A reader writes:
I have a question I wish you could help me address with biblical discernment–and that is the topic of “natural gender swaying” (viz. adjusting diet, timing of intercourse, etc. in order to conceive a baby of a certain gender). My husband and I have Christian friends who have used the Shettles Method first to conceive their desired boy, and then to conceive their desired girl. I know of others who use the method as well, and it seems to be gaining popularity even within the conservative Christian circle. So why do I feel uneasy about this? Are there biblical grounds for my uneasiness, or am I just fearful and old-fashioned? Is there anything wrong with using the “means” God has given us to pursue particular desires–and if not, then where do we draw the line?
First of all, I talk more generally about this subject in my article, Gender Disappointment: A Christian Response. What I didn’t cover there was the idea of actually taking measures to ensure a boy or girl, so let’s dig into that a little bit here.
Whenever I think about a subject I try to start with what I know for sure. Since I’m just a silly Wemmick, that means I need something a little bigger and more objective than my “little-old-speck-of-me-on-a-very-big-planet” opinion. So my starting place is the Creator of that very big planet. And fortunately He hasn’t left us spinning on our own. He gave us a few Words in a Book, His Son in the flesh about 2000 years ago, and a Helper in His Holy Spirit who lives right inside those that belong to Him.
He is very, very good. All He does is good. And that, incidentally, is one of the things I know for sure because regardless of my personal experiences that might scream to the contrary, His Word says that He is good, and He can see a whole lot further into the future than I can. So He must know. Right?
A Good Rabbit Trail Story
A long time ago I heard this story, and I need to share it with you because I think of it whenever I talk about this whole good/bad thing. I Googled it (Google is my best friend), and found it on a few different websites. It’s the same story, so I think it’s OK to put it here:
It is said that there was once a gentleman in the Middle East. His only possession that really amounted to anything for him, his wife and son, who lived in a little hovel, was a gorgeous Arabian mare. The mare was absolute perfection.
The neighbors always came by and said how lucky he was to have this one beautiful mare. He said he didn’t know whether it was good or bad, he just knew he had this lovely mare.
Well, one night she broke out of the corral and when he got up the next morning, he discovered that she was gone. All the neighbors came by and said how terrible, how bad it was that the mare was gone. He said he didn’t know whether it was good or bad, all he knew was that the mare was gone.
One morning about a week and a half later, she came back and had seven beautiful Arab stallions with her. She brought those in the corral with her. They were all smitten with her, so they went into the corral too. Now all the neighbors came by and said what wonderful luck he had. They said, “You have seven beautiful stallions along with your mare back.” He said, “I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, all I know is I got the mare back and seven stallions with her.”
So while they looked them over, the son decided to break the stallions so they could be ridden and they could sell them. One of the stallions threw him and broke his leg. So he was laid up with a broken leg. They didn’t have those little pins they use now so you could get up and go. He was laid up with a splint.
The neighbors came by and said, “That’s bad, your son has a broken leg.” He said, “I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, I just know my son has a broken leg.”
About this time the king sent his men through the area and took all able-bodied young men to send them off on one of his war ventures. The son couldn’t go because he had a broken leg. The neighbor’s sons all had to go. The neighbors came over and said how lucky the man was because his son didn’t have to go because he had a broken leg. He said, “I don’t know whether it’s good or bad, I just know my son has a broken leg and didn’t have to go with the Army.”
So do you see why I like this story? We only have a tiny, sort of cross-section glimpse of life, and honestly, that isn’t enough to properly assess whether or not something is good or bad. God, on the other hand, has a very, very, very long term view of things. He knows how the whole ball of wax will turn out in the end – and we can trust Him.
Back to Gender Swaying
I had never heard of the Shettles method of trying for a boy or girl. And then I Googled it (what did I tell you about Google?) and found out I HAD heard of it. I just didn’t know it had an official name. Briefly, here’s what Wikipedia says:
According to the theory, male (Y) sperm are faster but more fragile than female (X) sperm. Further, acidic environments harm Y sperm, according to the theory, making conception of a girl more likely….To have a boy, insemination should occur as close as possible to the moment of ovulation so that the faster, Y-sperm arrive first and achieve conception, according to the theory. When seeking a girl, the couple should have sex 2½ to 3 days before ovulation….Shallow penetration coupled with the sperm deposited close to the entrance favors female conception because the area is more acidic, which inhibits the weaker Y sperm, according to the theory. To allow the Y sperm, which supposedly moves faster, to reach the egg first, use deeper penetration to deposit the sperm at the least acidic area near the uterus opening.
Proponents claim between 75 and 90 percent effectiveness, but experts do not agree that the method works; for example, the 1995 article ‘Timing of Sexual Intercourse in Relation to Ovulation—Effects on the Probability of Conception, Survival of the Pregnancy, and Sex of the Baby’, in the New England Journal of Medicine concludes that “for practical purposes, the timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation has no influence on the sex of the baby.”
What I Know For Sure
1. God is good.
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” 1 Chronicles 16:34
2. God is in control.
“My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth” Psalm 139:15
3. Wemmicks make plans, but God directs them.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Psalm 16:9
We see countless examples of this in Scripture. There is nothing wrong with desiring to have a boy or a girl, and there is nothing wrong with mankind figuring out stuff that God set in motion. (i.e. how conception takes place and which conditions are more conducive to conceiving a boy or girl.) The world is an incredibly complex place to explore. I think God intended for us to explore it, discover things, and use those discoveries.
I think if we are using supernatural heeby jeeby stuff to try to get a boy or girl (i.e. “how are the stars aligned tonight, dear? Did we get that frog and newt’s eye going on the stove?” then we are playing with, well, supernatural heeby jeeby stuff. And God says to keep away. That’s from the liar’s lair and not safe.
But if we are taking what we know about science and seeing if we can make it work to our advantage, I don’t see an issue with that (unless it violates God’s law, obviously). It’s basically using God’s laws of nature, recognizing that the decision is ultimately Gods. That’s how humans can fly in airplanes, for example. I don’t believe it is a sin in and of itself to try to sway the gender of a future child anymore than it is a sin to try to conceive a child in the first place.
Here’s where the danger lies: if we have our heart set on a boy or a girl, and we actively pursue this and God gives us what we want, we can swing into pride. You know. “I did such and such and IT WORKS!!!” Rather than, “God gave us this child. HE WORKS!” There’s just something God honoring in that second statement, and that’s really what our lives are all about.
Or what if we have our heart set on a boy or a girl, and we actively pursue this, and God DOESN’T give us what we want? Our disappointment can be greater than is probably necessary. We’re talking about a human life created in the image of God, whether it’s a boy or a girl. It is precious. To be disappointed over a miracle is pretty pathetic when you stop and think about it. Very short sighted. Very Wemmicky.
WHY do we want a boy or a girl anyway? I’ll tell you why. It’s to fulfill ourselves. Key word: ourselves. Self. Me. Me. Me. I want. I need. I must have. We whine, “I already HAVE a girl. Where’s MY boy?” Or, “I wanted to dress up a little girl and have tea parties. That was my life-long DREAM!!! WHAAAAAA!!!!”
I’m having fun with this. Ask me how I know about whining. I’ve got one living inside my skin and a whole bunch living inside the four walls of my house.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting things. There’s something wrong with demanding that we have those things. With making those things our demi-gods. We all do this. We all do this daily, so we can’t point our finger at others and declare hell-fire and brimstone upon them for their kowtowing to idols. We’re just hiding ours. So this article really isn’t written for your friend or your sister. It’s written for me. It’s written for you. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share it on Pinterest or Facebook though.)
The Bottom Line
We see a speck on the speck of our itty bitty life in history. How can we possibly know what is best? God has galaxies and all of history and all of eternity in His sights. How can He NOT possibly know what is best?
Sometimes we don’t get what we want (the plastic necklace).
Sometimes God gives us something a whole lot better (the diamond necklace).
The real question underneath this whole issue is, which one will you take? And will you be smiling or frowning when you take it?