WELCOME! Here is my not-terribly-eloquent attempt to grow closer to God via... blogging. Unfortunately for you, I'm not sure what that means either. I guess we'll find out!

I'm 30 years old, married to an IT Guy and a stay-at-home-mom to two spectacularly gorgeous children. While we attend Mass on Sunday mornings, I spend the entirety of the Eucharistic Prayer focused on making sure the baby uses her crayons on the bulletin, not the pew

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03/23/2010

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Dr. Maureen

What? You mean you DON'T want to feel sick, tired, weepy, crazy, and overwhelmed for nine months? And then, if you're like me, another three or four months after that? YOU BAD BAD CATHOLIC.

Maggie, OF COURSE you don't want to be pregnant. That doesn't mean anything. If I could skip to a four-month old and avoid the trials of pregnancy and life with a newborn, I'd have eight million babies. But since it doesn't work that way, and as a result I don't know how many babies I want. Because being pregnant with other kids underfoot is hard, yo. And then I had semi-severe PPD with Nora, and that's not something I'd relish living through again.

Also, feelings are never sinful. Feelings are how you feel. You can choose to entertain feelings, to dwell on them and welcome them into your head, and you can choose how you act on the feelings, but you can't choose how you feel. Oh, and just *choosing* not to dwell on negative feelings doesn't automatically make them go away either, so you're also not sinful if you struggle with, say, depression or something.

I'm rambling a bit, but the crux of my point is that there's nothing wrong with not wanting more kids, so long as you're open, as you said. And there's also nothing wrong with not wanting to be physically and emotionally uncomfortable for a year. Without trying to equate pregnancy and crucifixion, I'd like to point out that Jesus himself didn't look forward to his own suffering with excited joy. He asked if he could skip it, actually. Just like we'd like to skip the pregnant part of the more kids.

Speaking of kids, mine needs a nap.

Sarah in Ottawa

I am with Maureen. I suspect that it is not unusual to dislike pregnancy - it's hard! It's exhausting and often nausea-inducing. It ends with lots of pain, and then there's a rough 3 months with a newborn! I also think the tie to salvific suffering should not be overlooked.

When I was pregnant with Teddy, it was challenging but interesting because it was all new. This time, I have been sicker and more exhausted - I don't love it. But I figure - I can do ANYTHING for a finite period of time. I don't have to be pregnant FOREVER, and the rewards are pretty awesome. A new person, who will become one of my favourite people in the world?! If I keep the end goal in site, I can get through.

I think another key to being "Open to Life" is taking it one day (or fertile period) at a time. This is particularly challenging for me, as I am a long-term planner and struggle to live in the moment. I am not sure I can be all excited about the prospect of 14 kids, but I don't think I need to be. It's more the prospect of another one, now, based on circumstances.

Salome Ellen

I never struggled much with being pregnant, but I remember very clearly telling God that I would take as many kids as He sent (even if I had one in college and one in kindergarten simultaneously) if only He wouldn't let me have ANOTHER MISCARRIAGE. (I had one before Arwen, one between Branwen and Miriel, and FIVE after Kelson. I think my body was just getting too old; I was 42 and 43 at the time.) But I agree with Maureen: feelings are OK, as long as you act on what is true and not on how you feel about it.

Elizabeth

I think this is a very fascinating blog post.
Mostly because I also do not feel "done" - I think of "only two" and feel sad. I really really really want at least three kids.
But at the same time, I never ever ever want to be pregnant again.
What to do, what to do?

Arwen

Who would rake you over the coals? I sure hope you're not thinking of me!

Maureen and Sarah said it all very well. They're right on. I just wanted to say that I so understand where you are right now. For me, it's not pregnancy that I dread (my pregnancies are hard physically but not mentally, and I think it's easier to handle/forget physical discomfort) although I certainly don't *enjoy* it... it's having a baby. Specifically, the entire first year of any new baby's life. They're sweet, sure, but I am just not a great baby-mom. I want them to grow up and get fun. And the idea of going through that first baby year another, like, six times or whatever is really overwhelming to me.

(Did you see that comment my mom left above? About how she kept getting pregnant when she was 42 and 43? Yes, that extended fertility could be in my future.)

On the other hand, Bryan and I as a couple don't seem to be particularly fertile, and there's never a guarantee, and I'm well aware that I might spend years hoping for the third baby to come along. But at this exact moment, I am SO NOT ready for him. It's a moot point at the moment since my cycle still hasn't come back, but when it does I am feeling that yes, we have a just reason to delay the next child. We are exhausted. We just... need more time. Making the decision month by month like Sarah said, of course, but delaying indefinitely, I think.

And oh, do I ever feel guilty, sometimes, for needing a bigger space this time. My sister is due in August with her third baby, and her first two are spaced more closely than mine, and her younger guy was just a couple months older than Blaisey when she got pregnant again. I am not going to be ready in a couple months. Which does not mean, as you said, that I wouldn't happily welcome another baby if God sent one now... but man, would I feel incredibly overwhelmed. I ALREADY feel overwhelmed.

I do feel pretty strongly that the Catholic way of approaching the whole Open to Life thing means that we don't have the right to decide preemptively that we are Done. Done or Not is God's domain. But on the other hand, saying "God, I feel like I could be done. What do you think?" and asking that question over and over again (until menopause anyway, ha) seems very Catholic to me. IMO, that's what the discernment aspect of NFP means: getting to vote ourselves, but giving God the biggest (and ultimately the overriding) vote.

I like what Maureen said about suffering, and I think it's an important thing to remember in this discussion: that the Catholic perspective on Why We Have Children is fundamentally different (IMO) than the secular one. It's not to fulfill ourselves or make ourselves happy - although of course it DOES do those things - it's to perfect us, and to create new souls who will also be perfected. Which means, in a certain sense, that the point of being a parent is to suffer. I mean, to suffer in a very rewarding way, and in a way that creates so much love in our lives, but still. It's suffering, any way you look at it.

Which is why I love Maureen's analogy about the Cross. So many times God generously gives us what we want, the things that will make us happy, and he wants us to keep seeking those things, but occasionally he will also do as he did to his Son in the garden after the Last Supper and say, "No, take this path instead." And yes, having another baby can never be compared to the agony of being crucified, but it can be suffering just the same. And the Catholic way of being Open to Life means that we're always striving to be the people who can say "thy will be done" even when we're inwardly thinking "oh no no don't let 'thy will' mean THAT".

...and now I'm just blathering (it is late here) but my point is that I know what you're talking about. And you're not a bad Catholic mother, you're a normal Catholic person and you are very inspiring to me in your willingness to be authentic and open and talk about these things. I would love to be able to write a post this honest for my blog. You're awesome.

Lindsay

My baby plans are on the shelf for a while. I long thought 2011 would be the year but now, I'm feeling happy generally and could go either way. Would be happy with a baby now, but could also see waiting quite some time. I'm not sure how a conversion to NFP is even possible in relationships where one person is definitely not on board (which isn't to say I would be if he were), so as that goes, well I guess I fail.

Karen

Here's a Catholic Mom who is not going to rake you over the coals. There is a gap of five years between my first and second. With my first, I had a horrible, terrifying emergency C-section delivery. I nearly bled out on the table. I left the hospital convinced that I would just have one kid, because surely I couldn't be expected to go through THAT again. My son was 10 pounds at birth, and I told myself "I make lovely babies, I just can't give birth to them."

Fast forward about three years later, and I started, well, feeling that tug. For another baby, a sibling for my son, who was so loving to babies and younger children, who would be a great big brother. I read everything on natural childbirth, searched out a doctor who had a 90 percent VBAC success rate, who was recommended by other Catholic moms I knew. And I gave birth to another 10 pounder, this time a VBAC.

Then when #2 was 13 months old, my husband and I were watching him toddle through the kitchen, waving sweetly at us, and we both said, "I want another." We both realized we'd had that "somebody is missing at the table" feeling. Even though said table was very, very small and barely fit the four of us...we still felt like there was a third child waiting to join our family. We both agreed to wait until #2 was 2 years old before trying.

Ha ha. As they say, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. I got pregnant that month, and #3 was born a month before #2 turned two years old. They are thick as thieves, and all three are the delight of my life.

We've tossed around the idea of a fourth. And oddly, this time I don't have the "Aaagggh, that would be crazy" feeling I did with #2 or even #3. This time we're just letting God decide. Although I have been throwing up small prayers that this one not be any bigger than #3 was at birth. He was 12 pounds. If they get bigger incrementally I'm hosed.

But just because I have three, doesn't mean I think everyone should have as many kids as they can have. My mother in law made the inane comment, after we told her we were expecting the third baby, "Oh, NOW you'll have a nice little family!" Excuse me, what were we before? A pod? What? Just because she had seven kids, doesn't mean a family that has one or two kids is not a valid family. Oy. I've known families with lots of kids who didn't seem like families at all.

The Catechism teaches that it is NOT a sin to use natural family planning to space children or even curtail family size, based on personal reasons. Those reasons are between you and God. Some moms may have physical limitations, or even emotional or mental ones. Some families may have financial issues. It's about providing children a healthy family, not about having as many kids as you can.

Tara

This really interesting to me.

I'm not Catholic (though a Christian) and while we don't think we WANT a third baby anytime soon, I understand the "being open" mentality.

I don't think it's wrong to have an opinion on what would be best for your family at this time. And maybe that's not God's opinion, but maybe it is.

I/we do want more children (I think), but I feel like we are just starting to See The Light with Maya getting out of the baby stage and turning into a fun toddler who talks and walks and giggles and doesn't (usually) wake me up all night long. We might foster/adopt later on... we'll see.

I saw a pregnant lady today and it was the first time that I actually got a little nostalgic about it, *maybe* wishing that I will experience it again.

At least you guys know you make really cute kids. ;-)

Christina

I'm not Catholic, but I tell Hubby all the time I'd be very happy to "go Catholic" when it comes to family planning. Leaving it totally open to God's timing/plans just seems like the best thing to me. (Hubby btw, was SO not on board with that idea, having come from a family with 2 kids, our 4 kids already freaks him out!) That said, I definitely felt done with pregnancy after my 2nd. It just wasn't a "fun" pregnancy and I wanted my body to myself for a while. And then we felt led to adopt and so #3 and #4 came through different (in many ways much harder) labors. But while we were waiting for Zeeb, I started thinking it wouldn't be so bad to be pregnant again... and last year for a while I really wanted to be pregnant. And I NEVER would have thought that would happen when I was 37. Of course we didn't get pregnant (my plans not being God's plans and all) and now I'm back to feeling quite good and DONE. So clearly I'm a fickle kind of girl. But all this babbling was to say that maybe God has you in a place of feeling "done-ish" right now because it's not the time for #3... and maybe you'll be ready to be pregnant when it is. God is good at getting us where we need to be, mentally and emotionally, I've found.

Lisa

I get the not-wanting-to-be-pregnant thing. Even though I've never BEEN pregnant and it's one thing I've worked hardest to achieve, I don't actually imagine liking the weird body-changing discomfort stuff. I get that.

Speaking from a different side of the coin, I don't think being open to life necessarily means that you desire X number of children or want to have babies as often as physically possible. It just means that you are in constant prayer and conversation with God and your husband about the timing. God knows your limitations, and maybe HE's OK with you waiting awhile to try to conceive too. Sometimes we forget that God's timing is different from ours, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we get a child sooner than we want...it may be later. You may decide to get pregnant in a couple of years and then it might take awhile, because God's not ready for you to have #3. I think somewhere in this whole husband-wife-God conversation, these things get worked out for the ultimate good of your family.

(For us, being "open" means waiting longer than we expected for adoption #2, but you knew that already. I've found that the best strategy for me to avoid being all crazy about it is to just let go and wait on God's timing. That used to be really hard for me, but now it's amazingly easy.)

jessica

I've prayed about this over and over again. And finally, I had the burden lifted. I finally felt like our family is complete.
I don't think it's fair to assume that just because we're Catholic, we need to pop a kid out every 18-25 months.

I want to give my kids a Catholic education. If we have a 3rd, we will not be able to afford it. That's not the reason I am happy with my 2 kids, but it's a fact.
I am actually, completely satisfied with my 2 boys. If I had another, I wouldn't be upset or freak out. I'd adjust our priorities. But I feel like I'm done.

My pregnancies are tough. Not because I felt bad or was sick. But because I know exactly how many doctors' appointments, shots, surgeries, etc, will be required. I had a cerclage with my 2nd at 16 weeks. Then I had weekly shots from 16-35 weeks. It's a lot of time.
Plus, the OB told me because of the scar tissue and the fact that my uterus is pretty thin, she only recommends one more child.

Not that any of you needed to know my epic story... sorry for the ramble.

All that to say, you're not alone. And I don't think you need to feel guilty about it.

Amy F

This has been really reassuring to read.

I'm 28w pregnant with boy #3 -- my first two will be nearly 6.5 and 4.5 when he arrives in August. It took us six months of actively TTC this time (after one cycle each for the older boys).

The things that freaked me out after baby #2 relating to a future pregnancy:
-Feeling awful for the 1st trimester. I don't throw up, but the constant nausea isn't something to look forward to.
-Surviving age 2 with a baby. My eldest's chief purpose in life when his brother started crawling was to pummel him all day long. We all cried a lot. It was the hardest 3ish months of parenting I've experienced. I was pretty motivated to avoid a 2-3 year age split for fear that I'd be somewhere between very pregnant and crawling baby when child #2 turned psycho.
-The postpartum recovery. I tear and recuperate slowly. I can handle the sleeplessness, the neediness, whatever, but not being able to sit comfortably is pretty rotten.

So as it turns out, I'll have a first grader and a preschooler in 5 day/half-day school shortly after this baby arrives and that isn't as intimidating to me as I would have felt if I'd gotten pregnant two years earlier. If God had had other plans, we would have embraced them. When people ask if we'll have more kids, I say probably, but who knows when. We'll take them one at a time and see how life goes and what God has to say about it.

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