A small sampling from my inbox on this topic:
Email #1. My husband and I just found out we are pregnant with baby #3 (we have an almost 3 yr. old and 10 month old). As awful as it sounds, I cried when the pregnancy test came positive. I let my fears get the best of me — having no insurance, wanting a bigger house, feeling nauseated for weeks, taking care of two little ones while pregnant … I never thought I would feel like this since we know children are such a great blessing. Nevertheless it is hard to feel overjoyed when I feel so awful. Have you ever felt this way? I am thanking God for this little gift and praying (begging) for the graces to be a good mother/wife/disciple in Christ.
Email #2. Do you have any advice on how to get over the fear of becoming pregnant again “too soon”? I fear that I may be pregnant again. This would be my 4th in 5 years. I live in constant worry that I will not be healthy enough (or alive for that matter) to take care of all the children God sends me. I am only 32, so I have a lot of fertile years left.
Email #3. Lately, I have been struggling with whether to have a fourth child. I really liked your advice to pray on it — and that is what I am doing, because I am getting older and I am not sure my husband is up for number 4. Did you always know you wanted a big family? Were there ever days that you wondered whether you wanted more children? If so, was prayer your answer?
I have answered questions like these in the past, but this is a topic that comes up again and again. And again. I suppose it needs revisiting on a regular basis. The reason this topic is so dear to our hearts, I think, is because it is one of the most obvious ways that Catholics are counter-cultural. It makes us stand out. Most of our neighbors aren’t doing it. And being open to life happens to be particularly life-altering as well.
It is hard to trust God with something so powerful as our fertility. And it can be exceedingly difficult to accept an unexpected pregnancy when we know the kinds of sacrifices it will demand of us. Ironically, I think that early pregnancy is an especially bad time to think about the potential consequences of adding another member to your family: You are emotionally vulnerable, hormonal, and exhausted. Under these circumstances, it can be especially hard to see, but it’s important to keep in mind the bigger picture:
We are trying to get to heaven.
Ultimately, that is the only reason to do or not do anything here on earth — in order to move ourselves and our families closer to heaven. Embracing an unexpected pregnancy and saying YES to another child surely can do that. By demanding that we abandon selfishness. By helping us to recognize, even from the very beginning, that God is in charge and that our bodies, our children, and our lives belong to Him alone. By giving us the chance, one more time, to pray “Thy will be done,” even when they seem impossibly difficult words to pray. But these also happen to be the most self-giving, life-giving, grace-giving words we can pray.
Karen Edmisten shared her own “40 Reasons to Have Kids” last week and Sarah has been kind enough to ask me for mine. I have already broken my own blogging rules here with an exceptionally long post, so I will save mine for another day. But feel free to share yours in the comments if you like. And also share your positive stories of embracing God’s will — however unexpected — for your family size. Let’s encourage one another.