Instead, I'd like to start a conversation about fully embracing the place of sex, children, and contraception.
What Happened?Last August, when Nick and I announced that we were expecting our third child, we got various responses.
- Why have more? You already have one girl and one boy.
- After the third child, my husband got fixed. It's just a little snip, snip.
- What a blessing!
- How many children are you planning on having?
- I came from a large family. Lots of fun, and lots of work.
- I feel for your son! I was a middle child.
Your head will likely come up with colorful responses to the more insensitive ones.
Let's dig into the assumptions lying behind these, just to compare and contrast them. Here they are again, translated:
[All children should be celebrated]
Why have more? You already have one girl and one boy.
[Given world population growth, aim only for replacement rate or less. Never aim for more.
OR One gender is more important than the other.
OR Children are a lot of work]
After the third child, my husband got fixed. It's just a little snip, snip.
[The woman endures childbirth. It's the husband's turn to 'help' the 'problem.'
OR You must be stupid. The solution to more children is easy to see and find.]
What a blessing!
[God's word speaks highly of children in Psalms like Psalm 127:3
OR Whatever God gives -- for sustenance or abundance -- is a gift.]
How many children are you planning on having?
[A woman should think more of a career and contributing to the workforce. SAHM is only a season.
OR Do my tithes and offerings go to support this huge family?!
OR How can you manage all those children?]
I came from a large family. Lots of fun, and lots of work.
[Blessings and challenges abound in a large family. Think carefully and choose carefully.]
I feel for your son! I was a middle child.
[Either have more kids to balance out the rivalries... or you should have just stuck with two kids.
OR Make sure you spend quality time with each child, so they don't get lost in the herd.]
I have to chuckle a little, dragging these up from memory. At the times that these were said, it was easiest to just reply with a simple, "Thank you." or "Why?" I'm not harboring ill will toward any of the people who said even the most insensitive statement... rather, the statements are here so that you can locate your heart and mind's thinking about sex, children, and contraception and so that you dig into "Why?" Also, remember that the living children you see aren't always the whole family history for a couple: many go through miscarriage or stillbirth, daily thinking of those children.
See, the health insurance plan we use is exempt from the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate. That means that if either Nick or I were to ask a provider for any sort of prescription barrier method, hormonal pill, IUD, or tubal ligation or vasectomy, we would be responsible for paying 100%. The grandfathered plan we use doesn't differentiate between methods: the answer is CONTRACEPTIVES ARE NOT COVERED.
We love all our kids. We prayerfully rely on God's love and wisdom most days in parenting them. But only one child out of three was "planned" in the sense that most couples use. Two were "surprises." The fact is, we were open to children on our natural family planning journey, and God said, "Yes." We're still open to fostering and/or adopting. We're still open to naturally conceiving... we're just currently having a long, extended prayer conversation with God about fostering and adopting and letting him shape our hearts and shape our future family.
So when you see a family with more than two children in tow, especially if it's a Christian family in ministry, please offer "Congratulations!" And offer a meal, babysitting, or truly tithe.