Fear of Childbirth – The Wife Desired, Fr. Leo Kinsella, 1950’s

So far this chapter has concerned itself with erroneous ideas which 
can badly dispose a young wife for success in marriage. Some of 
these false ideas are simple misconceptions, which once 
recognized as such by the wife, cease to exist and cause trouble. 
Now consideration must be given to something more serious. It is 
the phobia or fear of conception and having children.

A phobia is a much more dangerous obstacle to good and proper 
living than a simple misconception. It is built up over the years 
and may spring from several sources. It is much more than just a 
matter of ignorance or misinformation. The will is involved as well 
as the intellect. So often the victim of a phobia supinely watches it 
grow and does not really desire to be rid of the mental disease.

A young husband comes to my mind who had a fear of darkness. 
He could not sleep without the light on. He was wholly a mama's 
little boy, brought up carefully by his possessive mother to be 
ever in need of her. As a child she was his comfort in the dark. 
When she left him alone in his room at night, she left a light to 
reassure him. Should he wake up at night without the light on, he 
would scream and bring mama running to his side.

You can imagine the run for her money which he gave his wife on 
this score. Why did he not snap out of it and act his age? I do not 
know. There were possibly a number of reasons. I suspect one 
reason was that he could punish his wife by retaining his phobia. 
At long last he felt that he was living with one over whom he could 
assert himself. She would have to adapt herself to him and his 
phobia. The little mama's boy was trying hard at playing the strong 

No young wife will be cured of her phobia of child bearing just by 
reading the following pages. Perhaps some might prevent the 
psychosis from getting a hold on their lives by recognizing how it 
can jeopardize the happiness of their marriage. The victims of the 
phobia will be healed only by the effort of their own wills. They 
must want to get over their mental sickness. They must be willing 
to sacrifice the small comforts and imagined security of living 
within the confines of their phobia. They must learn by mental 
hygiene to concentrate upon the real joys of married life, joys 
which lie beyond the prison walls of their fear.

Some young ladies enter marriage with a fear of childbirth. Death 
from childbirth has become so rare that it merits no concern. The 
rare and abnormal cases are dwelt on. The average and normal 
births are ignored as of little news and gossip value. Whatever be 
the devious ways these girls build up the fear, they have a full-
blown phobia of childbirth by the time they are physically and 
emotionally ready for marriage. They have about as much chance 
of happiness in marriage as a glassful of cement has of holding 
any water. They are not disposed for marriage. Their poor 
husbands are in for a rough ride.

Life is beset with uncertainties and dangers. Even breathing is 
dangerous. If you do it enough, long enough, it will kill you. 
Nothing is certain except death, and we know not how or when it 
will come. If these girls wish to nurse a phobia of death, let them 
concern themselves with the tens of thousands killed yearly in 
automobiles. Other thousands drown or are struck with lightning. 
If a person concentrates on all the possible ways she might be 
killed accidentally, she might easily end up cowering in the corner 
of her bedroom afraid to move.

Think of all the fun she would miss hiding from life. It would be 
her dismal lot never to see from an airplane the wild, blue yonder 
or the jeweled cities by night: never to experience the exhilaration 
of the open road: never to feel the salt spray in her face as the sail 
stiffens to the wind: never to know the joy of its inception and the 
mystery of its growth within her and the victory of motherhood as 
she cuddles the new little life to her breast. What does she know of 
life? Actually she is hardly alive. All that remains are the 
obsequies and the floral wreaths of disappointed friends.

Conception, childbirth, and young motherhood and all that goes 
with these experiences are the full life for a young woman. For 
these God has well prepared her by nature. It is as normal for her 
to have children as it is to breathe, and, from general observation, 
as healthful physically, psychologically, and spiritually. For this 
reason the young mother becomes more beautiful as she has 
children. Contrariwise, the light seems to fade out of her face as 
she prolongs the frustration of marriage without the normal 
consequence of children. I am so sure that this observation is 
founded on fact and is not wishful thinking, because in my youth, 
I confess, I expected the opposite; I was genuinely surprised to 
observe the real facts. Nature does not look upon pregnancy as a 
disease. The idea of pregnancy as a disease is the result of 
gyrations of a mind warped by the mental sickness of a phobia of 

In order to live well and enjoy life we must be casual about 
keeping it. The mountain climber who went about his activities 
biting his finger nails in fear would not be a very happy mountain 
climber. In fact he would not be a live mountain climber at all very 
long. The mountain climber knows that there is an element of risk 
in his life. Any woman knows that there is an element of risk in her 
life. She accepts the obvious and then goes about her business of 
accepting life, not denying it.

Few wives will admit that they have a phobia against childbirth. 
Instinctively they seem to realize that they would be comparable 
to a doctor or a nurse, who was nauseated by the sight of blood, to 
an electrician afraid of electricity. Thus most of these misfits in 
married life hide behind various smoke screens. Poor health is a 
common one. Various mysterious aches and pains are advanced as 
an excuse for not playing the role of the normal wife. Husbands 
are kept at a distance or are degraded into sinful birth controllers.

As a matter of fact, of course, many of these women are the 
healthiest characters in their neighborhood. Admittedly, some of 
these wives will develop some neurosis or other as the penalty for 
outraging nature and its normal demands on married people. But 
these conditions are the after affect of the phobia and not an 
excuse for it.

Few of us go through life without aches and pains, some of which 
may even be of a partially disabling nature. These nuisances are 
taken in stride by people of character. Indeed, frequently marriage 
and child bearing bring to a young woman a glow of health which 
she has never experienced previously.

Another attitude toward life which poorly disposes a young woman 
for happiness in marriage and for being an ideal wife is the selfish 
and worldly concern not to become too tied down by her family. 
She will measure out just so much of herself and no more. So after 
one or two children her husband notices a decided change. The old 
spontaneity of affection is gone. In its place there is a calculated 
aloofness, which has nothing of the saving qualities of 
coquettishness. She does not want any more children.

With eyes tilted toward heaven she gives out frequent evidence of 
being a modern day pelican. She is careful to make her husband 
realize what a slave she is. She has no time now at all to receive 
from or to give him any affection. Little Buster gets all the 
attention now. If Buster's father becomes, as well he might, a little 
apprehensive about this excessive care for his solitary offspring, 
and feels that she is developing a sissy and mama's boy, he is told 
that he is unreasonably jealous. He should be happy and grateful 
that she is such a wonderful mother. But the blackguard is not.

He is quite confused by all this, but at times he has a suspicion 
that she does not become the all-American mother simply because 
she has ceased to be his wife. These little ladies fool nobody, even 
though half their waking hours are an effort to do so. They are 
pitiful failures as wives.
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