Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thy Will Be Done

Welcome to the first Family Size Blog Carnival!
This post was written for inclusion in the Family Size Blog Carnival hosted by Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling and Patti at Jazzy Mama. Today our participants share their decisions on family size and whether or not to grow their families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
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When Patti asked me if I would be writing for this carnival, I replied, "I am definitely going to submit something for this one! The hard part is deciding what aspect and writing in such a way that I am not dismissed as a Catholic freak."

Family size isn't a big deal to me. I think a family with one child can be loving and complete, just as a family with a dozen children can be. Every family is unique and the birth of a child will change family dynamics, bringing new joys and challenges. I wouldn't presume to say a family had too many or not enough children.

My mom with 7 of her 8 siblings at my cousin's wedding.

What does matter to me is how family size is determined. My understanding of human sexuality is that conjugal love is expressed through the covenant act of marriage, which is intercourse. Sex is sacred and designed to be life-giving. The gift of life comes from Love. That's why Catholics oppose artificial contraception. (And, incidentally, why Natural Family Planning is not just an alternative form of contraception. Click here to read my journey from NFP to control free!)

Part of a Catholic marriage is vowing to be open to children. This means every sexual act is to be open to children. After all, our other vows weren't meant to be applied sporadically! "Hey, you know how I promised to be faithful to only you? Well, I didn't mean every day." :-) It's about trust. It's about surrender. It's not about convenience.

I try not to visibly wince when people say they've decided to be done having children. Intellectually, I know that others don't see sexuality the way I do, but emotionally and spiritually, it's a hot-button issue for me. I wish I could craft such a blog post that all you who read it would jump up and say, "That's right! That's how God created us to be! Honey, throw out the condoms!"

For me, the answer to all questions regarding family size and sibling spacing is simple: God's will be done. Maybe that seems naive. Maybe it seems irresponsible. Maybe I'm being dismissed as a Catholic freak after all. So be it. :-)

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Visit City Kids Homeschooling and Jazzy Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Family Size Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants below:
  • The Perfect Family The family at Living Peacefully With Children isn't perfect, but the size is just right for them...at least for now.
  • Family Size Carnival Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses how she loves the extremes of being happily child-free for life to being a mom of several. And on knowing when her family is just the right size.
  • Is Adoption for Me? Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares why she would consider adoption as the socially responsible way to have a large family.
  • Getting Used to Having Kids Lauren at Hobo Mama went from "probably one, maybe two" to wanting a handful, but not without some major struggles and soul searching along the way.
  • Magic Number For a while, Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales has wondered what the magic number will be for their family, but now thinks she's finally settled on an answer.
  • How Did You Get That Size Jorje explains how she "chose" her family size and why they aren't planning to grow again on Momma Jorje.com.
  • Family Size On A Per Kid Basis Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how plans change as families grow.
  • More Babies: How, When, Why Joella at Fine and Fair writes to her daughter about when, how, and why she might get a sibling.
  • Family Size Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares how she has no idea what size her family will end up being; though she used to be sure, a few factors have recently come up to change everything.
  • Thy Will Be Done CatholicMommy hasn't decided how many children she'll have. And she never will. Because, you know, she's Catholic.
  • Sanity and Health Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment talks about sanity and health considerations when deciding on her family's size.
  • Love Comes In All Sizes Melissa at White Noise and Mothers of Change shares her family's journey to becoming a family of six!
  • Family Size Liz at Homeschooling in Buffalo discusses how this carnival occurs less than two weeks after "closing up shop" by way of vasectomy.
  • Family Size Blog Carnival Billy, a single mother by choice, writes about the size of her family at My Pathway to Motherhood.
  • Creating Your Perfect Family Size Dr. Alan Singer shares insights from his new book, Creating Your Perfect Family Size.
  • Our Family Size You might not be surprised to learn that Patti at Jazzy Mama can't find any reasons NOT to have more babies.
  • Economics of Family Size Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling uses an economic cost-benefit analysis to determine her family's optimal size.

29 comments:

  1. Interesting post :) I can see your perspective clearly, and would love to feel that I could trust God to bless me with many children... but I genuinely don't think my mind or body could cope with it, nor my other half's.
    To me, it's not so simple... I want to be able to live a healthy life without risking serious health complications. And my cousin is done having children, as her serious heart condition means that if she were to get pregnant again she would have to either abort the baby, or almost certainly die herself. To her, it's not worth the risk.
    I don't think you're a 'Catholic freak' at all, but I do think it's important to recognise that some people have many other factors to consider when discussing the size of their family. If you're healthy and birth naturally, then great... but some cannot take that path.

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    1. That's a good point, Phoebe. When I hear, "We're done having children," I assume the subtext is, "so we're using contraceptives or sterilization." But I know that's not necessarily true; NFP or complete abstinence can achieve the same goal. Certainly the health of the mother and the family as a whole needs to be considered. Cases such as the ones you mentioned are the times when NFP can be morally used to avoid children. Thanks for pointing out my blind spot!

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  2. Thanks so much for participating in today's family size blog carnival! I love your perspective. While I am not Catholic, I can definitely appreciate the ideals of welcoming as many children into one's family as will come. I often feel like there may be other little "souls" waiting to join us, so we'll see....

    Thanks again for sharing!
    -Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling
    http://cityhomeschooling.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for coordinating this carnival. What a great theme!

      Yeah, my big question at this point is WHEN? Every month I wonder if this will be the one. Here's hoping! :-)

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  3. For me the BIG question is: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DRIVE? We got a Mazda5 when our 4th child was born. But it only holds 6 people, so we think our next car might be a Honda Pilot, which seats 8. But it's a gas-guzzler, so we're not sure. I definitely don't see us driving a bus! ;-)

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    1. I referred your question to my in-house auto expert. He said a Honda Odyssey that seats 8 and is fairly fuel efficient, comparable to most mid-size sedans. Either that or something like a Toyota Rav4 with a third row (which only seats small children, not adults!). But it's better on gas than pretty much any other car that seats 7 and is a bit cheaper.

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    2. Ideally, it'd be a Tesla Model X (all-electric car that seats 7, is projected to have about a 200 mile range, and goes 0-60 in less than 5 seconds)...but we don't have $60K+ to drop on a car.

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  4. Love this post. People always ask me how many I want and i could say how many i want but I have no idea how many the Lord will bless us with. However, my husband and I carefully discern when it would be right.
    Great post!

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    1. Thanks! Do you get a lot of weird looks with that? I always get all tongue-tied and red in the face when I have these conversations in real life. Which then makes it worse, because I wonder if they think I'm embarrassed about my choice rather than just being inarticulate. Sigh.

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  5. Hey Catholic Mommy! First let me say I don't think you are a 'freak' - you have your convictions and know why you believe them and aren't afraid to say it in an extremely loving and accepting way - something I've often noticed and appreciated about you. :)

    I do view birth control a little differently, in the theory that if God wanted to, He could easily work around it. ;)

    Ultimately though, I don't think you are being naive or irresponsible - if anything you sound fully prepared - and for any further children who may come to you, that's the best way to be. :)

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    1. Thank you thank you. I try so hard to speak truth without unnecessary offense... I'm glad I come across that way. I really appreciate you taking the time to comment and encourage me! It means a lot.

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  6. I find that in my "old age" I am more comfortable with acknowledging that each sexual act *could* result in a child... and be okay with that. I wonder, though, how do you feel about planning FOR a child, rather than planning NOT to reproduce? I've tried it once, if only for the novel experience. ;-)

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    1. Well, I was going to write this post soon anyway. Here you go! :-)

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  7. Not freaky at all! Very interesting actually, and thoughtful. your point of view is quite beautiful and full of faith. I admire it! =) Wonderful post!! And it outlined why Catholics have so many children; I always wondered what it was, exactly! Thank you, very well articulated and seriously a beautiful view of sexuality and love.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. I love how passionate you are about this topic, but wow, I am definitely not in the same place as you.. wish I was! Too much of a control freak / planner perhaps?

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    1. I still struggle with it, definitely. But having tried it, it was easier than I thought it would be. One day at a time, right?

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  9. Great post! I think it's awesome that you are putting the Catholic faith and openness to new life out there so boldly :)
    We had a c-section after a difficult labor with our first baby, so we've had to space pregnancies farther apart than we would have liked for my health(so we use NFP, like you mentioned to an earlier commenter who mentioned health issues), but we are still hoping God's plan is lots of kids for us!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement! May God bless you on your parenting journey, however it may unfold. :-)

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  10. Ha ha, well, I have a long history with a good Catholic friend trying to convince me to ditch birth control, so you can add your voice to the chorus. ;) To me, it ultimately comes down to a matter of belief. And I know you believe your beliefs are true, and I believe mine are, so we'll have to continue disagreeing. But I totally get where you're coming from, having done a lot of research on this topic to tease out just what I believe! I don't think you're a freak and am totally fine with your choice to give up choosing.

    Gosh, if I had done that, I'd have 13 kids by now. I got my cycles back at 3 months this time! What would I drive then? ;) Probably we'd stay home!!

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    1. Yes yes! It's so important in matters of belief to know our own, be open to exploring them when challenged, and be accepting of the people with whom we disagree. Glad to have an open, thoughtful mama such as yourself as part of my online community.

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  11. Wish birth control was an issue here, haha (I'm a single mum..)
    I so don't agree with you, but interesting to read this different point of view of yours!

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    1. *Grin* I thought of putting a similar comment on your post! "Well, I can't really say I agree with anything she wrote... maybe I just won't comment at all." But yes, interesting to read the thoughts of someone with such a different perspective! Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. What is your perspective when a women is on medications (like for seizures) that cause severe birth defects and NFP does not work because of infertility problems, like polycystic ovarian disease? It is difficult, but not impossible to conceive with polycystic ovarian disease. If a pregnancy did happen, the baby(if the pregnancy went full term) would have severe birth defects. Do you think it is moral to use contraceptives in situations like that?

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    1. I realize it would be very difficult to have a child with severe birth defects, but a severely disabled child is no less deserving of life and dignity than a typical child. That being said, if parents believed God was calling them not to have children at this time, abstinence is more morally acceptable (and effective) than contraceptives. Would it be difficult? Absolutely. But if this is truly God's will, we receive the grace to persevere.

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    2. I fully agree that a severely disabled child is just as deserving of love. Could you honestly say you and your husband would choose abstinence? If you were on a medicine that you could not go off because it would be life threatening to you and is known to cause severe birth defects (if the baby makes it full term), and you could not use NFP due to infertility problems, you (and your husband) would pick abstinence instead of contraceptives? I know this in not God's will for you, but put yourself in someone else's shoes for a minute. This has been an issue that has been prayed about extensively and discussed with members of the church, and the guidance I have received is to use the birth control. The birth control helps regulate my body too - due to the fertility issues, I have a higher risk of certain cancers. Women with the condition who take the birth control pill, lower their risk of certain cancers.

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    3. Would I choose abstinence over contraceptives if my goal was to avoid children, yes. Our experience, prayerful meditation, and research leave us no moral alternative. For us to do otherwise would violate our consciences.
      Now, if your goal was to improve your health, and birth control pills were the only means to that end, then it's a situation of "double effect." That is, a morally neutral action (taking medication) is done for a positive effect (improved health). It also has a negative effect (tampering with our sexuality), but this effect does not outweigh the positive and is not the intent of the action.

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  13. This is a great post. You are right that families with 1 child can be loving but it's WHO determines the size that matters. Wish I knew about the carnival. I would have had a post.

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    1. Thank you! You still could write a post on the topic. :-) If you leave a link here to it, I'll definitely read it!

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