Monday, March 12, 2012

Family Size does NOT Equal Birth Control Usage

- I know someone who, married for over ten years, has never become pregnant and has never used any birth control
- I know someone who had six children and used artificial birth control between pregnancies to space the children.
- I know someone who had biological children, got sterilized, later regretted the decision and went on to adopt multiple children. 
- I know a young woman who suffered a stroke from using the pill  for her acne.

 not cool- but many people think "one kid= she's using artificial birth control"

- I know someone married for six or so years who has two children. She doesn't use anything artificial. 
- I know someone married thirty years who has one child. She never used artificial birth control or even NFP to 'space' while waiting for another child.
- Years ago, three of my teaching colleagues discussed their husbands' vasectomies in the coffee room (classy, no?). My colleagues had four children between the three of them. One husband became impotent after the surgery and the two others had urinary problems.
-I have 'only' four children (along with a baby miscarried at 20 weeks) and have never used artificial birth control.



- In my tiny little 'Catholic bubble,' there are married women with no children, one or two children, and up to ten children. They don't use any artificial birth control. Some use NFP to space; some use it to conceive. A few women might be 'Providentialists' and disagree with using NFP for anything but the most grave and serious reasons. But nature and nursing usually keeps even their family sizes to eight or less children. 


Assuming anything when one looks at the family size can be very hurtful. I think every woman has a story- infertility, medical problems, high-fertility, miscarriage, abortion, crisis pregnancy. I can't really think of any woman who doesn't have one kind of issue or another when it comes to baby-making. This is part of our cross as women. In the blogosphere, there are many places for support for infertile Catholic women who are trying to conceive through natural means. They are such heroes to me! The non-infertile blogger Leila has a really great blog list of her infertile Catholic friends- look to the right and start clicking for many, many stories of faithful women who would love to have their first or second (because of secondary infertility) child. There are also many beautiful stories of finding a child through domestic and international adoption. But my point is- unlike the evil comic above, don't assume someone is using artifical birth control. If she is a friend, let her share her story.


“The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal.” said C.S. Lewis. Babies are just about the most wonderful thing on earth, but they don't come without complications. The sword that pierced Mary's heart is also for all mothers and women. So if someone tells you that their one girl-one boy-family is 'perfect' and 'they're done'- you know. If someone is out and announcing how proud she is about 'fixing' her husband, you know. If you are especially close to someone, you might be comfortable asking why she has 'only' one child. Perhaps she is amazed that she was able to have the one child with all her medical complications. And sadly, you can't assume about that family down the street with twelve children. We might think- they are so open to life! But what is sometimes true is a 'quiver-full' mentality where the babies are purposely nursed for less than three months so the mother will get her fertility back so the next arrow in the husband's quiver can be conceived.


“To love at all (or to be a parent or even try to be a parent for even in the openness and desire for parenthood this comes about- P's W) is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” (C.S. Lewis again)...this is all about prayer and making a world where children are seen as gifts. It is about strong, non-abusive marriages. It is about self-esteem for girls (does a girl really need to have sex when she is 15?) and women. It is about decent economic and education policies. It is about a peaceful world where a woman can have some confidence that her child can grow up safe. It's complicated, yes, but it is not all about that Pill.

37 comments:

  1. This is beautiful! I was intrigued when I saw the title of your post in your comment at Conversion Diary and I'm so glad I came over to read this.

    My now-infertile, once-upon-a-time contracepting self who constantly feels judged when asked "do you have children" (intended or not) needed this today. Thank-you.

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  2. Rebecca- I clicked over to your site- what a beautiful wedding dress!

    try not to feel judged if someone asks you if you have kids- everybody's curious. But if the follow up question is rude....well...I would probably yell at them a bit, but that isn't charitable! It is a huge cross. I could give more specific examples of the IF couples I know but I have to respect their privacy...but writing this blog post I realize I personally know about 4 more good Catholic couples who aren't having babies :( Life isn't fair

    To stay pregnant with my last two babies (after a late miscarriage), I used heparin and progesterone at about day 7- I think lack of progesterone is hurting a lot of women.

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  3. Thank-you! I loved my dress and have a special plan for it (the bottom of it anyway)...I just need a son or daughter first...

    I think it would be more accurate to say I feel judged by the facial expressions I get when I give my answer of "none yet"...though, yes, sometimes the follow-ups are quite awful. Usually I just bite my tongute (literally) and try to smile through it. Though if they could read my mind...

    Yes, lack of prgesterone is one of my "issues" - and I hear it in so many others as well.

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  4. "So when are you going to start a family?" (You mean my husband and I and our cats aren't a family? SHOCKER!!!!)

    "Oh... you look so natural holding that baby!" (Good. I'd hate to drop the kid.)

    "Are you pregnant?" (No. Are you asking because you think I'm fat?!?!?!?!?!)

    "When are you planning on kids?"
    "Eventually."
    "Eventually when?" (When I can keep from sucker-punching people like you for refusing to stop asking me?)

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    1. "So when are you going to start a family?" - my absolute, #1, least favorite question of ALL time...even before we were IF. We are a family, of 2 humans, 2 canines, and 1 feline, thankyouverymuch!

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  5. jen- my policy is someone can ask once (like the kids can ask once at target- bu they have to accept my "no")---then it is just annoying. Baby-making discussions should be for only the closest friends

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  6. YES, YES, AND YES! I always expected that I would have many children. I miscarried two and have one living child. I love her to pieces and, considering how I ended up a single mom, I am grateful that I have one. I have never used any artificial birth control ever. Thank God!

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  7. We have six children and people have hinted many times that we must be using bc. I've had to point out that I didn't marry until I was 26 and that I had to use NFP to get pregnant with the last few. I feel ashamed at not having more children, but I'm also thankful that I don't have to deal with prideful thoughts over having more kids than most others ;) It's a no win situation.

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  8. In need of grace- who knows? maybe you will have lots of grandchildren! I don't know if we are called to adopt- I actually don't think so, but we are called to support crisis pregnancy centers and orphanages- so this is part of my Lenten almsgiving

    anonymous- aaaarrrrgh- six is a lot! Big, but not totally crazy ;) what is important is that we are open to life and also that we don't covet what others have (which is probably really really hard for an infertile couple)- so that OTHER irritating question- when you are home with a week old infant "Are you done yet?" ummmm- YES! Today my family is perfect! This baby still has her umbilical stump- Get back to me a bit later

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  9. Thanks for the post; you did the topic justice. We are infertile, and have had the rudest, most insensitive comments from friends in the parish. People assume that everyone has an easy time conceiving if they try hard enough, relax enough, or don't have a history of STD's. Not true.

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  10. kathy- I am so sorry that you have been going through this. I think the rude people just assume because it seems (through false media reports like "98% of Catholic women use artificial birth control") like everyone is saying no to life

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    1. Thanks for noting the false media report re 98% ........ For many reasons, the 98% is totally misleading to say the least. Those media folk sure are "tricky".

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  11. loved the quiverfull comment. I also know a woman personally who had ten children, then had her tubes tied. Many, many stories! I will never be ashamed of my family size-- because it has nothing to do with the heart of the matter. It bothered me when Simcha Fisher once said that since she has nine kids it's obvious what her stance on birth control is... no it doesn't!! Isn't NFP more reliable than artificial birth control?? Interesting topic!

    Faith

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  12. I have had 2 children in 5 years of marriage. I guess this makes me a contraception suspect to some and one of those irresponsible Catholics who couldn't be bothered to wait even a full year to get pregnant to others. Oh, well.

    What does bother me is when people judge me on the number of children my parents had. Just because I'm one of two does not mean that I was lying when I said I was homeschooled for religious reasons K-12 or when I said my family attended the Traditional Latin Mass. It doesn't even mean that my parents used artificial birth control or sterilization. It just means that they were blessed with two children and even if they had been using artificial birth control, that doesn't mean I believe that it's OK to do so.

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  13. Yes, to everything you've said.

    I am one of two children and it took eight years for my mother to have us -- four years to get pregnant for each of us. She had fertility-increasing shots for my younger sibling (I'm not sure what kind, but I know they were licit). We were usually the only children in our parochial school classes without multiple siblings.

    I had a miscarriage at nineteen and took years before I could discuss it.

    From the outside, no one would know what has gone on in our lives. Why do people think they could?

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  14. I will have been married 6 years in June and I have two kids. We use NFP. We actually had the girls within the first 2.5 years of our marriage, and then got somewhat more skilled at using NFP!

    Our plan was to cease avoiding pregnancy last June, which, given my prior history, would almost certainly have ended up with me pregnant by now. However, on May 23, my husband was laid off. He has a new job, thank God, but we cannot afford the family health insurance plan through his employer, which costs $1200/month. I juggle three part-time jobs, we have a mortgage on our old house that has been on the market for nearly a year, and rent on the apartment in the new city we moved to so he could take the job. I buy private health insurance for me and the kids, and I can't find any policy that will cover pregnancy (if anyone knows of any, let me know - $300/mo is about the limit of what I can afford).

    I'm sure that our family, who always thought we were silly to try NFP, probably thinks we have "wised up" and gone on the pill. I have one other friend that uses NFP, but in general, I don't know anyone else outside of the internet that is a very orthodox Catholic trying to adhere to Humane Vitae, so I doubt anyone is really judging me. But our situation has caused me to try to stop judging others a little bit. I don't believe in the mainstream "don't judge" mentality - if I know for sure of a Catholic couple using birth control as birth control (not talking about the acne or other cases), I judge that as wrong. But the truth is, you don't usually know for sure, and other people could be in a situation just like mine.

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  15. It is so hard to realize that my idea of what my family would look like might not be God's idea. I honestly thought that because my mother gets pregnant so easily, that I would too. I thought maybe I'd be that person the NFP doesn't work for, and I was ok with that. Knowing what I know now about my charts, it's hard not to covet my friend's babies - the ones conceived intentionally, and the ones who were happy surprises.

    http://thealluringworld.blogspot.com/2012/03/my-very-own-idol.html

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  16. Julia- maybe you should look for just one half-time job just for the decent insurance! Something working for 'the man' like at a community college- but in the meantime...you have real financial struggles. I hope baby #3 can come along when there is less stress, but I think your attitude is on track.

    Kayla- I read that post of yours. Isn't it funny that wanting life can become an idol- it is such a difficult balance because for some women becoming pregnancy is quite complicated (Like with naPro technology) so having a baby is really an intentional thing. I was on progesterone and heparin the first week with my last two. I say- just give this 'idol' of yours to God. Already, you are putting so much trust in his hands because you aren't using IVF or surrogacy like the rest of the world might. I would say that your adherence to natural law is very pleasing to God, so don't worry too much about the rest of it

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    1. I wish! I worked at a (Catholic) university in my last city, 21/hrs a week for 4 years, and was not eligible for insurance. I searched for full-time jobs that entire time. I really feel fortunate now to have been on my husband's insurance when we had the girls - I completely took that for granted at the time, never in my life being underinsured until now.

      What frustrates me more than anything now is the cost of my husband's insurance. As I know I've mentioned before, he is the full-time director of music at our church. It seems difficult to believe that the Catholic Church, encouraging its members to accept children sent to them by God, cannot do more to help facilitate that. Of course, insurance for church employees of any kind might soon be going out the window altogether! The diocese offers insurance as a whole, not just the parish. They must have some non-Catholic employees, so they won't be exempt from the HHS mandate.

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    2. Well, if they are self insured, you're okay, since they just mentioned an exemption for that. Our insurance is pricey as well, and doesn't even cover our births since we choose midwifery care. For the longest time we chose to be w/out insurance since the $500.00 a month was better spent elsewhere.

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  17. One of my friends (a Catholic practicing the Church's teaching), was recently told (legitimately) by a medical professional that another pregnancy would be very risky and she should consider not having anymore. Another friend asked about it, another practicing Catholic, I explained the situation to her. Her response was interesting to me and worth sharing, "A lot of us assume, or fear, that God will ask us to have more children than we think we want. But very few of us consider that God may ask us to have fewer children than we think we want." It's hard to not only hear the Holy Spirit but desire and follow God's Providence for us.

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  18. For years we had only two, nicely-spaced children and I was SO humiliated! I so often wished I could wear a button proclaiming that we'd used NO BIRTH CONTROL - but really, not even any "natural family planning"! All the time I was PRAYING for more children, for a really large family. Well, God had a plan in mind, happily. (Adoption)

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  19. Renee- yup- a "No" or "wait" from God is hard.

    Annie- from reading your blog- you are such a SUPER MOM! I really wish artifical birth control didn't exist so that good moms who happen to have 2 nice kids wouldn't feel the way you felt...God was just spacing out His blessings

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  20. I too clicked over from your 7 quick takes, well said. We only have 3 children, and in some of our circles with deacon's families we are the smallest family around. I did not set out to have three children when we started. Three was my minimum, 4 or 5 was our optimum. But with NFP and extended breastfeeding and a husband's class schedule that had him away at my fertile time we never seemed to add to our family. Now it seems to fit. When we leave things up to God sometimes he knows better than we do. So glad you looked at things from all sides on this issue, as there are times I feel like we are the odd ones for having the small family. Even my kids would like to have more.

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  21. This was just what I needed. Not what I wanted by any stretch of the imagination. But what I needed. Thank you.

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  22. GeekLady- happy to be of 'service'- and your boy is so sweet!

    Monica- Thanks

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  23. This is so beautifully written! I think I am going to share it for all my friends to read on FB. My heart really goes out to all of you ladies. It is so true, and I think that as a mom, I've tried to make my philosophy about most anything in life you really have no idea what anyone else is going through. I've learned one too many times, you seriously don't! My husband and I have 2 little boys. The first one born 11 months after our marriage and the second one 13 months later. I, for some reason always feel the need to emphasize that yes, the second one was PLANNED. I suppose that is because my side of our family thinks we are crazy for using NFP!

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  24. Just a clarification: Many (most) women who call themselves quiver-full families are what you referred to as providentialist (new term to this qf mom) and realize the issue is not to have as many as possible. I don't know of any (and I know many qf families) who race to get pregnant again. I'm not saying there isn't a radical fringe who do this, but it would likely be the rare exception in the qf camp. Most of us applaud God's design of the typical infertility during exclusive breastfeeding!

    --NonCatholic mom of eleven spaced over twenty years

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  25. Yikers, the snarking of like-minded Catholics boggles my mind! Look, God blessed me with the children I have. He trusts me to do my best with them. So why don't all the rest of us give that small blessing to each other? You trust me to live my life/raise my kids ('cause God does), and I'll do you the same small favor. Deal?

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  26. anonymous on March 17th- thanks for the comment- yes, every movement has an even more radical side.

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  27. Movie girl- luckily, all the commenters here seem to be very charitable- whether they have had many, a few or no children. I think the 'snarking' or quiet judgement or assumptions come from the hurt that many feel and the widespread use of ABC. The media makes it seem like 'everyone' is doing it- so many women want to defend themselves and say I'm not using drugs!

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  28. I've thought these things often. When my husband and I got married, so many people came up to us - when we'd been married for only a few months! - encouraging us to be open to life, telling us that having children right away is a blessing. I had to choke back tears, because we'd been trying since our wedding night and doctors already warned me it might be a while before we'd conceive with my condition! It was the worst when they kept saying it, after we'd had a miscarriage. They just assumed we weren't living church teaching.

    Now that we have conceived (glory to God!!) and everything seems to be going well, I can tell the same old biddies want to ask if this was "planned." I mean, if we'd wanted kids right away, wouldn't we have just gone for it instead of waiting EIGHT WHOLE MONTHS into marriage!?! I know people want to ask but I just keep telling them we're very happy. They have no idea that we were praying for this baby (and the one we lost) while we were engaged, begging God for the blessing of many children. You really don't know a person's heart...

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  29. Martha- positive pg vibes to you! Just imagine what Mary the Mother of God went through in her little town- no wonder they went to Egypt ;)

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  30. A Hearty hello to all of you ... I am a single of 62, childless and pro-life !
    I greatly needed to hear all of you, what you live, your feelings. Where I live, people are not generally concerned with pro-life issues. The policy is one of SILENCE.
    So it was great to hear what you all are living, your struggles. It will also help me not to judge or assume anything concerning couple`s lives and choices in street work.

    Thanks so much !
    Rose-Marie

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  31. The gossip and backbiting and conclusion-jumping on this very personal topic really is scandalous. You've hit the point perfectly just in your bullet points. We can't know anyone else's story; that's why God is our judge. I make a point to never assume anything about my Catholic (or nonCatholic) friends who've been blessed with only two (or three or four) beautiful children. I just ask that others (Catholic and nonCatholic) don't jump to conclusions about me and my eleven beautiful children.

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thoughtful comments are welcome to the conversation! (moderation on posts older than a week...)

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