How’s That Discernment Feel Now?

You may remember towards the end of the summer that I shared a bit about the discernment process we used to decide that perhaps we were finished actively pursuing the conception of biological children. The thing about discernment is — it’s never really over.

No. Nothing has changed. We don’t intend to actively pursue the addition to our family with biological children. But what I have found in the last few months is that I still think about this. All. The. Time. It’s not that I think about desiring children, it’s that I see my children growing up and I realize there’s going to be an end to the whole grow-up process. 

Over the last 12 years, when there’s always been a baby in the house, it’s been difficult to imagine life without a baby in the house. But here I am, sleeping all night every night. Here I am, serving meals for my family with no high chair in the kitchen. Here I am, putting my youngest child in “Time Out” — and he stays there.

And I notice things that I mark as “the last time.” I know someday in the future — probably a few months from now — I will realize we’ve stepped out of Mass with the youngest for the last time. I saw a little bouncy seat in the basement recently — it got missed whenever I passed along a bunch of baby stuff to my sister in the spring — and I realized I’ve had my last time cooing at a smiling baby in it. We took down the crib and my boys are both in “big boy” beds with the bunk beds, so I’ve had “the last time” one of my kids slept in a crib, too.

We pray a blessing before meals at our house, and I’m kind of lenient with the babies…they don’t always understand they need to wait until we’ve prayed to eat. But just a couple of weeks ago, we began praying, then Vincent tried to eat and I gently nudged his hands and showed him we were praying and he stopped, left his plate alone and folded his hands to finish the prayer with us. He doesn’t do it all the time yet, but he is waiting to eat until after the prayer more and more often. Pretty soon, he’ll be the one reminding us all that we pray before we eat.

Some mornings, I marvel at the fact that I haven’t had to bathe, dress, comb hair or brush teeth for my girls in so long that I can’t remember when I did it last. Dominic even gets himself mostly ready in the mornings, though he needs help getting his breakfast. So, I’m left with changing a diaper and dressing Vincent each morning…but even Little Mr. Independent is looking for opportunities to take those duties away from me.

Of course, Sarah’s growth as she’s progressed through middle school fascinates me, too. She is organized and takes pride in doing a good job. I love that she insists on kissing each of her younger siblings good night. Every. Night. She gets herself cleaned up and ready for bed and has all of her school stuff packed and ready at her door every night before bed. She even will sit down with me on Sunday night, pull out her planner and make sure she knows for sure which nights she has activities, how she is getting there and who is picking her up. 

Dani and Helen do their homework independently, monitor their own progress, ask questions when they need help. I am still reading with Helen — at her prompting (Dani is a “speed reader” so she never liked to be read to, so I enjoy getting back to this with Helen). They handle so much without my help. And I am happy about this — not because I am in a hurry for them to grow up — but because it means we are getting there, to that point where our kids really will become independent, contributing members of society.

Instead of focusing on the end, I see that it’s a new beginning. The window on bearing children and caring for babies and toddlers is evolving into the rearing of young people, teaching them how to behave, how to engage and discuss things with adults, helping them figure out how to communicate their opinions — or even just that they should have some opinions about things. And I realize that I’m not sad like I thought I would be. Sure…the thought of never carrying another baby in my womb is sad in the “man, I sure did love being pregnant” sort of way. But I always worried that once we discerned we would not seek pregnancy anymore that I would be resentful or overwhelmed with grief. I especially worried about that after we lost Gregory. But I’m surprised at the peace I feel. 

A big part of me is excited to see how my children are turning out. I have a lot of fun talking with Sarah. And Dani surprises me with her ideas and her imagination. Helen adores me (and I her!) and I’m starting to see that I have something very special with her that I can cherish forever. Dominic is such an inspiration on many levels. And even though Vincent is a handful, I really enjoy how much he is talking and how quickly he is catching on to being a bigger toddler.

So, I just wanted to put my thoughts out there about how I am feeling now, just three months after Craig and I discerned the childbearing phase was set to close. Because truth be told, I was scared. As I said then, this sort of stuff is not to be taken lightly and it’s not for the weak. But I’m pleased at the peace I feel with the whole thing. I’m not losing anything. Life is a progression and we’re moving on to the next step.

There is so much excitement to come. For me, I think having openness to having a large family, for a period of time, put pressure on me to think I must always be open to more, that discerning to avoid pregnancy indefinitely would be wrong on some level. But I feel comfortable now with the fact that our five children on earth (and our little Saint in Heaven) are enough. 

We are blessed.


7 Quick Takes – 60 (Personal Discernment Edition)

Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting!

Wow, it’s been a few weeks since I participated in the 7QT linkup! I guess I haven’t been feeling it on Fridays. 

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— 1 —
I’ve had a lot on my mind that I haven’t been able to get into words lately. Suffice to say that if you remember this 7QT post where I asked for your prayers for discernment, I want to thank you for them. It’s been an interesting couple of months as my emotions have run the gamut of joy and satisfaction at the completeness of our family all the way to sadness and loss at the idea of never being pregnant again. NFP is such a blessing to our marriage that gives us the ability to discern and feel a little bit in control of what happens in that regard. I have decided to have the procedure that would mean we should avoid pregnancy until I hit menopause. I will still be ABLE to get pregnant, it’s just not prudent as I would have to have the procedure reversed sometime before late pregnancy and of course, it would have to be redone at some point after the baby was born. That’s not a prudent use of resources, and the issue I need addressed — well, it needs to be taken care of. And we thank God for NFP as an alternative to complete abstinence as we head into this period of life!

— 2 —
I don’t really want to be cryptic or anything about the procedure I mentioned. It’s just a little TMI for a Friday blog link-up! But exploring the idea that perhaps God is leading us to a new stage of life has been … hm … grueling? I mean, the prayer, the thoughts, the emotions…Discernment is definitely not for the weak!!

— 3 —

I have really learned over the past couple months — when I’ve let myself really pray and think on it — how much my older children need me. We often think about how much the little ones need their moms and dads — for their very survival! But the older children need us so that we can help them learn to be grown ups. 

For example, I’ve been helping Sarah learn to navigate the rocky waters of pre-teen/teen girl relationships but also how to approach adults in a mature way so she’s taken seriously. But that has required a good bit of my time and attention — and if I had a newborn right now, she would probably be missing a lot of what she needs from me, because let’s face it: I can only do so much at a time. 

So, Sarah’s needs were something we considered a bit more through our discernment process this time than when we have discerned adding to our family in the past. I don’t want her emotional and spiritual needs to go unmet because we decided to have another baby.

— 4 —
Then, I consider Dani and Helen. Dani just turned 10, but she loves being a little kid with a big imagination! However, I can see her body may end up forcing her into the realm of pubescent preteen much sooner than she would like. And she’s so excited to learn all the things she’s learning at school, and read all the books (she’s currently finishing a Percy Jackson series and asking for another one). 

Helen has always needed a lot of my attention — heck, she gets the bulk of it. And so I’ve needed to spend time in the evenings reading with her or sometimes just holding her in a hug on the couch for a little bit. Or brushing her hair. 

Dani’s and Helen’s needs are growing, and when we add that to the more complicated and time-consuming needs Sarah presents — the older kids need more of us than I ever realized before we reached this point.

— 5 —
This week, on Tuesday, was the Feast of St. Gregory the Great. I loved Rebecca’s comment on this post, btw. At school, during the morning announcements, they have the “Saint of the Day” and so St. Gregory was the Saint of the Day on Tuesday. I found out from Dominic’s Pre-K teacher that Dominic’s little eyes got big when he heard over the speaker that the Saint of the Day was Saint Gregory. And she said he listened intently through the whole bit about Pope St. Gregory the Great and a smile spread across his face while he listened. When it was over, he just went about his business, but it was very clear to her (watching him) that he really got something out of that.

Dominic is such a tender, sweet, sensitive, intuitive and strong boy. I am amazed regularly at him. Yes, he’s smart, too. But he just loves. He loves everyone. And he loves with the most pure, unadulterated joy. It was hardest to get past him as we went through this discernment because he has this huge capacity to love and right now that manifests in his ability to be such a great brother. But I realize that we can foster the growth of this quality in him so that he can spread it far beyond our family. He will often come to me and say, “I miss my brother, Gregory” and give me a hug. I find myself grateful that he was old enough to remember Gregory in my tummy and everything we went through saying goodbye to Gregory because Dominic has a beautiful way of loving us all through our pain.

— 6 —
Then there’s Vincent. He’s such a sweet and rambunctious boy! He requires so much of our attention and it has only been through this discernment that I have realized how he may have struggled had Gregory joined us here on Earth. He’s grown up A LOT in the last couple of months, with going to bed on his own, talking up a storm and showing us all he is capable of physically. But…he still requires our constant vigilance as he’s prone to getting into things — especially things that might be dangerous — and so he tests our parenting wills on a regular basis.

As it is, he’s growing more and more every day. Soon (I sure hope!) he will figure out it’s better to go in the potty than in diapers and he will cooperate with potty training. And then, it will feel strange to be in a house that no longer requires diapers, but it will be freeing as well.

— 7 —
Of course, discernment took into account our marriage, both Craig and me and our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. One of the things that I kept coming back to was the fact that I’m not getting any younger. Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery take their toll on a young woman’s body and they took even more toll on my older, maturing body. Add to that the health issue I needed to address and we realized it was time. We have been so blessed. We praise God and thank him for the five beautiful, healthy children here with us and the one glorious Saint He chose to bring into His presence ahead of us. We pray we will join Gregory someday in the presence of God. But for now, we continue to focus to help our earthly family continue to learn…to know, serve and love the Lord, and to move into a new phase in life that includes loving, honoring and serving each other.

Be sure to go check out Conversion Diary for more 7 Quick Takes Posts!


Discerning Family Size Gets Tricky at 40

Discernment of family size is such a tricky thing. Over the years I think I’ve often erred on the side of openness (to another baby) because I have thought God’s answer about another soul would always be yes.  I am not sure what led me to believe that. Is it because I’m a woman and I’m biologically wired to have babies and love and nurture them? If I think about it honestly, if money were no object, I’d have probably been open to welcoming children closer together (and of course, if I stayed home since I wouldn’t have to pay daycare).

Lately I have wondered though how I would feel if God’s answer to the question of no more babies…ever…was to be “no.” I would be sad, no question. My brain functions normally and I realize I am approaching 40…let’s face it, the answer to more babies IS, in fact, going to be “no” at some point in the not-so-distant future.

So how do I work with God’s plan, if that plan is “no”? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about obeying God’s Will if it means years of being “closed to more children” (using the most conservative interpretations of our NFP method to avoid pregnancy). There are plenty of people I know who can provide examples and anecdotes of how special and blessed a family was by being open to one more child later in life. I can read it online in forums and on blog posts — if I look for it, there is plenty of information to encourage me to be open just one more time.

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The difficulty comes in our discernment of God’s will for our lives. Do we say, “We’ll be open…and if God doesn’t bless us, then we have our answer.” Or do we determine, “Be open until such time (say…age 41) and if no blessings arrive, then we will avoid pregnancy for the remaining years until menopause.” I worry that I seem ungrateful for the children I have, but then realize that is silly and seeking another sibling for my children is not an indication of ungratefulness — they’d most likely be thrilled at the development.

In the end, the prayer I have tried to make constantly is to be open and accepting of God’s will, whatever that may be. I’ve learned the humbling reality that even if we achieve pregnancy, it doesn’t always translate to a baby I will care for on Earth. I find that my fertile self finds it hard to believe that God would not bless us with another baby — but should that be the case, it would require some growth on my part to find the acceptance necessary to move on. As far as my husband’s side of this discussion, he often swings to the opposite side of where I am with it. In the past, I have always been ready to be open to another baby long before he has. It’s not that he never wanted the babies we’ve had, it’s just that he’s more willing to discern that God is ready to end that part of our lives. Is it because he is older than I am? Perhaps. I don’t think it’s because he trusts any less because, ultimately, the babies we do have didn’t get here solely on my account. 

I think that discerning expansion of our family at this point in our lives is probably the most difficult discernment I have experienced thus far. I think it’s more difficult because we are older. I think it’s more difficult because the children we have require certain things of us and our schedules demand more running around than they did when we just had younger children ages 8 and below. It was complicated working my current youngest child into the fabric of our family because my oldest began having more activities, doing more in school and taking on more responsibilities for which she needed guidance. At some point, I have to determine whether I can juggle the middle of the night feedings with full-time work schedule and still have the energy for the club volleyball practices/tournaments, guitar and ballet lessons and introducing the younger kids to activities they are just approaching. 

I’m not going to lie…I have daydreamed of my youngest child being 4 or 5 years old, stroller- and diaper-free. I’ve looked at my family as it currently stands and realized I’m not that far away from it. I can see a budget free from daycare and preschool tuition. I can almost taste a life where my husband can take a pay-cut in order to work a daytime job during the same hours I do so we can have our evenings, weekends and holidays together as a family.

But it still makes me sad. It’s been so long since we’ve had no baby in the house and I can’t imagine that life as completely happy. I think there will be a mourning period I will endure as I hit the time of my life where my fertility drops to where it’s not even possible to get pregnant and for sure, carrying to term will be questionable. 

The fact is that the time will come when there will no longer be a baby in the house — and I will no longer have much say in that occurrence. 

God will close the womb in His time, just as He opened it. 

I am linking to Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary and posting every day this week! Click HERE to see who else took the challenge!