I know, of course, that children and infants frequently died in our past. As a former student of Victorian literature and history, I am comfortable with the fact that perhaps most children in the history of the world have died young and unpleasantly. And I’m sure that heaven will be centered around the under 8 crowd – just like church! I have sometimes even thought that perhaps the single most significant development in allowing women more life choices was scientifically advancing to the point where they did not need to have many children to ensure that at least some survived to adulthood. But I didn’t realize how many infants are still dying — and how many women still struggle to conceive them at all.
Younger women in our society rarely hear about the difficulties of having children. On the contrary, most of their sex education is directed towards the perils of becoming unintentionally pregnant. Becoming pregnant is not something that sometimes requires patience; it is something that happens all too easily and fast. On the flip side, pregnancy is also something that they hear responsible couples can plan for, even picking the very year when they will become parents.
Modern parents, similarly, don’t hear much about failed pregnancies or children born too early to survive. These are events that, for the most part, we keep to ourselves and don’t publicly mourn. It is true that babies born in 2009 are more likely to survive than those born in 1909 — neither of my two brothers would be alive today without medical advances — and many people can get pregnant on the spot, but babies are still not guaranteed to come, to live long and to prosper.
And, so, I was moved by my Relief Society this Sunday when many mothers shared the experience of losing their still-born, pre-maturely born, or infant child. But I was also surprised. And, given my surprise, I’m now a little concerned that young women like me have let our medical advances and industries surrounding child-rearing give us the false impression that babies always come easily and survive.