Monday, February 20, 2012

Married With Children: A Healthy Marriage Bed, Part 2

1 Corinthians 7:3-4
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 

Scripture teaches that once married, we do not have authority over our own bodies--our spouse does. That means we come together when at least one spouse has the desire. That would seem to indicate spontaneity? 

However, when children come spontaneity flies out the window unless you employ maids, nannies, and shoppers. A mother's nurturing instincts coupled with a child's biological needs, would indicate not spontaneity, but planning. Parents can nurture children, day and night, and enjoy one another in the bedroom. They're not mutually exclusive. You may find it works best to schedule your lovemaking days.

Forgive me for a little diversion here regarding the night nurturing of children. 

We enjoy nurturing our children at night starting with story time, then as we tuck them in we spend time cuddling, praying, talking about their day, dealing with any sin (ours or theirs), praising their hard work, and generally sending them off to slumber with their cups running over. Some days can be so busy that cups fail to get sufficiently filled. As a result, the next day can go sour. Spending a little one-on-one time before bed, or another time of day, prevents a lot of family-dynamics problems.

When families grow it can be harder to give babies and toddlers the amount of cuddling and individual attention they need. As I've mentioned before, when discussing what God desires for our marriages and families, we have to look at Scripture together with the divine design of our bodies. 

Research seems to imply that babies and children need parents who respond and nurture during the day and at night. You may hear that if you don't let your children "cry it out", your marriage will suffer. It's often the number one argument against attachment parenting styles. As a long-time night-nursing parent, and one who is there for my children at night, be it bad dreams, stuffy noses, pain, bedwetting, etc., I disagree. My husband appreciates my commitment to nurturing and he'd have it no other way. His support is key.

Dr. Allan Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine has demonstrated that the stress hormone cortisol (which floods the brain during intense crying and other stressful events) actually destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain. In addition, when the portions of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional control are not stimulated during infancy (as may occur when a baby is repeatedly neglected) these sections of the brain will not develop. The result – a violent, impulsive, emotionally unattached child. He concludes that the sensitivity and responsiveness of a parent stimulates and shapes the nerve connections in key sections of the brain responsible for attachment and emotional well-being.

 Researchers at Yale University and Harvard Medical School found that intense stress early in life can alter the brain’s neurotransmitter systems and cause structural and functional changes in regions of the brain similar to those seen in adults with depression

 Decreased intellectual, emotional, and social developmentInfant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, concluding that “the single most important influence of a child’s intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby.”
Researchers have found babies whose cries are usually ignored will not develop healthy intellectual and social skills. 19

Dr. Rao and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health showed that infants with prolonged crying (but not due to colic) in the first 3 months of life had an average IQ 9 points lower at 5 years of age. They also showed poor fine motor development. (2)

Researchers at Pennsylvania State and Arizona State Universities found that infants with excessive crying during the early months showed more difficulty controlling their emotions and became even fussier when parents tried to consol them at 10 months. 15

Other research has shown that these babies have a more annoying quality to their cry, are more clingy during the day, and take longer to become independent as children 1.

Most of the world keeps babies and toddlers close for some time, thanks to the use of slings and close sleeping. Studies show that this closeness benefits children, possibly best approaching what God desires for a child's development. 

Many Americans parent far differently; there's formidable pressure--especially from older folk like mothers and mother-in-laws--to force a child into independence. Strong feelings abound about these issues and I have no desire to engage in mommy wars. Instead, I just wanted to present research that might give us some clue as to God's desires. For the sake of other readers, feel free to leave opposing research links in the comments. All moms give these issues countless hours of consideration and I don't seek to change anyone's carefully crafted views.

Moms who have high sleep needs often have to make tough decisions. The same is true for working moms or those with other difficult circumstances. Husbands and wives don't always agree on parenting issues; if your husband has different ideas, abide by his wishes and pray for a change of heart? My heart goes out to you.

Every family's needs differ--just don't assume you have to shortcut your children to satisfy your husband. 

If you decide that scheduling lovemaking is a good idea, start preparing for lovemaking days first thing in the morning: 

Prepare your mind and heart: Get your mind ready to be one with your husband that night--recall your favorite passionate memories from special times of old. Perhaps read from the Song of Solomon. Anticipate the passion, knowing that no matter how tired you are, once you're in his arms, it will be breathtaking. If there's anything to forgive him for, do it early in the day. Pray for help with this if you need it. 

Prepare your children: Plan for dinner, baths, and nighttime nurturing by starting everything early on these days. Can you bath them before you start dinner? Can you read a number of stories after the bath, and save just one for before bed, along with prayers and a bit of cuddling--or whatever your routine? By planning ahead we've never once been interrupted by our children, in all these years. Babies have cried and needed soothing right before, or right after, but never during. God has been faithful to preserve this time, and allow us to be responsive parents.

Don't be selfish with your time: Many moms have an outlet that potentially steals time, be it reading, writing, sewing, social networking, etc. Strictly control your interests on lovemaking days. If chores get behind on these days, it will give rise to crankiness, leading to the same in the children. They feed off of our emotions. Be as efficient as possible on lovemaking days. Avoid scheduling shopping or multiple errands on these days so your energy remains high.  

A word about the quality of lovemaking: If it's still early in your marriage and you don't know each other well yet physically, try discussing technique out of the bedroom, if this works better. Society leads us to believe that lovemaking happens naturally and that fireworks explode on that wedding night, as though you've known each other for years. The truth is that a honeymoon can be awkward. We don't know our spouse's body, or even what our own may need. 

We would do well to prepare our children for this, just before their own honeymoons. The anticipation of that night can lead to disappointment if they expect their best lovemaking right away.  

Without communication honeymoon awkwardness can continue, causing trouble in the bedroom. Your husband wants you to feel unbridled passion. Discuss what you need even though it may be uncomfortable. In the long run, meeting your needs is what blesses him most

Nursing is another God-designed activity that doesn't happen naturally. Like lovemaking, it takes time and patience and self-sacrifice, and in the end, the process blesses and matures us in and of itself. 

Pray for your love life, that it will be all that God designed

Later as changes happen, either because of illnesses or surgeries or childbirth, continue praying, knowing that God will never forsake you! Give this area over to Him, just as you would every other area of your life.

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