About a year ago my husband and I began to consider expanding our family. We spent countless hours thinking, talking, and praying about this giant step. We are both in school with little income to speak of, so we weren't sure how it would all come together. But God's leading seemed very clear: It was time to take the leap.

At first, I felt sure of our decision. We had prayed about it and my husband was incredibly supportive. But my confidence didn't last long. About a month after we made the decision, I freaked out. "How is this going to work? I am a doctoral student for Pete's sake!"

I began asking questions like, "Am I going to be a ball of stress for the next three years? Is this basically a death knell to my future as a student?" And perhaps the biggest questions of all: "Will I be a good mom?" and, "Will I even be able to get pregnant?"

It is ironic that my fears oscillated between uncertainty about having a baby, and fears about my ability to conceive. But that was a clue about my spiritual state at the time. In deciding to grow our family, we were surrendering a large amount of control to God. And I never give up control easily.

As a woman, I have found that fertility and childbearing highlight my addiction to control more than almost anything else in my life thus far. Women are, after all, trained to control our bodies. Managing one's appearance and conducting one's body in a way that honors God are common female virtues in the church. Added to that is the resource of birth control, with which we can control our biological cycles.

This control has extended beyond pregnancy prevention into the realm of pregnancy facilitation. Women are now waiting longer to have children, some because they must, others because they can.

In truth, the control we have over our bodies is an illusion of power that inevitably comes crashing down. For me, the illusion crumbled when I began to think seriously about having children, and recent media stories reveal that I am not alone.

In the past six months, many news outlets have featured stories about the downsides of delaying pregnancy. What is particularly interesting about these articles is the common shock among older women that their fertility has an expiration date. MSNBC featured a story about a 43-year-old woman who realized, too late, that she had been terribly uneducated about her fertility. She confessed, "Most women aren't taught—and don't learn — basic facts about fertility and aging …. It's not that we're stupid. It's that we've been misinformed." NPR featured a similar story about a woman in her early 40s who was equally surprised by her decreasing fertility. In disbelief she said, "It just seemed so fashionable to have kids in your 40s these days."

This widespread misinformation should not be surprising. Every year, celebrity magazines announce the latest pregnancies of actresses in their 40s. With few exceptions, these women seem to conceive without a hitch and on their own schedules. Their presence in the public eye makes it easy to believe women really can have it all, at any age.

When faced with the reality of fertility statistics, it is not only surprising but terrifying. The numbers confront women with the fact that for all the control we try to have over our bodies, there are real and sobering limits.

In a touching reflection on her recent miscarriage, blogger Laura Ziesel captured her own lesson on childbearing and control in a post titled, "Miscarriage, Fertility, and My Broken Body." As she wrestled with her body's "performance," she shared her husband's challenging question to her: "Do you realize that you're expecting your body to act like a machine?"

Of course we women are not machines, nor did God design us to be. He created us to be warm-blooded, full-hearted human beings. Yes, we will always experience the repercussions of the Fall, and Genesis 3:16 makes explicit the pain and uncertainty we will face. Yes, many women will have unplanned pregnancies; others will struggle to get pregnant at all. And yes, delaying pregnancy carries risks that our culture must not overlook.

We do not have control over our bodies.

But God does.

In a culture of womanhood that prizes autonomy and self-determination, Christians can offer a different kind of witness. You see, the constant striving after control has an ugly flipside. When our stability comes from our own ability to control, we submit ourselves to a terrible master. In a world of uncertainty, control demands an unending commitment to a fragile and complex balancing act. When we step in as god of our own lives, we cannot rest for a moment. And when we do lose control, we are devastated.

God promises to liberate us from that bondage, but fertility and childbearing test the true extent of how faithfully we are accepting and living into that freedom. Are we living in the freedom of God's loving sovereignty, or are we gripping tightly to whatever shreds of control we can grasp?

In the interest of full disclosure, I discovered that I was pregnant shortly after deciding to write this post. I am incredibly grateful that my husband and I were able to conceive, but this blessing has not removed all my fears. I continue to wrestle with the fear of miscarriage, concerns about our baby's health, and the uncertainty of my future as a student. Control is an idol that continues to haunt me, but I will also continue to fight it. Not only because personal control is a prison from which Christ came to set me free, but because millions of other women are still trapped in that cage. As a disciple of Jesus, my life should testify to a better way.

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