Motherhood after growing up Quiverfull: Part 1

I love children. I grew up in a family with a lot of them. Eleven of us to be exact.

There are many things I loved about growing up in a large family, we looked out for each other, we spent hours playing together, and when we worked together jobs were accomplished quickly.

From a young age I was taught that women had one calling in life, to be good wives and mothers. God had created us to be the helpmeet of our husband, serving him and doing everything we could to make his hard life easier. Children were a blessing from God, and really the supreme calling of women. After all “women would be saved through childbearing.”

A woman who could not have children was a sad empty sort of person, and women who chose to avoid having children were the worst of all. Women who rejected motherhood in favor of anything else (be it career, missions, or even health) were the worst kind of selfish, their life was pretty much without meaning.

Even women who limited their number of children were rejecting God’s will for their lives. There were no reasons to delay having children, or to space the arrival of children. God would provide whatever you needed, whether that was resources/income or reserves of strength and patience, so there really were no valid reasons to prevent from having as many children as your body would conceive. Some families within the Quiverfull movement took the value of having children so seriously, that they would wean their babies early so that they could increase the chance of being able to conceive again.

Natural Family Planning was not acceptable. Families that spaced their kids, even naturally, were not trusting God. I remember my parents pointing out a family that had used NFP to space their children and was now struggling with secondary infertility. “See? They never should have messed with God’s plan, now they had to live with the consequences of not trusting God.”

My interests were carefully tailored by my parents. Nursing was too career oriented, and there was no way I could raise a large family and work outside of the home, my focus needed to be in the home. When I was interested in taking a culinary arts course (because of my love of cooking) I was told that it would be a waste of time and money because the fancy food I learned to cook would have no place on a family table, and I would never be running a restaurant. Actually any college education would be a waste of time, and would only feed the career mentality that we were trying to avoid. I was allowed to take courses in teaching violin, because that was something I could do from the home and that could come in handy someday if my husband needed me to make some money.

I got married, and I was still living in this mindset. When I miscarried our first 2 babies, I felt that I was failing my calling as a woman. I felt horrible for my husband, how could he have known that he was marrying a sub-par producer? Was God angry with me? What was I doing wrong? What if I never carried a baby to term? What would I do?

Eventually, our firstborn arrived, and I felt a sense of relief, my body was working! When our second baby arrived 14 months later, I was happy and proud, and tired. But everything was going so well! Our babies were beautiful! I worked hard to make sure they were well-behaved, because I knew that people would be watching for any reason to criticize our growing family, and I was determined to prove them wrong.

By the time our third arrived, I was questioning the Quiverfull mentality. Yes, children were a blessing, but they were also a responsibility. I no longer felt that caring for my children’s physical needs was enough. I wanted to enjoy them, revel in their childhood, spend time with them. I wanted to make sure I had the time and energy to be there for them when they wanted to talk about things, to encourage them and build them up.

Could my body endure pregnancy after pregnancy and still have enough health and energy to play with my kids? Would I be able to care for so many babies this close together and still be able to keep the house reasonably clean and make the meals with out overburdening my children with responsibility? And would we really be able to provide for the sheer amount of children we could end up with? If I kept up this average of 18 months between children, we could end up with 16 children over 25 years of fertility. Blessings yes, but 16 is a lot of people to care for.

Now that I’ve wrestled with the Catholic teachings on sexuality, I no longer think that naturally spacing children is bad for families or marriages, or evidence of a “lack of trust” in God. I feel that there are valid reasons to delay pregnancy, space your children, or even limit the number of children you have. I love how the church’s teachings embrace life fully, the conception of life, but also the living of life.

Now that I am open to spacing or limiting our children, I am faced with a new set of questions.

To date, we have never used any form of birth control including NFP. I am currently pregnant with our 4th baby, and I couldn’t be happier. On the one hand, I love being pregnant. I love feeling the baby move inside of me. I love meeting a whole new person when they are born. I love watching my children grow and learn. When I think about “being done” my heart aches. I would miss this.

The idea of “spacing” makes sense to me, I want to be there for my children, I want to care for my body.

And yet, I question myself.

I still have the old voices that tell me I will be haunted by ghosts of children never conceived. That my value and purpose is completely tied to producing and raising children, what would I do if I delay conception? Without a baby arriving every 18-24 months I would be useless.

And I have new questions and doubts as well. I’ve always wanted a large family, but how large? Yes, maybe spacing is a good option, but how big of a space? I love that our children are close together and the best of friends, but with a move, career change for my husband and eventually homeschooling or sending our children to school, is it best to continue having a child every 18 months? My body has done OK so far, but I am tired, and each pregnancy can take a lot out of me. Can I continue as we have and still be the mother my children need?

I also have questions about who I am, now that I am starting to realize that my value and purpose is not dependant on how many children I can produce, I wonder what else I may discover about my interests and goals. I will write about that in Part 2.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    I went through all those feelings also. I am not quiverfull though we have 10 children now.

    May God bless your journey richly. And congratulations on #4! I hope you get plenty of rest now, after baby is born, and during the break you may take.

    ~Cara

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00793291964836599064 Maria

    I really enjoy reading your posts and learning about your daily thoughts and struggles. As a cradle Catholic, I wish my parents had used NFP. They used artificial birth control despite the Church's teachings and I have had to deal with my feelings of missing a sibling. I have always seen NFP as a partnership with God – respectfully giving Him ultimate control, but also acting with your sense of responsibility to the overall well being of your family. I'm not married, but this is my hope for my family, should I be blessed with one someday.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08553760391176072177 Joy

    Beautiful, looking forward to part II

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    What a great post, with questions and thoughts I think lots of women have, but are afraid to voice.

    As a woman who went from believing she'd have no children…ever, to a mother of (soon to be) five children, and who has used NFP since after Child number 1…I really enjoy what you say regarding wrestling with the Church's teaching on sexuality and wondering how much space is "too much" space? I know one questions my DH and I wrestled with before achieving pregnancy this time was the fact he would turn 40 next year. And I think we both envision being "done" (sad as it feels) when we reach that stage of our lives. Yes, age is just a number, but it is still a good gauge of energy level and ability to "be there" for your children.

    I can't wait to read part 2!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03792937108732259684 priest’s wife

    I really love the Catholic Church's teachings as well- and especially how theologians are explaining it lately.

    I have 4 children 11 and under (also had 1 late miscarriage)and I'm 39. Because of health problems, I shouldn't have more kids- we don't use artificial birth control, but we do use NFP.

    We women will NEVER satisfy the world ie. child rearing. For secularists, I have 3 to 4 too many children. To mega-family types, I have 3 to 4 too little children.

    My youngest is 19 months- so now, I am just raising them right (I pray) so that I can be a grandmother in 15-20 years- then, baby kisses again!

    about self-worth- right now, a lot of it DOES come from my role as mom- but I also am proud of the Master's I achieved sloooowly and finished before the baby was born- my very part-time teaching job- improvements in my singing voice, etc. We don't want to be too selfish- but a LITTLE 'me time' is good

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    Michelle- I wonder about when to "be done" as well. I've observed many families that kept having children into their 40's and seemed to get tired of raising them, resulting in neglect. I want to be cautious that I do not set myself up for that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01659200420621854710 Maggie

    I have so many friends my age (26 y.o.) who are already talking about being "done" having children or who made New Year's resolutions NOT to get pregnant this year. I know it is their business and not mine, but it makes me sad.

    I look forward to part 2!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06164970035946546827 Mary Poppins NOT

    In my experience, aging and fatigue took care of spacing ~ but I am expecting my ninth baby around my 45th birthday, so that may be cold comfort.

    With NFP, it worked for us when we were highly motivated, and as life situations changed, and our motivation decreased some, we would get less precise, and eventually have another baby.

    We'll see how raising the two children I had in my 40's goes, but so far, so good. I am sure I'll be tired, but I am counting on being wise, so they should balance each other out, right? I can hope, at least.

    Blessings!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00539628551735497651 Rach

    I have wrestled with some of these same questions. Although I didn't come from a super conservative quiverfull mindset (my parents used NFP), I am the oldest of 8. I love coming from a large family, but I saw my parents be STRESSED OUT too. My youngest sibling is 6 and I still see that.

    My husband and I hope to have 4 or 5 kids (if God so blesses us!), and I'm excited about that. But still trying to delay my next pregnancy using NFP so that I can enjoy my babe. My biggest problem with the "no birth control at all" idea is the mistaken perception that you are giving God full control. He already has full control in my mind, but has chosen to partner with humans in the procreation process. For instance, even the no BC crowd still decide how frequently they are going to have sex. They have some "control" then, whether they realize it or not.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00539628551735497651 Rach

    And I forgot to add….CONGRATS on your pregnancy! I don't recall knowing that before this post. That is so exciting!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05014351173194941624 Sally Thomas

    I do think being "open" is a thing of balance — that's the beauty of Catholic teaching, which I came to very late (I used to joke that I'd be Catholic when I hit menopause, and . . . let us say that the saints must be laughing at me a little). Our openness is meant to be informed by our God-given conscience and common sense, which I think tells us that our motherhood is not just a function of having babies, but of bringing them up. My seventeen-year-old is still my baby. She's on her way out the door to college, and she is still my baby, and I am still responsible for the way I love and mother her. (ditto the 13-year-old, the 8-year-old, and the 7-year-old — we're another of those families who have either 3 too many or 3 too few . . . ).

    In our process of conversion from contracepting left-wing-ish quasi-Protestants (we were Anglican, and very Catholic-leaning Anglicans, long before we embraced the whole package) to praticing Catholics, we used NFP only briefly, when our two youngest were very young, and we were in a period of severe financial crisis. Even then, I was really expecting that I'd have one more, because even though we were being prudential, we were also still being open . . . I was in my early 40s, and it took me a while to realize that the signs that were sending me out to buy pregnancy tests every month were really the first signs of menopause, which hit me at 44.

    That was when I knew I was "done," and it was difficult to come to terms with for a while. Now I'm happy watching my children grow and enjoying them as people, but I will always miss pregnancy and new babies. Having had our last child on the heels of the third, at a time that was not exactly optimum — right at the onset of the severe financial crisis — taught me that there wasn't a "wrong" time to have a baby, and that child has blessed me every day of her life, as have the others.

    So, in a way I do regret having been "prudential," though on the other hand, I wasn't so prudential as to close off the possibility and wrest control away from God — who will let us do that, of course, to our sorrow. I guess that's a way of saying that what I really regret are the years of contracepting, whereas the whole process of conversion and surrender to God did teach me richly, though not in ways I had expected. I had begun praying the Angelus prayer when I was pregnant with my last child — it has you say, with Mary, "Be it done unto me according to thy word." Through that prayer I learned to accept the life God had granted me: the life of my new child. As I continued to pray it through my early forties and the diminishing of my fertility, I came to see that what I was really learning to be open to was LIFE, as in all of it, as in the life God was giving me, in which I did not necessarily get what my heart wanted. Joyful surrender to that reality was a lot harder than joyful surrender to the reality of a baby.

    Re a woman's role: my oldest daughter and I have had some interesting conversations on that subject. I have a graduate-level education, but chucked my career path when she was a baby and have not looked back. I would not have wanted to be away from my children's growing up, and I do think that women need to weigh these things carefully. At the same time, I would never have considered not encouraging *all* my children to pursue an education and/or their dreams. My oldest experienced an interesting moment at a college summer program last summer: the kids were going around the table declaring what they want to "be" after college, and all the other girls wanted to be corporate lawyers. My daughter said she wants to be a mom (she alternatively maybe wants to be a nun . . . ).

    There was a silence, and finally somebody said, "Then what are you doing here?"

    My daughter said, "Because I think the basic unit of society ought to be educated." Go, girl!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04738076740941616678 Rebecca

    Sneaking in while at work because while I already told you I love this post, I wanted to add more depth than that.

    As a teacher, I spend my days reveling in childhood and while I've not been called to have my own, I love to see parents who love spending time with and nurturing their children. Quantity is not always best, and your reflection on quality is beautiful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02510172065585770709 Hopewell

    GREAT POST!!!
    "I wanted to enjoy them, revel in their childhood, spend time with them. I wanted to make sure I had the time and energy to be there for them when they wanted to talk about things, to encourage them and build them up."

    This is part of the reason women sought birth control in the first place when they looked beyond the sheer physical exhaustion and financial drudgery their endless childbearing provided.

    You have said so very much here in so few words about what is really wrong with the Quiverfull movement. Not wanting to burden your kids with the responsibility or running the house and doing all the childcare is a good thing. Every time I watch "19 Kids and Counting" I want to scream over the misuse of the grown daughters.

    Catholic mothers before Vatican II were taught the same as Quiverfull moms are today. People were ignoring the Church. It changed. My hope is that Gothard and the rest will some day say at least NFP is ok.

    Great post–I look forward to part II

  • Anonymous

    I only had two children,and I assure you that Jesus loves me every bit as much as He loves any of you. You are not one whit closer to God by having more children than I chose to have.

    My life is rich and full. I have many interests and friends, and a great relationship with my two mostly grown children. I loved and enjoyed raising them, home schooling them, loving on them every day in the name of Jesus.

    Selfish? That's so funny because we have used out extra resources to provide for the children and parents of QF families on many occasions, opening our homes as well as our pocket books, and working with our own hands to have to give to those in need. We have to give, and our children have all their true needs met.

    We don't have to come up with scriptural reasons to avoid gifts at birthdays and holiday because we can afford them. We don't have to stifle our children's dreams and goals because we can afford the lessons, materials, and educational costs of training for them, including college.

    We don't have to make them that loving beauty and wanting straight teeth, fashionable clothes, or stylish hair cuts is a sin. We can afford those things so we don't need to spiritualize out lack like QF families do.

    Because the honest truth is you don't provide for your families needs. Kind-hearted people like me step up to fill the gap, or your kids go without. And of course though you'll accept my help, you'll still look down on me. You might even decide that God himself is taking from me to give to you when I am compassionate and generous to you.

    I don't expect you to post this, as I freely admit it is not as kind and gentle as it could be. Still, it's time for people with large families to stop spiritualizing their lack and feeling superior to people who limit their families while we more prudent fellow believer pick up the slack in meeting your needs. Get over yourselves.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04799393593685552159 not a minx, a moron, or a parasite

    What a great post! Thank you for writing so openly on topics of great and personal interest. A mother's job is never done, so I wouldn't worry about not having a "place" in your family if you aren't pregnant or having more children. You will always be needed. I hope you have peace on this topic soon.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17871256362646081536 Amber

    What I love about this post is how you explore your feelings on the topic with great understanding. (Something I wish anonymous had been able to see. Although I think she was referring more to the comments than to your post.)

    Like you, I have always wanted a big family. Always. But I've come to a realization that that may not happen for me. At least how I expected.

    I had two miscarriages last year and, frankly, don't know when or if I could ever try a pregnancy again. It isn't that I don't want more children, it's that I can't handle the the unknown and CONSTANT worrying over whether or not this baby will live. But, like you, I've almost tied my identity to having children so coming to this conclusion has really put me through an identity crisis of sorts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18185954714426587340 Cara Coffey

    Anonymous of January 12 is funny to me.

    You see, I've written a book that will be published by April. In it, I say the same thing she does…..none of us are any more saved than the rest of us no matter how many children we have. I do not judge her as selfish, and I would appreciate it if she wouldn't judge my children as overworked and opportunity-less. I try not to overwork them or me, but I don't always succeed. I am tired a lot. My book testifies to having felt betrayed by the quiverfull movement, the "religious" set, and all else Christian. It is the "religious" set that has placed burdens on all our backs, not the mothers of 10 out there who are trying and loving just like the mothers of 2. Goodness, I have to help my children take breaks. They've somehow gotten it into their thinking that to work is Christian. Hard work is good for us, but it is not sin to rest just like it is not sin to have 2 children…or 10. I didn't do that to my kids, but the "religious right" did while doing it to me too. I forgive them.

    This is not helpful, but it is funny to me how she is saying the very same thing I am in "Uncovered No More".

    For the record….my children may not get as many opportunities as others in other families, and I am the first one to feel bad about it. I am so thankful for how my kids don't put this sort of guilt trip on us.

    It is very easy to see how much of a failure some of us are, and I do not honestly think anonymous understands how she could send me, the proverbial "superior" mother who needs to get over myself, into an afternoon of tears because I already know all she typed. And then some. But my children love Jesus, and so do I, and that is really what counts.

    God is pleased by faith. If people can have small families and large ones in faith, then it isn't sin. The most important thing? Walk in love with Jesus….and help our children do it, too. We need the fear of God, and we need to understand how very pleased the Lord is with women who stay at home and care for our children. I don't go for any of the books and teachings out there (and I'm not Catholic, but it doesn't matter which side you go to, you will get the teaching). All the books about large families and etc do is get me more guilt. No Thank You. That's a bunch of yuck, and I don't buy it or read it. I read my Bible when I can, and it is the greatest source of comfort and conviction to me.

    Let us all remember…there are children in other countries who don't even have a pair of socks, who can't be Christian without losing their parents because of persecution, who are suffering terribly. As are their parents. I honestly don't think any of us have a whole lot, whether small families, or large ones, to cry about in that regard. My husband and I may have to work hard to make ends meet (and we have no anonymous people in our lives paying the orthodontist bills), but my two year old has never missed a meal like his grandfather, my dad, did. He was only one of 5, born during the Depression. Let us keep a handle on reality here. Opportunity? Well…my 10 children are getting a good work ethic, and it is my experience that they go and get opportunities (I encourage them) prayerfully as they grow up and move forward in life.

    We don't have time for this sort of negativity, one Christian to another. We should be loving one another and understanding the true value in life. It isn't about us mothers having this opportunity, or that. It isn't about our children having all of life perfect either. Remember the treasures in heaven? Let us please remember what is of true value and what is not.

    The will of God? It has nothing to do with however many children we do or do not have. According to the Bible, the will of God is to rejoice, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks. Wow I am so thankful it is that simple.

    ~Cara

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17317012876526276105 Joyful Song

    My husband and I are Catholic and practice NFP. The way it tends to work is that we take it one cycle at a time and discern what we think God's will is for us at that particular time. There is no need to project far into the future and try to guess how many kids we should have or how to space them, because things change quite a lot over time. Each cycle we determine whether or not to abstain. We are very young and I am now pregnant for the second time, having lost our first baby in a miscarriage.

    We are always open to life and in the future we will just play it by ear in regard to spacing of children. NFP was very helpful in conceiving as well as avoiding conception.

  • http://christianrethinker.wordpress.com/ Retha

    Good post. I find the "if you trust God, you won't use any birth control" absurd.

    By that same logic:

    -> Locking your car mean you are not trusting God to look after it.
    -> Buying groceries or preparing a meal mean you are not trusting God for your food.
    -> Working mean you are not trusting God to provide for your needs.
    -> Going to church or reading the Bible mean you are not trusting God to provide for your spiritual needs.

    Since none of the "trust God with your womb" people actually leave their car and house unlocked, or preach that men should not work or no-one should prepare meals, their reasoning is inconsistent.

  • http://matchingmoonheads.wordpress.com/ matchingmoonheads

    thanks for this honest post. one great thing about NFP is that you don't have to have all the answers at once. you decide each month and plans are subject to change :)
    also, this post – and other thoughts i've had separately on the subject – have affirmed to me why i, as a subfertile woman, am so thankful for the theology of my church. i've gotten into discussions with a Mormon friend who has repeatedly touted that the best a woman can do is give birth and raise children, everything else is subpar and well, useless. i believe that motherhood is extremely important with all of my heart, but there has to be more to it theologically than just "biologically have children and raise them to produce more Cathlics (or mormons, or whatever)" otherwise why would God have specifically made some of us unable to have children?
    anyway, small blessings, but important ones :)

  • http://christianrethinker.wordpress.com/ Retha

    Matching Moonheads, when people tell you that everything else except raising children is subpar for a women- that is anti-Biblical. 1 Corinthians chapter 7 expounds on how both sexes can better serve God by not marrying, as their attention is less divided when single. Read it. Concentrate on verse 34.

    Not that I judge married people- many of them serve God better than I do despite divided attention- but Biblically, not staying single is settling for second best.

  • http://blog.earthlingshandbook.org ‘Becca

    Thanks for these very interesting articles! It's fascinating seeing you work through these decisions.

    "Without a baby arriving every 18-24 months I would be useless."

    I know you are stating a belief you were taught, not something you wholeheartedly believe now, but I also know you're struggling to keep those teachings from controlling you subconsciously, so:

    Look, I am a mother of one child, 6 years old. Even if I were doing nothing else other than being his mother, I still would be far from useless. He needs me not only for the practical things (he can't cook a meal for himself or cross the street alone, and he has no big sister to help him) but also simply because I am his mother and there is no one else with that connection to him. I am not useless. I am SO important to him that it terrifies me sometimes: Am I really worthy of this importance?

    Furthermore, I have a mother who has only two children, and she certainly was not useless when we were at home with her. These days we live far apart and don't keep in touch constantly, but when I want my mama, she is always there for me, not useless at all.

    Having even one child makes you a mother for the rest of your life. You may be doing other things at the same time, but you will ALWAYS be a mother.

    If anything, mothers of fewer children tend to be more useful as mothers, more important to our children, because we aren't spread so thin. I know there are mothers of many who manage to focus on each one as an individual, but it's got to be more difficult!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06374573594800663980 Kacie

    I'm the oldest of six and I appreciated my parent's approach. They kept having kids because they just felt like they weren't done yet. They'd pray about it and see how they felt as things went on… and kept having kids. Until the sixth… he was a surprise! In between kids they used various forms of birth control including NFP. I think it's worth simply reevaluating after each child …

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05014351173194941624 Sally Thomas

    Matchingmoonheads — In Mormon theology as I understand it, children already exist, as "spirit children" waiting to be born, so that a decision not to have a child is a decision to deny an already pre-existing person a physical life.

    This isn't an orthodox Christian view, as you know (and I'm not Mormon or espousing it in any way), but I think that's what's driving the big-family ethos, theologically speaking, in Mormon culture. To decline to have a child, in that worldview, is really a bad and selfish thing, because there it is already, just waiting around for its mother to decide to give it a life, and what kind of mother would say no?

    I think probably all of us who have children, whatever our background, have some level of ego-investment in our children, whether it's how many we have, or how accomplished they are, or whatever. It is just very, very hard not to see our families — ie, the families which come into being through us — as extensions of ourselves, our value systems, our philosophies. I know that when I failed at something in school (please never talk to me about math!), my mother viewed my difficulties as a *personal* embarrassment. I've tried very hard not to project myself onto my children in that way, though as a homeschooling mother, I bit my nails until my first child got a college acceptance letter, because if she didn't — well, in a real sense, that would have been my failure to educate her, and in my worst moments I did kind of see the two of us going down in flames together, in front of our whole extended family, who are pretty much the polar opposite of Young Mom's. But I think I'm digressing.

    I think trusting and being open to God is less a matter of things like family size and child spacing than of realizing that each child is a total, unwarranted gift which we aren't really meant to keep forever. We didn't make them, we don't own them, they aren't us, they aren't clones or a matching set or a big do-it-yourself indentured-servant kit or whatever. They are these people on loan to us, and because we're taking care of them for someone else, who has bigger plans for them than we can imagine, we do have to take care of them the way we'd take care of a library book. Not anxiously or wrapping it up in plastic or being afraid to read it, but with care, striving to do what's right rather than what's easy or convenient, because ultimately it isn't ours, and we do have to answer for how we've tended it.

  • http://matchingmoonheads.wordpress.com/ matchingmoonheads

    Retha – That's another good verse. Wonder what my friend would say to that?

    Sally – Yeah, I'm actually quite familiar with Mormon theology (I've had to arm myself with knowledge!) and that's just another reason I'm so glad to be a in a faith that doesn't subscribe to those ideas. I honestly can't imagine being Mormon and infertile, the guilt must be crushing that you're really not going to get to Heaven.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05014351173194941624 Sally Thomas

    Ah, I should have been better at noticing what you said about having lots of these conversations!

    And really, on reflecting, it's not just that each *child* is a gift, though that's true, but that each *life,* including our own, is a gift, and ultimately belongs to God to direct, though he gives us our minds and our freedom to discern — if we didn't have freedom of mind and will, we wouldn't have the capacity to love, or to say "yes" with our whole heart to things we maybe don't really want but which are given to us (like infertility, or menopause at 44, or another baby when we just had one and are too exhausted to imagine loving one more person). God gives us the capacity for all of that, and it is part of having a mind and a will of our own, of being human.

  • Anonymous

    I think you are very thoughtful to consider the type of mother you want to be to your kids.

    Yes, perhaps you can physically have 16 children, but what kind of mother would you be? It sounds like you are worried that you will be exhausted, or physically compromised, or unable to play and revel in the blessings God gave you.

    It is easy–so black and white–to say that all children are blessings, no matter how many you have, no matter whether you can enjoy them and they can enjoy you.

    You are honest enough to admit another truth–that 16 children (or 10 or 6) would stretch the resources of most women and simply may not be what you are called to do.

    I love my two kids. But I stopped at 2 because I could not be a good mother to 3.

    People who lay down hard and fast rules usually have an agenda. Can you see that many people make money off the notion that women should have unlimited babies? The Catholic Church, for example, benefits when there are lots of Catholic children, who grow into parishoners.

    Remember, there is nothing in the Bible about birth control. There is a lot about love, though. And you have already been fruitful and multiplied.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12058056949857197980 monika

    I want to comment about spacing. A lot of people seem to think that it's important to have your kids close in age or they won't have anything in common, they won't play together etc. I'm the baby, with siblings eight and five years older, and I don't think that's a disadvantage at all. Kids learn a lot from having siblings of different ages, and then when they're adults it doesn't make a difference. Also, not all kids who are near the same age play well together, so I don't think it makes sense to hurry up and have kids to provide playmates for the ones you already have.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00616238682696645579 Erin

    I SO hear you on the thoughts going through your mind right now. I too am pregnant with baby #4 (not including 2 babies lost – one at birth & one an early miscarriage.) And, we have never used any form of birth control. But, just as I got pregnant with this little one (due anytime) we started reading up on NFP, as my heart started changing. I was feeling much of what you have been feeling – wanting to be fully present for each of my dear kids. Pregnancy is beautiful. But, wow, it wears you out, too!

    Now I have to finish reading your #2 & #3 in the series – and all these comments!

  • Anonymous

    When I think about “being done” my heart aches. I would miss this.

    My mother (not Quiverfull by any means) had three children at 24, 27 and 30 and then another at 36, because she missed having small children.

    I'm sure there are arguments to be had about what spacings are ideal for children's development, but my point is that you don't have to just stop and "be done" once and for all; you can stop for a time and have children again later. You're young : it's not as if menopause was around the corner or anything ;)
    –Caravelle

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09389826007718895253 roddma

    I wonder about Michelle Duggar sometimes. I believe she will lose her identity. I recall Jim bob saying something like grandkids will make certain Michelle will have little ones around her. I think some are just addicted to pregnancy and having children but not actually raising them. Babies are being treated as fashion accessories and not something you have to take care of. Even in the 21st century secular world, the mentality still abounds that women must want children. I think of Andrea Yates at the mention of Quiverfull. It proves Quiverfull is flawed on so many levels.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Young Mom

    roddma- Andrea Yates is an excellent example of what is going on inside the minds of so many quiverfull women. It really is a brutal mentality. And the world at large does encourage the "babies as accessories" idea. I LOVED the book "The Mommy Myth", it really helped me dissect all the lies I was told about motherhood.

  • rae

    Your experience is so much different than mine. I'm 21, and I have absolutely no plans to have children any time soon. Maybe when I'm 30. I use the birth control pill currently and have previously used condoms, and I am quite happy with this. I find the abstract idea of pregnancy and parenting somewhat frightening and somewhat intriguing, but it is definitely not something that I am interested in at this time. Luckily my boyfriend is on the same page (although frankly, if he wasn't, we wouldn't be dating) :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04903292476438888098 Leslie

    Just found your blog today and I'm SO glad I did! I didn't grow up with the QF mindset at all, but was convicted of it as I came to know the Lord and read His Word. That was all while I was having trouble conceiving our 2nd child. Yet, since then, I've had 3 more children, and am currently pregnant with baby #5, all within 5 years. It is very tiring, yet I had no doubts about living QF…until this pregnancy. I just feel completely different and like while my body is doing ok, my mental state is not where it used to be when I just had my one child. Of course, all my children are blessings and I'm so happy to have them, but as you posted…I want to be able to actually enjoy their childhoods with them and be involved with them instead of wondering what would happen if I got pregnant the next month. My 2nd and 3rd babies are only 13.5 months apart, the 4th came 26 months after the 3rd, and the 5th one is due just 22 months after my 4th. I have really felt a heart-change about our family planning, and am even to the point of researching permanent birth control. I was really hoping that I wasn't alone in going from a QF mindset to questioning things, and I'm glad to see that I'm not. Again, thank you for sharing your story as it helps me see that I simply need to do more researching, soul-searching, and LOTS of prayer to know what is right for our family. God Bless! ~Leslie

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08229950594114279349 gracieallan

    Wow. Not sure I'd put you in the cheerful giver category.

  • Joe Wilger

    Shouldn’t helpmeet be helpmate?

    • Japooh

      No. The book title really is “Created to be His Helpmeet”.


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