This section is from the book "Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties", by Marie Carmichael Stopes. Also available from Amazon: Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties.
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 g'enerally (though perhaps not always) wise thoroughly to establish their relation to each other before introducing the inevitable dislocation and readjustment necessitated by the wife's preenancv 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 English-speaking people: and in our present society there is little doubt that the early birth of a child demands much self-sacrifice and 'stelf-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 child 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 50 repugnant 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 or 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 desired 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 experienced 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 anything 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 experiences, 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 innumerable 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 experience 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. 115.)
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 irritability 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 understands, 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.