The good father: childbirth brings a new standard of beauty...

Error message

How beautiful and how delightful you are, My love, with all your charms! Your stature is like a palm tree, And your breasts are like its clusters. I said, "I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its fruit stalks." Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, And the fragrance of your breath like apples, And your mouth like the best wine!” It goes down smoothly for my beloved, Flowing gently through the lips of those who fall asleep.

I am my beloved’s, And his desire is for me. (Song of Solomon 7:6-10)

Several years ago we planted a bunch of bare root trees including a couple apple and one peach tree. Four years later none of the trees had produced a single piece of fruit, so we were quite excited this spring when our peach tree set well over a hundred little peaches. When I first saw them they were quite small—maybe the size of the tip of your pinkie. Thinking maybe I should do something to protect the fruit, I went on the internet and read that the little peaches should be thinned, leaving one every six inches or so. So up went the ladder and well over half the peaches were pinched off and fell to the ground. The peach experts told me if I let all the peaches ripen, they would be so heavy they would snap the branches off.

A few weeks later, still during spring, I noticed a friend of mine winced and limped as he walked... 

so I asked what was wrong? He said one of his heifers had just calved the day before. He had helped her through her labor and delivery but, going home to clean up, a neighbor called to tell him the new mother was going crazy out in the field and he better get back there. He returned to find several turkey vultures circling and diving at his cow and her calf. The mother was weakened from her labor, so all the mother could do to fend off the attacks of the vultures was to run in a tight circle around her calf. Wanting to help, he climbed the fence and got in with the cow, but at this particular moment, she didn't remember his tender care for her during her labor and delivery an hour earlier. So she butted, stomped, and tossed him, leaving him with torn cartilage, broken ribs, and a bruised leg. He was in pain for weeks.

Bearing fruit is hard and deforming work. The weight of the harvest leaves the peach tree with snapped limbs. The heifer that has just calved is a bloody mess and she and her calf are sitting prey for turkey vultures.

It's the same with the mother of your newborn son or daughter. When your wife was pregnant, every part of her body went through radical change. She became a different woman, physically; and then when she gave birth and began nursing your child, her body changed even more. She will never again look like the lithesome springtime flower you married. That fresh fruitless beauty is gone, and you might be tempted and foolish enough to miss it, especially if you have given your eyes to pornography.

Consider your wife and the mother of your newborn child more carefully in light of Scripture's endless emphasis on the blessing and glory of fruitfulness, though, and you'll see she has a much greater beauty, now. With your little one at her breast, she now possesses the beauty of motherhood. This beauty is deeper and more lasting. It is the product of her bearing the fruit of a child, and for the rest of your life of love together, you will see and rejoice in all the visible signs of her childbearing. You will understand her added weight. You will view her stretch marks with tenderness. You will caress her enlarged belly button. Even her varicose veins will make you feel all warm and fuzzy as you remember they arrived during her pregnancy.

Or, if you wish, you may become an ungrateful fool, fixating on lithesome springtime flowers who aren't your wife or the mother of your child. And if you choose this well-traveled path of rejection of your wife's new maternal beauty, your standard of beauty and sexual intimacy with your wife will never mature past adolescent heartthrobs.

Pastors don't want to probe the matter in our pastoral counsel and no one wants to admit it, but the changes a new mother goes through bearing and nursing her first child leave some new fathers lacking any desire for sexual intimacy. Strange but true. And what should be our response?

The Apostle Paul was a good pastor. He loved his sheep, which is to say he knew them and their sins. So this was the helpful command he gave his flock:

The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband... Stop depriving one another... (1Corinthians 7:3, 5a) 

Back in the sixties, a lithesome blond woman from the UK took over the modelling world. Skinny like a twig, she was called Twiggy, and ever since she has been the picture of beauty most admired in the Western world. It was not always so. Back a few centuries the standard of beauty was not adolescent, but maternal. Compare pictures of models today with paintings of beautiful women by the old masters and we know why women pushing babies in strollers are running on sidewalks and through every city park.

Christians should be different. We should love the distinctive marks of motherhood on a woman's body and honor woman's fruitfulness by cultivating and adopting a biblical Rubenesque standard of beauty.

In sexual attraction and lovemaking, we should be men—not boys.

Tim Bayly

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

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!