Let's talk about family planning.

3:55 PM

I'm guessing you clicked over to read this just because of the title.

   It probably elicited a little gasp and your hand fluttered to your pearls thinking "Goodness gracious me, what IS she going to say now?!"  So don't worry darlin', I'm keeping this G-rated.  I'm not here today to talk about actual forms of birth control or anything like that.  Quite the contrary.  I'm here to have an open discussion about the TOPIC of family planning, and why it's so taboo in the first place.

   Growing up, this was not a topic open for discussion.  Even when I was engaged and planning my wedding and would soon be starting a family of my own, this was not a topic that my mom, or my aunts, or my sister took me aside to give some advice about.  Frankly, this a topic that nobody really seems to want to talk about at all.

   I wish more women would talk about it because I would love to know what this decision process looks like for other Christian families.  I would love to know if, how, when, and why you decide you are "done" having kids, and what that looks like for other couples.  And so if you're one of those rare people, shoot me an email!

    But no one talks about this.  Everyone leaves it fairly vague and open, as if they will just go on having kids forever, and it isn't until their youngest is about 14 that you think, "Ok, I guess they're probably done".  I've received comments on my Instagram from other young moms mentioning how they want 6 children, or some other number, or sometimes just that they want to have "all the babies".  I just smile, remembering when I too was young, a new mom just starting out on my family, and my thoughts were quite similar to theirs.

But I don't think that anymore.

   And perhaps a part of the reason of my change of mind is due to the reality of the daily care and responsibilities that 3 (soon to be four) children require, and the extent of my own limitations.  And while we all want to pretend that we're superhuman and never want to admit that, it's true.  And I don't think that admitting that is altogether a bad thing, but I also think that there's much more to it than that.  The main reason I don't think that anymore is because I have come to realize just how pointless it really is to think of children and family planning in terms of "a number" at all.

It is just really not in our control.

   There are surprise pregnancies and there are miscarriages.  There is infertility and there are twins.  There are spouses who don't want anymore, and spouses who want a lot more than you do.  There are health issues, a specific calling from God in a different direction, or 1,000 other reasons that no one on the outside can see, that go into a couple's decision to have more kids, or to not.  And I just wish people would share about their journeys, so that we could all gather wisdom and advice to help us in our own!

   And somehow, in spite of knowing that there are so many variables out of our control, "family size" remains an easy target for judgement and our estimation of a person's value.
"I wonder when so-and-so will have children. They've been married for a few years now."
"I wonder if she's going to have any more, she only has 2!"
"Did you see that one mom?!  She has 6 kids and still looks great!  And she gardens and cooks and homeschools her kids.  She is SO AMAZING.  I have no idea how she does it."
"Can you believe they have 10 kids? Goodness, as if the world isn't already over-populated."

  And we throw these comments around as if a mother of 2, or 3, or 4, isn't amazing or worthy of admiration at all, because, I mean, she only as a few kids.  What's there to admire? Or somehow, 6 is idyllic but 10 is just TOO much.  Or as if the only obstacle to getting pregnant the first, second, or third times is selfishness, and those couples just need to get over it and have a kid already.  When really, we cannot even begin to see what is going on in their personal lives.  So what would ever give us the right to think we could ever know what's best for them?

   I think a large part of the "family size judgment" is a reaction to the counter-culture movement towards big families that has been so popular lately.  At one time, the culture upheld a 2.5 kid-family as the basic American standard.  But those statistics always amuse me, because I have never once encountered anything even remotely resembling a pressure to have a small family.  I have only ever felt pressure to have a big family.  And we assign a sort of almost spirituality to big families, thinking that the women that are the strongest, most selfless, and most saint-like will have 6+ kids.  Anything less and you're just....well....less of a mom.

   And I think it needs to stop.  A woman's worth is not dependent on the number of offspring she produces.  She is as much of a mother with one as she is with 13.  And if you have a personal preference, that's fine!  That's great if you want to have a baker's dozen.  But you need to be careful to not make everyone else with less, feel inferior.  And we need to be especially careful not to pass careless judgment or make comments because we can never know all of the factors that are figuring into the equation for that couple.  Maybe they "only" have two because of miscarriages.  And while we're at it, let's stop saying "only" as a prefix to a number of children.  Only two.  Only three.  It's silly!  And maybe they have 10 because they wanted to, and were able to.  It doesn't matter.  It's not our place to judge.

   I'm not even sure what exactly has brought all of this to the forefront of my mind, but it's so interesting to me how I never even thought about this with my first pregnancy, or even my second.  It just wasn't even on my radar.  I was young, starting out, and the pregnancy and baby stage stretched on in front of me in a seemingly endless line into a tiny speck on the horizon of my future.  I was going to be doing this forever.  I was going to have "all the babies".

   But then I find myself here, 30 years old and pregnant with my fourth, and it's suddenly hitting me like a ton of bricks that I am NOT going to be doing this forever.  For all I know, this may be my last time.  And suddenly the end of an era has never seemed more bittersweet.  I don't know whether to enjoy every moment to the fullest or weep and wail at every new milestone.  I don't even know what I want.  Do I want to be done?  Do I want several more?  And I don't even know how to figure it out, because no one has shown me how.  I am currently praying about it, because I at least know one thing, that God will not call Randy and I to different things.  We are one, and so He will call us to the same thing.  And so I will just continue to pray for that confirmation.

   I heard a mother of grown children say one time, "It's really a beautiful thing to reach a place when you realize, THIS is my family.  We're all here.  And then you can just pour into them all and really focus your energies on the next stage."  And you know, it's sad to me, but that was the FIRST TIME I had ever heard anything positive about being done having children.  It opened my eyes to a whole new world where one could be done having babies, yet still intentional and focused on their children and intent on investing into their lives.  It was so beautiful.  And I don't know why we can't talk like that more.

  But in the meantime, let's be careful about how we talk about our "plans" as if we can actually PLAN something as miraculous as a family.  Each and every life is a total miracle and a gift, and the thought that we can schedule it on the calendar like we do our weekly grocery run is just a little ridiculous.

   But it's a free country! So go ahead, make your plans.  I will continue to go on without a number set in stone, (I've never really had one) and try to keep an open mind to whatever God has for me.  Whether that's being done after this one (as hard as that would be) or a couple more.  I will try to keep an open ear and heart to His will.

After all, it's not really in my control anyway.

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