The Repulsive Truth

My daughter and I were on our way to the store when she said something like, “When I grow up, I’m only going to have one child.”

“Why only one?” I asked.

“I just think it would be easier.”

I have to admit that at first pass, I was a tiny bit worried about my daughter’s life plan, not the number of kids, but the “easier” part. I feared she was developing the dreaded “contraceptive mentality” that fears hardship of any kind but especially that which comes in the shape of children. I didn’t want to go into a big explanation of birth control with her, and how Catholics don’t use it, so I said something kind of garbled about how God’s plans aren’t always our plans.

“…And you might change your mind someday. Big families are fun!”

“Ours isn’t fun. All I have are brothers, and Rebecca doesn’t have any hair yet, so I can’t braid her hair. And nobody in my class has more than two kids.”

“Catholics tend to do things a little differently than the rest of the world,” I said.

Just a few days earlier, I’d been thinking about how having a lot of kids really does set you apart. At the soccer fields, for instance, with three kids playing on three different fields at the same time, and a few more on my lap, I sat on the corners where I could rotate my chair to view all three games. I felt stupid doing it, because I’m highly visible there, separated from the other parents along the sidelines.

I’d like to know the other parents, and chat them up during the game, but my attention is always divided, which can be a considerable impediment to your social life.

On this particular night, at the store with my daughters, I had the baby with me in the sling, and people at the store were making googly eyes at her, wanting to talk. One lady, admiring the baby, asked if this were my only one, and I was forced to make that split second decision–Do I repulse this woman with the truth or soften the number of kids I have somehow?

My older daughter came up to me then–she’d been perusing the girls’ stuff–and I realized I’d have to tell the truth: “I have six children.”

The woman’s expression changed from cheerfulness to confusion. There was a beat of silence, and then the inevitable rejoinder, “And are you done then?”

I can’t tell you how much I wanted to say yes, just so the conversation could be over. And in truth, I’ve said it out loud –that I was done –right after having each of my kids. I said it just a few weeks ago, to my girlfriends from grade-school who have known me since I was five.

“But you’re not going on birth control?” one asked. “What are you going to do if you get pregnant again?”

“She’s going to laugh!” answered my other friend for me, which was a very good answer.

Ho, ho, ho! And after that, I would probably just keep doing what I’ve been doing: taking care of kids and a home, loving my husband, doing laundry, writing, cooking, taking walks, and not going on European vacations. My life is already inconceivable to most of my peers, even though at it’s core, it’s probably also remarkably similar. One more kid doesn’t make much of a difference in what I do; it just extends the period (and the quantities) in which I do it.

But this lady was a stranger, and my daughter was watching me, and we had just had a conversation not half an hour earlier about how good kids are, and how wonderful it is that we get to share our lives and our things with our siblings. I just couldn’t play along with the lady’s prompting me to agree with her that having more kids would be awful, especially in the presence of two children who are decidedly, not awful.

“I don’t really know if I’m done,” I said.

She looked at me in disbelief. She clearly didn’t know where to take the conversation from there. And yet, she could not be silent: “I know a Mexican lady, and she has twelve children, and now her body won’t hold them in anymore. She has to wear a belt to hold up her stomach, and the doctor finally told her DO NOT HAVE ANY MORE BABIES OR YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.”

She went on, lowering her voice, “You know, I don’t think she knew any better. Or maybe, she was Catholic, and thought she couldn’t use any birth control, though I hear they’ve lightened up on that now.”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“Well I hear they’re planning to change some of that stuff.”

“No, nothing’s changed,” I said. By this time, it was dawning on her that she was speaking to a Catholic, though this particular Catholic was inching away from her.

So many opportunities to evangelize are wasted on me. I never have the right words at hand to shed positive light on a teaching that most people think of as absurd at best and misogynistic at worst. I wanted to say that I wouldn’t use birth control even if the Church changed it’s teaching. I wanted to say something about how I am free and relatively sane, and I do know “better” just as her Mexican friend probably also knows “better.” We just think her idea of “better” is not a huge improvement on the human condition.

Over the past week or so, an article has been circulating on social media by a mother in the UK who wishes she had never had children. Her children are now grown; she raised them the best she could; she wasn’t an effusive mother, but she did her best for them. And yet she can’t seem to forgive her children for having made her life more difficult:


“Having a child has been the biggest mistake of my life….I dreaded her (her daughter’s) dependence; resented the time she would consume, and that like parasites, both my children would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return.


(


There was quite a bit of chatter on Facebook calling this woman a monster. She’s crazy. Doesn’t she realize her kids can read? And yet, a lot of people agreed with the notion that children ruin your life. She just should not have said it out loud.

I have been unable to work up any malice for the woman.

Our culture cannot decide how it feels about new life. On one hand, people want children on demand, whenever it’s convenient, with in vitro and fertility treatments. On the other hand, people want abortion on demand, anytime, anywhere, no restrictions. Kids are either a malignancy to be avoided, or conversely, something you must want desperately.

There is no longer any room to allow children to happen, to receive them graciously, and to care for them because it’s the right thing to do. Culture demands that women make a choice between loving motherhood or hating it. And if you choose motherhood, you had better throw yourself into it with massive gusto, because it was your own silly decision.

I suspect that this woman felt a need to write the article because her own sentiments about parenthood simply could not jive with cultural sentiments that view motherhood in black and white terms. I can’t call her a monster. She’s probably a relatively normal woman who unfortunately never experienced joy in her vocation, and who wasted a large portion of her life wishing for a different reality. It’s pitiful, and wasteful, and hurtful to her children, but not much different than anyone who squanders their joy in the realities of life in favor of a dream.

I’ve spent many an afternoon doing the very same thing, and have made myself, at times, very miserable. This is the trap I want my daughter to avoid, whether she has no children or ten.

The repulsive truth is that nothing will provide satisfaction in life but self-gift. Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Married, Single or Religious, you have to find a way to give yourself to others, while expecting nothing meaningful back in return.

Motherhood is terribly difficult at times, and mothering many children can also be isolating and labor intensive. I know from experience that I make it worse by withholding myself and pretending I’m a martyr in someone else’s cause, and that my joy increases when I take responsibility for my actions, as well as my failures to act, and give myself wholeheartedly to whatever outcomes may befall me, even if they be children. And like any process of purification, the decision to give oneself is not once and forever, but has to be repeated every single day.

I refuse to fall into the trap of either fetishizing or denouncing the vocation of motherhood. I choose to be detached from the ridiculous ways people mischaracterize the Church’s teaching and those who follow it.

To the woman at the store, I smiled as I stepped away, interiorly congratulating her on having met a Catholic woman who is not actually dying of babies. And having given it more thought, the message I want to pass on to my daughter, and to all my kids, is that life really can be ugly when you refuse to give yourself away.

About Elizabeth Duffy
  • Michelle

    Thanks for this post. Sharing your enthusiasm for the church’s teaching on contraception, I am taken aback by people’s disbelief (followed quickly by disdain) that any thinking woman could possibly consider no contraception a valid choice. I find this particularly coming from the medical profession. As a mother of four, I recently had a sixth miscarriage and the response from most in the medical field was somewhere between, “what did you expect,” and “for God sake, NOW do you get the message that you should be using contraception?”

    Back to the point . . . thanks for you post. I really enjoyed it and share your convictions about the importance of giving ourselves, and the emptiness that comes otherwise.

  • KK

    Thanks for this….. great article!

  • RJT

    I’m one of 8 siblings married to a man who is one of 9 children. We both love our big families! We don’t have children of our own, but have 50+ nieces and nephews who we love so much. Can I ask for prayers about what we should do? Foster? Adopt? Continue to babysit and entertain (happily) our large families? We’re both well into middle age.

    We love to see families out and about in the big city where we live, and sometimes share how big our families are.

    • Anjela

      Not sure where you live, RJT, but we have adopted internationally and out of the foster care system in Detroit. Both experiences were just what God had intended for us. We are blessed. Do not be afraid your family will be “different.” God has a plan, and it somehow all works itself out.

    • Liz

      Dear RJT, My husband and I adopted 3 siblings who were a little older (7, 6 and 3) seven and 1/2 years ago. It has been a awe inspiring experience. I was 49 when the adoption was finalized and we brought the children home. God has a plan and in our case has been much more amazing than anything we could have come up with. It has NOT been easy, or all been fun. What it has been is loving, maturing and God filled. I wish you all that and more whatever your decision is.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      Prayers for your discernment!

    • Becky Lehto

      I wanted to add to Elizabeth’s “pray for discernment” but also don’t discount what you are doing for your siblings by being available to babysit for them. It is so critically important that parents get time away from their children in order to reconnect and recharge and unfortunately it can be almost impossible to do when you have a large family full of littles. I see far too many Catholic parents of young families who are exhausted and dying for a break. Most haven’t had a date night since baby #3 was born and too few Catholic churches offer any kind of childcare for parish events like Bible Study or even Couple’s nights. What you are doing by giving your siblings a break is really a form of marriage ministry and you are helping to grow strong, Catholic families, maybe not from your womb but certainly from your heart.

  • Michael King

    My wife and I have 11 children, ranging in age from 25 to two. Our eldest daughter has three children of her own now. I think the funniest thing about the “contraceptive” mentality in the world is that it is supposedly borne out of a feminist requirement for more power and to, in some way, require men to share the load… As the father of a large family, I can objectively say, there is no woman on earth with more sheer power than the mother of a large family and no man on earth more domesticated than the father of a large family. – Great article!

  • Mundee Henderson

    I had the mentality, that kids are a burden and if you had any – two at the most. Fortunately, I got wise but it too late for a large family. I have been graced with two beautiful children but like you I shock my friends when they ask what conception I use. When I say nothing they are shocked and say, “You aren’t Catholic are you?” Why yes, I am. I am forty five with a three month old and if I have another so be it. I love being a mom and I would love to have more, if its god’s plan.

    Thanks for posting a beautiful article. I enjoyed it very much.
    Mundee Henderson

  • Rebecca

    Great post. I think you nailed it when you said our culture can’t decide how it feels about new life. I totally get your feelings and never thought about how some day, the kids are going to be old enough to question me about our family size and really observe how I handle questions in that regard. hanks for the brain fodder. :)

  • Eunice Hayes

    We go to a parish with many big families, so it seems normal to us…It’s funny when I’m out shopping with one or two, and someone asks me about my children, my kids are the ones who pipe up that we have nine…usually shocking whoever asked. (I do not have shy children.)
    The usual response is, “You must be rich!” I smile and respond, “Yes! I am!”

    • Naomi Kietzke Young

      Eunice, may I further suggest you take a page from St. Laurence, and say, “Yes! I am! These kids are my riches.” I know that’s what you mean, but our culture is so stupid…

  • Sarah in MI

    Yes, the soccer fields. I was so pleased this season when I found out that one of the other soccer moms has 6 kids- 1 more than our family! But, as it turns out, her kids are all quiet, kind and well-mannered, while mine are running around the fields getting into trouble at every turn. I am afraid that our family doesn’t represent the “open to life” philosophy very well in public, but at least there is that other family there to counteract us.

    • Ellen

      LOL Sarah! Mine are like that, too. I’m afraid that when people see us in public it just reinforces their “2 and done” decision. It’s funny, though, once the other soccer (Catholic school, btw) families get to know us, and find we’re actually relatively “normal” (we don’t homeschool, wear skirts exclusively, have long hair, i.e, we’re NOT the Duggars!), all they can say, over and over is “I don’t know how you do it!”. I never know how to answer that. I mean, what’s the alternative? I *have* to “do it”!

  • Amanda Lancaster

    BEAUTIFUL post. Thank you for this. I’m saving this quote and will read it regularly as it truly stuck a cord with me: “The repulsive truth is that nothing will provide satisfaction in life but self-gift.” Again, thank you.

  • Marcia

    My husband and I have been blessed with 12 beautiful souls here on earth (11 girls and a boy, ages 30-4) and one in heaven. Years ago a friend with 10 blessings taught me to say “have been blessed with x children”, not “we have x children”…accompanied by a big smile… it immediately sends the message that these children and wanted, loved, not mistakes… and that God is in charge of our marriage and family. The negative comments fall away, and the response is “Wow!” followed by a barrage of questions, to which I answer.. yes, we might be done, as I am 50 and a grandmother… thank you (that they don’t think I “look like I’ve had 12 kids”), I burn lots of calories doing laundry… I pray alot (to “how do you do it?”)… yes, we know of the Duggar’s, no, I’m NOT as organized as them. My son-in-law said it best: “They could make a reality show of our family. But it would take 400 hours of footage to make a cohesive 1/2 hour!” It is a crazy life, but I wouldn’t change it for the whole world. Our children are each other’s best friends (and worst enemies, lol). We are learning that it is harder to have strong, independent 20-somethings than it is to have a houseful of littles. But we know that we’ve done our best to teach them to know, love, and serve God, and now its up to Him (and them). We are truly blessed.

  • Karee Santos

    I loved this article, particularly the point about disdaining black and white notions of motherhood. It’s not all good or all bad. Some days motherhood is grand and some days it stinks. It’s kind of like life that way. Your reaction depends on your basic personality, whether you slept last night, and how much you’ve been praying lately. When motherhood is God’s choice, rather than your choice, it becomes part of life’s normal ups and downs instead of a personal decision that needs to be critiqued or justified.

    (BTW, I have six kids, too, and when people ask if that’s it, I usually say, “You never know…”)

  • Jamie

    Wow, you somehow managed to speak what I’ve been feeling all along but never really managed to put into words. I am pregnant with baby number 5 and this is pretty much how I have felt about it all along. I just am a mother. I love and will follow the teachings of our Church. I am not some saint, some perfect mother who is always on her A game and never has a complaint or tired word. I’m something in between the two philosophies out there that you have described. I just love this post, and thank you for it! I find that answering to “Are you done?” with “I don’t know” is enough to perplex most people. :)

  • The Crescat

    I have one kid and I don’t go on European vacations. Maybe I should write a post about the mutual misconceptions on both sides. People assume I have more time and money than I do, or that I am selfish… like you thought of your daughter for wanting one. Neither assumption about the other is entirely fair. Motherhood’s not a competition. Love ya.

    • Bubbaloo

      In all fairness, the writer didn’t think her daughter was selfish for only wanting ‘one’ — she said it was her daughter’s fear of hardship in life that concerned her, and a burgeoning notion that children are a burden that should be avoided. This isn’t a post about ‘number’ per se but I would said it’s more about attitudes toward life. I certainly don’t get the impression that she judges people on nor cares about how many children they have or don’t have.

      • The Crescat

        I know. But it still comes with the assumption that somehow having only one is not a “hardship”. Motherhood is always hard, whether it’s one or a dozen babies.

        • Elizabeth Duffy

          My daughter thought it would be easier, but she’s only nine. I didn’t really address the issue of whether or not one child is easier than ten, only noted that choosing what you “think” is easier, is not a good criteria for making a life plan, especially about children, precisely because you will have to make a gift of self regardless of the number of children you have.

          For the record, Kat, I’ve only suspected you of being a little cranky here and there, but never of being selfish or rolling in time and money. I will not presume to ask you to re-read, but my comment on European vacations was to note how similar my life is to my friends of variant family size, who are also not going on European vacations (with one notable exception who shall remain nameless–but she knows who she is).

          I actually would go on a European vacation if I could find a sitter.

          I’d also look forward to a post from you on alternate misconceptions.

          • Maureen

            . . . . Europe was once in ten years . . . and in 2020 it’s a pilgrimage, not quite a vacation!

            I, too, have fumbled opportunities to speak well on our Catholic contra-contracepting position. Its essential truth is so misunderstood by even most Catholics. Phrases like openness to life and the crux of the procreative and unitive aren’t in our public vocabulary so much as they could be. Perhaps you’d care to write on how we can have those conversations better! An aside . . . what always befuddles me is how fellow natural foods enthusiasts also use hormonal contraception. How can one be reconciled with the other?

          • Elizabeth Duffy


            I’m just happy to see you here.

    • Birthday girl

      Please do write that post. Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Joy

    Great Article! And great responses…as a mom of 10 I can honestly say I can relate to a lot of you :)

  • Leticia Velasquez

    Brava, you have struck the perfect balance between the yuppie mentality of one perfect kid and the selfish Catholic “Look at me I have so many kids ain’t I holier than you?” that some Catholics confuse with openness to life. Openness means self gift, to as many children as God calls you to, and He only called me to three here and three in Heaven. I would love to have someone confront me about being ‘done’, but all they say is ‘did you know?’ about my daughter with Down syndrome. “Yes I did, lady and I would choose her again”. That’s self gift.

    • Brittany

      Great response! And God bless you for it!

  • Kim Whelan

    Great Work! I do believe you sum it up perfectly with:

    “The repulsive truth is that nothing will provide satisfaction in life but self-gift. Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Married, Single or Religious, you have to find a way to give yourself to others, while expecting nothing meaningful back in return.”

  • Lindy

    Great article and insights. I had to laugh at your conversation with the woman about the Mexican lady; I am regularly subjected to the same conversation with my own grandmother, who eagerly reminds me of her Aunt Ida “who was Catholic, and had 12 children and whose insides fell out!” every single time we visit (She’s not Catholic, and I’m an adult convert.) I ultimately have to laugh, but it drives me nuts. My insides are just fine, thankyouverymuch.

    Sometimes I feel that Catholics with a larger than culturally normal amount of kids are esp targeted for criticism in this way over other denominations with the same number, as people seem to infer that we Catholic mothers “had to” have x number while it was pure choice by other moms. I’m seriously considering the rejoinder to the dreaded “are you done” question with, “Well, we have to meet our quota!” Sheesh. (I have 4, by the way.)

    • Maureen

      I’ve also been blessed with four and have responded with a bland, “You never know,” when asked the dreaded question by a stranger or acquaintance. I’d really love it if we could get that question out of what passes for polite conversation. How can we reconcile the need for faithful Catholics to model and discuss openness to life and NFP with a desire for a certain degree of family privacy? Where does, “Yes, we’d welcome another child, but we aren’t necessarily attempting to conceive this week,” meet “Mind your own business, ma’am!” ?

  • JMB

    Being the second oldest of eight children, I vividly remember strangers accosting my mother whenever we were out in public. It was the 70s, and I remember hearing a lot of “Jesus was an only child, you know” and “You know what causes that and how to stop it!”. It has had such an impression on me that I vowed that I would never ask anyone how many children they have, if they are “done” or planning on more. Come to think of it, I just smile now and say “cute baby” when I see a new mom.

  • Patty

    Great article. I have six kids and I work full time at a large corporation. If I were queen of the universe I would be a stay at home mom, but since the queen of the universe job has already been taken I’ll struggle along in my current position. I can assure you that there are not many like me (mom to a big family) at this company and when I’m questioned about kids at work it usually feels more negative than just curious. But there is also another kind of questioning that I get. It comes in the form of a visit to my cube, with some whispers about being unable to get pregnant, or has you child ever done X, or I want to have kids but I’m so scared. I had one of these convo’s right before I read your article. I’ve got no great pearls of wisdom, but I do try to be honest. You hit the nail on the head when you talk about self gift. Isn’t this love in a nutshell? This simple truth is not an easy one.

  • http://housewifething.blogspot.come Robin E

    Prayers for you as you discern your direction. You might be interested in hosting an orphan fora few weeks in the summer. Many of these children are available for adoption, and want families badly. Check out New Horizons or Children for starters. There are other hosting program that I can’t remember right now, but google it! We have eight children in the home, butare hoping to be able to host sometime soon. Good luck! :)

  • Peggy

    This is a wonderful article! When we got married 28 years ago we decided to practice Natural Family Planning, and we even got to share the teachings at Engaged Couple’s weekends. Somehow early on, God’s plan and our plan coincided in that our practice of NFP the first 3 years not to conceive was successful and then attempting to conceive resulted first in a miscarriage but then shortly after our beautiful daughter was born.

    We had always shared that we wanted 4 children about 2 years apart. I remember thinking after our 4th child how good it was that God and I were so in sync. Four years later I became pregnant and shortly after we decided to tell the children, I miscarried. The children (and their friends) were so sad that my husband and I had to discuss we were “ready” to have another child, by this time I was 40 and my husband was 43. Thankfully we decided to open ourselves to God’s plan fully and not only did we have another child, but God blessed us with two more after that, one when I was 42 and one when I was 46 (yes we said this is our last 3 times). We are now a family of 9, four boys and three girls ages 25 to 5. Comments and questions from family and friends alike are still about the number, although my husband is one of 9 and I am one of 7.

    I have to say that my greatest joy was this past year, the weekend before Christmas, when all of my children and some of their friends came home and we had a slumber party! Our house was full,’pressed down and overflowing’ with love, laughter, music and joy! My heart felt like it was going to burst with joy.

    My favorite line in your article is “…opportunities to evangelize are wasted on me”. I always have clever or teachable comments about 2o minutes after a quip or question , although once I was able to respond to a young man who commented on all of our kids, we only had 5 at the time, “I bet your house is full?” to which I replied, “yes, full of love” to which he responded, “I know what you mean, I’m one of 5 too.” Maybe the evangelization was of me, because afterwards I was less defensive when hearing comments and tried to assume the best rather than the worst.

    Thank you so much!

  • Allison H.

    I promise I was smacked in the head by this insightful and heart-felt post, but I’ve got to mention this adorable connection: my 11 year old daughter is in the middle of 5 brothers and finally last year, we had a baby girl. She was with us for her birth and one of her first comments was, “How long before I can braid her hair?”

    Thank you for writing!

  • Sarah b.

    Crescat, Amen!

    Sometimes babies don’t just happen, even with all the open space for them a husband and wife can have. Also, as a catholic with secondary IF (one kid) you get it from everybody. Secular people assume you contracept, which makes my skin crawl. When they find out about IF, they judge us for not doing IVF and our religious friends with large families dismiss our pain with talk of how “easy” it is to have one child (yes it’s very easy to have that one child beg you and god in her prayers every night for a sibling that god nor yourself is able to provide). We get judged from everyone, and they’re all wrong.

    I would love to see anything, anything at all in well known blogging pages about Infertility, other than a cold article about church teaching on IVF written by someone who isn’t infertile.

    • The Crescat

      How could one approach the topic of infertility if they themselves weren’t infertile? Just asking for your ideas.. how would you like to see the subject handled? Also… I totally get where you are coming from about people assuming you contracept because you have only one. I get all kinds of nasty assumptions made about me and I’m DIVORCED! I can only imagine what you go through as a married woman. Whether it’s one or 12 babies mother hood is never an easy job.

    • Katherine S.

      Sarah, your frustration is definitely understandable – we just can’t seem to please anyone! While it’s not a blog, I recently finished reading “The Infertility Companion for Catholics” by Carmen Santamaria and Angelique Ruhi-Lopez, and I found it to be quite helpful. It covers the usual info about what treatments are and are not acceptable, but it also addresses the spiritual side of infertility, which was what I at least was desparate for. I know what the Church teaches and why, and I am glad to be obedient to that, even if it “costs” me the chance to have biological children, which I realize it may well. What I needed was understanding and spiritual support, which this resource really provided. Anyway, thought I’d pass the book name along, in case it might be helpful to you as well.

  • Blanca

    I loved this article thank you so much. I too get tired of people asking if I am done, we have 4 children. It upsets me because I realize that people see life like only they are in control of their life. Like if we were the one’s giving life. We are only co-creators with God. He is in control and people don’t seem to get it.
    I loved also and take home that we also must daily choose to give yourself wholeheartedly to our vocation as a mom without expecting anything in return. That there is LOVE.

  • Dorian Speed

    I thought you hit on just the right tone with this piece. I’m an only child and have a relatively small family (3 kids) by Catholic blogging subculture standards, but I really identified with this part:
    “I refuse to fall into the trap of either fetishizing or denouncing the vocation of motherhood. I choose to be detached from the ridiculous ways people mischaracterize the Church’s teaching and those who follow it.”

  • SMO

    Thank you, beautifully written. To RJT in comments above, adoption is used over and over in the Bible and is a true calling in my opinion. We have 3 children, all by God’s plan of adoption for us. Everyone tells us how great we are to have adopted, but we think how great the children are to be born. Love to all of my Catholic families and those who do not yet believe. After completing our marriage to be blessed and my conversion to Catholicism 10 years after our public marriage, we conceived another blessing, this time thru my surprise pregnancy. People ask us if we are trying for a boy since they are all girls…my response is always, “this is God’s plan and I will never be sure what He’s up to next, but we are blessed’”

  • Joel

    This is why I love living in a heavily Mormon town. Even non-Catholics, on learning that I have eight, congratulate me instead of looking at me like a fly that landed on their breakfast.

  • Mary

    I am one of 10 children; my husband is one of 9. We have been happily married for over 30 years now and we have 7 children, ages 28 to 13. We are Catholic and are so thankful for our Church. My mother is 89; my father almost 92. They are loved and surrounded by all of their remaining 9 children and their 28 grandchildren – their big family a “mistake”? I don’t think so. All “things” of this world are gone in an instant. The love between a husband and wife who have both endured and enjoyed their large family is a gift that lasts a lifetime. Thank you for this beautiful article! For those of you who wish you cold have had a large family and it just wasn’t in God’s plan, I pray you can experience the “large family” love through a family you know. There’s always room for more.

  • Bethanie Ryan

    I read the daily mail article you link to. I think that the author of that article is clinically depressed, not a monster. As for your daughter, I told my parents that I’d never get married or have kids. Now, I’m married with one child (so far). Anyone can say whatever they want about their future, but no one knows what will happen until it does.

  • sarah

    And on the other hand I have been asked that question, “is this your only child?” so many times, even once was too many times, and had to breathe through my grief to answer yes.

  • Pingback: Children Are A Blessing | Be As A Light

  • Katie

    Hi Elizabeth, what a lovely article! Thank you! Congratulations on your family of six! I’ve often wondered what happened to the Duffys – particularly Susie! Is she on FB? I would love to be able to connect with her! We’ve go three boys and would love it if God sends us some more!

    God bless you!

    Katie Velasquez (Corkery)

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      Susie is great–just the same–but not on facebook. I am though. I’ll find you.

  • Sarah b.

    No, I would not expect Elizabeth to write about infertility; more just lamenting the lack of any well known bloggers who write about it. Is it that there are no decent writers writing about it or that those who run the larger websites don’t think people care to read those stories? Who knows. Was just an observation.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      I think it’s probably just that there’s not a very scientific approach to how a blog becomes “well known,” and after that, to what bloggers write about. Most bloggers write about themselves and what they know, and it’s just happenstance that infertility is not an area of expertise for the writers who’ve found themselves on different blogging platforms like Patheos or the Register.

      I do know that a lot of the more newsy platforms that don’t necessarily host blogs, like Ignitum Today and Catholic Exchange, are always looking for good well-written columns. Is this something you could write?

  • RJT

    Thank you!

  • Sarah b.

    Elizabeth, I actually write for Ignitum and have often written of my own struggles with secondary IF. I also write about it on my page from time to time. But I’m not Jen Fulwiler, so it’s hard to know if it makes any kind of impact at all. I guess it does just seem that all of the “big names” are moms of many, and it can be…hard sometimes to feel like there’s no place for me (and those like me) in the catholic blogging world. Not the point of this post at all, and many apologies, but I’m taking hormone injections that make me emotional and crazy, in hopes of that long prayed for sibling magically appearing.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      I’ll keep you in my prayers too!

  • Kate

    Elizabeth – I think we would be friends. :). RJT – are you in Texas? I know of a family of 4 needing to be adopted.

  • GiannaT

    I’m an unmarried college student who hasn’t started a family yet, but I’m one of nine, and I found this article really beautiful–and true! As the oldest, I may not have been a mommy yet, but I’ve been a ‘mini-mommy’, and I really appriciated the insights you have on the more difficult side of being a mother of a big family, and the self-mayrterdom aspect. That’s something I’ve already had to face a bit, and it’s comforting to know that when I have my own family, there are others out there with the same struggle. Thank you.

  • Susie Beil

    Thanks for your thoughtful words. I am not Catholic, but my husband and I took the Natural Family Planning course taught by the Catholic Church and we really felt it was valuable and good. The mother of one of my Catholic friends (number 8 of 10 kids) wrote a wonderful book, Ten Circles on the Pond: Reflections of a Prodigal Mother, by Virginia Tranel. Prodigal meaning generous to a fault, she writes about each of her 10 kids and the joys and criticisms of having such a large family. Highly recommend.

  • Sarah D.

    A friend of mine just sent me this… thank you so much for sharing your insights & thoughts! I have 5 and while I love my family and couldn’t imagine my life being any different, the 5th pregnancy was a shock! And it took me a couple of months to come to terms with it. I say this not to ever hurt my youngest daughter’s feelings, but to be honest and truthful. It was not my plan, not my husband’s plan, but God’s plan. And clearly he has a plan for us and while I do not think I’m perfect, I am glad that I try to follow God’s plan for us and our family and believe he has a purpose for us. It’s funny, but OTHER people think I think I’m perfect or a saint, I don’t think that. I simply accepted the gifts that God gave me. The misconceptions are theirs, not mine. I have never used birth control, but like you would not use it even if the Catholic church “changed its position” (which is a whole other article because the institution cannot change God’s truth) because I also believe in the natural treatments and remedies and accept my body the way it was created.

    I struggle with accepting compliments from others about our family – my initial response to people who admire our family and how many children we have is usually “If I had a nanny cam in my house, CPS would be knocking on my door.” I really just want people to know we are a normal family and I am FAR from being a perfect mother. I hope to raise saints, but even at that I fail every day. And I have periods where I really feel isolation. I felt isolated anyway in being a Catholic mother in this urban community, but now and then I feel it again when it comes to our family’s size. I know there are times when we are invited or included because people think there’s too many of us. Right now my oldest son & daughter want MORE children than we have!! God bless them :) I just hope that in the end, they want whatever it is for themselves that God wants and that they don’t get caught up in the things of this world.

    Anyway, I thank you again and after reading some of the other comments to your post, had to put in my two cents as well. I didn’t set out to write such a lengthy response… Perhaps I should attempt my own blog instead of hijacking others’!

    • Becky Lehto

      I have felt this way too at times. I know there are places we have not been invited because there are so many of us. It’s a sad commentary on our culture that people are so concerned with their “things” or being able to be a perfect host/hostess that they are unable to simply open themselves and their homes up to large families. We also have friends that are unwilling to ask us to help them in times of needs or to babysit for them because they are worried we “have enough” to deal with. Luckily I have the benefit of a great Catholic homeschooling community to offset this more secular set of friends. I can’t imagine what it would be like without that although I guess I’m going to have to try since my husband lost his mind and walked out on us and we are moving to a new state where my kids will be in public school and I will be the wacky Catholic lady with all the kids who’s…….shhhh……”divorced”. Sigh….

  • http://silverpip Eleanor Brown

    Thank you.

  • A young Catholic

    Thank you!

  • Karen Edmisten

    This is my favorite part of this great piece: “There is no longer any room to allow children to happen, to receive them graciously, and to care for them because it’s the right thing to do.”

    Yes, that’s what’s been lost. All we can do as Catholics is keep living that way … allow, receive, care, do the right thing. Yeah, it’s all hard, that’s why it’s called fallen. Beautiful, Betty.

  • Maria

    I’m a grandmother and I’m new to this beautiful website. Reading about problems surrounding infertility, I wondered if readers here are familiar with Dr. Thomas Hilgers’ (very supportive of Catholic Teaching) NaPro Technology:

  • Rin

    While I may make different life choices I have great respect for those who choose to not use birth control. My only problem with this essay was the phrasing of
    ““contraceptive mentality” that fears hardship of any kind”

    Use of contraceptives covers a wide range of choices and reasons, most of don’t seem to me to be “fear of hardship.” If she had said “risk averse and fearing the hardship of children, it wouldn’t have bothered me as much, but equating use of contraceptive with fear of hardship just rubbed me the wrong way.

    I suppose you could phrase any decision into a fear perspective (they wear a seatbelt because they are scared of dying in a car crash, they eat food with antioxidants because they are afraid of cancer, they are pious Christians because they are afraid of hell, etc etc) but I for one cans say that I’m not a Christian for fear of hell, but rather for hope of Heaven.

  • Pingback: The Soul of Good Manners

  • Katie

    Ok Elizabeth! I couldn’t find you on FB….

  • Pingback: Am I Supposed to Be a Perfect Mama? | That Still Center