Married Love

Chapter IX. Children

I am for you, and you are for me,
Not only for your own sake, but for others’ sakes,
Envelop’d in you sleep greater heroes and bards,
They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.

Walt Whitman.

THE Mystic in his moment of enlightenment
attains through the flux of his personality the
realisation of oneness with the divine forces
of the Universe.

To ordinary men and women, however, this
mystical ecstasy is unknown, and the ordinary human
consciousness is far more aware of its separateness
than of its oneness with the vital forces of creation.
Yet the glow of half swooning rapture in which the
mystic’s whole being melts and floats in the light
of the divine force is paralleled in the rapture of

When two who are mated in every respect burn
with the fire of the innumerable forces within them,
which set their bodies longing towards each other with
the desire to inter-penetrate and to encompass one
another, the fusion of joy and rapture is not purely
physical. The half swooning sense of flux which
overtakes the spirit in that eternal moment at the
apex of rapture sweeps into its flaming tides the whole
essence of the man and woman, and as it were, the heat
of the contact vapourises their consciousness so that it
fills the whole of cosmic space. For the moment they
are identified with the divine thoughts, the waves of
eternal force, which to the Mystic often appear in
terms of golden light.

From their mutual penetration into the realms of
supreme joy the two lovers bring back with them a
spark of that light which we call life.

And unto them a child is born.

This is the supreme purpose of nature m all her
enticing weft of complex factors luring the two lovers
into each other’s arms. Only by the fusion of two can
the new human life come into being, and only by
creating a new life in this way can we hand on the torch
which lights our consciousness in the sphere of

This mystical and wonderful fact has never yet
found the poet to sing its full glory. But in the hearts
of all who have known true love lies the realisation of
the/sacredness that is theirs when they are in the very
act of creation.

Were our bodies specifically organised for this
supreme purpose, two human beings would only pass
through the sacred fire of mutual fusion in order to
create a new life. But, however far our spirits have
evolved, our bodies are composed of matter which
bears the imprint of the many past phases through
which we have reached our present position. And
because in the world of the lower animals there is an
immense wastage of all the young lives created, and it
is necessary that myriads should be conceived in order
that a small number should reach maturity, so in our
bodies (specialised though they are in comparison
with the lower animals) both sexes still produce a far
larger number of germs awaiting fertilisation than can
be actually fructified and imbued with individual life.
So profoundly has the course of our history been
stamped upon us that each germ, unaware of its own
futility if it reaches maturity at an unpropitious
moment, is just as insistent in its development as the
favoured one which follows out the full natural course
of its career and gives rise to a new individual.

It is utterly impossible, organised as our bodies are
at present, for us to obey the dictates of theologians
and refrain from the destruction of potential life.
The germ cells of the woman, though immeasurably
less numerous than the male germ cells (the sperm)
yet develop uselessly over and over again in every
celibate as well as in every married woman. While
myriads of sperm cells are destroyed even in the pro-
cess of the act which does ensure fertilisation of the
woman by the single favoured sperm. If the theo-
logians really mean what they say, and demand the
voluntary effort of complete celibacy from all men,
save for the purpose of procreation, this will not
achieve their end of preventing the destruction of all
potential life; and the monthly loss of unfertilised
eggcell by women is beyond all the efforts of the will
to curb. Nature, not man, arranged the destruction of
potential life against which ascetic Bishops rage.

If, then, throughout the greater part of their lives
the germinal cells of both sexes inevitably disintegrate
without creating an embryo, there can be nothing
wrong in selecting the most favourable moment pos-
sible for the conception of the first of these germinal
cells to be endowed with the supreme privilege of
creating a new life.

What generally happens in marriage where this is
not thought of is that one of the very earliest unions
results in the fertilisation of the wife, so that the
young pair have a baby nine months, or a little more,
after marriage.

Whereas, were they wise and did they realise the
full significance of -what they were doing, they would
allow at least six months or a year to elapse before
beginning the supreme task of their lives, the burden
of which falls mainly upon the woman.

For many reasons it is more ideal to have the
children spontaneously and early; but if economic
conditions are hard, as they so often are in ” civilised ”
life, it may be better to marry and defer the children
rather than not to marry. (See my ” Wise Parent-

If the pair married very young, and before they
could afford to support children, they might wait
several years with advantage. An exceptional case is
one of the happiest marriages I know. The pair
married while they were young students in the
University, and fourteen years later they had their
first child, a splendidly healthy boy. Though such a
long interval is certainly not to be universally recorn-
mended, as it is said that it may result in sterility, in
this instance it was triumphantly better for the two to
have lived normally satisfied happy lives than to have
waited for fourteen years and risked the man’s ” fall.”

There are many reasons, both for their own and for
the child’s sake, why the potential parents should
take the wise precaution of delay, unless owing to
special circumstances they cannot expect to live to-
gether uninterruptedly.

The child, conceived in rapture and hope, should be
given every material chance which the wisdom and
love of the parents can devise. And the first and
most vital condition of its health is that the mother
should be well and happy and free from anxiety while
she bears it.

The tremendous and far-reaching effects of
marriage on the woman’s whole organism make her
less fitted to bear a child at the very commencement
of marriage than later on, when the system will have
adjusted itself to its new conditions.

Not only for the sake of the child, however, should
the first conception be a little delayed, but also to
secure the lasting happiness of the married lovers.
It is generally (though perhaps not always) wise
thoroughly to establish their relation to each other
before introducing the inevitable dislocation and re-
adjustment necessitated by the wife’s pregnancy and
the birth of a child.

In this book I am not speaking so much of the
universal sex relation as to those who find themselves
to-day in the highly civilised, artificial communities
of Enghsh-speaking people: and in our present
society there is little doubt that the early birth of a
child demands much self-sacrifice and ‘^elf-restraint
from the man, one of the reflex vibrations of which is
his undefinable sense of loss and separation from his
bride. This has been confided to me by many men
who have been generous enough to trust me with
some of the secrets of their lives. Mr. C. is typical
of many others of his class.

He was quiet and refined, with a strong strain of
romantic love, which was entirely centred in his bride
He was manly and sufficiently virile to feel the need”
of sex intercourse, but he was unaware (as are so many
men) of the woman’s corresponding need; and he did
not give his wife any orgasm. She took no pleasure,
therefore, in the physical act of union, which for her
was so incomplete.

Very shortly after marriage she conceived, and a
chiid was born ten months after the wedding day
For two years after the birth of the child her vitality
was so lowered that the sex-act was to her so repug-
nant that she refused her husband any union; and it
was thus three years after their marriage before they
met in anything like a normal way. By that time the
long separation from sex-life, and the strain on the
man, coupled with daily familiarity at home, had
dimmed, if not completely destroyed, his sense ot
romance. The natural stimulation each should exert
on the other had faded, so that they never experienced
the mutual glow of rapture in their sex-union.

Another pair suffered similarly : Mr. and Mrs. D.
were prevented for several years by the wife’s real and
fancied ill-health from having any intercourse. When,
after that time, she recovered and passionately^ de-
sired the true marriage relation, the husband felt it to
be impossible. To him it would have been, as he
expressed it, ” like raping his sister.”

Once such a thought has grown into a man’s mind
it is very difficult ” to recapture the first fine early
rapture.” And with the loss of that early rapture the
two lose, for the rest of their lives, the irradiating joy
which is priceless not only for its beauty, but for
the vitality with which its wings are laden.

On the other hand, if by waiting some months (or
even years if they are young) the mated pair have
learnt to adjust themselves to each other and have ex-
perienced the full possibilities of complete love-
making, the disturbance which is caused by the birth
of the child is in no sense a danger to their happiness,
but is its crown and completion.

A man once said to me — ” One can endure any-
thing for the sake of a beloved wife.” But the wife is
only utterly beloved when she and her married lover
have not only entered paradise together, but when she
fully realises, through insight gained by her own ex-
periences, the true nature of that of which she is
depriving her husband so long as her bodily condition
makes sex-union with him impossible.

Much has been written, and may be found in the
innumei’able books on the sex-problems, as to whether
a man and woman should or should not have relations
while the wife- is bearing an unborn child. In this
matter exf)erience is very various, so that it is difficult
or impossible to give definite advice without knowing
the full circumstances of each case.

When, however, we observe the admirable sanctity
of the pregnant females of the woodland creatures,
and when we consider the extraordinary ignorance
and disregard of woman’s needs which mark so many
of our modern customs, we cannot but think that the
safe side of this debatable question must be in the
complete continence of the woman for at least six
months before the birth of the child. I have heard
from a number of women, however, that they desire
union urgently at this time; and from others that the
thought of it is incredible. (See Addition 2, p. 1 1 5.)

Tolstoy strongly condemned any sex contact while
the wife was pregnant or nursing, and blames the
husband who ” puts upon her the unbearable burden
of being at one and the same time a mistress, an
exhausted mother, and a sickly, irritable, hysterical
individual. And the husband loves her as his mistress,
ignores her as a mother, and hates her for the irrit-
ability and hysteria which he himself has produced
and produces.” His view is taken by many of our
noblest men.

While the wife feels that she cannot .allow her
husband to enter the portals of her body when it has
become the sacred temple of a developing life, she
should also consider the perpetual strain which nature
imposes upon him; and the tender and loving wife
will readily find some means of giving him that
physical relief which his nature needs.

The exquisite, unselfish tenderness which is aroused
in a man by the sense of mental and spiritual harmony
with a wife who sympathises with, because she under-
stands, his needs is one of the loveliest things in
marriage. The wife who knows how to waken this
tenderness in a man raises him out of the self-centred
slough in which so many men wallow unhappily.

With an ardent man, wholly devoted to his wife
and long deprived of her, the time will come when
it will be sufficient for him to be near her and caress
her for relief to take place without any physical

After the birth of the first child the health of the
mother and of the baby both demand that there should
be no hurried beginning of a second. At least a year
should pass before the second little life is allowed to
begin its unfolding, so that a minimum of about two
years should elapse before the second child is born.

The importance of this, both for the mother and
for the child, is generally adequately recognised by
medical specialists, and some distinguished gynecolo-
gists advocate as much as three or five years between
the births of successive children. While in the whole
human relation there is no slavery or torture so
horrible as coerced, unwilling motherhood, there is no
joy and pride greater than that of a woman who is
bearing the developing child of a man she adores. It
is a serious reflection on our poisoned ” civilisation ”
that a pregnant woman should feel shame to appear in
the streets. Never will the race reach true health till
it is cured of its prurient sickness, and the prospective
mother can carry her sacred burden as a priestess in a
triumphal procession. (See Addition 3, p. 117.)

Of the innumerable problems which touch upon the
qualities transmitted to the children by their parents,
the study of which may be covered by the general
term Eugenics, I shall here say nothing : nor shall I
deal with the problems of birth and child-rearing.
Many writers have considered these subjects, and
my purpose in this book is to present aspects of sex-
life which have been more or less neglected by others.

While throughout I have omitted the consideration
of abnormalities, there is one condition which verges
on the abnormal but yet touches the lives of some
married people who are individually both normal and
healthy, about which a few words need to be said.

It not infrequently happens that two healthy, loving
people, for no apparent reason, seem unable to have a
child. (See Addition 4, p. 119.)

The old-fashioned view was that the fault lay with
the woman, and the reproach of being a barren woman
is one which brought untold anguish to many hearts.
It is now beginning to be recognised, however, that
in a childless union the ” fault,” if fault it be, is as
often the man’s as the woman’s, particularly where the
husband is a brain worker in a city.

Though it is natural that there should not be the
same joy for the pair in a child which had not arisen
from their own supreme fusion, nevertheless, the man
who is generous and broadminded might find much
joy in a child of his wife’s were the obtaining of this
child not coupled with the yielding of her body to
the embrace of another man, which is so generally and
so naturally repugnant to a husband. The future pos-
sibilities of science here come in. Much interesting
research has already been done on the growth of the
young of various creatures without the ordinary
fertilisation of the mother egg-cell. Then there arc
the experiments by the famous Dr. Hunter at the
end of the eighteenth century, and more recent work.
See, for Instance, Heape, in the ” Proceedings of the
Royal Society, 1897,” and Marshall’s text-book of
” The Physiology of Reproduction, 1910.”

While in such an event as these discoveries adum-
brate, the husband would have no bodily part in the
heritage of the child, yet in the creation of its spirit
he could play a profound part, the potentialities of
which appear to be almost unrecognised by humanity.

The idea that the soul and character of the child
can be in any degree influenced by the mental status
of the mother during the months of its development
as an embryo within her body, is apt to be greeted
with pure scepticism — for it is difficult of proof, and
repugnant to the male intellect, now accustomed to
explain life in terms of chemistry.

Yet all the wisest mothers whom I know vary only
in the degree of their belief in this power of the
mother. All are agreed in believing that the spiritual
and mental condition and environment of the mother
does profoundly affect the character and the mental
and spiritual powers of the child.

An interesting fact which strengthens the woman’s
point of view, is quoted (though not in this connec-
tion) by Marshall,* who says : ” It has been found
that immunity from disease may be acquired by young

* See p. 566 of the text-book on ” The Physiology of Repro-
duction,” Pp. xvii., “JoGy 1910.

animals being suckled by a female which had pre-
viously become immune, the antibody to the disease
beinff absorbed in the ingested milk.” This particu-
lar fact is explainable in terms of chemistry; but it
seems to me more than rash for anyone in these days
of hormones from ductless glands, to deny the possi-
bility of mental states in the mother generating
” chemical messengers,” which may impress perma-
nent characters in the physiological reactions of the
developing child. Ellis says (Vol. 6, ” Sex and
Society,” 1913) : ” The mother is the child’s supreme
parent, and during the period from conception to birth
the hygiene of the future man can only be affected by
influences which work through her.”

And Alfred Russel Wallace, the great naturalist,
thought the transmission of mental influence neither
impossible nor even very improbable.* I am con-
vinced that it takes place all the time, moulding and
influencing the hereditary factors.

Hence I suggest that the husband who is deprived
of normal fatherhood may yet make the child of his
wife’s body partly his own, if his thoughts are with
her intensely, support;ingly, and joyously throughout
the whole time of the unborn baby’s growth. If he
reads to her, plays beautiful music or takes her to
hear it, and gives her the very best of his thoughts
and aspirations, mystical though the conclusion may
seem, he does attain an actual measure of fatherhood.

The converse is even more difficult, where the wife
is really barren and the husband capable of having
children with another woman. Then the attainment
of childre n by the man is impossible witho ut the

* See his letter to the scientific journal ” Nature ” in the year
1893, August 24, pp. 389 and 390.

collaboration of another woman in a manner not out-
wardly recognised by our laws and customs. Even
if this done it is clear that to introduce the child
of another woman into the home is demanding a
much greater self-abnegation from the wife than is
demanded from the husband in the situation we have
just considered.

Many people whose ideals are very noble are yet
strangely incapable of adapting the material acts of
life to the real fulfilment of their ideals. Thus there
is a section of our community which insists that there
should be no restriction whatever of the number of
children born to married people. They think any
birth control immoral. They take their stand upon
the statement that we have no right to destroy
potential life. But if they would study a little human
or animal physiology they would find that not only
every celibate, but also every married man incessantly
and inevitably wastes myriads of germs (see p. 41)
which had the potentiality of fusion with an ovum,
and consequently could have produced a child had
opportunity been given them. For the supposed sake
of one or two of these myriad sperms which must
naturally and inevitably die, they encourage the pro-
duction of babies in rapid succession which are •
weakened by their proximity while they might have
been sturdy and healthy had they been conceived
further apart from each other.

Such people, while awake to the claims of the un-
born, nay, even of the unconceived, are blind to the
claims of the one who should be dearest of all to the
husband and for whose health and happiness he is
responsible. A man swayed bv archaic dogma wi’l
allow, even coerce, his wife to bear and bring forth an
infant annually. Save where the woman is excep-
tional, each child following so rapidly on its pre-
decessor, saps and divides tlie vital strength which is
available for the making of the offspring. This
generally lowers the vitality of each succeeding child,
and surely even if slowly, may murder the woman
who bears therft.

Of course, the effects of this strain upon the woman
vary greatly according to her original health and
vitality, the conditions of her surroundings and the
intensity of the family’s struggle for food. A half ¦
starved mother trying to bring up children in the foul
air of city slums, loses, as a rule, far more of her ^
family than a comfortable and well-fed woman’
in the country. Nevertheless, conditions arc not
everything; under the best conditions, the chances
of death of the later children of a large family,
which comes rapidly, are far greater than for the
earlier children.

Dr. Ploetz found that while the death-rate of first-
born infants is about 22o per thousand, the death-
rate of the seventh-born is about 330, and of the
twelfth-born is 597 per thousand. So that when
” Nature ” has its way, and twelve children come to
sap a woman’s vitality, so little strength has she that
nearly 60 per cent, of these later ones die. What a
waste of vitality! What a hideous orgy of agony
for the mothers to produce in anguish death-doomed,
suffering infants !

Forel (“The Sexual Question,” 1908) says: “It
seems almost incredible that in some countries medical
men who are not ashamed to throw young men into
the arms of prostitution, blush when mention is made
of anti-conccptional methods. This false modesty,
created by custom and prejudice, waxes indignant at
innocent things while it encourages the greatest

It is important to observe that Holland, the country
which takes most care that children shall be well and
voluntarily conceived, has increased its survival-rate,
and has thereby, not diminished, but increased its
population, and has the lowest infant mortality in
Europe. While in America, where the outrageous
” Comstock Laws ” confuse wise scientific prevention
with illegal abortion and label them both as
” obscene,” thus preventing people from obtaining
decent hygienic knowledge, horrible and criminal
abortion is more frequent than in any other country.

It should be realised that all the proper, medical
methods of controlling pregnancy consist, not in
destroying an already growing embryo, but in pre-
venting the male sperm from reaching the unfertilised
egg cell. This’ may be done either by shutting the
sperms away from the opening of the womb, or by
securing the death of all (instead of the natural death
of all but one) of the two to six hundred million
sperms which enter the woman. Even when a child
is allowed to grow in its mother, all these hundreds
of millions of sperms are inevitably and naturally
destroyed every time the man has an emission, and
to add one more to these millions sacrificed by Nature
is surely no crime! To kill quickly the ejaculated
sperms which would otherwise die and decompose
naturally, is a simple matter. Their minute and un-
covered bodies are plasmolised in weak acid, such as
vinegar and water, or by a solution of quinine, or by
many other substances.

To those who protest that we have no right to
interfere with the course of Nature, one must point
out that the whole of civilisation, everything which
separates man from animals, is an interference with
what such people commonly call ” Nature.”

Nothing in the cosmos can be against Nature, for
it all forms part of the great processes of the universe.

Actions differ, however, in their relative positions
in the scale of things. Only those actions are worthy
which lead the race onwards to a higher and fuller
completion and the perfecting of its powers, which
steer the race into the main current of that stream of
life and vitality which courses through us and impels
us forward.

It is a sacred duty of all who dare to hand on the
awe-inspiring gift of life, to hand it on in a vessel as
fit and perfect as they can fashion, so that the body
may be the strongest and most beautiful instrument
possible in the service of the soul they summon to
play its part in the mystery of material being.