by Thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 240)
O Thou the Desire of the world and the Beloved of the nations! Thou seest me turning toward Thee, and rid of all attachment to anyone save Thee, and clinging to Thy cord, through whose movement the whole creation hath been stirred up. I am Thy servant, O my Lord, and the son of Thy servant. Behold me standing ready to do Thy will and Thy desire, and wishing naught else except Thy good pleasure. I implore Thee by the Ocean of Thy mercy and the Day-Star of Thy grace to do with Thy servant as Thou willest and pleasest. By Thy might which is far above all mention and praise! Whatsoever is revealed by Thee is the desire of my heart and the beloved of my soul. O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and my doings, nay rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. By Thy Most Great Name, O Thou Lord of all nations! I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love. (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 317-318)
Ordain for me, O my Lord, and for those who believe in Thee that which is deemed best for us in Thine estimation, as set forth in the Mother Book, for within the grasp of Thy hand Thou holdest the determined measures of all things. Thy goodly gifts are unceasingly showered upon such as cherish Thy love, and the wondrous tokens of Thy heavenly bounties are amply bestowed on those who recognize Thy divine Unity. We commit unto Thy care whatsoever Thou hast destined for us, and implore Thee to grant us all the good that Thy knowledge embraceth. Protect me, O my Lord, from every evil that Thine omniscience perceiveth, inasmuch as there is no power nor strength but in Thee, no triumph is forthcoming save from Thy presence, and it is Thine alone to command. Whatever God hath willed hath been, and that which He hath not willed shall not be. There is no power nor strength except in God, the Most Exalted, the Most Mighty. (The Báb, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 130)
Prayer must always be followed by action; and the best tool for this is Shoghi Effendi’s 5 Steps of Prayer for Solving Problems, which were suggested by the beloved Guardian to a believer as a means of finding a solution through the use of prayer. Although these steps belong to a category of statements known as “pilgrims notes”, and as such have no authority, the House of Justice has said that since it seems to be particularly helpful and clear it was felt that believers should not be deprived of it.
1st Step: Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation for a few minutes.
This is where you ask God your questions; say prayers of the Bab and Baha’u’llah and then wait for an answer. During the “silence of contemplation”, write down all the answers that come to you, that seem to be an answer to a prayer, without judging or filtering out any of them.
2nd Step: Arrive at a decision and hold this.
After looking over your list, what’s your decision? That’s what you go with, without second guessing it. Then hold on to it!
This decision is usually born during the contemplation. It may seem almost impossible of accomplishment but if it seems to be as answer to a prayer or a way of solving the problem, then immediately take the next step.
3rd Step: Have determination to carry the decision through. Many fail here. The decision, budding into determination, is blighted and instead becomes a wish or a vague longing. When determination is born, immediately take the next step.
Many people get stopped here, because they don’t hold on to the decision. Instead they try to second guess it and fear stops them from carrying it through. It’s important to be forewarned about this, so that when it happens to you, you’ll be able to overcome it.
4th Step: Have faith and confidence that the power will flow through you, the right way will appear, the door will open, the right thought, the right message, the right principle, or the right book will be given to you. Have confidence and the right thing will come to your need. Then, as you rise from prayer, take at once the 5th step.
You need faith and confidence. Ask yourself what will give you this.
5th Step: Act as though it had all been answered.
ACT! God can’t move a parked car! Do whatever you need to do to bring about the answer you got.
Then act with tireless, ceaseless energy. And as you act, you, yourself, will become a magnet, which will attract more power to your being, until you become an unobstructed channel for the Divine power to flow through you.
Many pray but do not remain for the last half of the first step. Some who meditate arrive at a decision, but fail to hold it. Few have the determination to carry the decision through, still fewer have the confidence that the right thing will come to their need. But how many remember to act as though it had all been answered?
You can’t act as though it had all been answered unless you meet all these conditions:
- Remain in the silence of contemplation
- Arrive at a decision and hold it
- Have faith and confidence
- Have determination
How true are these words “Greater than the prayer is the spirit in which it is uttered” and greater than the way it is uttered is the spirit in which it is carried out. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 91)
This is a technique you will want to do every single day; with every single decision from which tomato to buy at the market to whether or not to have a baby.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. During the first trimester, the most common cause is chromosomal abnormality – meaning that something is not correct with the baby’s chromosomes. Most chromosomal abnormalities are the cause of a damaged egg or sperm cell, or are due to a problem at the time that the zygote went through the division process. Other causes for miscarriage include (but are not limited to):
- Hormonal problems, infections or maternal health problems
- Lifestyle (i.e. smoking, drug use, malnutrition, excessive caffeine and exposure to radiation or toxic substances)
- Implantation of the egg into the uterine lining does not occur properly
- Maternal age
- Maternal trauma
Although it can be a heart-breaking disappointment to lose a child to miscarriage, from a Bahá’í perspective, God has favored the child with His heavenly gifts. If we were to understand the favor given to our child, there would be no reason for grief at this seeming calamity.
Be not grieved and afflicted for this calamity which hath befallen thee; nay, rather, rejoice that God hath favored (thy babe) with His heavenly gifts. Truly, I say unto thee, wert thou informed of that felicity which thy babe hath attained in the worlds of God, thy breast would be dilated and thy soul would be purified. Truly, I say unto thee, thy child will be fostered from the breast of the gift of God in the Exalted Kingdom and will be nursed in the bosom of mercy in the Supreme World of God. Therefore, be filled with delight, for the favor of thy Lord is very great. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 139-140)
We will see our child in the next world.
That beloved child addresseth thee from the hidden world: ‘O thou kind Mother, thank divine Providence that I have been freed from a small and gloomy cage and, like the birds of the meadows, have soared to the divine world — a world which is spacious, illumined, and ever gay and jubilant. Therefore, lament not, O Mother, and be not grieved; I am not of the lost, nor have I been obliterated and destroyed. I have shaken off the mortal form and have raised my banner in this spiritual world. Following this separation is everlasting companionship. Thou shalt find me in the heaven of the Lord, immersed in an ocean of light. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 201)
Patience is needed:
I beg of God to pour on thee becoming patience, so that thy heart may be consoled with the fragrance of His mercy and that thy breast may be dilated with His favors, that thou mayest attain to the spiritual states which are lasting forever and ever. Thou oughtest to bear it with becoming patience. Again, thou oughtest to patiently bear this calamity which hath flowed thine eyes with tears and hath greatly afflicted thee. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 139-140)
When miscarriage happens, the fetus, no matter how young, should be treated with respect and not carelessly discarded into an incinerator:
From a Bahá’í point of view, the soul is present from conception and therefore the foetus, no matter how young, should not be treated with disrespect and carelessly discarded into an incinerator, if this can be prevented. The House of Justice knows of nothing in the writings specifically referring to the burial of embryos, and, in previous instances, has left such details to the discretion of the parents. In one case it was reported to the world center that the parents had buried the foetus in a corner of their own garden and had said a few prayers for the progress of their child’s soul. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 195)
Are Bahá’ís allowed to take extraordinary measures to facilitate the natural process of conception?
Sometimes, no matter how ready we might be to have children; we don’t seem able to get pregnant or carry a child to term. In those cases, many parents look to other ways to fulfill their desire. Let’s look at these options; and what the Bahá’í Writings have to say about each.
Artificial insemination is permitted as long as the husband is the father of the child (therefore it would not be permissible under Bahá’í law for a Bahá’í couple use a sperm bank)
The beloved Guardian states in a letter written on his behalf to an individual believer, that “… there is no objection to having a baby by means of artificial insemination as long as your husband is the father of it”. In view of this, it would not be permissible under Bahá’í law for a Bahá’í couple seeking to have a child to utilize a sperm bank. (Universal House of Justice, Reproduction and other Biological Subjects, 2000)
In-Vitro Fertilization is acceptable for Bahá’ís, as long as the egg cell of the wife is fertilized by the sperm of the husband
While artificial insemination is a very different process from in-vitro fertilization, the principle enunciated by the Guardian is the same, namely, that to be acceptable to Bahá’ís, the egg cell of the wife should be fertilized by the sperm of the husband in the procedure. (Universal House of Justice, Reproduction and other Biological Subjects, 5 April 1996, to an individual)
It’s for the couple to decide, and there is value in obtaining the best medical advice available:
For the present, it is left to the Bahá’í couple to decide whether or not they wish to use in vitro fertilization as a means of having children. The use of such procedures is clearly a matter of choice, and not a requirement. In this regard, there is value in obtaining the best medical advice available. (Universal House of Justice, Reproduction and other Biological Subjects, 6 May 1996, to the Research Department)
This procedure is not permissible for Bahá’ís, even when the embryo results from the fertilization of the husband’s sperm and the wife’s egg cell which is later implanted into the womb of the third party:
The spiritual and social implications involved in the use of surrogate mothers to provide for the gestation of the embryo, even when the embryo results from the fertilization of the husband’s sperm and the wife’s egg cell which is later implanted into the womb of the third party, are too far-reaching for such a procedure to be permissible to Bahá’ís. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 348)
The use of a surrogate raises a number of issues
- legal questions
- spiritual, emotional and psychological effects
- effect on modesty, chastity and fidelity
- the future impact on the child itself
- the emotional ties between the surrogate and the child
- the emotional ties between the donor of the ovum and the child
Apart from legal questions to which such a procedure could give rise, it should be remembered that, since human beings are endowed with a spiritual nature, an accurate assessment of the implications of the physical actions in which an individual engages must include consideration of the spiritual, emotional and psychological effects of these actions; this interrelationship is evident on examining the emphasis placed in the Bahá’í teachings on modesty, chastity and fidelity. The use of a surrogate for the gestation of an embryo would raise a number of issues pertaining to the future impact on the child itself, as well as the emotional ties between the surrogate and the child, and also between the donor of the ovum and the child. (Universal House of Justice, Reproduction and other Biological Subjects, 22 November 1989, to a National Spiritual Assembly)
This procedure uses a mechanistic use of the human body, incompatible with the dignity assigned to the individual in the Bahá’í teachings:
____ has raised a number of questions in her search for a deeper understanding of the implications to which the House of Justice has referred. The proposed procedure [surrogacy] leads to a mechanistic use of the human body, incompatible with the dignity assigned to the individual in the Bahá’í teachings. (Universal House of Justice, Reproduction and other Biological Subjects, 22 November 1989, to a National Spiritual Assembly)
Adoption is truly a Bahá’í act especially lauded by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
It was a pleasure to Shoghi Effendi to receive your letter of May 26th and to hear about your adopted children. This is a truly Bahá’í act especially as it was often lauded both by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the Guardian trusts that they will grow to become Bahá’í workers, and thus repay your kind generosity. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 140)
When we He that bring up the son of another, it is as though we’re bringing up a son of Gods; upon us will rest God’s Glory, loving Kindness, and Mercy:
He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My loving Kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world. (Bahá’u’lláh: Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 16)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá longs for us to become a kind parent to orphaned children:
In this holy Cause the question of orphans hath the utmost importance. The greatest consideration must be shown towards orphans; they must be taught trained and educated. The Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, especially, must by all means be given to them as far as possible. I supplicate God that thou mayest become a kind parent to orphaned children, quickening them with the fragrances of the Holy Spirit, so that they will attain the age of maturity as true servants of the world of humanity and as bright candles in the assemblage of mankind. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, p. 46)
Although the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children, the husband and wife can decide how many children they want to have:
There is nothing in the Sacred Writings specifically on the subjects of birth control, abortion or sterilization, but Bahá’u’lláh did state the primary purpose of marriage was the procreation of children, and it is to this primary purpose that the beloved Guardian alludes in many of the letters which are quoted in the compilation. This does not imply that a couple are obliged to have as many children as they can; the Guardian’s secretary clearly stated on his behalf, in answer to an enquiry, that it was for the husband and wife to decide how many children they would have. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 346)
There are many ways to prevent conception, including self-discipline and restraint:
You and your husband, therefore, should have no feeling that you are obliged to add to your already large family. This is a matter entirely for you to decide, and there are many methods of preventing conception, including self-discipline and restraint, to which you can have recourse. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 347)
We are obligated to avoid any action which would permanently prevent us from bearing children:
As to your desire and that of your husband to avoid any action which would permanently prevent you from bearing children, the only text we have so far found on the subjects is in a letter to an individual believer from the beloved Guardian. The question asked was whether after a few children it would be permissible to have a surgical operation on the wife to prevent further conception. His reply was that such an act was inacceptable and unworthy, and those who commit the act were responsible before God. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 346)
This includes vasectomy:
Directly to your question about having a vasectomy, in general it is not permissible to have a surgical operation for the purpose of avoiding having unwanted children if such an operation could result in permanent sterility. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 346)
And tubal ligation:
The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of April 29 asking about tubal ligation and has noted that you are familiar with general Bahá’í principles on the subject. However, it has directed us to say that under normal circumstances it is not permissible to have a surgical operation for the purpose of not having more children if such an operation could result in permanent sterility. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 346)
Sterilization is permitted if required for medical reasons:
Sterilization, however, would be a more far-reaching action that any of these, with implications and results beyond those necessary for the immediate purpose of limiting the size of your family, and is not permissible in Bahá’í law except in rare instances where it is necessary for a medical reason. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 347)
What To Do While You’re Waiting to Get Pregnant:
Back to our original question – how do I know if it’s time to have children? I’d like to leave you with these thoughts:
Although the primary purpose of marriage is to have children:
They should realize, moreover, that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 379)
It’s not the purpose of life! The purpose of life is to know and worship God; and to acquire the virtues we’ll need in the next world. For more information, please see:
If and when God decides you are ready to take care of a new life, He will give it to you. If He doesn’t, it’s because He has a better plan in mind.
Here are five things you can do while you’re waiting:
1.. Strengthen your relationship with God:
Learn to rely upon Him, and trust Him with every decision.
Rely upon God. Trust in Him. Praise Him, and call Him continually to mind. He verily turneth trouble into ease, and sorrow into solace, and toil into utter peace. He verily hath dominion over all things. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 320)
2. Have patience: Sometimes patience is needed, while we put everything we need in place and make sure our marriage is strong enough to handle another person in the “nest”! For more information on how to develop patience, please see:
3. Live in the present: So while waiting to get pregnant, don’t forget to live in the present and get on with the purpose of your life! Focus on making today the best it can be, trusting God to take care of tomorrow. This is what He wants from you.
No one knows what the future holds for him, or to what degree he is spoiling it or creating it; therefore the thing to do is one’s daily best and let the future take care of itself. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 515)
4. Be grateful for all you have. If you aren’t grateful for what you have now, what reason would God have to give you more?!
In short, thou shouldst thank God a hundred-thousand times . . . (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 510)
Don’t be so busy living in the future, or disappointed that you don’t have the life you want now, that you forget to thank God for today.
5. Be content with God’s will, whatever it may be:
The source of all glory is acceptance of whatsoever the Lord hath bestowed, and contentment with that which God hath ordained. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155)
This is your full time job, at all times and under all conditions!
How has this helped you understand your will vs God’s in your decision about having children? Post your comments below!