As I’ve mentioned while writing about our family size, my husband and I haven’t always had an openness to becoming a large family.
I know that for me, there were times I had some definite ideas of when I would stop having children. Past 30? No thanks.
But God does have a way of gently and patiently teaching us as we go through life, and that’s certainly been true in this journey of having children.
Looking back on the journey and seeing how my heart has changed towards babies, birth control, and what our family size should be, I can see some distinct thoughts that I held over time. And those thoughts changed depending on what I was learning and experiencing at the moment.
Today I’m sharing that journey with you, and perhaps you’ll be able to relate to different stages of my journey.
Our Engagement, the Pill, and a Change in Plans
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When my husband and I decided to get married young and while still in college, it only seemed logical that we use the Pill. I had a year and a half of school to finish, and he a year. The Pill would allow us to prevent a pregnancy so we could both graduate and have time just to ourselves.
Then while on campus, a pro-life group was passing out booklets. I grabbed one, happy to look through it as a pro-life person myself.
I was shocked to see information about hormonal contraception’s potential abortifacient action included in the booklet. I didn’t want to believe it. That bit of information really got in the way of our plans!
I did a little research and pulled out the package insert from the pack of pills waiting in my dorm room. I read the fine print. There it was. The third action of hormonal contraception makes the lining of the uterus thin and less hospitable to implantation of a fertilized egg, should a woman ovulate and conceive while on the pill. It was right there for me to read.
(I highly recommend Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? by Randy Alcorn if you’re interested in learning more. You can get his book for free (digital copy) or only $3 (print copy) from his website here, and it’s also available on Kindle. A summary of the information is here.)
I knew that I couldn’t live with that risk, no matter how small it might be. A new life, in my mind, began at conception, and I would never do anything that could potentially destroy it. Jesse agreed. I’ve since learned about potential health risks with hormonal contraception (here, here, here, and here), making me extra thankful that we skipped it.
Though we didn’t know where to turn and were told that the only natural alternative was the unreliable Rhythm Method, we eventually learned about Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness through the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. We decided to use that method to delay pregnancy until we could graduate.
A Hard, Tired Heart After Two
Eventually our first came along, earlier than we planned, but right in God’s time. As soon as she started crawling at 8 months, I felt like I needed another baby!
Our son was added to our family when Miss L had just turned two. I soon started to experience the big challenge of having a baby and an older toddler in the house.
We were also going through a lot of personal changes. My husband was working full time, finishing his master’s degree, and had started pastoring the new church we just began. I often felt like I was parenting alone, and the stress started to get to me.
By the time Mr. M was three months old, I said I was done. It just felt like motherhood cost too much, and I was ready to move on from the baby days. Jesse never seemed to feel the same, though.
Eventually some things changed. We started doing dates when we could, I felt less alone, and the thought of a new baby seemed like a pleasant one again. Soon Miss A joined our family.
When Seeds of Change Were Planted
Some time later, while listening to an afternoon radio program I enjoyed, the host mentioned having nine children. I was shocked! He said mildly and in passing that he and his wife felt that if they were going to let Jesus be the Lord of all, He’d be Lord of all.
I had never heard anything like that before, and it really planted some questions in my mind. I suddenly had this occasional, though returning, thought:
Why couldn’t I trust God with my fertility when I am so healthy and have relatively easy pregnancies and deliveries?
Later, when our third girl was a young toddler, our family was going through a rough round of a stomach virus. Someone had been sick off and on for three weeks, and I was so exhausted from the laundry, clean up, and everything else that goes into that type of illness.
Then I took a positive pregnancy test, and I cried. I knew my husband was tired and worn out, I felt exhausted from the sickness, and I just wasn’t certain if I felt ready to go through pregnancy again.
A week went by and we adjusted to the idea, and then I woke one night to find that I was losing the baby. Dealing with the devastation of miscarriage allowed the preciousness of children to be more firmly rooted in my heart.
Sometime later I read a book called Be Fruitful and Multiply. I wanted to better understand why some couples would feel led to trust their family size into God’s hand. After reading Scripture after Scripture after Scripture showing God’s heart for children, family, and increase, my heart was truly changed.
A Heart Open for Increase and Trusting for Direction
This whole journey really brought us to a place of having hearts open for increase. To me, when I read what the Bible says about families and children, I see increase celebrated and greatly desired.
I know that’s entirely against the loud messages in our culture and is not a popular view, but I simply feel convicted to take my cues for our family size from what I see in Scripture, and not in the world around me.
But I also know that I don’t have the answers for every family, and if someone were to tell me that the Lord told them they should stop having children after 2, who am I to say that He didn’t?
Similarly, I want to remain humble and open to whatever direction the Lord might want to lead us. I don’t have this topic all figured out, but I do want to fully trust it into the hands of the Lord.