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.

Photo Credit

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!

 

Survivor

This week, the blogosphere was filled with posts recognizing the passing of the 39th year of legalized abortion in our country.  I often think about abortion.  And many times I wish I could put into words how I feel about it.


I have always been against abortion, to some degree.  When I was younger, I often took the “non-judgmental-it’s-not-for-me” approach.  I had an experience when I was 23 that parked me firmly in the “abortion is evil” camp.  (I’m not at liberty to share that experience, but rest assured, I believe through that experience I stood face-to-face with Satan himself…and lost…that day.)  When I began having children, the proof and reality of the evil that wrought abortion was made clear to me through the intimate relationship I formed with my children from the earliest moments of pregnancy.  The awe, wonder and amazement I felt as I was made aware of the power of God by simply “peeing on a stick” and seeing a positive result was breathtaking.  It’s been breathtaking every single time.  And it has strengthened my resolve every single time.  Abortion stops a beating heart.  A child, in what is supposed to be its safest environment is mangled, separated and killed in the procedure.


I often think of myself as an abortion survivor.  I was born into a world where my mother could have killed me if she’d wanted to.  There is nothing that made the scourge more evident to me than when I did a study on Generations during my MBA program some years ago.  The “Baby Boom” generation was huge.  Millions on top of millions of babies were born between 1946 and 1964 (the general time period attributed to the birth of baby boomers).  There were waves of births as many baby boomers were born into larger families (on average) than we see today.


My generation – Generation X they call us – is much smaller than the generation preceding us.  Most papers on the subject of Generations notes that the Baby Boomer generation is roughly 76 million and the Millenial generation is roughly 73 million, but my generation is 49 million.   This shrinkage is due to many factors, not the least of which is the fact that many of my generational brothers and sisters were aborted out of existence, legally.  Some other contributing factors were contraceptive use, sterilization, and divorce.  However, over 50 million of babies have been legally aborted since the legalization of abortion in our country.  That is 50 with six zeroes following it and we’re not talking about something abstract, like dollars or units in a production line…we’re talking about human beings in their earliest and most vulnerable state.


I am sad when I think of all the people who never got a chance at life…still never get a chance.  

I saw a cartoon (probably on facebook) this week.


I guess I feel like Abortion, Contraception, Sterilization…and all the things that surround these are proof of Spiritual Warfare…Lucifer himself, in our midst, beckoning the weak, scared, ignorant and powerless to the pits of hell.  I know there are other examples, we live in a society filled with many ills.  But probably right now, at this time in my life, nothing hits me harder than Abortion, Contraception, Sterilization, Anti-life and Anti-Child attitudes. 

I spent most of my time this week writing, re-writing, editing, pondering over this post.  I feel like I should have more to say.  I just don’t think I have  what it takes to write a truly powerful, moving post on this topic.  At least anything that would move anyone else.  But THIS POST at IGNITUM TODAY encompassed many of my thoughts and feelings.

I need to go and write up my 7 Quick Takes because Rae hinted that she’d like some recent photos of Vincent, so I plan to oblige.  🙂

The Feast of All Saints

November 1 is the Feast of All Saints in the Catholic Liturgical calendar.  Following are four reasons I look forward to this day every year.
1.  It’s a Holy Day of Obligation.  You know, I have always disliked the negative connotation of obligation.  My brother-in-law once told me that growing up at his school, they called them Holy Days of Opportunity.  I like that so much better!  I mean, I’m fine with obedience and obligation and all that.  But doesn’t it sound so much more fun to look forward to another opportunity to celebrate the Mass and all that entails, rather than make it into something you HAVE to do?  I’m the kind of person that enjoys that extra opportunity to go to Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist.
2.  The Litany of Saints.  How great is this prayer?  Asking all the Holy men and women who went before us and who are in Heaven with our Heavenly Father right now to intercede on our behalf is one of my favorite things to do.  And you bend the ear of so many Saints in the Litany.  I really love this version set to music with the icons as a visual aid:
3.  Saints are the ultimate role models for us while we are here on Earth.  Saints possessed and lived out the virtues in love for their God and for their fellow man while they walked among us.  I want to be a Saint.  What better way than to have a day every year to remind us how we can be Saints.  Of course, it’s better to be reminded every single day.  I am happy that I named my latter three children after Saints.  Every time I say their names, I am reminded that there is a Saint who bears that name.  It reminds me to teach my children, through my words and deeds what it means to be a Saint.
4.  It’s the precursor to the next day on the calendar…The Solemnity of All Souls.  More on that later.

The Promise Made At Baptism

I received a comment Friday about baptism being the “high point of the whole birth experience.”  I could not agree more.  Because baptism cleanses the eternal soul of the stain of original sin, it is the Glorious culmination of everything that has happened since that eternal soul was fused into the baby at conception; it is the new birth of the eternal soul into the Body of Christ.  Every time I have had my babies baptized, I have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to our Lord for instituting the sacrament.  
I have written before about the fact that Sarah’s baptism was the catalyst prompting Craig and me to dive in and learn more about our Faith.  However, with every child, it has only intensified this desire for me.

On your part, you must make it your constant care to bring her up in the practice of the faith. See that the divine life, which God gives her, is kept safe from the poison of sin, to grow always stronger in her heart.

During Sarah’s baptism, it was this part of the Rite that commanded my attention and consumed my thoughts in the weeks that followed.  I was literally afraid of what I’d committed to.  I was afraid because, at the time, Craig and I still missed Mass fairly regularly.  I was afraid because at the time, we were not fully in Communion with the Church regarding our family planning decisions. 

How could I keep my daughter safe from the poison of sin, when I was mired in it, myself?

Sarah’s baptism holds a very special place in my heart because my heart softened and opened in order to desire to be closer to God through His Church.  I will be forever grateful for this.  With the rest of our children’s baptisms, this part no longer struck fear in me. 

This part of the Rite of Baptism continues to command my attention but for different reasons.  It provides me an opportunity to take stock of the state of my soul and whether I am in a state of Grace or not.  When did I go to confession last?  Have I been going as often as I should?  What other sins are prevailing…Vanity?  Pride? 

Vincent’s baptism brought on a new revelation.  I was prepared for what I’ve already described…the gratitude, the awe, the Grace.  This time my ears perked up to a part that hadn’t seemed to cross my radar before.

If your faith makes you ready to accept this responsibility, renew now the vows of your own baptism. Reject sin; profess your faith in Christ Jesus. This is the faith of the Church. This is the faith in which this child is about to be baptized.

What I wasn’t prepared for during Vincent’s baptism was this part about, “if (my) faith makes (me) ready to accept this responsibility…”

Whoa.  Wait a minute.  Is my faith strong enough to impart to my child?  The Rite of Baptism, lays the responsibility squarely on the parents and godparents.  “IF YOUR FAITH MAKES YOU READY TO ACCEPT THIS RESPONSIBILITY…”  
Is it not a leap of faith in and of itself to accept this blessing of a new child into our family?  But then our Church asks us to have the utmost CONFIDENCE in that faith.  So, it’s not just faith we must have, but we must have CONFIDENT faith?  
I often think of the passage (and being the “good Catholic” that I am, I can’t tell you the book or verse to find it in the Bible) where the disciples ask Christ how they can increase their faith (or maybe they simply ask Him to increase it directly, not sure).  
I feel like those disciples on the day of one of my children’s baptisms.  I want to ask the Lord to increase my faith and to give me the utmost confidence in my faith that I can accept the responsibility of raising my child in the faith.   
Truth be told…I’m scared that I don’t have what it takes to keep these children on the way to Heaven.  Sure, I have some faith.  I’m doing my best to know and practice my faith in accord with Christ’s teachings.  I’m praying with my children before meals and before bed and every now and then we’re getting a rosary in.  We’re getting to Mass every Sunday and sometimes a day or two in between Sundays.  We try to attend prayer groups, adoration and Feast day Masses.  But sometimes I am scared that it won’t be enough.  Sometimes, I am scared that I have faith, but I am not confident enough in that faith.
And so, I am struck by the awesome responsibility Craig and I have undertaken by cooperating with God to bring Vincent (and all my children) into this world.  
I give myself a little pep talk to remind myself that God also imparted some pretty crazy-fantastic Graces on Craig and me in the Sacrament of Marriage.  Those Graces are supposed to help us in this endeavor to raise our children to know, love, serve and fear the Lord.  
I also try to remind myself that the Sacrament of Baptism imparts some crazy-fantastic Graces on Vincent that can help fill in where Craig and I might falter.
And so, consolation descends as I am also reminded that we are not alone.  Christ instituted these Sacraments to give us the strength and wisdom and fortitude we need to do what He asks of us. 

A Pleasant Surprise

I am 17 weeks pregnant.  
First of all, I needed to let that sink in.  I’m almost halfway through this pregnancy.  That kind of freaks me out.  And it’s not just the pregnancy going by fast that freaks me out.  It’s that the pregnancy is here at all.  Yes, I am still adjusting to the fact that I am a mother of five children.  
Truth be told, when I married my husband, I was fairly certain that I would never have any children.  And honestly, I don’t think that’s totally unheard of.  I think when young people get married, it’s not always a foregone conclusion that children will follow (anymore).  
A woman planning to be a mother of none, became a mother of five.
Don’t get me wrong.  Five kids in a family doesn’t freak me out.  I love larger families.  I am from a large family myself.  My siblings are like my air and water…I don’t think I could exist without them.  
I just never fathomed myself the mother of five.  
The first four, I could picture easily, once I got past the having no kids part.  When I had Sarah, I saw it as necessary that we’d have at least another because I couldn’t imagine growing up as an only child so I feared that outcome for my daughter.  When we had Dani, again, I knew we’d have another one.  I knew fairly quickly and rather certainly that our family was not complete.  When Helen came along, after about 18 months or so, I was still feeling a nagging in my heart.  I didn’t feel like we were complete.  There was a yearning to continue to grow our family.  
I believe the decision to try to conceive our fourth child was a more difficult one.  Going from two children to three children had been a huge challenge.  It was harder than going from zero to one.  Going from one to two was a walk in the park.  But having three children age 4 and under was not something I was willing to undertake ever again.  Even though I yearned for another baby, it was easy to say, “not yet” for much longer than we’d ever done before.
But, as God likes to do, he worked on our hearts and ultimately, we were open to another blessing and Dominic came along.
But it’s so strange as I think of how we came to be open to number 5.  It was quite unintentional on our parts, I believe.  We had a month where we did not follow our NFP rules.  And in any other month of our marriage, we would have become pregnant.  I remember as I took my ovulation test the morning after we had “broken the rules” and getting the PEAK reading on the test, indicating that ovulation took place/would take place within 24 hours of that test.  My heart started beating fast.  We hadn’t really decided together that we were ready to be open, we’d acted on human hormones and urges without considering the consequences.  
Over the course of that 2-week-wait, I grew to enjoy the idea of another baby.  It broke my heart when I wasn’t pregnant.  The next month, we went back to our avoiding rules.  We just weren’t sure we were ready.  Then the following month, we broke the rules again.  This time, I wasn’t nervous when I saw the PEAK indicator within the 24 hour frame of time of us “breaking” the rules.  I welcomed it.  I asked Craig whether he was hoping for a positive or negative pregnancy test.  He replied positive and I was floored.  Was it possible that we were both really ready to embrace being a family of 7?  Were we ready to receive another blessing in our family?  And, then when I wasn’t pregnant again, I became concerned.  Obviously having another baby wasn’t going to be a given.  We might actually have to work at this.  Were we ready to do that?  We were getting older…was it worth it to really TRY to have another baby?  Hm.
The following month, we followed no rules.  No tests.  No avoiding.  No achieving.  Just let it all be.  And here I am 17 weeks pregnant with #5.
I am pleasantly surprised at how I feel regarding this new baby.  I feel some apprehension that I haven’t really felt before.  I ask myself a lot more questions.  But the questions are good…they keep me grounded.  The keep me focused on the fact that I can do nothing without the Lord and to keep my eyes toward Him and all things will fall into place.  

There’s a sense of peace, that perhaps this little one will give me the feeling of completeness…the feeling that we’re all finally here, that God’s plan might truly be a family of 7.  Time will tell, of course, but it’s a peaceful feeling, whether it’s accurate or not.