Day care back in 1649...

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Back in 1649, Jeremy Taylor, author of the spiritual classic The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living and the Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying, preached a sermon titled "Of nursing Children, in imitation of the blessed Virgin-Mother." Here's an excerpt proving it's nothing new for Christian women to bear children, then repudiate motherhood leaving their own sons and daughters exposed on the hillside of daycare. Thus it is that their abandoned wee ones become, as Taylor puts it, "foster-children (who) are dearer to the nurse than to the mother."

Bishop Taylor's writing is hard for us today both because of its turgidity and it's directness. Concerning its directness, though, the Church today desperately needs a revival of such pastoral care and rebuke from her pulpits.

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Upon these propositions I shall infer, by way of instance, that it is a duty, that women should nurse their own children. For, first, it is taught to women by that instinct which nature hath implanted in them. For, as Phavorinus the philosopher discoursed, it is but to be half a mother to bring forth children, and not to nourish them; and it is some kind of abortion, or an exposing of the infant, which, in the reputation of all wise nations, is infamous and uncharitable...

And if the name of mother be an appellative of affection and endearments, why should the mother be willing to divide it with a stranger? The earth is the mother of us all, not only because we were made of her red clay, but chiefly that she daily gives us food from her bowels and breasts; and plants and beasts give nourishment to their offsprings, after their production, with greater tenderness than they bare them in their wombs: and yet women give nourishment to the embryo, which, whether it be deformed or perfect, they know not, and cannot love what they never saw; and yet when they do see it, when they have rejoiced that a child is born, and forgotten the sorrows of production, they, who then can first begin to love it, if they begin to divorce the infant from the mother, the object from the affection, cut off the opportunities and occasions of their charity or piety.

9. For why hath nature given to women two exuberant fontinels, which, "like two roes that are twins, feed among the lilies," and drop milk like dew from Hermon, and hath invited that nourishment from the secret recesses, where the infant dwelt at first, up to the breast where naturally now the child is cradled in the entertainments of love and maternal embraces: but that nature, having removed the babe, and carried its meat after it, intends that it should be preserved by the matter and ingredients of its constitution, and have the same diet prepared with a more mature and proportionable digestion? If nature intended them not for nourishment, I am sure it less intended them for pride and wantonness; they are needless excrescences and vices of nature, unless employed in nature's work and proper intendment. And if it be a matter of consideration, of what blood children are derived, we may also consider that the derivation continues after the birth; and therefore, abating the sensuality, the nurse is as much the mother as she that brought it forth; and so much the more, as there is a longer communication of constituent nourishment (for so are the first emanations) in this, than in the other. So that here is first the instinct, or prime intendment, of nature.

10. Secondly: And that this instinct may also become humane and reasonable, we see it by experience in many places, that foster-children are dearer to the nurse than to the mother, as receiving and ministering respectively perpetual prettinesses of love, and fondness, and trouble, and need, and invitations, and all the instruments of endearment; besides a vicinity of dispositions and relative tempers by the communication of blood and spirits from the nurse to the suckling, which makes use the more natural, and nature more accustomed. And, therefore, the affections, which these exposed or derelict children bear to their mothers, have no grounds of nature or assiduity, but civility and opinion; and that little of love, which is abated from the foster-parents, upon public report that they are not natural, that little is transferred to mothers upon the same opinion, and no more. Hence come those unnatural aversions, those unrelenting dispositions, those carelessnesses and incurious deportments towards their children, which are such ill-sown seeds, from whence may arise up a bitterness of disposition and mutual provocation. This affection which children bear to their nurses, was highly remarked in the instance of Scipio Asiaticus, who rejected the importunity of his brother Africanus in behalf of the ten captains, who were condemned for offering violence to the vestals, but pardoned them at the request of his foster-sister and being asked, why he did more for his nurse's daughter than for his own mother’s son? gave this answer: "I esteem her rather to be my mother, that brought me up, than her that bare me and forsook me." And I have read the observation, that many tyrants have killed their mothers, but never any did violence to his nurse; as if they were desirous to suck the blood of their mother raw, which she refused to give to them digested into milk. And the bastard-brother of the Gracchi, returning from his victories in Asia to Rome, presented his mother with a jewel of silver, and his nurse with a girdle of gold, upon the same account. Sometimes children are exchanged, and artificial bastardies introduced into a family, and the right heir supplanted. It happened so to Artabanus, king of Epirus. His child was changed at nurse, and the son of a mean knight succeeded in the kingdom; the event of which was this: The nurse too late discovered the treason; a bloody war was commenced; both the pretenders slain in battle; and the kingdom itself was usurped by Alexander, the brother to Olympias, the wife of Philip the Macedonian. At the best, though there happen no such extravagant and rare accidents, yet it is not likely a stranger should have the child better than the mother; and if the mother's care could suffer it to be exposed, a stranger's care may suffer it to be neglected. For how shall a hireling endure the inconveniences, the tediousnesses, and unhandsomenesses of a nursery, when she, whose natural affection might have made it pleasant, out of wantonness or softness hath declined the burden? But the sad accidents which, by too frequent observation, are daily seen happening to nurse-children, give great probation, that this intendment of nature, designing mothers to be the nurses, that their affection might secure and increase their care, and the care best provide for their babes, is most reasonable and proportionable to the discourses of humanity.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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