On Being Open to Life

If you’re reading this, you have probably heard the news—we’re expecting! Our newest little love is due May 2019 and we could not be more excited. The past few weeks have been spent telling those closest to us to help share our joy. Now, as we announce to the masses, we know full well that joy will not be shared by everyone. The question I have gotten most from the random person (while purchasing pregnancy tests or at the doctor’s office) is “why”? Usually the “we love babies” answer suffices, but it is truly so much deeper than that.

As Catholic persons, my husband and I entered the sacrament of marriage using Natural Family Planning (NFP). Contrary to popular opinion, this is NOT “Catholic birth control” as the Church charges couples to discern using NFP to avoid children for grave reasons only. To read more about why Catholic’s use NFP, click here for Pope Paul’s Encyclical, ‘Humanae Vitae’. Now, let’s talk about the gravity in having children. ‘Humanae Vitae’ gives the examples of a husband or wife’s mental or physical health as an acceptable reason for spacing or avoiding children. Something Liam and I found particularly fascinating is that nowhere in the encyclical is the word money mentioned.

Money, I believe, is one of Satan’s biggest tools to scare people out of pretty much anything under the guise of “the timing just isn’t right” or “how will we pay for a child?” A newly pregnant friend just called me the other day freaking out because someone told her that she needed at least $5,000 before she had a baby to cover baby items. What a load of garbage. A great spiritual mentor of mine told me her and her Army Officer husband lived in a 1-bedroom apartment with their first born and her baby slept in a blanket-lined cardboard box. They had a car seat, a few outfits, and diapers and she doesn’t remember a happier time in her marriage. Of course, money-woes look and affect all of us differently. Despite having only one income and still owing a bit on student loans, Liam and I feel very strongly that money is not a grave-enough reason to avoid pregnancy. Babies need very little material goods to survive and I promise you they won’t remember what type of stroller they used or clothes they wore. What they will remember is being raised in a happy and healthy home by a united mother and father.

While discerning adding a new life to our family, I discussed with Liam my hesitation of having three babies in four years. ‘What will people think of us?’, ‘The age gap will be weird’, ‘But we’re moving in July’, ‘Do I want a May baby?’, ‘But I gain 30 pounds!’ Liam was frank and told me those were in no way grave reasons that should even be considered. Looking back, I can roll my eyes about how silly those reasons were but it having my husband able to discern with me was a good reminder at what we are CALLED TO DO IN THE SACRAMENT OF MARRIAGE (Genesis :1:28). To be completely honest, using NFP to avoid pregnancy can sometimes be burdensome, especially for someone who gets her cycle back at 3 months postpartum despite exclusively breastfeeding (cough,me,cough). Our children are a tangible fruit of our marital love, and we do, indeed, love each other very much. A friend of mine jokes that pregnancy is 9 months of NFP freedom, and I must say, our marriage is more relaxed when we aren’t constantly analyzing fertility charts!

I would say our gravest concern while discerning another pregnancy is Brennan’s touch-and-go health. His medical future is very uncertain and we were starkly faced with that reality when we attended the Kidney Kid Conference a few weeks ago. While that will always be a hurdle for our family, we feel confident that denying our family more children would only be a disservice to Brennan as he simply adores Winston and has been asking for another baby for quite some time now. After getting hit with some frightening statistics, I asked Liam his thoughts and without missing a beat he said, “But this is God’s will for our family. How can you doubt that?”

We have been extremely fortunate to have gotten pregnant the first try, all three times. Hyperfertility is something not usually talked about in fear of being ungrateful for the gift, but for some women, multiple back-to-back pregnancies, are not planned. This can be extremely overwhelming and sometimes defeating, especially if the couple feels they “failed” at NFP. Part of being open to life is a thankful heart, even when things are not going as you wish. I have personally witnessed many women trust very boldly in this particular calling that can sometimes feel like a cross. On the other hand, infertility affects 1 in 4 women and is also not often talked about. I read a post a woman wrote about feeling “less-than” or a “bad Catholic” for not having more children as she was affected by secondary infertility. It hurts me to write that not all women are called to be biological mothers, but we can take heart in the fact that ALL women are called to be spiritual mothers and mentors. Some of my greatest parenting hacks have come from women without kids!

So, if you are in a season of discerning adding a child to your family, be not afraid! Think seriously about what you promised up on the alter and ask yourself if your reasons are truly grave. NFP is used to protect our bodies and enhance our marriage—not to act on our simple whims and wishes.

So, why are we adding to our family? Well, in the words of my Carmelite sister, St. Therese, “When one loves, one does not calculate.”

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