Every woman dreams about a good and happy family. But are we always ready for the problems that might arise? In the modern world, even the conception and birth of a child may turn out to be a serious problem…
The Centre for Support of Families and Mothers “Matulia” provides assistance to every pregnant woman in times of despair when no one else supports her. The head of this centre, Matushka Vera Serdyuk, told us about the problems that young families and pregnant women have to face, provided an insight into the history of the centre and gave her own definition of the term “an Orthodox priest’s wife of today.”
On the Idea to Establish the Centre and the Stereotypes of the Modern Society
By establishing the centre “Matulia”, I helped myself. I was in a severe crisis after I had given birth to a child, I was simply shattered by that drastic change of my entire life. I was looking for somewhere I could get understanding and support. I did not find such a place so I had to establish one. “Matulia” does not only help the pregnant women get over their crises, we do not only distribute baby carts and beds, nor do we only explain that one should protect her child and not murder him/her. Well, all this is a part of our ministry but our goal encompasses much more: we would like to help re-create the culture of maternal love and care, and assist women who are willing to implement this culture in their lives.
I did not avoid the temptation of trying to squeeze mothers into the totally artificial schemes of success stories, with constant demonstration of love and affection towards their children. When such a perfectionist-type mother faces the harsh reality and figures out that she is not as loving and tender as she used to imagine, she often becomes disappointed. There are some women who are simply unable to take care of their newborn babies (such as, for instance, mothers who suffer from neurosis or schizophrenia). Such women need support of their families, they need enough sleep and might even consider stopping of breastfeeding.
For some reason, our society thinks that “motherhood is holy” but nobody thinks that father-hood or brother-hood or grandmother-hood is holy. As if a woman automatically becomes a saint as soon as she gives birth to a baby. This is a grave mistake. Women look for that alleged “holiness” and that immense love towards children within their hearts – and they cannot find it, and they are upset. Nobody tells them that love is not always comfortable, that children are not flowers or angels but a thorny path instead. See what Apostle Paul says about motherhood, “she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (1 Tim. 2:15). Some scholars interpret this as “notwithstanding her childbearing” rather than “thanks to childbearing”. The most important is the second part of this verse about faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
At the same time, our society has unnecessarily high expectations on the material well-being of the family which plans to have a baby. Women often choose abortion because, “I’ll be unable to provide higher education for my child when s/he is 17,” or, “… I want my child to have cool toys and eat bananas every day but now I cannot afford that.” People are afraid to have children because they fear poverty. The would-be mothers are afraid that they will be abandoned by their boyfriends/bridegrooms/husbands. We teach them how to spare and distribute means and resources, and how to strengthen their relationships with their husbands. Sometimes they succeed. The problem is that in the majority of the cases, we work with women who are passive and weak, irresponsible or co-dependent. Such women need to be inspired to believe that their own strength and their own choices do matter, and that they are capable of choosing their own life and bearing the burden of motherhood.
As far as planning and management of workforce is concerned, our centre has almost absolute self-organisation. Every volunteer usually has his or her own vision of what is to be done. Some pray, some provide advice to the pregnant women, some print posters and brochures and distribute them in clinics, some sort and pack humanitarian aid for the mothers, and some deliver this aid to their homes.
Our volunteers are remarkable people! They are very successful in their professional fields and at the same time eager to help rescue the lives of the unborn kids. I am fond of our counsellors because they have managed not only to help many pregnant women but also to find mutual understanding with the medical staff, which is a difficult task. Some of our volunteers are truly irreplaceable as lecturers, or comforters, or organisers. For example, when I was thinking how to provide all prenatal clinics with brochures and booklets, one volunteer typeset and printed it, then drove to each of the thirty-three clinics and finally found helpers to restore the supply of the booklets when the clinics run out of them. Our volunteers also created a handout with prayers “For the Life’s Sake” for reading of the Incessant Psalter; our psychologists created a study course for counsellors and teach them during seminars. All this is possible because we do it for God’s sake. “Deliver them that are led to death: and those that are drawn to death forbear not to deliver.” (Prov. 24:11). There’s a war going on for our souls and the souls of our kids, for the survival of our country and our faith. I am glad that more and more people come to realise that.
Material Help and Seminars for Young Parents
Material assistance is not the most important thing that we do, it is just sort of a bonus to the feeling that all problems may be resolved (even though the entire ‘crisis apartment’ is packed with that material aid). The crisis apartment is a small shelter where a mother can stay for some time if she has nowhere to go – and we have already encountered cases like that!
We also have the warehouse of humanitarian aid and print handouts there. By the way, sometimes we encounter women who think that we owe them something. Once we received a call from a young mother who said, “So what? You convinced me not to make abortion but now, who’s going to help me?” “What do you need?” “I need a baby cart, but it must be new so that I would not be ashamed of riding it…”
However, most of the women we care for are simply very unhappy and weak. If we had a patriarchal society where women are surrounded with men’s care and protection, where every pregnancy is a joyful event (because each child is a member of a clan), where a new mother is never left alone without love and care, would we ever have such problems with demography?
This is why the most important point that we always try to get across to the youth: “You guys ought to be real men, you should not allow anyone to harm your woman and your child, you should never abandon them,” and as far as girls are concerned, we always speak about chastity, moral purity and the dignity of a woman. And only in the second place we speak about demographic gap and that it is normal to have many children.
By the way, there is nothing more dangerous for the pro-life worldview than the stereotype that a ‘normal’ family must have no more than two kids. Neither young families, nor their parents are ready to embrace the fact that a physically fit couple can give birth to more than two children. Adolescents do not readily accept the fact that “children are a natural and expected result of a sexual intercourse.” There is a split in the perception of love, loyalty, childbirth, and sexual relations. For modern people, sexual intercourse is possible even outside of the bonds of marriage (fornication), a child may be born without a father, or even without a mother and without sexual intercourse (in vitro fertilization and surrogacy). We aim at re-uniting these concepts and reminding the society about God’s plan for families, children and love.
We suggest an alternative to the IVF (which is, incidentally, unacceptable from the point of view of the Christian faith because it involves murder of several brothers and sisters of the new baby) for low-fertility couple: a method of pregnancy identification which is 88 per cent effective, according not only to our observations but also to the WHO data!
We also tell our audience about the family hierarchy, about the right place for the husband, the wife and the children according to the teaching of the Church, about God’s commandments with regard to parenthood.
It is forbidden to speak openly about God’s commandments in public schools. This is why we have designed a study plan “Secrets of a Happy Family” with an emphasis on the traditional Belarusian culture where there is plenty of sayings and fairy tales about respect to one’s parents, obedience to one’s husband and premarital chastity. The problem is that teenagers often reject it because they have already been brainwashed, not only by aggressive mass media but also by their own parents. The majority of family scenarios include emphasis on money, on “having fun while you’re single” (forgetting about one’s responsibility for the conceived child), on “there’s going to be many boyfriends/girlfriends like him/her” (instead of faithfulness and chastity), on “all women make abortions, and you’re no exception” (no comments!) and “if you are pregnant, I’ll kill you” or “our sonny is good, it’s your girl who is immoral, and it’s not his child, after all.” We have to do something about it. Girls often come to our volunteers after the lectures and say that the volunteers of Matulia were the first adults who told them about chastity and loyalty as the rule and an essential condition of a happy marriage.