Just after you have a baby people ask all sorts of interesting questions. Questions about pooping and labor and the details of breastfeeding. By and large, however, one of the most common questions I field is, “So, are you guys going to have more kids?”
I laugh when asked this question. (well, in those first days I probably cried) I just endured/survived 9 months of sickness, hormones and stretching. Then I went through horrible pain during delivery and now I’m not sleeping. GIVE ME SOME TIME TO DEAL WITH THIS, PLEASE!
But this question, are you going to have more kids, is something my husband and I are thinking about.
And the answer is maybe–hopefully. Let’s wait and see.
Depending on the crowd I’m with this answer can seem strange, strange that we don’t have a plan for how many kids we want…or even a plan for the space we’d like between kids. We practice NFP. The “plan”, if you want to call it a plan, is to avoid for a while, if it feels right. We have several months of breastfeeding infertility to keep talking, thinking and praying about this, but yes, we do hope to have more kids. We currently have 3 kids, each 18 months apart, and although I spend some days going from one crying kid to another, we love our lives and feel blessed–and that blessing is thanks to the kids we have. We won’t turn our backs on more blessings.
I’ve spent a little bit of time reflecting on this choice–the choice to be open to life, open to a big family–and I think I can best explain this choice with these 3 facts:
1. I’m in love with the miracle of life
My husband and I got married in our late 20’s and hit ground running. We had a 3 month old baby on our first anniversary…another one 18 months later and another one 18 months after that. At the end of this month we will be celebrating our 4th anniversary with 3 kids.
Shortly after my daughter was born (#2) my husband said something that was profoundly true for both of us. We now had a boy and a girl. He was cradling our daughter in his arms and he said, “I would be so sad if I knew that this was the last baby we’d have.”
I feel the same way.
It is such a profound miracle–the conception of a baby, the pregnancy, the delivery… the whole process of welcoming a new human being into the world. My first weeks with my infants I can’t help but look at them and wonder, where did you come from? How are you possible? Even during pregnancy, each time I feel that baby kick or squirm I am humbled by the miracle I am part of.
I’m in love with this miracle of life. They way they change and learn and grow–it’s all a miracle.
So, yes, yes, I want to have more children. That’s the thing about miracles, they’re sort of like potato chips. Once you know how good they are, you are always going to want another. And another. And another.
2. I (really) have no idea what is good for me
I am so happily in love with my husband, but he is not the type of guy I thought I’d end up with. In fact I knew him a full year before I even considered dating him…he just isn’t want I thought I needed. Turns out he’s exactly what I needed, I’m just clueless.
The same is true with our family size. Despite this choice to be open to life I still catch myself thinking, I would love to just hurry up and get done having kids so that I can get back to MY life, get onto accomplishing MY goals. Once I don’t have these kids in my hair I can get this done, do that, have time for all of this…
You see, what I love above all other things is the ability to get things done–to check things off of the ole’ to-do list. I think I might be addicted to checking things off the list. But, my kids are always getting in the way of me accomplishing anything.
I get frustrated, but then the baby cries and I’m forced to pull myself away from the computer and sit down to nurse him. During those quiet moments, when the older two are sleeping and I’m rocking with a nursing baby, during those moments I can feel the hand of God on my shoulder. I can feel my feet touch ground and I just want to bask in the joy that is oh so real. In those moments the unfinished projects, the dirty house, none of those things matter. In those moments I actually KNOW what matters. I actually KNOW what will really make me happy.
Turns out that if left to my own devices and desires I’d end up chasing things that would leave me unhappy, unfulfilled and alone. Happiness and joy–I know these things when I see my kids dancing together, as I stand over a sink full of dirty dishes following a great family meal, when all three kids want to climb up on my lap at the same time… I know joy when I am accomplishing nothing.
Turns out that happiness is found through my children. Wanting to get this chapter of diapers and nursing and tantrums closed already so that I can focus on myself is probably not the surest path to happiness (or holiness).
3. The Gift of Siblings
I grew up in a family of 7–3 sister and 1 brother. Although not big by some standards, I loved the fact that my family was bigger than most. When I went off to school I already had friends there–my sisters. In the evenings we would all sit around the dinning room table and do homework together. We were on the swim team together. When we got older we were roommates, and travel companions and bridesmaids for each other.
Simply, my siblings are my best friends.
It was a sacrifice for my parents to have 5 kids, I’m sure. We didn’t have a lot of things that other kids had in terms of clothes and toys. I drove a aqua Astro Van to school and was always on the hook for picking up or dropping off this sibling or that. But I knew that my parents had as many kids as they could–and that is the greatest gift that they ever gave us.
This idea–that siblings are the greatest gift I can give my kids–is reinforced every time I see my kids play together. They certainly fight, but they also love each other.
I want my kids to be challenged and loved and molded in a way that only a sibling (or lots of siblings) can. Sure, kids are expensive, but I would rather cut back on all the STUFF and instead have a house full of kids.
And so there you have it. We are Catholic and we do embrace the teaching of the church on contraception–but our choice to be open to life, to welcome more children, is so much richer than just obedience.