" .... it would be very interesting to hear you try to explain to the rationalist heathens around here just why this news gives you such happiness and what it means to you. I presume it goes deeper than the prospect of yet another round of cooing and changing diapers?"
I will put down some of the thoughts that came to me initially when I read Peter's comment, but I'm a ponderer, so I expect many more to develop over the next few days .... and weeks .... and years!
First let me think about the happiness my husband and I felt when we heard the news. This was different from the happiness we had expressed two days earlier on hearing that a niece was pregnant; for her, we were pleased, for our own Tanith we were overjoyed. I expect that there is an 'ological' explanation for this: biological, psychological, sociological or some such. Whatever it is, it is causing us to grin foolishly and skip around the house in a ridiculous fashion.
Yes, it does go deeper than cooing and changing diapers/nappies. I have to admit that I have never been one to coo over babies and the practical side of baby care was always a chore rather than a pleasure (undertaken with great love, of course!) So, this joy is about new life and not about baby powder and tiny bootees. As you would expect, I'll bring God into the picture at this point but I must say that my atheist husband's sense of being a part of something greater or other doesn't appear to be really very different from mine.
I can spend hours gazing in wonder at signs of life: the delicacy of a butterfly or a petal, the power and splendour of the sea, the myriad shapes and colours of a forest, the purposeful activity of bees and parent birds. To look on one's own children and recognise one's part in the creation and continuation of life is both humbling and awe-inspiring. For someone of faith, that means recognising one's role as privileged co-creator. Here, Peter, is the dimension that the 'rationalist heathens' won't understand:
"Every child coming into the world brings an affirmation from God that we are still loved, a reassurance that God has not yet given up on the human race. The innocent and unspoilt life of a newborn child is confirmation of the trust God has in us and, as any mother or father will tell, this scrap of humanity is open to an eternal range of awesome possibilities." (MPC)
It took me many years to understand that. Born at the end of WWII, growing up during the Cold War and living with the constant fear of nuclear war, I agreed with many of my generation that it would be wrong to bring children into this world. Then, eventually, Kahlil Gibran became more popular than Sylvia Plath and we all decided to leave the peace camps, get married and settle down, because life, after all, was longing for itself. My faith developed over time, along with a strong sense of hope for the future.
Has the faith dimension made any difference to my parenting or the value I put on life? Having brought up two children with my 'rationalist heathen' husband, I would say that it hasn't. He believes that the only purpose in life is life itself, I see this life as being a part or glimpse of something greater; those very different beliefs have led us to the same conclusion: that life is precious. We have always agreed on what we wanted for our children and on how to bring them up.
I know quite a lot of childless people of my age. Several friends from my student days never became sufficiently reconciled with the world to bring children into it; several have been unable to have children and yet another group have chosen to be priests or religious and to live celibate lives. It has been interesting and sometimes painful to see what being childless has meant in their lives; whatever their circumstances, I think each of them has had to deal with some degree of regret and a sense of loss, especially at times when their friends or siblings were having babies. They are going through a second period of loss now, knowing they will not be grandparents.
Whether it is God's purpose or life's own longing, it seems obvious, as we get older, that life has more meaning when it is passed on.