Recently, an acquaintance on Facebook wrote something that struck me. Here is what he wrote (I have omitted any identifying information to protect his privacy):
“Dear Facebook World,
I have to admit something. The past nine months I’ve been scared. I’ve been scared to announce that my wife and I were pregnant with our 5th child. This fear wasn’t for health reasons, financial reasons, or any reason to that fact. The reason is due to fear of the perception that some people might have of having 5 children in today’s society.
The truth of the matter is, I can’t be scared, and I shouldn’t be scared. I know some of you might be thinking, “What the hell is he doing?” While others may be thinking “When is the next one coming?”
Truth of the matter is, that we are open to anything that God blesses us with, and we will always find a way to answer our calling as parents. For those of you concerned, we are fine, our kids are not neglected, and they aren’t missing out on anything. In fact they have welcomed their new sibling with open arms.
For those of you wondering if we’re having more, the answer is that I don’t know. I’ve come to the realization that I am not in control, and that I will be provided the grace and strength with whatever blessing comes into our lives. Regardless, our newest child deserves the same scream from the rooftops as our other children. Mommy and baby are doing absolutely wonderful, and my wife is a true warrior, and I could not be more proud to be her husband.
Therefore: WELCOME TO THIS AWESOME WORLD OUR NEWEST CHILD.”
This man’s raw and honest admittance of his fear of what society would think struck me. Many of his friends and family congratulated him in the comments of the post. One woman said, “I totally understand what you are saying as a mother of 5.”
Another man wrote, “Congratulations!!! God will provide for those who believe! (And truth be told, I often feel odd as a Catholic for only having had two, despite the medical reasons for that limitation. But I take solace knowing God is in control.)”
A hard decision
I can relate to feeling “odd” as a Catholic only having two children as well. After suffering an amniotic fluid embolism during the birth of my second child and suffering full cardiac failure, even though my heart has made a full recovery, my cardiologist and high-risk OB/GYN have said they do not think I should have more children.
Although I am physically capable of having more children, they have given very valid reasons as to why having more children could endanger my life and possibly my unborn child’s life. When they first told me this, my husband and I were crushed and determined to find a doctor who would say that it was perfectly fine to have more children. I have yet to find a doctor who will give me the green light based on several factors that I won’t go into here.
Upon hearing this, at first, my husband and I were conflicted. As Catholics who want to be open to as many lives as God gives us, we felt like we should forget the doctors’ advice and just discern the decision through faith alone and trust in the Lord.
Then, I shared my discernment plan with a brilliant Catholic bishop who reminded me, “Melanie, Catholics believe in faith and reason.” He went on to say, “Although I commend your desire to do the Lord’s will and to be open to life, the doctors have given you intellectual and good reasons why having more children would threaten your life and possibly the life of another child. When you discern, don’t disregard the intellect; use your faith and reason to discern this very difficult decision.”
His words resonated with my husband and me and we began to heed the doctors’ advice. I mean: these were the same people that I believe the Lord sent to save my life while I was in critical condition with very little chance for survival. Who was I to completely discredit their wisdom after my initial medical insult?
It was an incredibly painful decision for us to decide to postpone having more children based on our grave reasons. We practice natural family planning faithfully to postpone pregnancy and it is a cross that we bear because we desire to have more children.
We are open to adoption, and know that if and when it is the right time for that, God will lead us.
But what resonates with me about what my Facebook acquaintance said about society’s judgment of big families.
When I meet people who do not value the beauty of big families, they say things to me like, “Oh look, you have your boy and girl. Looks like you have all you need now or looks like you have the perfect family.” When I hear those comments, I get angry and annoyed. I cringe, because if they only knew that I desire to have five children like the man above does.
It takes all I have to be charitable in my responses and I usually respond, “I am blessed to have two children, but I would love to have 10 children running around here.” Then I usually get a gasp and a look like I’m crazy and the conversation is over.
I never get jealous or envious of other people’s cars, houses, or jobs, but when I meet big families or see their pictures on Facebook, I sometimes feel an ache in my heart and I have to fight the urge to be envious. I have to dig deep and remind myself that I am blessed to have two children. But, there is an ache nonetheless. There is a great freedom for those who have the ability to be open to life.
When I see big families at the grocery store or at the movies, I smile and usually say something to affirm the parents even when their children are acting like crazy animals and the mom looks completely disheveled. Having big families is hard and I applaud parents who have the courage to be open to life despite what society will say and think.
If it makes you disheveled moms of many children feel any better, my two children act like crazy animals in the store as well. But, the difference is, I don’t get the looks, stares, and unsolicited comments my friends with big families receive. I have my boy and my girl, and since there are only two of them, somehow society accepts their misbehavior a little more and they judge me a little less.
The real circumstances that have lead us to postpone pregnancy is something I never forget. I cherish every moment with my two beautiful children. My baby is four now and my oldest is six and time is flying by. I miss the baby stage and mourn that I may never have that again with another child, but I take delight in everything they do. And, when they are driving me crazy, I remind myself that even the hard times are a blessing because I get to be their mom. Being a parent to one child or ten is a great privilege.
To my acquaintance on Facebook, I applaud you for your openness to life. I applaud you for your trust in the Lord’s plan for your life. I thank you for your honesty because I am sure it is hard to constantly battle the stares and comments that people may make behind your back. I admire your courage to grow your family and if I see you out and about around town, I will be the one smiling and in awe of how beautiful your big family is.
To all the big families out there, be not afraid to shout it from the rooftops! I am praying for you! And to all those who cannot have more children like me, or who have been told they cannot have any children at all, I am praying for you. I identify with the ache you have in your hearts and understand on some level the often unspoken cross you bear. May the Lord fill the ache with his infinite love.