Extended life spans and fertility technology give couples the sense they can put off starting a family. Surveys, however, reveal a growing gap between desire and reality when it comes to having children. While only 2 percent of couples say they don't want children, 20% of couples end up childless. And while 3 percent of couples say one child would be enough for them, 16% find themselves limited to one. Even though couples marry later today and need more time to finish their education and kick off their careers, their window of natural fertility remains fixed. Women today are often surprised to find that their fertility begins its decline when they're in their late twenties, accelerates its drop when they're in their mid -thirties and plummets when they're in their forties.
 
A couple's age also affects their ability to keep up with children. While couples that wait later to get started might have more money in their bank account, they're more likely to find themselves exhausted by parenting much quicker than younger parents are. This is also true for grandparents. Children need grandparents who can get down on the floor to play with them ... and still be able to get back up.
 
Babies can be good for marriage, really

Marriage therapists today often seek to correct the myth that having a baby will make a couple happier. They point out correctly that babies add tremendous new stress to a marriage and aren't a good prescription for turning a bad marriage into a good one. What couples don't hear enough, however, is that letting their love spill over into a new life can give them a fresh sense of purpose within their marriage. Parenting will require couples to adjust expectations about their sex life, their sleep patterns and their ability to take off on last minute dates, but the parenting mission can mature and sweeten a marriage over the years when a couple commits to do it "as unto the Lord."
 
You can trust the giver of life

Looking at your personal circumstances, you might see challenges that would make the next year a tough time to start a family. Psalms 139 reminds us, however, that God ordains the days for each person before any of them come to be. If God has ordained this year as the time for a new baby to be born in your family, you can believe that He is also able to "meet all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19). Whatever your circumstances, you can trust the creator of life to help you start a family.
 
Maybe 2009 will be your year.

Published February 2, 2009.


Steve Watters is the director of Family Formation at Focus on the Family. He and his wife, Candice, are the authors of the new book Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies (Moody Publishers).