My answer to “Do you want more children?”

iStock 000013881263XSmall My answer to Do you want more children?

When people see me out and about with my four young children, one of the most common questions I get is, “Do you want more?” (Or, more accurately, “DO YOU WANT MORE?!?!?!?!“)

I’m never sure what to say. “Yes” doesn’t sound quite right. Our fourth baby in four-and-a-half years is only eighteen months old, so I can’t say that I’ve spent a lot of time yearning for another baby lately. In fact, I’ve never really been a baby person. I’ve never had that moment other women talk about of holding a newborn and thinking, “Oh, I want one!” On the other hand, “no” doesn’t encapsulate what I’m feeling either.

I’ve thought about this a lot over that past few months, and I eventually realized that I have such a hard time coming up with the answer simply because it’s not the right question. Here’s why:

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6 reasons why “Do you want more?” isn’t the right question

1. It’s not all about me

When I used to think about pregnancy and babies, I wouldn’t think a whole lot further than the first couple years of new life and how it would impact me. My first thoughts would be along the lines of, “But I don’t feel like being pregnant!” or “I don’t want to deal with all the work of the baby period!”

Thanks in part to my conversion and in part to watching my children grow, I’ve since had the epiphany of realizing that those high-maintenance pregnancies and fussy newborns are actual human beings! I know this sounds crazy, but I had a total mental disconnect where I kind of forgot that all the adults I know and love were once fetuses and newborns themselves. I hadn’t internalized the fact that a new pregnancy will lead to a full human being, just like me. Now that I get it, when I evaluate when and if to have more children, I try to remember to consider the life of the potential new man or woman as much as I consider his or her impact on my own life.

2. It’s not all about what I want

One of the biggest revelations of my conversion was this:

Doing what I want ≠ Happiness

All my life I thought that if I could just spend enough time meditating on what I feel like doing and then amass enough control over my life to go do it, I’d finally have lasting happiness. I was shocked when I found out that that assumption was wrong. I was more shocked when I realized what is the path to lasting happiness: serving others.

I used to think that if I could just hurry up and stop having kids so that I could get back to living “my” life, I’d be happy. Now I see that, not only is serving others the right thing to do, but it’s the only path to joy and peace. So the ideas of not having more children vs. having more children aren’t all that different: either way, I’ll be sacrificing and serving.

3. I don’t have a crystal ball

Usually the “Do you want more?” question is stated as a long-term proposition: Do you want to have more children, ever? The scope of that question dizzies me. I’m 33. I likely have at least 10 years of fertility left. Even if I did feel absolutely, 100% certain that I was not up to having another child right now, I have no way of knowing how things might change even a month from now, let alone a year or ten years from now. God has yet to reveal a detailed, 10-year plan for me; heck, I can’t even seem to get him to give me a 10-day plan!

4. It’s important to have a “wholeness of vision”

Toward the end of his life, Sheldon Vanauken sought out the daughter whom his deceased wife Davy had given up for adoption when she became pregnant at 14. He ended up becoming close to the now-adult daughter, named Marion, and it profoundly affected him. Vanauken wrote:

I glimpse what [John] Donne meant in saying that any man’s death diminished him. I should be diminished if half a century ago Davy had clutched at the straw of abortion. And all the folk who have touched or shall touch the lives of Marion and her children and their children-to-be would be diminished.

The quote is from this must-read article by Chuck Colson, where he talks about having a “wholeness of vision.” Though he’s specifically talking about abortion there, I think that seeking that wholeness of vision is critical whenever we evaluate the possibility of new life. I have no idea how things might play out in my life or in the world around me. I can’t imagine how differently a new child might fit into our family two, three, four or more years from now. I can’t fathom what God might plan to do with the next human soul that I help bring into the world.

One thing that my blog readers have help me understand as I transitioned from a contraceptive to an “open to life” mentality is just how rapidly things change with children. Right now my kids are 6, 4, 3 and 18 months. When they’re 12, 10, 9 and 7, things will be different; and at 32, 30, 29 and 27, they’ll be more different still. I’ll be in a new place in my life; our family dynamic will have evolved. It would be unwise to make a long-term decision about whether or not to add a new person to our family based on the narrow view given to me by this moment in time.

When I have bad days it’s tempting to say that I simply couldn’t handle another kid any time in the indefinite future; it’s tempting to go into hyper-control mode and adopt a completely “closed to life” mentality. But then I think of Vanauken and Colson’s words about having a wholeness of vision. I imagine our Thanksgiving dinnertable 20 years from now, and I remember that the only important thing I’ll leave in this world is the love that I shared — and I’d be wise to make sure I don’t miss any opportunities for that.

5. I’m not good at knowing what I want; I’m terrible at knowing what I need

As I said in #2, I learned the hard way that what I think I want is often not the path to lasting happiness. Similarly, what think I need and what I actually need are two different things. And never has this been more true than with children.

If you had told me five years ago that I’d have four children today, I would have assured you that I simply couldn’t do it. No way. I don’t have the right temperament. I’m the most impatient, selfish introvert I know. I would have assured you that it would be a disaster for all involved. And yet having four closely-spaced children has been a blessing in so many ways. Not only do I have the pleasure of being the mother to these precious souls, but it’s caused me to learn and grow in ways I never could have if things had played out my way. Though I didn’t exactly plan to have four children so close together, it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

6. I’m not afraid

I’ve written before about how I’ve noticed a great fear of life in our culture. It’s understandable: there’s so very much that can go wrong in the process of having children. From pregnancy (or adoption) complications to health issues for the baby to increased grocery bills to college tuition costs, there’s so much to worry about when evaluating the prospect of new life. It’s tempting to say you don’t want to have more kids simply out of fear of all that could go wrong!

As longtime readers know, we’ve had our own challenges in that department: When I was pregnant with our second child, about two weeks after I saw the truth of the Church’s teaching on contraception, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood clot in a major vein. It turns out it was caused by a rare genetic clotting disorder that’s exacerbated by pregnancy. My doctors told me I couldn’t have any more kids. Then, when that second baby was five months old, I got an unexpected positive pregnancy test. We were drowning in medical bills from the last pregnancy. We didn’t have insurance that covered pregnancy. The medicine to prevent clots would cost us $900/month. We didn’t even have our own house; we were living with my mom at the time.

That experience was one of my first encounters with that old saying that “every baby comes with a loaf of bread under his arm.” I first heard a version of that adage from a friend who grew up in a family of seven children in abject poverty in Mexico. Despite the fact that they never had enough to eat and were too poor to own even beds or blankets, she insisted that God sends down special assistance for every new baby. As God guided my family through our own time of difficulty, I was stunned by just now true this is. And I learned the lesson yet again when I had another unexpected pregnancy the next year.

It’s an exaggeration to say that I’m not ever afraid of welcoming new life into the world anymore — but I certainly have a whole lot less fear now that I’ve seen how powerfully God works in the lives of couples who are open to life.

So that’s the answer I’d like to give next time I’m asked, “Do you want more?” (Though, knowing me, I’ll probably just laugh awkwardly and slink off.) It’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean that I throw all caution to the wind when it comes to the possibility of future children. We use Natural Family Planning while remaining “open to life” (you can read about what that means here). We decide on a month-to-month basis whether we think right now would be a good time to have another baby — and there are plenty of times that that answer is “no.” But I’m always aware that, when it comes to new human beings, it’s about so much more than what I want.

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Enter the Conversation...

251 Responses to “My answer to “Do you want more children?””
  1. I’m always really inspired when you talk about your pregnancies and, especially, the clots–because I have a totally unholy fear of embolisms and I’ve always been so afraid of pregnancy partly for that reason. It’s really encouraging to hear that it does happen but that people come out of it okay (and twice!).

    And I am also a selfish introvert :) and sometimes when I’m in the midst of one of my ‘me’ days, when I’m working from home and not interacting with another human until my husband comes home, I fly in to panic about the thought of how completely this will disappear when we have children. I know you’ve touched a lot on the ways your children have changed you and I always really appreciate reading about those. (Have you written specifically about having kids as an introvert? I’d love to read that!)

    Thanks for a wonderful post!
    Kelly @ The Startup Wife recently posted..The World According to San Francisco

  2. Well, that was a much nicer comment than the one I got years ago when my four (only four at the time) were distributed in and around the grocery cart as I was shopping. Some man I did not know approached me and asked, “Are they ALL yours?” When I nodded, he said, “So, why don’t you get yourself fixed?” Now that is one of those questions to which you can think of a dozen good answers ranging from acerbic to humorous to serious after you leave the location but to which on the spot you can think of nothing!
    Elizabeth Mahlou recently posted..Two Rocks

    • Christy says:

      like; “Apparently, nothing’s broken.”

    • Jeffrey Hite says:

      I usually try to keep one answer on the top of my head for questions like this that are obviously meant as an insult. “And who are you again?” It lets them know I don’t care for their opinion without being overly rude.

  3. Kari says:

    Thank you for such an encouraging answer to a discouraging comment. It is always great to hear positive thinking about children, especially in this culture. My husband and I just got married three months ago and we’re currently using NFP and it is sometimes difficult to open to life when the bills are piling up and we don’t feel ready. But it is incredible how even with those fears that we have about bringing a child into the world we are still able to be open to God’s plan. Thank you for posting this. It is always good to be reminded of the miracle that is a new life.
    Kari recently posted..agape

  4. My short answer (after five kids) was, “I’d never say no, but at the moment I’m not on my knees asking for more!”

    • Carrie Brown says:

      That’s truly amazing!! We just found out that we are expecting number 3 in three years and I am just so overwhelmed. We where practicing NFP and I guess we just didn’t have it down this time either. So this is suprise number 3. We will be married 3 years in Dec. Our first is was 9 months from our wedding. Our first and second our 14 1/2 months apart. Now we are having number 3 with a 2 year old and 10 month old. I don’t see god’s plan right now and can’t understand why we can’t learn NFP or when we do learn it is another baby later. We have a 10% or less chance with the number 3 occurding to Marquette method which I didn’t know at the time just using the clearblue and easy. I just hope that someday I can look back and say that was great to have all three of them so close because right now it’s hard to see how wonderful it is when I know how much work a little one takes.

      It’s great to hear a comment like that. I really needed that because I am struggling with trying to be open to life and having so 3 babies close in age with not a lot of time.

      • Magda says:

        Just love them and don’t worry about anything else.

      • Kate says:

        Carrie, my mother had seven children and one miscarriage in a little under 7 years – three siblings in the middle are 11 months apart. She also worked in the family business. She had her last child at age 34. Now she has over 40 grandchildren. That’s her legacy after all the hard years. She loves it.

      • Tara Meghan says:

        Madga, that’s sweet. And hilarious! Of course we love them, the poor little souls. That doesn’t make it any less overwhelming, or keep us from wanting to bite our own fingers off or to fantasize about running away. Not that I do that. Much. Anymore.

        I like Kate’s response, and it’s what keeps me focused when having four little kids running around drives me batty (although only two of them are mine…family daycare and all). I just picture the Thanksgiving table we will have when the kids are grown up, if we are blessed with a big family. Makes me cry a little, only with happiness instead of frustration.

        I love kids…God’s tiniest little crosses. They’ll drive you to the edge of madness, but you come out the other side so much better than you started out! And plus, there are whole new people now, where there was nothing before! God created them, but you made them. That’s just too cool.

        • Magda says:

          Tara,
          My four are now 31, 28, 25, 24.
          It was the fourth that made me focus and just love them.
          God gave each of them a soul. Forever.
          It really is too cool!
          Wish I had six or more.

      • Maria says:

        I have been in the NFP field for a number of years.

        My original interest was in the mucus-only methods, which I know very well. But I have found that the accidental pregnancy rates are higher with every one of the mucus-only variations. Indeed, a friend who was committed to teaching the so-called Creighton model recently quit teaching it: too many pregnancies among her clients.

        I personally recommend the so-called sympto-thermal method. In every comparative NFP study there are fewer unexpected pregancies with the STM as compared to the mucus-only varients. Personally, I’ve concluded the reason for this is that there is one objective indicator in all the STM varients: the temperature sign. BOTH, husband and wife, can verify the higher basal body temperature and conclude (correctly, unless there is an extraneous factor such as illness, etc.) that ovulation has occurred and relations will not cause pregnancy.

        While I don’t know which NFP method you used, may I suggest that if it is not an STM method, that you look in to it? Also, be mindful, that the HARDEST time to learn either (or any) method is during the period after childbirth. You and your husband may have to accept more abstinence until you get a better sense of the unfolding of your fertility cycle.

        My best to you!

        • Susan says:

          Could you give me a link or something for comparative studies? I’m a BOM instructor, which studies have shown to be very effective (anywhere from 91.7-over 99%). Hormone studies have shown that the mucous observations correlate very well to the hormones, and because of this a trained BOM instructor can actually graph oestrogen, progesterone, LH, and FSH from looking at a chart, which I find to be fascinating (I’m a geek, what can I say? ;-) ). I’m absolutely not trying to get into an NFP war or say one method is better than another, or anything, so please don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that there are various methods so people can decide what works best for them. And I absolutely agree that after childbirth and/or weaning is the hardest time to learn. Totally do-able, but harder.

          God bless

          • Abigail B says:

            Yes, I am interested too in the studies. I’m a Fertility Care Practioner Intern with the Creighton Model and user for the last 3 years. The studies that Dr. Hilgers have done far out way the results of STM. So please enlighten me. My husband and I have successfully avoided and achieved during our marriage.

            As for BBT, only 15% of women have a dip in BBT before ovulation. So the majority of women cannot use BBT as an indicator for fertility. Your BBT does not indicate that you are going to ovulate. Just that ovualtion has occured. So you could have good mucus and then sperm will live and you’ll conceive.

            CrMS is the only NFP that can be used to avoid AND achieve a pregnancy. All the other methods were to avoid.

          • Susan says:

            Abigail – it won’t let me reply directly to you, but I just wanted to point out that Billings is also used for both achieving and avoiding pregnancy. I don’t know enough about STM to talk about whether that is the case with that, too, but I’d think so since they do use some mucous observations, too. Temp-only, though, I’d agree could only be used to avoid. If you wanted more info on the rules for the BOM for achieving & avoiding, their website is billingslife.org

            God bless

          • BenM says:

            Abigail and Susan,

            STM uses BBT, cervical mucous, observed vulva sensation and direct cervical state observations to cross check one another. Because it uses all of the observable signs as well as BBT, it is highly accurate at predicting ovulation, and is thus effective for both avoiding and achieving pregnancy.

            My wife and I follow the Couple to Couple League International (CCLI) method, and have been very satisfied with it.

            Their link:

            http://www.ccli.org/

            A comparison of rates of effectiveness of the various NFP methods can be found at the bottom of this page:

            http://www.natural-family-planning.info/

            CCLI also has comparisons to effectiveness of STM to contraceptive methods here:

            http://ccli.org/nfp/effectiveness/index.php

      • Lana says:

        Carrie,

        I hear you. I had three in less than three years, too. Truth is, it took me years to really consider how divinely coordinated each conception, pregnancy and delivery is. I mean: God must really want these babies in the world. Statistically, we are in the minority; most women would have lost one of those babies. You are blessed, in a difficult and dangerous world.

      • Abigail says:

        Have you considered using a different method like Creighton Model? The Clear Blue Easy moditors a homorone that moves up when you have ovulated. It doesn’t not tell when you are about to ovulate. email me if you’ve got other questions abiandandy at gmail dot com

      • Martha Milne says:

        Hi Carrie, I have 6 kids ranging from 10 to 20, but my first 3 under 3 were by far the hardest! Compared to those early years, 6 kids now are a breeze. The hard times you are going through now are changing you, breaking you down to build you up. Trust God, love your husband, love your children. Lots of little demands on your life means that you can’t be perfect. But they don’t need perfect,they just need present – they need your presence. Your yielded-ness (your yes) to the uncertainties of life will grace you, more than you can now know! They do grow up into amazing people!God bless you!

      • Elena says:

        I think God’s plan might be that he wants those siblings to be tight, best friends, allies for each other. He wants them to sharpen each other. There may be a time 10, 14, 20 or 40 years down the road when they are going to need each other and God is giving them to you to get them ready now. That’s the long view.

        In the short view I know it’s overwhelming – but in a very, very short time, they will keep each other entertained and all you will have to do is referee! and then you’ll wonder what moms with only one child manage! ; )

      • Margaret says:

        There will be a reason. We had something similar happen with our first two children. I got pregnant 2 monthes after dd #1 was born. We were certainly open to life but not feeling prepared or understanding. Since then our oldest daughter has developed a health condition that really isolates her. Having a sibling so close in age is a perfect way for her to socialize. Without her sister, she would be very much alone. We couldn’t have anticipated or planned for this. God has perfect timing.

      • mexilocks says:

        Carrie,
        Have hope and don’t fear! I had just the same timing of my first 3 babies, with my husband in school full time and no income to speak of. They are now 14, 13 and 12, with 6 more younger siblings. My hubby is a doctor now and Creighton NFP practitioner – we needed to find the right NFP program for us to learn it well since I am irregular and have other issues that made NFP difficult. We have planned all the other pregnancies and baby #9 was born 2 weeks ago. God will provide for you and your family, and pray and look for the right NFP program for you. These are the most difficult days now for you, in my experience. Things will get dramatically better every day, and you WILL get to sleep, at some point! But remember that you can’t do this alone! Ask/beg/cry for help and involve others as much as possible. All it takes is a phone call to your church or moms group and say “I really need a break. Is there someone I can talk to?” Most churches have a moms group, Elizabeth Ministry, or some other person that they can refer you to. It is not weakness to ask for help, it just takes humility to acknowledge that I am not superwoman. Try to get out of the house, find a good moms group to give you and your kids friends and a release from the stress. Good girlfriends who also value life and practice NFP have literally saved me from depression and given me so much relief and happiness! Your husband cannot meet all your emotional needs as a mom…. only good women who are in the trenches with you will be able to help with some of that. If you have nothing else available locally, at least reply here and we can chat online! I will pray for you to have the grace to find the help you need and get some relief! Blessings to you!

      • Tiffany says:

        Carrie, I love your honesty. Pray, talk it out, drink unholy amounts of coffee and surround yourself with women whose motherhood you admire.

        • Tara R says:

          Yes! My sister-in-law asks how I handle it when I have a rough day and I told her, “First you put the kids in the crib, then go fold a load of laundry (or wipe up the spilled smoothie, or whatever) while you cry and pray, then drink a good cup of coffee.Then if you still need to ou find someone to call and just tell them exactly how you feel about life at this moment.” lol It’s amazing what coffee does for my patience and hope levels!

      • Carrie (maybe God likes Carrie's) says:

        I as well had 3 children very close together, 3 under 4 years. you may feel like NFP has let you down, I know I did. But 5 years from now, hopefully you can look back and see how God has such good plans and it won’t be so hard. If I survived it, anyone can! Trust me!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Carrie, I just read your reply and laughed as my third surprise in 3.5 years of marriage fell over onto my feet as I am (not very effectively) trying to master the art of sitting.
        We had 3 in 3 years as well and in less than 4 years of marriage and the few months we werent pregnant or nursing I was walking through serious insomnia. But OH HOW GOOD GOD IS! This 3rd one has finally pulled my grip from “my plan” of life – you would think that would have happened after the first “oops”. And this is how life is worth living….with my hands open to Gods plan. There will be really hard days and some hours that totally do you in but then to see them all interacting is just beautiful. And somehow you will make it through these little years. Every time you go out and someone comments about your brood you will feel such pride knowing you didn’t plan this but someone did and it is soo good. So hard but so good! Anyway, I know that didn’t give you too much to chew on rather than an “ive been there and I promise it is doable”. Plus my 3rd now makes me want 5! Aghh! I pray your 3rd is your angel, too. Congratulations!

      • Carrie: Sound like my moms situation——me, then my sister 14 months later and then sister #3 when I was just turning 3. Then my day went off to war for 3 years and after he came back—2 more sisters. As a child I didn’t realise how difficult it must have been for my mom, but she was such a great mom. We would have “picnics” in the winter–throw a blanket on the living room floor and eat there. Winters wer bitter cold and we couldn’t get out so mom entertained us in many ways. She’s a hero. I love big families and ended up having 6 myself. Mine are now grown and gone and I wish I could start over and not sweat the small stuff—-just enjoy them —for they aren’t young very long.

  5. regina says:

    I always say that I’m *open* to more, when I am asked that question.

  6. elizabethe says:

    Thanks Jen. This question is a huge pet peeve of mine. Friends and relatives ask it all the time, as well as people in the grocery store (I have two now, and just found out I’m pregnant).

    Reading your post made me realize that a lot of times the question itself is born from the contraceptive mentality.

    So, I reject the very world view that engenders the question. But you can’t exactly say that to people. Can you imagine? Someone says “do you want more?” “You know, sir or madam, you obviously have a contraceptive mentality and I reject the worldview that statement represents.” Most people wouldn’t even know what you were talking about when you said it. I always try to say “I’m happy to go along with whatever God has planned for me.” Because I want to make clear that I just don’t think about it the same way they do.

    • C Moore says:

      Why not say that? If you were dealing with family, you might be interested in keeping the relationship, but a stranger? Be “overly” honest – if they are going to bring up a deeply personal subject (which they have) why shouldn’t you answer them accordingly?

      We have only two, 14 mos. apart, and we are already getting comments. With TWO!!! From Catholics who teach at a Catholic school… including the principal!

  7. Renee Aste says:

    I think for many people, it is just a conversation starter out of curiosity, when having more then two is an oddity. With the contraception mentality, I don’t even think people realize what they are implying.

  8. Michelle says:

    You are such an inspiration. You know, your children are the same ages as my sister’s four children. I really wish there were a way to introduce you two. YOu are the same age…with some very similar things except that she was never an atheist. I think you could give her so much support that no one else could give her. I’ve linked to your blog before on facebook and she’s read you and loved what she’s read…but she’s not a big blogger.

    Anyway…as I read this, I thought how much you help others and how I wish there were a way to connect you with my sister, who is living within the Church but still has some very similar struggles.

    God bless you for this post.
    Michelle recently posted..Sensational Haiku Wednesday- Pathways

  9. I have eight children. The first seven were in 10 years, so you can imagine the comments. I got the “Are they ALL yours?” question all the time, especially when we went to the mall. My answer has always been, “Whatever the Lord blesses us with.” Then, if that doesn’t stop the conversation dead, then they want to know about why I have so many children. Am I Catholic or Mormon — and I happen to be Conservative Baptist which throws a lot of people for a loop. But my faith is an integral part of why I have so many children. God says that they are blessings and my husband and I actually believe it!
    Jackie @ Family Daze recently posted..Natalie Grant-Held-lyrics video

  10. Barbara says:

    So many folks think that being “open to life” means having a dozen children. But, it means letting God decide what’s best, whether that’s one or a dozen. Your #5 — I never thought I’d have four children from age eight to 21, but that’s what I have, and it’s just what I need, to my great surprise! With every great sacrifice comes the graces to cope, and children certainly are a sacrifice. But they bring great blessings as well, and help us grow in ways otherwise impossible.
    Barbara recently posted..St Isaac Jogues- pray for us

    • Jessica says:

      I completely agree! I stopped getting the Couple-to-Couple League’s magazine after it seemed to be pushing a message that more is always better, and you should feel guilty if you’re not pregnant as often as possible.

      My husband and I are choosing to postpone having our own children because we feel called to adopt children who don’t have a home. We are newly married and trying to be prayerful about when we will be ready to offer a home to our first adopted child.

  11. Jaimie says:

    These are all great things to consider. One important thing I think you left out is overpopulation. I think it’s a huge problem (the clip is R-rated, and I hesitate sharing it, but his point is very good), and something that warrants its own planning. It definitely is not all about us!

    • Elizabeth says:

      You’ll notice one of her tags for this article is Natural Family PLANNING. There is planning involved.

      I hear this overpopulation argument from so many people and it’s really overblown. I respect that there are many hungry people in several countries who need help as a result of a growing world population, but this wealthy nation, with its growing (but not overgrown) population is in a great position to help those people. More hands to help.

      The overpopulation point is not an valid argument against NFP or TOB.

      • Jaimie says:

        Of course. An awareness of overpopulation should not refute NFP but rather be incorporated into that planning. Viva la education!

        • Elizabeth says:

          Jaimie,

          I just reread my post and I apologize: it didn’t not sound kind and I’m sorry. I got defensive.

          Knowledge of overpopulation should be incorporated into NFP. I do not want to go Dugger.

          Have a great day!

          • Dave says:

            Overpopulation is a myth. The problem is not “too much population”, but “not enough distribution”, usually because of corrupt or unstable political situations. There is plenty of food for all of the people in the world.

            Check out http://www.pop.org for plenty more information, or read the book, “The War Against Population”

    • Actually, the world’s birthrate is decreasing — and at a rate worries some people.

      http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/10/11/think_again_global_aging?page=full
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    • Paul from San Antonio says:

      I have a couple of problems with the population control argument. Firstly, the argument has been around for a very long time. While the length of time an argument has been around shouldn’t disqualify it, it does put the population control argument in perspective. In 1729, world population ~700 million, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical argument that the British should eat her children to control the population. In the first half of the last century, Margaret Sanger advocated the use of birth control to control the population (~2.5 billion in 1950). The fear of too many people continues today (population ~6.9 billion). Each generation seems to worry about over population, but every solution seems to objectify the future generation. When you objectify a group of people they are no longer people who should be loved, but ‘things’ to control.

      Secondly, the fundamental issue is a lack of faith. Since God is intimately involved in deciding whether or not a person will be created, we should have faith that He will provide for His children. Agricultural production has increased remarkably over these centuries. There is enough food to go around. My generation worked feverously to solve hunger in Africa (Live Aid, for example), but much of the food sent there rotted at the sea ports because those in power prevented the food from reaching the hungry. God wants to care for His children, but some of His children don’t want to help.

      I have faith that if we choose to follow God, He will provide for us. He will show us how to produce enough food and water. Our job is to love. He will do the rest.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Very well put, Paul. You articulated it far better than I did.

      • Jaimie says:

        “…the fundamental issue is a lack of faith.”

        So when God mandated good stewardship he was mandating a lack of faith? He gave us our brains, our logic, our resources to use to be good stewards of the earth and the people presently on it. The same kind of “planning” you use in NFP.

        “…but every solution seems to objectify the future generation. When you objectify a group of people they are no longer people who should be loved, but ‘things’ to control.”

        Is a NFP woman who decides it isn’t the wisest time to have a baby and abstains from sex “objectifying” said unborn baby? He/she/it is just as “future generation” as anyone else.

        As you can see, the need for good stewardship and wisdom — two things Jennifer trumpeted in this post — apply to this as well. Fits right in here.

      • Jen Mc says:

        it seems as though noone talks about the way in which we live as more of an issue than how many of us there are. Paul touched on it. and very well put. I would just like to add that they way we live (gas guzzling vehicals, everyone has to have 3000sq feet of living space, conveience food from CA to MA, and other waste of God’s gifts.) might be a bigger issue than population. If we raise and teach our 1 or 12+ children good Christian values and life skills there might not be such a “population problem”.
        Thank you for your post. we are on #4 and I agree that it isn’t my plan but we are obliged to work along side The Great Creator.

        • it seems as though noone talks about the way in which we live as more of an issue than how many of us there are.

          Great point. Have you seen this article from Simcha Fisher called Big is the New Green? It points out that big families usually have a vastly lower per-person use of resources than smaller families. Great food for thought.

          • 'Becca says:

            Yes, this is an important point. It has to go along with the acknowledgment that whatever the average resource use is, more people need more stuff. The economies of scale that come with having more people in a household can be achieved in other ways than giving birth to more people–you can share a house with friends or relatives, get used baby gear from other families, etc. Lowering per-person resource use isn’t a good argument for having more children, but it IS a good argument that larger families don’t use as much as you might think just looking at the number of people.

            Families of all sizes need to think about using less stuff to make room for more people. I recently wrote about how being crowded helps me realize that I need less for myself. Although birth rates are declining, the total population is going to keep increasing for a few decades before it peaks, so we may as well get used to having more people around!

            God’s command was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” At some point, the earth will be full! I don’t think God meant to keep going until we’re shoulder-to-shoulder on every bit of land but to fill it to its carrying capacity, the point at which all of us can get what we need to live. We’re not there yet, but many people are not getting what they need due to other people’s greed and selfishness, so THAT is what we need to work on moreso than having a specific number of people.
            ‘Becca recently posted..Thinking Out Loud

          • Jaimie says:

            Interesting article. Thanks Jen.
            Jaimie recently posted..I warned you I was a snob

        • Jaimie says:

          Scroll back up to my very first comment in this thread (the one that started it all!) and you’ll see a good response to what you said, under 2 minutes. He’s being funny, so ignore the hyperbole. There’s a great point in there.

    • Magda says:

      Babies are always good.

    • laura says:

      Did you really post this? What is wrong with you? I’m going to have seven more children and burn a mountain of plastic bags to compensate for the stupidness of this video.

      • Jaimie says:

        Haha, that is certainly your right. But I hope you have better reasons for your actions than that.
        Jaimie recently posted..I warned you I was a snob

        • Magda says:

          Jaimie,
          Why would you campaign against the creation of new souls?

          • Jessica says:

            Magda,

            You’ve posted on here a lot about the creation of new souls and how preventing procreation prevents creating new souls.

            It sounds to me like the argument you are making is that God wants us to create as many new souls–babies–as we possibly can because more new souls is always good.

            Taken to its logical conclusion, this would mean that all men should go out and sleep with as many women as possible in order to make as many new souls as possible.

            I am going to guess that you are not encouraging the unrestrained, wild sowing of oats. So maybe you are saying that within a marriage, couples should create as many new souls as possible?

            I have trouble with this idea too. Would you tell a couple with severe domestic abuse problems or severe substance-abuse issues that they should be trying to have as many babies as possible? Would you tell a crack-addicted mother that she doesn’t need to wait to get cleaned up before having babies? Maybe you would. I personally wouldn’t feel like this was a unilaterally good idea.

            I have trouble with blanket assumptions for this reason. I don’t think you know enough about me and my marriage to judge whether or not I should be having babies, and yet it seems you are willing to judge me or anyone else, without a second thought, for choosing to use NFP to postpone pregnancy.

            You might want to prayerfully consider whether there are any boundaries within which God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” applies. I believe there are.
            Jessica recently posted..Escaping the False Dichotomies or Why I Think gasp Condoms are OK

          • Madga says:

            Jessica,
            If God gave the gift of procreation to two people, and they conceive a child, then, no matter the circumstances, God’s decision to bring forth life in any situation is His. And the life brought forth is His gift to the world and for all eternity.
            God gave us the exceptionally beautiful Sacrament of Matrimony and commanded we reserve acts of procreation within marriage.
            So, no, the wild oats theory is not the logical conclusion.
            Not all children are conceived in ideal situations. And what starts as ideal can become a disaster. But every child is conceived through the Love of God with an immortal soul.
            God did not give this gift to angels, good or bad. Not to other species. Only humans can participate in the creation of immortal souls. This is AWESOME.

          • Magda says:

            And from seeming disaster, comes love and triumph.
            And eternal life in heaven is for all who accept the forgiveness and mercy of God.

  12. Julia’s answer is my favorite. I’m going to file that one away. :)

    We are now TTC for #4, and I go through a great deal of ambivalence about it, but I keep my eyes focused on the future–as you indicated, my kids will not always be 5, 3 and 1. Julianna (my 3 year old, who has Down’s) will not always be unable to dress herself or talk, which is the real child-stress factor now, and so we are trying to think longer-term.

  13. Stephanie says:

    I love this post.

    I am 7 months pregnant with our third child, and continue to remind myself that pregnancy/ infancy is NOT the time to make decisions about future children. Pregnancy is uncomfortable, but when I look at the two little boys I already have, and what a blessing they are to everyone they know, I remember, “Who am I to decide something like that?”

  14. M says:

    This is certainly food for thought. We’ve been trying to concieve for almost three years. Remembering it is not about you is important, though in our case it is quite challenging to faith that God might not want you to have a child.

  15. Katherine says:

    By next year we will have 4 children ages 5 and under. I’ve gotten that question. If the asker seems genuine, I reply that I would love to have more. If they are asking more like “DO YOU WANT MORE?!?!?!??!” then my response is more of a flippant, “God willing!” Sincere questioners I try to answer sincerely and I would not say I don’t want more children, so I answer yes. To questioners who are simply shocked at my children as though we were some sort of freak show, I try to emphasize God to make them think that maybe having children isn’t quite the same as buying a car.

  16. Margo says:

    I always enjoy reading your posts. This one is difficult for me to respond to, though. I was reading through the comments and I came across the one from M. I can relate to that; I am 43, never been married (always wanted to be) and have no children and have to face the fact that it may never happen for me. I console myself by remembering that God has a plan for each of us and that maybe conception just wasn’t part of mine. My younger siblings have families of their own and it’s hard to be around them during the holidays and other family times when we’re all together. But I just figure it’s some sort of cross I have to carry and I always remind myself that maybe some day I can adopt; even if I’m still single.
    Margo recently posted..False Devotion to Mary – 3

    • ACL says:

      Margo – God bless you! I don’t personally know the private pain of not having children and wanting them, but I do have several friends who do. I think that in our society, with such a common disdain for being open to life, yours must be a hard cross to carry at times. I don’t know what God’s plan is for your life, but I just wanted to say that some of the greatest blessings to young and harried mothers are women who have no children of their own. At least that has been the case in my life. :)

      • CeCe says:

        MY husband and I have not been able to have kids of our own, and foster care/adoption have never been a fit. So we call ourselves “respite parents” for our friends with lots of little one. We take then for an hour or overnight to give the kids some extra love when we can see they need it, or when we can see the parents just need a break to regroup. It is an amazing gift to be able to give and has created some amazing memories and relationships for all of us.

    • Rebecca says:

      Margot, You mentioned the possibility of adopting while single. I can tell you that my sister, in her late 30s, adopted a child as a single woman. In her case, it was a girl who had been in and out of foster care her entire life. Adopting an older child isn’t for everybody, but it worked out well for my sister and niece. I just wanted to tell you that it is possible. You could probably adopt an infant or toddler if you wanted a younger. God bless.

    • Susan says:

      Margo, I’m in the same place you are in, and just a year younger. I wanted to have a LOT of kids too, but God has said Zero. I know He knows what is best, but it’s still so painful to be childless, especially as you say at holiday times. I’ll pray for you and you pray for me, OK?

  17. bearing says:

    In the interest of short, life-affirming conversation, I have usually answered, “We would love to have more children.” The truth is that we would; if we had them, we would love to have them. It’s not appropriate for me to say I “want” another human being like I “want” a new iPad. It’s nobody’s business whether my life is such that I view it prudent to seek another pregnancy right now. I can’t predict the future and know whether it will be prudent tomorrow, or (if you want to put it that way) what God will ask of me. The question is stupid but my answer is true.
    bearing recently posted..For want of any better ideas- Ill just do a lazy Reason N that I am glad I homeschool post

    • elizabethe says:

      “It’s not appropriate for me to say I “want” another human being like I “want” a new iPad.”

      This is absolutely right! Thank you for sharing this.

      elizabethe

  18. Denise says:

    Thank you for your post! We’ve been discerning adding to our family and this was just what I needed to hear, as one deep introvert to another. :)

  19. We get this a lot too. And I usually get asked, “you know how that happens right?” or “do you need a tv?” I like Simcha’s answer for the last question, “If you think tv is better than sex, you’re doing it wrong.” But seriously, I think the best answer I’ve given is “if it’s in God’s plan.” That usually shuts people up because most I encounter aren’t prepared to answer it and have never thought about it. I hope I’m at least planting a seed that gets them thinking, “Am I doing what God wants me to? Or am I selfishly turning from God?” I too have a rare clotting disorder exacerbated by pregnancy (thankfully, I have not had a clot). So, I know that trial of pregnancy well. In fact, I have scar tissue in my upper abdomen making it difficult to inject the medications needed to ward off a clot, so we too are using NFP but open to life.
    Kristen @ St Monica’s Bridge recently posted..Wordless Wednesday

  20. Allison says:

    I really want to thank you for this post! Especially the last point. My husband and I got married a little over 3 weeks ago. A little over a week ago, we found out we’re having a baby. Yep, a honeymoon baby!

    Of course we knew it was a possibility going into the honeymoon, but we had planned on waiting although remain open on those first nights. Apparently God saw fit to give us a baby.

    Right now we’re living at my husband’s mom’s house, and it’s obviously less than ideal. But I love how you said that with every new life you’ve found that God provides. That God works powerfully in the lives of those who are open to new life. Thank you for that statement, it helps me immensely in my fear of the unknown that is coming.
    Allison recently posted..God is good!

  21. Magnificat says:

    I’m on my knees asking for family (husband & kids) almost 20 years.
    Till now I didn’t even get married.
    If God’s will for you is to accept more kids than you planned – sorry, this doesn’t seem to me the hardest cross to bear.

    • I don’t think that was the intent of this post to mention a large family being a cross. While it certainly can be, I think the point Jen was making was that people ask this question of her and the answer is much more complicated than can be answered in the grocery store check-out line. I suffered the cross of infertility and pregnancy loss for many years, the important thing is not that we judge how large others’ crosses are in comparison to our own, but we learn to kiss them and pray for others.
      Kristen @ St Monica’s Bridge recently posted..Wordless Wednesday

    • Veronica says:

      I think the issue is that society things a large family sucks, and that of course, people who have lots of children and who are open to life, especially those who do NFP – that we are all complete idiots.

      I have to disagree with society, and agree with you. Family is such a huge, tremendous blessing, I wish more people understood that.

    • Pharmgirl says:

      Agreed.

      If you think it’s no fun to hear people ask why you have so many kids, well, it’s even worse when someone asks, “when are you going to have kids?”

      Please don’t ask that question. People ask me that a lot and every time it’s like being stabbed in the heart. God has politely but firmly told me “never.” I’m not happy with it, but He knows what’s best.

    • Maria says:

      Why are you comparing crosses? How do you know what is the “hardest cross”?

      • Mary says:

        I agree. Every cross is different because every person is different. Just because someone can’t see what’s so hard about lots of kids doesn’t mean everyone (even every Catholic) agrees.

  22. Monica says:

    Amen, sister! I wish we all had time to give such an answer.

    I have five children, and I, too, get tired of the questions. I have been known to say: “We’re going to keep going until we get an ugly one.” On my snarky days, anyway.
    Monica recently posted..Life is a Mystery

    • Melissa says:

      Hahahahahahahahah!This was the best response I ever heard! I am definately going to use it from now on! I just wanted to say that I am a mother of five and expecting my sixth in February… I never blog or comment on one, but I saw so many good answers in this comment strip I needed to comment. I get this question all the time, and I too kinda shy away or answer something different everytime. My usual comment when asked if all these children are mine in the grocery store is ” yes, I have to leave the other five at home because they dont all fit in the car”…..
      Gods Blessings to all of you whether it’s for more children, or less children. I pray that we all find the peace and patience to accept what we are given and trust that it’s the right thing for us. God Bless!

  23. Megan says:

    Wonderful post! I love to think about our holiday dinner table in 20 years from now! Big families make holiday so much fun! :)
    Megan recently posted..She has arrived

  24. alison says:

    Thank you for this post…it was very well reasoned and exactly what I needed to read right now. I’m reminded of #1 and 2 daily as even though my husband and I really, really want kids and think its our calling to be parents, its not about what we want either. Remembering that and being rational about it instead of just focusing my desires is what I’m trying to pay attention to now, as hard as it is (and it is veeery hard). There’s two sides and God has to cooperate with our plans in order for them to be realized.

  25. nicole says:

    I could have written so much of this. We have six kids, the oldest just turned 9 and the youngest is about to be six months old. People ask all the time if we’ll have more. I just tell them we take them as they come, but that we are not planning any more right now. I say we leave that up to God while being cautious. I think honesty about this area of our lives actually makes it seem less intimidating to people.
    nicole recently posted..Were a Team

  26. Jenny says:

    I struggle with the question of more children. I have three which is on the edge of “acceptable.” I was barraged during this last pregnancy with people wanting to know if this one is the last. I love babies and my children, but pregnancy is miserable for me. Not unhealthy, but sick, tired, and painful. I think I would like more children, but I definitely do not look forward to another pregnancy.

    I also worry about the dropping birth rate in Western society. It seems our culture is committing a slow suicide. In my extended family alone, my parents need to have eleven grandchildren to maintain the replacement rate instead of the theoretical four. This trend is disastrous for our society. I have beautiful, healthy children. Is it my duty to have more since no one else seems to want to do it?

    Also, Magnificat, I do not doubt nor diminish the suffering that comes with wanting a family but being denied. Please do not underestimate the suffering that can accompany pregnancy and child rearing. It *is* a great blessing, but also can be a very hard road.

    • Veronica says:

      It is not your duty to have kids since other people don’t want to. It is your duty to be faithful to God and discern His will for you, which may or may not include more children.

      I also hate being pregnant – but am trying not to complain so much my second time around (im 7 months now) because I know so many who have miscarried, had stillbirths, and one couple who has lost their toddler. I’m trying to treasure every minute that I have with my little fetal baby, and know that this child isn’t mine, but God’s, and I am the steward for it.

    • 'Becca says:

      Does “Western society” or “our culture” mean “white people”? This is an honest question because I don’t know what YOU mean when you say that, but I have often heard it meant that way.

      It is true that the birthrates for native-born citizens of many Western countries are near or below replacement rate. However, our culture is adopted by immigrants. The most populous country, China, has a culture that is very non-Western, and the idea of it taking over the world does disturb me–but China exports vast numbers of people to the rest of the world, and I’ve seen that Chinese-Americans quickly Westernize in most ways and many of them are model citizens. So I don’t see our culture as dying. In fact, I see it being adopted by many other nations.

      I am not the least bit concerned about living in a world where the average face is darker than mine. Centuries ago, Europeans took over two more continents (North America and Australia) and killed many of the natives to make room to expand their own populations. If the world now swings back toward a browner balance, that’s not unnatural or wrong. We’re all people.
      ‘Becca recently posted..Thinking Out Loud

      • Jenny says:

        No I did not mean “white” people. I meant Western society, perhaps traditional Christendom. People who believe in the culture and ideas of Western society. There are too many “white” and “brown” people with non-replacement birthrates in Western society. You are correct that there are many Chinese-Americans who quickly Westernize and promptly adopt our lifestyle, which sadly includes not having children.

        • 'Becca says:

          Actually I’ve noticed that many Chinese-Americans have 2 or 3 children, whereas if they’d stayed in China they would only be allowed 1.

          Anyway, I’m glad you’re not racist, but I’m still confused about what you mean by “Western society” since you think it’s desirable but also think it involves not having children.

          I do worry sometimes that it seems like the people who don’t want to have any children *and* succeed at not having them are disproportionately very intelligent people. Will this lead to a stupider human race?? But it’s encouraging that some of the people who have large families also are very intelligent, and not all of intelligence is genetic.

          Frankly, I am far less worried about couples that have lots of kids due to sincerely held religious principles than I am about couples with thoughtless, throwaway lifestyles who have 3 kids instead of 2.
          ‘Becca recently posted..Thinking Out Loud

          • Jenny says:

            By Western society, I mean the convergence of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. The culture over time that has developed ideas on the dignity of the individual, freedom of science and academic inquiry, and representative government. The one, however imperfectly, that recognizes women as equal human beings. The one that produced Mozart, built cathedrals, explored the world, and allowed for the material and spiritual prosperity of its citizens. It is a highly desirable society, yet too many of our cohorts are content to enjoy all of its benefits without accepting the responsibility for creating the next generation.

            “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we die” seems to be the mantra of the current age. You share my worry in that the *most* intelligent and successful in our society seem to have given up on it. These people have the most to give to their children and yet choose not to have them. It is a sickness that could be our downfall.

    • pandagirl says:

      Ok, I have resisted commenting on this post as I have no children and am not even married (as someone else mentioned, my own cross to bear), but claiming that not enough babies are being born to sustain the population is patently absurd. You have every right to have 2, 6 or 12 children if that is what you feel God has planned for you, but please understand the basic human need to reproduce is going nowhere. Whether we’re speaking of Christians, Muslims or atheists, having children is much more the societal norm than not. Yes, there is a stigma attached to large families, but there is just as much of a stigma attached to not having children at all. Of course there are people who have no desire to become parents, but their numbers are not anywhere near large enough for us to start fearing our extinction!

      This year the world population hit 7 billion (that’s with a “B”), and it only took something like 13 or 14 years to reach that from 6 billion. Please remember that because there are so many people now, not everyone bears the same level of responsibility to populate the earth as they did in biblical times. Besides, from my perspective (and reading how many people commented here), the rate of “large families” seems to be on the rise. I knew one family growing up with 7 children, but beyond that everyone in my aquaitance had no more than 3. Now, I hear of large families with relative frequency.

      Please resist the urge to see conspiracy theories in our culture, but instead concentrate on what God has planned for you and your family.

  27. Leila says:

    Excellent, and facebook-worthy! I posted it!
    Leila recently posted..Bible in the Bubble! Name that scene!

  28. Young Mom says:

    I usually just say “probably”. Because I don’t I could ever have a specific # where I would say “enough is enough”. Although at the rate we are going I sometimes wonder if we should start spacing, otherwise we could end up with 10 more children by the time I’m your age.
    Young Mom recently posted..This is how I blog

  29. Jeffrey Hite says:

    Thank you! As the father of 8 (almost 9) we get questions like this very often. I know we will always be open to more, though we are not necessarily trying for more. We try to be nice about the answer, because you said many times the question is asked with total disbelief, but at times it is hard. It is nice to find people who do understand.

  30. What a lovely post!

    It still amazes me how total strangers can ask such personal questions! My 4 are spaced much farther apart (10 years between the oldest and the youngest)- but outside our Catholic homeschooling group, we are considered freaks- yes, strangers have used that actual word-

    For many women, we count the babies we have lost that we wanted that we couldn’t have- so when people are astonished by my huge family (haha)- I think of John-Paul who we lost at 20 weeks in utero.
    priest’s wife recently posted..The Gift of Down Syndrome

    • Jeffrey Hite says:

      We have gotten much worse that “freaks” and when they see that my wife is pregnant… very sad. It makes me what to cry. I can’t imagine closing the door, only God can do that.

      • MJS says:

        And Jeffrey, probably what they say to your wife when you are not around is worse. At least, that is what seems to happen to me. My husband never gets the really rude comments.

  31. Adrien says:

    It is like you were reading my mind . . . THANK YOU for putting it all into words!

  32. suzanne temple says:

    This is the perfect answer. Now, is there some way to condense it into a clever sentence or two? I didn’t think so. Oh, well, back to laughing uncomfortably and slinking away.

  33. JoAnna says:

    Extremely well-said, especially with number 4. I have 3 under 6 and I get this question all the time.

  34. Sue says:

    I’m at the other end of the reproductive stage of life, and I thought I’d share my experience. Because I have 5 kids, my friends feel free to share their thoughts about the size of their own families. I’ve had at least a dozen women say to me, “I wish I’d had more kids.” More than one have continued with something to the effect of, “I don’t know why I bought into what everyone else thought.” They have contracepted themselves out of family, and only now do they know it.

    No one has ever said to me, “Yeah, well, we shouldn’t have had so many!”

    When people would ask the same question of me, I often responded – with a smile – with something to the effect of “I think my job with 5 is probably easier than yours with 1 or 2.” If our job is to teach our kids self-giving love, how much easier to learn that in a house full of siblings.

    Most of you who commented are still in the trenches and you may find it hard to imagine that it gets easier. It really does get easier as the kids get older, and they are gone before you know it.

  35. Jeffrey Hite says:

    Sue, thank you for your perspective. My oldest is 13, I can remember holding him in my arms newly born, and I am afraid of the day that are all gone from our home. My wife jokingly says that is why we keep having more.

  36. ~Ana Paula~ says:

    Hi, Jennifer!

    My name is Ana Paula, I am from BRASIL.
    I am married for two years and I admit I have A LOT OF AFRAID (sorry for my English) of having children. So I must say I am totally closed for a “new life”, for “having a baby”.
    As you see, I really, really apreciated your Post.
    What you have write made me think A LOT. I am still thinking…
    … God Bless You! You and your big and beautiful Family!

  37. Sue from Buffalo says:

    I agree with Sue about how quickly they grow up. And it does get easier. The older ones help take care of the younger ones and they both (younger and older) are good influences on each other. Our youngest is President of her brother’s fan club. lol. She is a good influence on him.

    I am 48 with five kids, ages 4-17. How I long for more but my time seems to be up.

    Friends of ours have 6 biological children and an adopted son. When people ask the husband if they are all his, he replies, “That’s what my wife tells me.”
    (laugh)

  38. Kara says:

    Perfect, perfect post. My family always says things like this to me and it’s so hurtful. I just want them to be happy when I have a new child, not be negative, but they just don’t get it. I will be sharing this. Thank you!

  39. Nina says:

    This is such a sensitive topic for me, Jennifer. Thank you for your beautiful post. I was just reflecting back on my 11 pregnancies and post-partum periods yesterday, and remembering the times when I thought I would die, literally—- that I couldn’t make it.

    And then I saw each one of the faces of my children in my mind, especially the younger two, who I thought I could never, never risk conceiving after the agony of my preemie pregnancy and birth with number 7, and two diagnoses of CF in a row—both accompanied by great pain, stress, and complication, and very little support. (It’s not just that people think I’m selfish or crazy for “wanting more children”….they think I’m irresponsible, and actually, doing what is truly *wrong*.) I said out loud to my pastor at the time, with tears streaming down my face: “I can NEVER put myself at risk for going through this EVER again. I will not survive it.”

    But 4 pregnancies later (two beautiful losses, two beautiful boys, Andrew and Peter)….I am HERE. The line that got me the most in this post, was the wholeness of vision. Goosebumps. Jennifer, that is what has gotten me through. Thank you for being a channel of grace.

  40. Kris Chatfield says:

    Wonderful!!

  41. Oh I love this and agree with so much of what you say. I’m now pregnant with #6, when many people assumed I was “done.” I am pregnant now because I feel it’s what my Heavenly Father wanted me to do, even though there are a million reasons why it’s hard, impractical, expensive, blah, blah. Thanks for this lovely post.

  42. Marie says:

    I always answer that questions with, “I am not sure but you will be the first to know.”

  43. You could turn the question back to them and say, “What I need to be asking myself is, ‘Do I want more blessings?’ THAT is the question.” Ha. The people that ask you this question will think you are NUTS.
    Alishia Hanson recently posted..Why You Should Consider Sending Your Little Darlings to a Catholic College

  44. ACL says:

    This is an excellent post, Jennifer! With five children in tow, I have often had the same dreaded questions posed in any public place. I, too, feel conflicted about how to answer. I want to be a witness to my faith, to speak with truth and charity, instead of resorting to a snarky or flip answer — which is so tempting after having battled through the grocery store with five children! :)

    We learned last month that we are expecting #6, and our youngest is only 6 months old. We were not planning on this baby, but I refuse to live with a fear of life, of my own child. I also dread other people’s comments. I talked at length with my parish priest, and I told him that I feel a fierce need to protect this baby from the world because there will surely be times when it seems that the only people who want this baby are my husband and myself. I told him I was afraid that I wasn’t up to the task. He told me to remember what the angel Gabriel told the Blessed Mother: “The power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

    For me, it all comes down to this: Whatever I think I want or need, my plan is not THE plan. I will not shut the door on God.

  45. Kessie says:

    My husbands favorite response is: Yes we want to keep trying until we get an ugly one! Usually makes people realize it’s the wrong question or they laugh and walk away.
    Thanks for this post I really enjoyed reading it—I plan to post it on FB!!! So those friends will stop asking me—We are currently on our 6 preg. We have 4 at home 1 in Heaven and one due in April.

    • Monica says:

      I have said the same thing! Some people don’t realize I am (a) joking or (b) really saying how beautiful all children are. That’s an awkward moment! But I love this come back. :)
      Monica recently posted..Life is a Mystery

  46. Maggie Dee says:

    I don’t have time to read all the comments, but I just wanted to say thank you for this beautiful post. I wish, wish, wish that I had converted to Catholism and an open to life view at a earlier age. I look at my two beautiful soon to be 16 & 12 year old children now and I think woulda, coulda, shoulda. But, when you have a 3 month old and a 4 year old, and are feeling completely overwhelmed, it’s hard to imagine that life will get easier and God will give you the strength that you need to survive one more night of colic. Decisions regarding permanent birth control aren’t best made during those times. I’ll always regret not being able to trust God in that area of my life.

  47. Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this blog post. It is exactly what I needed today. I recently found out I am pregnant and have just been overwhelmed with a bunch of selfish, irrational fears related to pregnancy and childbirth, even though I accept church teaching and use NFP to remain open to life. I am discovering that it is one thing to be “open to life” without the fear of pregnancy, and another thing alltogether to be “open to life” and actually (gulp) be pregnant. Thank you for your encouraging words!!

  48. Chelsea says:

    Thank you for this post. I’m expecting #2. My first is 16 months old and will be 20 months when my second is born. Even with just one child I have been asked by multiple people if I “know how this happens”? I struggle with being open to life in a culture that fears it. I never regret being pregnant and I always look forward to the baby but I worry about the future implications.

  49. Lisa says:

    You always clarify things so nicely! I love your logical mind, it has taken me twice the amount of time to get to the same conclusions that you do. Anyway, I used to be the same as you in regards to not having the “urge” for a baby, but seriously, the more I have, the worse it gets! :-O Ever since the fourth one anyway. Before that I hadn’t yet figured out that very pertinent fact, its not all about me! and, doing whatever I want does not equal happiness!

  50. Tracy says:

    I needed to read this today. I have 6 children, 1 adopted, and I have been asked this question many, many times. After the last very complicated and emergency delivery we were told it would not be safe to have another and that it would be difficult to concieve anyway. Almost two years have gone by and I am now pregnant again. We had been praying about being open and after months of discerning the answer was ‘no’, one month came and the answer was ‘yes!’ and, well we were given this gift of new life!

    With the last babies, I have lived and answered your number 1-5 reasons. This pregnancy, number 6 is the one that sticks out and resonates with me deeply. Thanks you for articulating my own thoughts so well! ;)

  51. TaraV says:

    We are now pregnant with #5.
    Whenever I get questions like this I always think of how it must sound to my children. And how life altering or affirming my answer can be to my children’s ears.

  52. I am currently carrying our 6th living child – I’ve had several miscarriages and our last son was stillborn in January. The comment I get most often is “you’re done… RIGHT?!?!?!?!?!!!???!!!” And my response is to give them a big grin, a shrug and say “only God knows the answer to that”.

    God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply, and He’s never rescinded (sp?) that commandment.

    God tells us to trust Him with ALL of our hearts, etc. and not to lean on our own understanding.

    God asks us to present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.

    Just to name a few of the places where God has been pretty clear that this is an area best left in His hands. :)

  53. Marchelle says:

    Thank you, thank you for reassuring me that this 3rd child in three years will also be provided for and somehow God will help us with all our financial difficulties, adjustments, and sacrifices. Thank you for reminding me that all will be okay, because God is in control and wants us to welcome all our future kids just the same as we welcomed the previous. God bless you and your inspirational writing!

  54. Josephene Kealey says:

    What’s interesting to me is that most of us feel we are on the defensive when it comes to having more than 2.33 children (using some other commentator’s stat). In contemporary North American culture, we are the oddities (speaking for those of us with “many” children), so when we are asked such questions from incredulous and surprised strangers, we are stumped or angry or intimidated. Our defensiveness might also darken our assumptions about the stranger’s intentions about asking such questions as “Do you want more?” (The repetition of the question is what tires me, mostly. I am reminded of customer service people who have to answer the same question over and over every day but have to do so with a smile).
    Perhaps we have to take on the attitude, inside ourselves, that having more than 2.33 children is good, truly (for me, forget overpopulation nonsense). We might more humble in our responses, showing gratitude for the opportunity to witness, and not worry about personal irksomeness. Perhaps God put that stranger in our path for some good reason, and we need to make good on the blessing-in-disguise.

    Does this make sense?

  55. Nicole says:

    Yes, four was when we seemed officially to have a “large family,” and five was when we were crazy. I wrote here about a lady who was shocked to hear about our openness to life even after seven kids. My standard response these days is, “We’ll see.” Not the most theological, but I like to think it conveys a little about abandonment (or at least openness) to a future currently unknown except to God.

  56. Liesl says:

    What a beautiful post! I especially like the idea of a “wholeness of vision”… I was actually talking about that concept with a friend in the car the other night when she was saying how upset she was when her doctor stopped prescribing birth control for her. It made her think a bit when I brought up the idea of “what would happen if…” and she realized that her parents had had two miscarriages before successfully carrying her to term. It made her think – would I be here if one of those pregnancies had been carried through? It wasn’t ground-breaking by any means, but maybe it’s a step in showing that being open to life leads to so many fruitful things – including wonderful children brought to this earth!
    Liesl recently posted..εὐχαριστ

  57. Jen says:

    Have you seen this? It is sort of a funny response to some of those funny questions.

    http://www.klaty.com/?p=1759

    I can’t wait for the day someone asks us if we know how this happens. . . I’ll say “YES!. . . adoption!” (9 of our 10 are adopted!)

    • Jade says:

      I am pregnant with our 5th. At the beginning of this pregnancy I had read a response from another women with a larger family, and have used it a few times.

      When asked if I know how this happens I have been responding “Well they say sex or water, and I am not willing to give up either of those.” Then I smile.

    • Jaimie says:

      God bless you for adopting so many kids! YOU ARE A SAINT. The best kind of Christian there is, I think. Wow. Go you.
      Jaimie recently posted..I warned you I was a snob

      • Mary Lee says:

        My husband and I are trying to figure out if we can adopt. We have three, and I share many of Jaimie’s sentiments, although I do think that many women were duped into thinking of getting pregnant as the ultimate thing to avoid when they were young. I am so glad I have my boys.

  58. Ashley says:

    Jennifer,

    Your faith is such a witness to me. I wish so badly we were close friends. And I wish so badly that the last sentence didn’t sound creepy.

    Ashley
    Ashley recently posted..Conflict Resolution – Part 2

  59. Brittany says:

    Dearest Jen,

    Is it just me or has your writing gotten better lately? :) I deeply appreciate your life and insights.
    Brittany recently posted..Just Skin

    • Apple says:

      Annoying comments don’t live in a vacume – there is the flattery too “How do you do it!”, etc. – Also, we must admit that in some areas larger families are trendy.

  60. Jules says:

    This post is great. I’m not married, and don’t have children, but these are excellent points to remember when I start getting down about those facts. Life in general really isn’t all about me or what I want, and I certainly lay no claim to God-like powers of telling the future. Thanks for the blog. :)
    Jules recently posted..Vacation!

  61. Sue says:

    I got tired of feeling defensive, so I thought I’d take another tactic.
    A few of my favorite responses, always said with a grin, of course:

    We know what causes that (pregnancy), you know.
    So do we. That’s why we’re so successful.

    Oh, bless your heart!
    Oh, thank you! God has blessed us!

    You poor thing!
    You probably feel sorry for a millionaire when he gets another million!

    How many kids do you have?
    We have 5.
    Wow. We have 2.
    You quit before you even got started!

  62. I appreciated this post – having grown up with just one other sibling, nothing prepared me for the “large family” comments. (I find it very difficult to avoid feeling insulted by people who shout that we should stop having children…)

    Sue’s comments are particularly helpful as well. Her wisdom reminds me of a talk we had during my MBA. A successful female executive came in to tell us not to forget about or put off having children. Her research had shown that many women got to the end of extremely successful careers with a bitter feeling of loss, having never had children of their own.

    I waited to start having children (until a doctor advised I come off the pill; I learned about NFP and my life changed dramatically), and now we’re having them closely spaced, so as to be efficient and to get through this diaper-changing toilet-training stage quickly.

    Reading this post and the comments makes me think that I have a thinner skin and less faith than I would like.

    Thank you for your writing, Jennifer!
    Elisa | blissfulE recently posted..here we go loopty-loo

    • Mary Lee says:

      I am shocked that a doctor would suggest that anyone come off the Pill. I feel that the entire medical profession fails to serve women who are educated and working, in that they are very good at preventing you from having children, but neglect to inform you that your fertility starts to fall around age 26! Here in the Northeast, it would be utterly unheard of to have your doctor suggest that you might want to think about having children sooner rather than later. The first question any doctor has ever asked me when I go in for a checkup is, “What form of contraception are you using?”

      • Mary says:

        We must have the same doctor here in the Northeast hahaha. The closest my doc has ever come to saying it’s great that I’m having my second within 2 years (that’s not even that close together!) is that it can be nice to have children close in age.

      • Jessica says:

        I am looking for an NFP-knowledgeable gynecologist in my area. I just had a terrible experience at my GYN’s office (subject of my latest blog post, actually) that made me realize that even if my GYN is open to NFP, it is a huge headache when the nurses have never even heard of it. Unfortunately I haven’t had any luck finding an NFP-friendly GYN yet.
        Jessica recently posted..Just a Number

      • The doctor suggested I come off the pill when I started getting questionable PAP smear results. I can’t remember now, but I believe he suggested contraceptive injections instead. This sparked my interest in researching alternatives to the pill, and that’s how I found out about NFP. So glad now for those PAP smears!
        Elisa | blissfulE recently posted..Nikki pushes the pram

  63. Kati Lee says:

    I as often get the comments of “aren’t you going to have any more children? Your kid is going to be spoiled.” etc. I have one daughter and was very blessed to be able to have her. I continued to use NFP for the first 4 years of her life…hoping to have more…even though its pretty risky medically for me to do so. After that, I got on birth control because cysts on my ovaries and debilitating pain. It has been difficult feeling like I’ve cut off the possibility of more kids but I feel blessed that I was able to both concieve and give birth to a healthy child despite many medical issues. It would take a long time to get into it, but from her conception to birth, it was clear that God had a plan and really took care of us. I come from a family of 6 and every one of my siblings is important in my life. Thanks for your post.

  64. Suzanne says:

    We have 7 children, ages 2-15. When asked if we want more, I often say, “Oh, I would just be so sad if I knew FOR SURE that I’d never have a little baby in my arms again.” Once, it was a nurse at my 6th baby’s 3-day pediatrician visit, who said forcefully, “You’re getting your tubes tied, right?” When I gave her the above answer, she sobered up and said, “Yeah, I’ve always regretted my tubal.”

    • Betsy says:

      Wow. That’s exactly where I think a lot of anti-child/anti-more-children comments come from: attempting to soothe a guilty conscience by either lashing out or “demanding” the acceptance/normalization of their own behavior. This may not always be the case, but if you look at other behaviors (abortion, promiscuity, etc.) you’ll often find similar sentiments among those involved – animosity towards anyone who even unintentionally pricks their consciences.
      Betsy recently posted..Go- and vent no more

      • Renee says:

        Betsy, I’ve noticed this as well. It seems the people who are the most opinionated and opposed are the ones who are really struggling with God about the issue.

  65. vgs says:

    My ex-husband couldn’t have kids and I was told I probably couldn’t either, so I thought I’d never be a mother. Then we adopted two infants in a 2.5 year period. My ex got tired of being a husband and we split when they were 1 & 3. I married a man who took over being their father when they were 4 & 2, and he brought his own 4 yr old to the marriage. Surprisingly, were blessed with three unexpected (but very loved) homemade kids when we were 35, 39,& 46. Since none of them really look alike people frequently wondered about them. Oy. We now have a great family of kids ranging from 15 to 32, all of whom are very close, even though some live 3000 miles apart.

    When I had to have a complete hysterectomy at 51, I actually had thought I was pregnant again. I asked God to please give me more kids somehow, and we’ve had at least 8 college students live with us at varying times in our small home. We laugh because apparently I forgot to ask God for *little* kids!

  66. Martina says:

    Yup. I think I said that with each bullet point you made. You and I are very similar in a lot of our world views prior to conversion/reversion to the Faith. We could have some *very* mirrored conversations, I think.

    But in the end, I think those errors of judgment, thinking, views on life and our marriage and children serve to help us become stronger Catholics. I often think about St. Paul and St. Peter and how God used those flaws to bring more to the flock.

    It’s often humility that drives our recognition of those flaws and when we share them with others it makes a beautiful bridge that others can relate to and find attraction to the Faith.

    Testimony is such a powerful tool when coupled with humility. And you’ve got it, chica. :)
    Martina recently posted..Baby blues

  67. Lydia says:

    It’s astounding how rude people can be. What made it acceptable to talk about the intimate details of life in the grocery store? When I was pregnant with my daughter, no other kids in tow, some weirdo screamed “Breeder!” at me. When my mom had four little ones in 6 years she dealt with a lot of inappropriate comments from other mothers and older people who seemed really angry at the idea of children. I think it’s great to want to witness to being open to life, but I think there comes a point where you just have to say “Who the hell do you think you are?”
    Lydia recently posted..Pro-life Thursday- sort of

  68. Ellie says:

    I’ve read your blog for a while now, but have never commented. I just wanted to thank you so much for this post. It is what I needed to read today. I’m from a family of 11 kids, so you can just imagine the comments that my parents get. They still have 6 kids at home, and when people find out that they have more, they go crazy!

    I have a 3 month old, and sometimes the thought of getting pregnant scares the crap out of me! Your post reminded me of what is really important. Thank you!

    • Mary says:

      Ah, big family! That’s so great! My grandmother had 15, so I have LOADS of cousins (I myself am from a family of 4). People are always stunned when I tell them my family is over 150 people and growing! Awesome, awesome, awesome. You tell your parents how tremendous they are.

      • Ellie says:

        Thanks, Mary, I will pass on your comment to my parents. I don’t think they hear how great they are often enough. In fact, when out in public, they usually hear the opposite!

  69. Ellen says:

    Number six frankly scares me. You are telling women they shouldn’t worry about providing for their babies, it will just happen for them. It’s clear you’ve led a very charmed life, but many people don’t and this advice is akin to telling someone don’t bother to look both ways when crossing a highway, god will guide you across!

    • Ellen says:

      I feel I should expand on this, as I live in a very religious country, but it is also a very poor country and babies are not always provided for. Often they are abandoned and occasionally left for dead, usually by young unmarried teenagers who made no plans and didn’t prepare for motherhood.

      If you are white and middle class in the United States, you must be aware your reality is a very small portion of the reality the majority of the world faces. Smiling at and telling a 16 year old who lives on the street in a war torn and violent country her baby will be cared for is just downright cruel.

      • Madga says:

        This is an excellent point – one that I have pondered a lot lately.
        Being born in the United States may lessen the chance for death by starvation (unless you are considered not worth saving when you are sick or disabled), but suffering exists for children born here. Sometimes the parents are culpable, sometimes not.
        Sin, such as artificial birth control, abortion, euthanasia may alleviate personal suffering, but it will do so by causing suffering for another.
        Sin, such as fornication, may bring pleasure for the person sinning, but it will do so causing pain to another.
        Love is the answer. As shown by Father Ho Lung of the enormously generous and successful order Missionaries of the Poor.

      • Tracy says:

        Ellen, I have missed the comment or part of the post where anyone has said or even alluded to this:

        “Smiling at and telling a 16 year old who lives on the street in a war torn and violent country her baby will be cared for is just downright cruel”

  70. 'Becca says:

    Oddly enough, I get this same question on a regular basis because I have ONE child, and everyone seems to think it’s their business whether I’ll have more. My answer is, “I’ll be happy either way!” That might work for you too.
    ‘Becca recently posted..Thinking Out Loud

  71. I’ve got four under seven, and I could not express it better myself, but it’s a pity I can’t explain all that to someone (even a friend or a parent) who wants a pat, one-line answer.

    Bless you beautiful girl! I can’t wait to buy your book.
    Marilyn Rodrigues recently posted..My kids want to be on Junior MasterChef

  72. Lisa says:

    Thank-you for your eloquence. After eleven children, one who joined God early, four who started life in the NICU, people stopped asking us this question long ago — just assuming we were nuts or mentally deficient. But — then, poor people. They couldn’t know — They don’t understand the blessings that have come with our big Catholic family — and they haven’t met these beautiful children of ours. Everyone of them planned. By God.

  73. Sally Thomas says:

    Jen — This is a gorgeous post. And I’ll tell you this: I used to joke, back in the day, that I would become Catholic when I hit menopause. The saints and angels are still laughing about that one. I began praying the Angelus when, as an Anglican, I was 38, pregnant un-plannedly with what would turn out to be my last child, and we were broke, insurance-less, jobless, prospect-less, and also already had a 7-month-old and two older children. I was not pro-life at the time; that prayer, and that child, by God’s grace, made me so. Ultimately those things in my life also — with a few other things — conspired to make me Catholic.

    And then I had to learn, by praying the Angelus, that being open to life means being open to it ALL, including the no when what you discover you crave, after all, is one more chance to hold a child who’s entered the world through you.

    Somehow, though, when people remark on how VERY many children you have (and since you know people who have nine, and ten, and twelve kids, what you have doesn’t really seem like that many to you), it’s hard to encapsulate all that in one remark which you can toss off in the checkout line at the grocery store.
    Sally Thomas recently posted..Poetry Friday- For Life

    • Madga says:

      “And then I had to learn, by praying the Angelus, that being open to life means being open to it ALL, including the no when what you discover you crave, after all, is one more chance to hold a child who’s entered the world through you.”
      That is beautiful, Sally.
      It is so amazing to be a mom.

  74. Emily says:

    When my mom (mother of 6) was asked if she was going to have more, she always replied “Not today!” :)

    • Martina says:

      I <3 that response! Our youngest, #5, was born August 7 and when people ask about more kiddos, I simply say with a smile on my face 'this one still has the tags on…I think we'll be enjoying her a while more'. :)
      Martina recently posted..Baby blues

      • 'Becca says:

        Uh, you might want to adjust your phrasing, Martina. That sounds like you expect to stop enjoying her when she’s older!
        ‘Becca recently posted..Thinking Out Loud

        • Sue says:

          ‘this one still has the tags on…I think we’ll be enjoying her a while more’.

          Adjust a little more, Martina. :) It sounds like you quit enjoying the older one when a new one arrives. I’m pretty sure you don’t mean that!

  75. I really appreciate this post, Jen, and have had so many of these same thoughts! Hopefully I can do a Show & Tell link-fest sometime soon and feature this one.
    Jess @ Making Home recently posted..Chronicling Babywise – Weeks 8 through what are we up to now 14

  76. Sean says:

    Thanks for the great blog post. It was just what I needed to read today. My wife and I have been working through 14 years of infertility. Included in that is 2 miscarriages two years ago. We have always put the child thing in God’s hands. We did adopt our beautiful daughter 10 years ago. She is quite a challenge with severe autism. We are also blessed to have insurance coverage for IUI and are trying that now. We feel compelled to do it at this time even though we have had that coverage for the past 8 years and could have done it at any time during that period.

    Thanks again for your words. God bless you and your family.

  77. Candice says:

    I am a convert to the Catholic faith, and honestly the “no birth control” doctrine was one of the easiest for me to accept. It just made sense to me. I loved the faith it requires and the respect it gives to the husband wife bond. We have 2 babies – 3 years old and 16 months (both high risk pregnancies, the youngest being born 6 weeks early) and I miscarried at 11 weeks in June. People ask me this all the time and my answer is simply, “we are Catholic so we let God decide that!” said with a sweet smile and then I move on.
    As a sidenote I am too lazy to really learn NFP and take my temp daily (we did take the class). So we use an app on my Droid phone called “My Days” it is free and we have successfully avoided pregnancy for the last 5 months using it. It is basicly the rythmn method, so we understand it isn’t nearly as accurate but we are ok with that.

  78. Stu says:

    I may be wrong, but isn’t overpopulation the main reason that humans are over-exploiting God’s beautiful planet? Yes – people should have kids, but simple maths shows that if everyone has too many kids then the whole project is doomed to overcrowding (unless we establish bases on other planets/wars and famine limit our numbers). Just a thought!

    • regina says:

      overpopulation is a lie, easily believed in the middle of a city, but less so when flying over a country and seeing miles and miles of open land. The world needs more good people that will farm the land and take care of others instead of sit around and play video games and complain about overpopulation because it was crowded at the grocery store last week.

    • Magda says:

      Yes, Stu, you are wrong.

      • stu says:

        Is that it? Is this a discussion? Or just a “please leave comments that agree with me” blog? I am a practising Christian who cares about the plight of our planet. I read a lot. I teach science. I love checking my facts. I have links with the Hadley Centre (look it up). We’re all going to hell in a handbasket unless we sort out the prob of overpop – God won’t be encouraging us to wreck his BEAUTIFUL CREATION (and I have no faith in sci/tech to sort out ALL of our manmade problems, other than as a sticking plaster (or band aid).

        • Kelly says:

          I dunno, Stu. Limiting is a pretty drastic measure. Why can’t we start with easier stuff. Like, no more subdivisions with 4000 sq ft homes inhabited by families of four.

          Yes, I’m saying that tongue in cheek, but really, limited our resource use makes more sense to me than limiting people. Especially if you consider that large Catholic (or large ANY really) families are a very very small percentage of the population. I would think that limiting resource using on a large scale will have more of an impact than the, what, 2% of Catholic families who have 6 kids.

        • Sue from Buffalo says:

          Stu, I disagree with you about the “plight of overpopulation.” Would you post some links showing us how the earth is going to get wrecked if we don’t stop having so many children?

          I understand (or I think I do) your argument that if everyone keeps multiplying, then the earth will be overcrowded (and perhaps using too many resources?). You have to remember that not everyone is multiplying. There are infertile couples plus there are those that if they listen to God’s word (according to the Catholic faith) will become priests, nuns and other religious. Obviously, they wouldn’t be multiplying.

          We all care about the plight of our planet. I really do believe that God does not want us to use birth control…at least, in the forms that are popular in today’s culture, i.e. pills, condoms, etc. Because I believe wholeheartedly in the Catholic teachings, I am putting all of my faith in God.

          If you have links that show how we are all going to “hell in a handbasket,” I will check them out as time allows. If I don’t find them credible, I’ll let you know but please give me time as I have five gifts from God that need my attention. Thanks.

          • Stu says:

            Thanks for engaging with me – I am trying to understand alternative viewpoints as well as contributing my own.
            As for evidence for overpopulation, Rio de Janerio is a case in point. Slums. Overexploitation of Brazil’s resources. Destruction of habitat (I cried when I looked at the gash across the Amazon on Google Earth, and zoomed in to the Trans Amazon Highway, explored the side roads, and their side roads, and the farms that replaced ancient rainforest (and possibly wiping out hugely beneficial fauna, possible including cures for cancers etc….sorry….getting carried away now).
            Fair point about limiting factors such as personal choice (my wifey and I are in this category) and infertility (male fertility the the UK has fallen by 50% in 50 years, most likely due to pollution of water supplies by synthetic chemicals).
            Please also bear in mind that not everyone has the means to raise their children (at which point we get into the “who should be allowed to have children debate”)
            I love sci-fi (or speculative fiction) as it often aims to realistically explore possibilities. When I was a kid I assumed we would find the means to colonise the planets pretty soon. In fact our technology has not kept pace with our dreams as we have put too much faith in science. And I write this as a science teacher!
            Have you seen the film “Children of Men” where the entire planet becomes infertile? Absolutely harrowing. No-one but a psycho would want this.
            Links
            http://www.optimumpopulation.org/

            Copy these 2 sentences into youtube’s search box (I never scroll down to the troll section!) First clip, 1 min, 2nd clip, about 10 mins This guy is an environmental hero who really knows his stuff first hand

            David Attenborough – Important Message about Population

            BBC Horizon – How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth? Must SEE

            Tell me what you think.
            BTW I AM NOT ANTI-CHILDREN: QUITE THE OPPOSITE!!!

          • Jessica says:

            Just realized that my comments below were probably more appropriately attached this thread–there are two different conversations on overpopulation going on, so I mixed them up. The comment about overpopulation of one city was specifically in response to Stu’s comment about Rio de Janeiro.
            Jessica recently posted..Just a Number

  79. AP² says:

    The world population is now around 6.7 Billion. It more than doubled in the last 40 years, from 3 Billion.

    There are now 259 persons per square mile of arable land. At this rate, which has remained constant for the last 40 years, there will be 960 persons per square mile of arable land.

    But hey, thanks for procreating instead of adopting and leading us all to a future of hunger and war :)

    • Sue from Buffalo says:

      Look, folks. The trolls have arrived with faulty information to get us riled up.

      Sorry, AP. Won’t work… but I will remember you in my prayers at mass today.

      • Stu says:

        Not trolling – honest! True, there is a lot of empty land, but that doesn’t mean the planet’s wonderful bounty is infinite. We are already seeing wars and famine due to shortages of resources (yes: and civil war, politics, etc, but it’s all connected, isn’t it?)
        Every major civilization that got complacent and assumed the right to exploit everything without proper foresight hit a stumbling block (see Romans, Easter Islanders, etc – the evidence is right there in historical/archeological records).
        So….have fewer kids, bring them up to conserve our amazing world, and preserve what God has given us. Or enjoy yourself, move inland when the seas rise (as they already are) and fight to defend whatever way of life you choose. I cannot sanction bringing life into the world right now as the main problem that the human race faces doesn’t seem to be a “shortage of personnel”.
        It’s the “Elephant in the Room”, guys!

        • Magda says:

          Stu,
          Wars and famine are due to the selfishness and tyranny of a few who control resources.
          The more people to dissent and fight this, the less the power of the few.
          There is plenty of food and water. People live in deserts, for gosh sake.

          • stu says:

            Can’t you see that in a democracy, “a few who control resources” is the electorate, i.e. you and me? Everything we vote for, every change we bring about, or change we fail to being about through laziness/misguidedness had a knock on effect. As Christians we cannot separate ourselves from the responsibility we have for the custody (not ownership) of the amazing sphere we found ourselves born upon.
            BTW this is an interesting discussion and I don’t consider myself to be a troll (in fact I’ve never played World of Warcraft in my life!!)

          • Magda says:

            Stu,
            The world population myth has been around for a long time.
            I bought into it a long time ago, but was educated out of that
            way of thinking.
            Here are a couple of websites you may or may not have checked on:
            http://www.aliveandyoung.net/2010/09/worlds-population-can-fit-comfortably.html
            http://www.pop.org/content/debunking-myth-again-steve-mosher-debates-1962 (Steve Mosher was a big advocate of population control).
            I am a reformed new ager.

          • Stu says:

            Sorry, but the links refer to individuals who come into the debate with their minds already made up and agendas to push. Naughty. As good rational citizens/latest custodians of Starship Earth we should gather information THEN make conclusions, and not cherry pick the facts that suit our views (or make them up, or introduce non-sequiturs like the one below).
            The bit about overpolulation being a “lie” because the entire global population would fit into Texas…..Texans frequently boast about how LARGE their state is, so how is this an argument?! I read once that all humans would fit onto the Isle of Wight in the UK. So what?
            Also, wasn’t Stephen Mosher the discredited academic who was kicked out of his university for breaking US law and breaching ethical guidelines? Not sure we should be putting our faith in the hands of charlatans…..

          • stu says:

            God bless you Jessica! You are truly rational AND full of practical love.
            I don’t know much about US adoption laws, but I know an awful lot of infertile UK couples who would love to adopt but aren’t due to the massive amount of beaurocracy involbed. so hopefully our new coalition government can do the right thing and make it easier for people to help the helpless.
            BTW I am wary of any worldview that ends in “-ism” so single issue decisions such as the ones you have outlined above are the best if they are considered rationally using God’s love (and his gift of BRAINS to us!) Peace to all.

        • Jessica says:

          I’ve been following this discussion for a while now, and I hope you’ll allow me to interject as someone without a strong feeling on either side of the debate.

          From the comments and links posted, it seems to me that the situation is roughly that population is declining in many “developed” countries, whereas many poorer or “third-world” have more people than can adequately share the resources available to them — land, food, etc.

          The problem, then, with pointing to one overpopulated city, is that you can’t make generalizations about the world (“the world is overpopulated”) because what’s true in one place is not true everywhere.

          On the other hand, the problem with making worldwide calculations, such as saying that everyone could fit in Texas or that we have enough food to feed 14 billion people, is that that assumes we’re willing to share. It assumes that when people have too little food, those with more than enough will share. And when there are too many people in too small a space, those with more space (Texas, perhaps?) will say, “Come on over!”

          I don’t know the political views of people on this site, so I won’t make assumptions, but I do find a kind of sad irony in that many of my friends and acquaintances who are strongly anti-contraception and anti-abortion are the same ones who are quick to label any kind of wealth-redistribution negatively as “socialist” (despite this idea being in the Bible; e.g., John the Baptist saying, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”) and the same ones who are battling to keep immigrants from overpopulated, underresourced cities out of our country.

          At best, it’s an oversimplification to say that “the world” is or is not overpopulated. There are certainly parts of the world where there are not enough resources available for the number of people there. And yet trying to force population control, such as China did, is generally looked down upon. So the question becomes, are the places who do have more than enough resources willing to share? If they’re not, then making calculations about the world as a whole is irrelevant.

          I also think that telling an American mother with five children that she’s contributing to overpopulation (not that anyone on this site is, but clearly some people do say this) is a false conclusion to make. If those five children are, as some suggested, learning to live simply, as stewards of what they’ve been given, and to share with those who have less, then we’ve made progress.

          On a final personal note, my husband and I plan to have a big family, but have no more than two biologically. Being a parent without a child, and knowing there are so many children without parents, I personally feel guilty creating too many more children myself. It has nothing to do with overpopulation and everything to do with the thousands of children needing to be adopted. This is just my own feeling, and I don’t think anyone else needs to feel guilty for having their own children. I just pray more people consider adoption as well.

          Thanks for reading my two cents with an open mind :) This has inspired me to write a blog post about this whole idea.

  80. Whimsy says:

    Yes we want to keep trying until we get an ugly one!

    Love that answer!

    I’ve been saying lately that it’s up to my husband.

    There’s a lot of truth to that, and it drives feminists crazy.

  81. Elizabeth says:

    Here is an alterternative site, created by John and Sheila Kippley after they left CCL (they wrote the original manual for CCL) for those who might be interested in learning more about NFP.  nfpandmore.org They offer a free manual, which is wonderful and user-friendly,that you can download. They are a wonderful and (obviously) brilliant couple and I highly recommend the site.

    I thank you so very much,Jen, for writing this post. It’s beautiful and so true. It makes me sad to read some of the comments. Sad to realize that God’s will and divine plan is so often taken out of the equation when it comes to big ideas of our world. I wonder if those who are worried about overpopulation know that that same idea (overpopulation) was used by  the woman who invented the Pill and that was one of the reasons– to keep our world the way want it instead of the way God has designed it. And it looks like it’s working, just not in the way it was  thought to work: instead it’s one ofthe causes of breast cancer in women. Unintended consequence for playing God?  Man and woman were created to procreate.  women were made to carry babies. If we were meant to stop at 2.33, God could have easily made it so.
    Thanks again Jen. I will hug my own 4 babies tomorrow and make sure not to tell the last couple of them that there are really folks out there who think they might take up too much space. :-)

    • Mary says:

      “I will hug my own 4 babies tomorrow and make sure not to tell the last couple of them that there are really folks out there who think they might take up too much space.”

      That’s so sweet. I remember telling a friend, who told me I was selfish for wanting more than 2 children, that he was suggesting my father – a seventh child – should never have been born, effectively deducing that he believed I never should have been born. And even if he legitimized my father’s birth, I myself am the youngest of 4. It shut him up pretty quick.

      Some people don’t even realize what they’re saying. They just repeat the platitudes they’ve been sold, and it’s not until they meet someone who represents the other side, that they must acknowledge there’s real people out there with whom they disagree.

      Not to mention…WHO on earth calls women who have more than 2 kids selfish!?!? Mothering is the SINGLE most selfLESS job ever.

  82. Kimi says:

    I am a 45-year-young mother of nine (plus one in heaven) and we have been approached many, many times with this question, as you can imagine. Our favorite answer to “Are you FINISHED yet?” is “Hmmm… we’re not sure. We’re still waiting on an ugly one.” :) It gets the point across that we wish for them to mind their own business, but it also throws in some humor to keep it light. No matter what people ask, I’ve found that they are usually only curious as to how we do it all and keep our sanity or that they feel the need to say SOMETHING to commment on a lifestyle that is so unusual in this day and age. My answer is usually followed up by, “I always wanted more children”, not “Gosh, I wish I’d had fewer children.” I think that says it all.

    • Kimi says:

      To clarify, when I give my answer (waiting on an ugly one), other people usually follow up by saying that they wish that they had more children. In 24 years, I’ve never encountered a person who told me that they wish they had LESS! <3

  83. Bruce in Kanasa says:

    Try, “Please don’t interfere with my reproductive rights.”

  84. Bridget Huntz says:

    We have nine children, the oldest just turned 12 today. My husband is deployed for six months and we homeschool. I truly didn’t think that I could handle this. Truly, I can’t, we can’t without Our Lord! The only way to DO it, is to trust that God will provide… and He ALWAYS does! Just when I am about to loose my cool, or have lost it.. someone always “pops” up and gives me that reminder how blessed I am. I am talking to you on a good day. We have plenty of rough ones… but we need to thank Him for those rough spots and be grateful.. they are our call to holiness. It is very hard, but we must love anyway! God bless you all!

  85. I smile and simply answer “God knows” because only He does. And we’re thankful that he’s recently blessed us with our ninth. Would I be any less thankful if He decided to bless us with a tenth, eleventh or twelfth? I don’t think so, considering I’m as elated this time around as I was the first time, or second, or third…

  86. Amy Caroline says:

    I have been a long time reader of your blog and have found you again. I am so glad that I did! I have spent this morning catching up with you! This is such a wonderful post.
    I gave birth to my 7th baby just 2 months ago ( 10 years ago I would have thought someone was completely mad if they had told me I would have 7 kids!). Hubby and I kept talking about how 7 is probably enough and how we need to be careful. But then one day in the car while talking about the baby’s baptism and how I forgot to get a candle to my oldest, I said, “I will remember next time.”
    She looked at me and laughed so hard. In that moment I knew, no matter what I plan or how much I plan, the truth is they are nothing compared to God’s plan! At least my sub-conscience knew it.
    God bless!

  87. I am a 39 year old Mom to 16 , been very blessed to give birth to them all,
    21,19,18,16,14,13,11,10,8,7,6,5,4,2,1,2 months, so far, when I am asked, if we will have more, I just say “YES”.
    Christi_Momof16 recently posted..Waiting for our castle

  88. Liz says:

    I’ve been following the comments on here for a while and when I saw the below article, I thought of the conversation on here about controlling the population. I’m not saying anyone on here is pro-abortion (or not for that matter) but I do beg the question: how is the concept of overpopulation that different than what the PP president is proposing? I would very much like to hear what you all think. If you care to take the time.

    http://www.lifenews.com/2010/10/26/nat-6794/

  89. Magda says:

    They (PP) also consider contraception preventive health.
    Plus – it will prevent the creation of lots of souls!

  90. Duane says:

    Parenthood for me is the beginning of understanding the directive from Jesus that to save your life you must lose it. Nothing I’ve experienced has required me to give up more yet gain so much as parenthood. It is maddening and fulfilling all at once.

  91. Chelita says:

    Thankyou for the time you put into this post. It was written so well! I love the part about each baby coming with some “bread” under his arm. That got my heart. It will stay with me forever.

  92. Julie says:

    I identify so much to you in many ways. We are the same age, have four really close children, gave up our faith and had a conversion. I used to be like you, did not want children or religion, being really independend and then got married. Everything changed since then, and my kids became my world. Even though 2 of them have specials needs I still contemplated the idea of more children. We discuss a lot about adoption or natural children, since genetically we have 90% chances of having another child with the same problems. But even there I do not think it will be wrong to take the chance, they are so wonderful the way they are sickness or not. They see the world so differently than I do, but they bring me closer to God.

    Continue your writings it is amazing to read what I think from so young woman.

  93. Helena says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying your family. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a lot of kids. But don’t tell me for a minute you didn’t plan and want them or that you left it up to god. You are an intelligent woman and I’m sure know how not to get pregnant. This is something you want, why can’t you just admit it?

    And yeah, “god” provides for every baby, right. Any recent trips to Africa, lately? What has god done for those people, other than give them aids and hunger? I love how all you affluent people (yes, just eating and having shelter is affluent to many people on this planet) give god credit for pulling them through the tough times. Your tough times would be heaven to some people. You are lucky, plain and simple and they are unlucky. But unlucky is preferable to cursed which is what they would be if your god actually existed.

  94. Eileen says:

    My standard response is “The three I have are such a joy – I hope so!” And when people comment that I have my hands full I say “In my life I’ve had my hands empty and my hands full. I’ll take full any day.”

  95. GREAT post! Just found your blog, and look forward to reading more.

    The question I have gotten for the past 25 years is, “Aren’t you done yet?” Our first baby was a boy … with a girl following just 14 months later. Everyone thought we should be done, since we had gotten the “perfect family” (whatever that is).

    To make a very long story short … we were NOT done … and had no idea what the Lord had planned for the next 25 years.

    We had our first 5 babies in 4 years. (We found out we were expecting twins, when the “older” kids were just 1, 2, 3.)

    On the day the twins turned 1, we found out that #6 was on the way.

    Then … we slowed down the pace.

    Our first 6 “batch” (3 boys / 3 girls) are all grown and gone now. We are so very glad that we didn’t stop at just a 1/2 dozen. No. Now, we are enjoying life with the next 1/2 dozen (another set of 3 boys / 3 girls).

    With 3 of our older kids getting married this year, we are excitedly looking forward to the grandparent stage, sometime in the next few years.

    Children are a BLESSING, and I commend you on allowing the Lord to show you the answer to the question of whether or not He has more children for you, rather than focusing just on what YOU WANT.

    Blessings,

    Laurel :)
    Mama D’s Dozen recently posted..Do You Ever Dream Of Having A

  96. Rebecca Ramsay says:

    Once you get to seven, they stop asking. They know you are obviously so crazy there is no hope in getting a rational response.

  97. dave says:

    Carrie – just use hormonal contraception and don’t tell your priest about it, like 98% of Catholic women.

    • Sue from Buffalo says:

      Dave, I hope you’re joking because it would be horrible to think so low of women as to wish mortal sin on them. You do know (don’t you?) that contraception is a mortal sin. And there are very good reasons for it.

  98. What a beautiful post. As a mother of 4 young children and a little more advanced in age than you are now, I am in a quandary about the possibility of a fifth child. On the one hand, I want to obey God and keep my body open to His plans, yet on the other hand, I am scared of getting pregnant again – (1) for health reasons, and (2) because of what I may hear. You may find it quite silly of me, to say the least, to be mindful of #2, but unfortunately, it affects me. I do need to pray more and ask for God’s help to be submissive to Him and not to public opinion.

  99. Sherry says:

    My husband’s favorite response to that question, “It’s no sacrifice to be surrounded by people that love us.”
    Sherry recently posted..Reason 2,547,383 of Why We Should Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet

  100. Amanda says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and only just stumbled upon this post.

    I’ve now got three children, after starting out only planning for two! Having three is quite a bit more demanding and I often laugh now when I see parents getting stressed out with just the one child!

    Oh, how easy that was!!!
    Amanda recently posted..How can gap insurance help with car depreciation?

  101. CeCe says:

    Excellent blog. These points apply to anyone, regardless if your challenge is little ones close together, or no little ones at all. We can participate in our fertility with God, but sometimes, it’s just not about our plan at all. And when it’s not, the question needs to be, not “Why not my plan God” but “What is Yours”.

    My oldest sister and I are 14 months apart and then our folks had a total of 5 spread out over 14 years (with 2 miscarriages between the last 2). They really loved having an children and let us know we were loved, even when the money was tight, and everyone had to pitch in. I am so grateful for a sister close to my age and for a large family overall. Since I have not been able to have kids of my own, I always tease my sibs and nephews them that I’m going to be the aunt who comes to live with them when I’m old someday, so save me a room! :-)

    My husband and I also invest a lot of time in our community that parents of young families do not have to give at this stage of their lives. It takes all of us together to make community work for the greater glory!

  102. Joy says:

    I know this is an old post, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. A mutual friend forwarded me your blog. At 38 yearss old, my husband and I are currently expecting our 6th child. After having 3 children very close together, God gave us a 4 year break. Then we had #4 quickly followed by surprise #5 and now 4 years later, surprise #6 (which may be followed by #7, so I don’t have an “only child.”) It’s funny how sometimes we think we know what we want, but then God opens our eyes and gives us grace to enjoy and survive different circumstances. My children are 15, 13, 11, 6, 4, and due in March, and I love them all dearly!

  103. Rose says:

    Just found your blog and love it! Especially this post about a 30 something practicing NFP just like me. We use the creigthon method for those who are looking for a reliable method, and have had a lot of success. 3 babies so far with no surprises. Looking forward to reading more of your writing and hearing about your book.

  104. Tricia says:

    You’re so lucky. I would’ve LOVED four babies in as many years, but apparently breastfeeding is the perfect, natural “contraceptive” for me. We, like your family, went from contraceptive-users to God’s-plan-for-our-family people. We have a six-year old and a 23-month old (he’s still nursing) and I’ve been aching for another since he was a year old. We’ve been actively trying (I’ve been temping and using OPKs and all that) for many months, to no avail. I’m 31 and had no issue conceiving our boys, and now I can’t to save my life. When you said at 33, you probably have 10 years of fertility left, it struck me because I thought it would be easy-peasy to get pregnant again. Except I forgot to add in the whole nursing thing. And I bet you were nursing when you got pregnant! I guess I’m just unlucky or God doesn’t see fit to bless me with another right now. But it’s so hard to accept that when I devote my life, my body, to my babies and I try so hard to be the best mama I can be. We cosleep and I breastfeed and we cloth diaper and we are gentle disciplinarians. It’s shaken the core of my faith, this battle with infertility. It is literally testing my foundation in Christ. I see other women conceive, drug-users and women with multiple kids from multiple fathers that are terrible to their children, and I don’t understand. I know I’m not meant to, but it twists my heart and breaks me down, until I’m usually crying, begging on my knees for a baby. Anyway, I didn’t mean to unload my mental garbage in this comment. I guess when I read this post, I longed to be you. In a position where conceiving is easy, heck, it happens without even trying! I’d give anything to be in your shoes.
    Tricia recently posted..the post about the boom box.

    • Kelli says:

      Hi Tricia, I read your comment and related with it very much! My first 2 babies were conceived so easily (and are 3 1/2 years apart), and when we were hoping to conceive our third, it wasn’t happening (btw, I am 30 years old, use Creighton, co-sleep, breastfeed). I remember going to a Catholic homeschooling conference last year and I ended up leaving there so depressed because I was envious of all the big, wonderful, families I was seeing….I didn’t understand why God was allowing us not to conceive. I felt like no one really understood what I was going through emotionally because most of my friends conceived so easily. When God places that desire for another child on your heart, it is painful when it doesn’t happen….no matter how long it takes! I just want to encourage you to not lose hope, and to pray, pray, pray! I am currently 16 weeks pregnant with our 3rd and it took a year and half of active trying (a year and a half of targeting all of my fertile times, and I have a regular 28 day cycle). Do you have a Creighton dr? I ended up having slightly low progesterone during the late luteal phase, and my Creighton Dr. said I could try progesterone (prometrium) and I do think it helped us to conceive. My faith was tested during that time like it never had been before (and I had all the same thoughts you did), but I knew objectively that God is always good and He uses these times of suffering to prune us and to learn to trust Him with our lives …it’s hard though! I also asked Saint Anne to pray for me often…and I believe she did take a lot of my prayers to the Lord (and she understands the desire for a baby). I will pray for you!! I will pray that you will not lose hope and faith and that you will trust that our Loving God knows the desires of your heart, and that you will be blessed with a baby soon! xo!

  105. Dominika says:

    Its funny because I get the question very often , Will you have more children , right now I’m pregnant with the 4th child . When they see me pregnant and with my other 3 children they are amazed how I can handle so many kids . That question pups up Do you want more children ? I usually say Whatever God plan is I’m open and then is silence for few minutes. I feel the same as the you when I was thinking if I have enough love and strength to handle another life. Your story helped me understand that my children are here to help me to bring the best out of my heart which is love , patience , gentleness. Thank you for you testimony

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  108. Karen says:

    Great article, I too never could have imagined having four children. Also enjoyed the personal shopping one … I hope you do not hold it against me that having moved from Austin to the more conservative Midwest, I am only a slight hippy and have no problem at all with the term Gingerbread Men.
    Karen recently posted..“I am Happy” story – Five Minute Friday

  109. anna says:

    Anna, I want to give testimony of how DR LOVE TEMPLE brought back my divorce husband back to me,were married for 9 years then we break up, due to the fact that he never love me again.i have many felling for this my ex because we have gotten 2 kids together and i will want us to come back again. but all way i tried for us to come back all went in vain. i was confused and sad because i needed him back into my life, so i divided to contact DR LOVE TEMPLE, i never believe in spell casting i just decide to make an effort and see if something can come out of it. i contacted them and they told me that they needed to cast return back of love to him, they did the spell and after 2 week my ex called that he still love me and wanted us to be together again,what surprise me most was that he was married to another woman, and after the spell casting he divorce the woman for me that same week. it was the spell i cast on him that brought him back again. we later got married again and now the kids are happy that their father is back to their mother again, i telly thank this DR LOVE for bringing back my ex husband to me. i want you my fellow women who want back their divorce husband to contact drlovetemple@gmail.com

  110. smith says:

    Hello, My name is Tammy and my wonderful husband’s name is Shane. We’ve been married just over 10 years. We’ve been ttc for the past 9 years with no luck. We’ve now decided that adoption is the right option for us. We’ve been looking into the process over the past year or so. We’re not a wealthy family but we have more than enough love to make up for it. We live in a small town in Ohio, We’re actually hoping to do an adoption through the birth parent/parents that way the money spent can be put directly towards things for the child rather than wasted on pricey legal fees eat. So my question is, Where do we start? Who should we contact? I can be reached via e-mail smithadoptinghomemail.com or call +2348163974382 Thanks and god bless.