Babies, Duggars and Me

The command to be fruitful and multiply was mentioned frequently in our marriage ceremony and reception. But it didn’t really need to be, we both knew what we believed. One of the questions we had discussed during our courtship was our commitment to never use birth control.

Read any Quiverfull publication, and you will see a heavy emphasis on how children are “blessings”. The Above Rubies magazine is filled with stories of giving up birth control and the subsequent blessing showered on families who choose to leave their fertility to God. The magazine has even run several stories where “the mother’s life was saved” against all odds by yet one more risky pregnancy. This mentality is against birth control of any kind, including fertility awareness or natural family planning. I no longer have my copy of “Be fruitful and multiply” by Nancy Campbell, but the book clearly taught that abstaining during fertile times is considered abnormal to the woman’s natural sexual desires as well as a refusal to trust God.

My husband and I were Quiverfull “lite” in a way, because we were never comfortable with being 100% against natural family planning. We felt that if the mother’s health was in danger for some reason, or if there were other very serious concerns then it would be acceptable to use natural spacing methods to prevent conception. But we never intended to use any of them, children were a blessing from God, why would we ever turn down a blessing? We firmly believed that this was God’s plan for families, and He would provide whatever money or resources were needed to care for our (sure to be) large family.

The Duggars recently announced that they are pregnant again, and the TV reporter made a mistake in her interview that I see echoed again and again across the internet. She asked if they had “planned” to have another baby. Listen to Michelle’s reply:

 

She explains how she is older, and that this is their largest gap ever, and they were starting to wonder if Josie might be their last. Wondering, not because they couldn’t decide if they should “try” for another child, wondering because they did not know if or when she would get pregnant. The Duggar’s do not use birth control. The Duggar’s are Quiverfull.

The Duggar’s do not see having a large family as a fun choice that people who love kids can make, they see it as a call from God. A challenge to have enough faith to trust God with your fertility, even if it means many more children than you can parent, even if it means losing your life.

 

If you watch in another clip (which I can no longer find), Matt Lauer asks if the children are inclined to have large families themselves. Every one of them says yes. He asks if any of the children would like to have a small family, no one raises their hand. What no one seems to get, is that this is not a real question the Duggar kids. Having no children, or a small amount of children doesn’t make sense to them. They have been taught that leaving your fertility up to God is the only right way to have a family, even if one of them doesn’t want a large amount of children, if they want to serve God, they have NO choice. Even in the case of infertility, a small number of children or no children would be seen as sad, and possibly a rejection from God.

Quiverfull theology teaches that couples are to have as many children as God grants them, and raise them up in the lord. The parents give themselves up for their children, because they are blessings from God. This sounds very honourable and self-sacrificing, but I feel that this theology creates a very narcissistic understanding of the family.

The emphasis on losing yourself in God and raising generations of godly children for the sake of the kingdom creates parents who have no identity but their children. The family is seen as a group entity, and instead of seeing children as individuals, parents see their children as extensions of themselves. Parents become highly reactive and protective of even a grown child asserting a difference of opinion because the parents sense of self is being threatened.

I feel this is especially true of the mother. A Quiverfull mother’s sense of self is contingent on children because she has no other reason for existing. She has given up everything to birth, raise and homeschool her many many children. Most of the time these women have no individual interests or pursuits, many sacrifice their physical health as well.

I was raised Quiverfull and my understanding of my purpose in life was to have as many children as I could. I was trained for it, my interests were limited to encourage it. After we started moving out of the Quiverfull worldview, I thought that perhaps instead of the 16 or more children it looked like we were physically capable of producing, we would have a more modest sized family of 8 or 9 children spaced with natural family planning. As time went on, I thought that we would maybe reach a certain number of children even before then and then it would “feel right” and we would know that we were done.

The Duggar announcement triggered me in ways I wasn’t expecting. On the one hand I feel relieved that I no longer have to live Michelle’s life, being pregnant and giving birth over and over while my older girls raise my other children. But I found myself re-living that old understanding of my calling as a woman. What if I really am supposed to have as many children as physically possible. What if I am rejecting incredible blessings in my life in exchange for a life that I was told was meaningless in comparison to bearing children? The idea of being without a baby terrifies me. I have never done anything besides take care of kids. I grew up surrounded by people who had vasectomies reversed and always looked at that artificial five year gap in their family and wondered who could have been born there if only they had trusted their fertility to God. Preventing children was understood as selfish, living proof that one cared more about money and themselves and “the world” than the value of life and God’s will.

I no longer feel that quiverfull convictions are a healthy reason to have a large family, but the old theology has done it’s work. I have trouble seeing anything that I could do or explore as having value. I cannot wrap my mind around being “done” having kids. I can’t shake the feeling that without continuing to have kids, I basically don’t exist. I sometimes feel like I will never be able to rid myself of the crippling guilt connected with my fertility.

My value being tied to my capacity to reproduce was drilled into me. Like Libby Anne wrote in a recent post: “How many children do you want”

“When I look forward and see a life with only two children, I see emptiness. I see space and time that feels like it needs filling. When I realize that they would both be out of the house before I was fifty, I see decades of blank. Why? Because I still have trouble picturing what I would do with my life without ten children to care for and raise. I still have trouble picturing how I would fill all that empty time, or those empty rooms. I still feel like I would be living in a void, rejecting a “blessing” I could be receiving if only I had six, eight, or ten children. And yes, I feel selfish for wanting only a few kids.”

And yet, I wonder what it would be like to raise my own children differently than I was forced to raise my siblings. Why repeat the same patterns? I have four wonderful children, many people never have that many. I want to be able to engage fully as a parent, and not just manage the crowd like I did as a teen. I don’t want to miss my children’s growing up because I was too sick and exhausted from constant pregnancy to be with them. Growing up I felt that babies were special, almost sinless little people, precious and able to love unconditionally. As babies became toddlers you could see the first elements of their “sin nature” and their rebellion against God only grew the older they got. Now I wonder what it would be like to enjoy my kids at every age, and embrace them for who they are.

I wonder what it would be like to have the time and resources to visit my grown children even if they live some distance away, and be there for them as they start their families instead of still being consumed with little ones of my own. I wonder what it would be like to have free time, time to study and learn and explore whatever I like. It would be a life I’ve never experienced.

I was told how valuable children are, and that meant you should have as many as possible. But I wonder if that’s really true. Someone can believe that pearls are valuable and whether they have one pearl or twenty-five, it doesn’t make each individual pearl more valuable. Just because something has incredible worth doesn’t mean I should acquire and hoard as many as possible. Plenty of people are happy with just one precious piece of jewellery, that they love and wear every day, and they don’t spend any time worrying and obsessing about how they can get more.

In the end I am haunted by a question from my good friend (and mother of 4 young children herself),
“Which would you rather regret,
the children you didn’t have? Or the child you did?”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00597012674027878494 rain ::

    {{Melissa}}

    Thank you for the courage to write. This jumped out to me: "I want to be able to engage fully as a parent, and not just manage the crowd like I did as a teen."….wow.

    <3 to you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10853868724554947854 Sheila

    My husband and I don't use birth control. Breastfeeding has given us a two-year space between the first two kids, and I think I could handle any number so long as we keep up that kind of spacing. If they were coming a year apart instead, I'd probably panic and want to slow things down for sure. Especially because I don't really believe having Irish twins is good for your body at all! The two women I know with very closely-spaced kids have had various health issues during pregnancy, and no wonder. I'm okay with abstaining for a bit or using NFP in a case like that. So I do differ with the Quiverfull crowd in that way.

    What encourages me is knowing many large families that don't at all fit the Quiverfull model. I come from a family of six and my husband is one of ten, and we both really enjoyed having large families. And I know many families that don't spank, that have fun, that have a relaxed and connected attitude with each other, despite having many kids. There's such a nice "club mentality" among the kids, too. I'm not sure you'd get that if you regimented everything and had the children raise each other.

    I think the big trick of having a large family is to relax and enjoy your family, instead of stressing constantly about the state of the house or the homeschooling or the kids' behavior. They'll be kids. It'll be chaotic and crazy. But if you like it and choose for it to be that way, it doesn't have to be a problem. The best large families I knew had parents who were always available for snuggles, conversations, and doing stuff together — which meant their house was a mess and they didn't have a lot of outside activities that kept them running around all day. But I like that sort of life way better than that of the smaller families I know.

    I guess the big thing to me is that I am CHOOSING this, and if I am too overwhelmed or sick or in crisis, I can CHOOSE to slow down. But I can't see, 20 years down the road, regretting that I've had eight or ten kids. I think I'd like them all and have a lot of fun with it. Most of the moms I know who have gone this route seem happy to me! (All Catholic … I do not personally know any Quiverfull families.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01505369694023564141 Michelle

    Even though I wasn't raised in a QF family, for quite some time after my husband and I got married, we were surrounded by QF people. I got sucked into the message boards and read all the QF books, etc. It has also become so ingrained in me that I struggle with exactly the same thoughts and feelings you do. We have 6 children and are thinking of stopping, but then we really enjoy our kids and wonder about what ones we might have in the future if we don't stop. Then again, we now have a child with DS, and that will take extra time and attention. Then again, children are blessings… Sigh. You get it. :/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15824217102632813598 Tanit-Isis

    Sheila, thanks for your comment about breastfeeding. I am curious about how that's viewed in this movement. I'm pretty sure had I been willing to leave my fertility up to nature I could still have spaced my children 2.5 to three years apart just by breastfeeding, however at that rate I'd be on baby number five by now, far beyond our ability to care for responsibly. While I'm not strictly opposed to big families—if I had a dozen lives to live, I'd be happy to spend one being a mommy and nothing else—in a world of seven billion people, and having only one life to live, it's not something I can realistically advocate. I have a responsibility to the children I do have, and to the future of the planet as a whole as well. :)

  • Anonymous

    I feel very sorry for the Duggar children. It also angers me when some of my secular friends say they should be taken from their parents, though. Taken to what? Foster care is ugly. Even with well-meaning foster parents. After all, the Duggars are well-meaning parents, too. Hasn't kept them from making big mistakes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06401440551873070129 Elin

    It is a tough question you ask. I am not mom yet but I know I would never abort a child even if it wasn't 'planned' and I am open to the idea of a large family. I am also positive of birth control and spacing out children so from a quiverful perspective I am probably missing out on tons of children and from a more mainstream perspective I might end up with too many kids. I do not think I would regret a child that has been born but I do not think I will miss children that never materialized.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13725162178992586535 THE Princess Bombshell*

    Quiverfull is a blessing. Doesn't mean they'll all come from your body. You can have a quiverfull with foster children even.

    I have a very good friend who would love for God to bless them with children– He hasn't done that yet– biologically. So they have adopted. Seven children so far.

    Leaving it in God' hands, doesn't mean you'll reproduce like rabbits. Leaving it in God's hands means being content with what He gives you. Be it 2, or 1, or… none. That's the test of faith. And faith please God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12301770958254113165 LucrezaBorgia

    NFP is birth control. Birth control isn't limited to barrier and chemical methods.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to point out that breastfeeding DOES NOT guarantee wonderfully spaced children. I could give numerous examples of this, myself included. And using that as your safeguard reason for still embracing just a *part* of the quiverfull theology is not helping matters. The actual theology does not allow any form of trying to space it out and you must except "God's timing" no matter what. I would love to encourage all gals to completely reject the theology and any association with it because endorsing part of it (but with your own version) still acknowledges that there is something OK with it as a whole. While choosing to have a large family is great and fine as a personal choice, PLEASE don't associate with any part of the quiverfull movement or doctrine. There is nothing OK with this theology.
    Sincerely,
    Mandy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 QuicksilverQueen

    She explains how she is older, and that this is their largest gap ever, and they were starting to wonder if Josie might be their last.

    Actually, she didn't wonder if Josie would be her last…she wondered if "it" would be her last. She didn't say Josie's name.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02614822971755761394 Rebecca

    Melissa, you have a long and wonderful future ahead of you with writing. This is your new calling. You can be a great mom and then enter a new season of life when you are free to dedicate even more time to writing. You're great at it! You have a gift!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14586469381231517883 This Heavenly Life

    I have no experience in the QF movement, and no feelings of being pressured into motherhood in order to have worth…but I really appreciated your comments about the pearls. You can have one or twenty-five — and they're still valuable. They're still worthy of experiencing blessings on their behalf.

    I love how you think and think and think…and then share your thoughts :)

  • Anonymous

    lucraziab-as a user of NFP myself I notice your comment "NFP is birth control" and while I don't disagree with the statement itself I do wonder what is your point. I depend on NFP to prevent pregnancy after 4 kids each 12-16 months apart, all born by the time the first was 3.5 years old. and the amount of abstinence required to do this is much more difficult than any pill or condom I've ever used so I do NOT like seeing it lumped together with "birth control" like some dirty word that is abortive or lazy, it is neither.

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

    NFP is not birth control at all- I am writing from a Catholic perspective— we believe that the marital act should always be open to life- so chemical and barrier methods of birth control are out (yes- many Catholics don't follow this teaching)

    But WHY would God give us women cycles? Should we simply ignore our cycles so that we don't have a 'contraceptive mentality'? Should we only be with our husbands during fertile times?

    Google Simcha Fisher's blog post 'Why doesn't the Church make a list'- it might be really interesting for you

    And about breastfeeding with QF- the blogger at No Longer Quivering wrote that her husband forbade her to breastfeed past a certain age (maybe 6 months?) so she would get her fertility back

    Breastfeeding does reduce fertility- should we just stop because it might be birth control (I know it doesn't completely- I had my cycle when my first baby was 10 weeks old- baby 2 was knowingly conceived when baby 1 was 12 weeks old- youth…)

  • PCOS cyster

    Anonymous @ 5:24 – my dear, who ever said birth control is 'dirty'? Birth control rocks!! y'know, modern medical knowledge and all that – like antibiotics, modern surgery and all these other things we rely on to fix us up or keep us going that was not available not so many generations ago.

    Every couple is different – some have the resources (financial, physical, emotional) to raise a lot of kids; some know they want a few or one; some none. There are numerous methods out there now, so people can find their best fit to space out births or stop having kids altogether.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Melissa, I'm not in your house but the life you describe there with your family sounds anything but "meaningless" to me. I love reading about all the little projects and adventures you have with your kids, all the positive experiences you try to provide for them, all your reflections on their individual personalities and quirks. As you know far better than I, it would be harder to do all these things for your kids if you had a giant brood. The life you have with them and the life you are giving them–memories they will have all their lives–sounds full of meaning to me.

    Nor are you selfish: You spend so much time, thought, and emotional energy searching your soul and reflecting on your own life in order to make their childhood the best it can be, which takes a lot of courage. You are challenging yourself a great deal in order to be the best parent you can be; you don't need to challenge your body with endless pregnancies too in order to selfless. You are anything but selfish.

    And I echo Rebecca 100% about the gifts you have that you can share with the world. Loads of potential kids is far from the only thing you have to offer. You have a rare combination–the insight into issues of women's and children's rights and experiences gained first-hand from your upbringing, and the intelligence and articulacy to effectively communicate those insights to the world. It would be a real shame if you felt pressured into keeping your talents from the world by diverting all that energy into living a lifestyle that you have rejected.

    Plus, it is okay to want to do other things just for yourself too, not just for your family or the world. It is okay to take pleasure in your own abilities, to desire to have your own accomplishments, and to take pride in those accomplishments. That is not being selfish. That is having a self. And your kids will benefit from having a mom who is creative and uses her creativity and has an identity and pride all her own, outside of them. I think this is a good thing to model for children. I know that I certainly benefited from seeing how passionate and dedicated my mom was to work that she loved. It taught me a lot about setting my own goals.

    Of course, the decision about family size is yours. But don't make a decision to have a large family because you feel that your life now is selfish and meaningless. Any God that has any problem with the way you are parenting right now is not a God you ought to worry about pleasing. Easier said then done, of course, but you are doing a great job being a mom, just as things are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12301770958254113165 LucrezaBorgia

    "so I do NOT like seeing it lumped together with "birth control" like some dirty word that is abortive or lazy, it is neither."

    I'm simply pointing out that any method that is used to space children is birth control. Also…abortive and lazy??? What??? So people who use chemical and barrier methods are somehow less than you?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16175187905212028267 Stephanie

    Hi,

    I just wanted to mention that I, too, believe children are a blessing. But you were also a child – you were also a blessing. And your life has just as much value as your children's lives do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02736517295140009986 Karen Johnson

    Having been a part of the QF movement, I don't see the issue being about having lots of children or not. That is a personal decision. But within the QF movement there is the pressure, the guilt if you choose differently. Its a purist mentality. "Do all of these things and you're in. Don't do them and you are Less Than…..and God won't be pleased."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06233321050691782148 Michael Mock

    "There was a great controversy among the beasts of the field as to which produced the greatest number of offspring at a birth. They rushed clamorously into the presence of the Lioness and demanded of her, 'How many sons have you had at a birth?' The Lioness laughed at them and said, 'One… but that one is a lion.'

    The value is in the worth, not in the number. Quality before quantity."

    ~Aesop

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

    We are not Quiverfull, as you know, but this part of your post…

    "I cannot wrap my mind around being 'done' having kids. "

    …hits me. Mainly because, we've used natural family planning to space our children and I still cannot wrap my mind around being 'done' either. My husband just turned 40. I just turned 38. I can't imagine right this minute that we would have another child, but I also know that my baby is only 4 months and I have felt that way when all of my babies have been 4 months. So something happens somewhere along the line that opens my husband's and my hearts to another baby. I cannot explain it because in my brain, I see that we have 5…my oldest is about to hit some challenging times with puberty, pre-teen and teenage years…so I really should get it through my thick skull that we should be DONE. But I just can't imagine what that's really like. I can't imagine a home without a baby in it…we've had one for the last 10 years. What is life like when everyone in the house is able to potty him/herself, put on his/her own shoes and trots off to school each day when I go to work? I cannot wrap my head around what my life would be like.

    Don't get me wrong…I can fantasize it and think it would be so great, so easy…but I'm not so naive as to think the fantasy is anything close to reality.

    anyway, ((HUGS)) to you. I heard of the Duggars announcement. Personally, I don't have much issue with them or their lifestyle choice to have their many children. I know it's not for me, but they seem to handle it okay. But I have learned much about Quiverfull and Patriarchy from you and don't pretend to know everything that goes on behind the scenes with the Duggars. I am sure this sort of stuff impacts you way more than it does me.

    So, anyway…I'm completely with you on not wrapping my head around "being done" having children…even though we come from different backgrounds. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15150919045333354796 i_love_sydney

    Great post. I wonder if because my boyfriend and I are both 1 of 3 kids that we see 3 kids as the 'most' we want.
    I do feel sorry for the Duggar girls, raising their siblings, doing the housework, stuck. And I wonder if any of them will be like you, and once they have left their parents home if they will drift away from the QF mindset.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    As an Orthodox Jew, I must say how happy I am with the Jewish attitude towards birth control. Large families are praised, cherished and encouraged, but birth control is stil allowed for physical or emotional health reasons.

    I have a sis-in-law who has a 17-year-old, whom she had at 23, and now is pregnant again at 40. Not with number 15, though… with number 6. She has very difficult pregnancies and her rabbi advised reasonable spacing of about 3 years between children, as she really is almost incapable of taking care of a toddler while being pregnant, and must rely heavily on help. So, she uses birth control, still has a large family, and has no scruples about being an "unbeliever" or something like this.

  • Anonymous

    LucraziaB, Young Mom and other readers, I am really sorry I impulsively commented with really poor choice of words about my feelings that "NFP is birth control" I mean no offense to anyone and above all consider myself better than no one, at best I am a sinner striving for holiness that I know I'll never attain in this lifetime. My choice for NFP is not much better than the potentially harmful QF movement Young Mom rights about if I appear or become holier than thou or think myself to be some sort of martyr about it so for that I am sorry. I follow blogs to search for encouragement and affirmation that I don't find in "real life" even in my own church. I have been told by many well meaning bible college educated "friends" in real life that NFP is no different than any other birth control so why would anyone bother with all that trouble…this hurts and confuses me and I am sorry for using my comments in your blog to try to make myself feel better. This is your place to write and heal and I never want to cause inflammatory comments in this space or any other. Though I remain anon here I just may find the courage to start my own blog to sort this out in the near future. You were gracious in the past to exchange some emails with me in the past Young Mom and have a been a part of my own journey for truth and "permission to live" over the past couple years. Thank you for that.

  • http://www.janetoberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    Melissa, love how you write about your feelings and the process you go through to determine the life choices you want to make. Coming out of a strict Mennonite (almost Amish) culture, I've found myself yo-yoing through many processes of change also.

    This is an interesting feeling that you struggle with… "I can’t shake the feeling that without continuing to have kids, I basically don’t exist."

    I think having the worth of one's own existence based on someone else is a sure why to never feel good enough … whether that other person is your spouse, parent, friend or child.

    You are enough … simply for being who you are.

  • Elizabeth

    My husband's family is Quiverful-minded, and when we got married we both assumed we'd have a family of infinite size. However, with two little ones under 3, I feel completely burned out and can't even fathom having another baby in the visible future. Fortunately this is one of the few issues on which my husband and I see eye to eye. We know we have no resources emotionally or financially to handle another child, yet his family keeps cheerfully hinting at such a possibility.

    My little one is just over one year old, and I know that very soon, intrusive questions are going to follow. It drives me mad, coming from people who have no idea what incredibly hard work it takes to raise children. In particular there's one aunt who never had any children herself, yet keeps wishing for everyone else to have them non stop. Same goes for my father-in-law, who never lifted a finger to help out with the children, yet considers them "the greatest blessings." Somehow my mother-in-law, the one who had to carry all the burden, is mute about wanting more grandchildren!! Yet she does not dare to openly say she feels it's OK to limit one's family size in certain circumstances.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Mrs. Anna T,

    I just want to point out to you that your view on birth control is not "The Jewish view," it is the Orthodox Jewish view. I am a Reform Jew (although also drawn to Reconstructionism), the largest sect of Judaism, and every Reform or Reconstructionist Jew, layperson or rabbi, that I've ever met thinks birth control is just fine. Ditto for the Conservative sect. We are not big on any of the teachings that constrain women's choices and roles and have left them in favor of egalitarian ones.

    Your choices are your own, but please do not characterize all of Judaism by the beliefs of the Orthodox minority. The majority of Jews don't believe that birth control is something that requires justification. My mom didn't need birth control for her "physical or emotional health" but it allowed her to pursue a career that she loves, while being a wonderful mother to the two kids she had, who adore her greatly and are proud of her. Birth control is possibly the single biggest step our society ever towards women achieving equal opportunities as men. If you don't support that, well, I guess we can agree to disagree.

  • identities outside of motherhood

    Melissa, Keep on writing and searching and many doors will open for you. Your perspective is much needed. The words you wrote that some moms have no other reason for existing, nothing of value without kids and their purpose is to have as many kids as possible really happens. It is so important to have an identity outside of motherhood (and I highly value motherhood)

    As a Catholic I struggle with alot of things I see and hear in my community that is very committed to being obedient to the Magisterium. It is my belief that some large families are large because it builds up their esteem and gives them a sense of security. Their reasons appear holy on the surface but sometimes they are selfish. They truly believe that they are holier and doing more for God. They are special. They are the icons of the Church.

    They vent when someone makes comments about their large family they don't like but they feel free to make comments about other people's family size, schooling choices or work related choices. It is so hypocritical. I personally believe they like the attention they get from having a large family. We all have to deal with rude or unexpected comments from people about choices we make. Yet they feel like they are martyrs when people make comments about the number of kids they have.

    Although the Catholic church is not quiverfull it does teach that NFP or celibacy is the only way to space children. Many admit that NFP is not a reliable or usable method for couples but still persist in obedience to the Magisterium. Otherwise you go to hell.

    If the Duggar's 20 kids each have 10 kids that will mean 200 grand kids. How could you even know 200 grandkids? Do these kids realistically have a choice to not believe like their parents do? With their lives broadcast on TV? Can you imagine if one of them even thought about breaking out of the fundamentalist beliefs or even if one of the girls thought about not wearing a skirt all the time? They talk about the one of the girls becoming a nurse but I highly doubt it will ever happen.

    Consciously or unconsciously they have no choice. Are they really going to stand up and admit on national TV when asked that they do not want to have a large family?
    We have to remember that the Duggar SHOW is not reality. I know many families in real life who are deeply loving and none of them are sweet and nice ALL of the time.

    If your still with me. Thanks for listening. It's late but I'm trying to gather all my thoughts.

    I almost lost my life to a severe post partum depression. Since that time I have developed other interests and passions in addition to motherhood. God is deeply present in my life. I love my kids and my husband passionately but motherhood is not my highest or only calling. It is ok to think that way and you will be a much better mom for it.

    On a final note to give a fair and balanced view I have many Catholic friends who do embrace motherhood and have identities outside of that. Some are breaking free of their own fundamentalist beliefs. Some have large families. Some have small families. There is a ultraconservative movement in the Church that has picked up speed and takes up most of the Catholic internet but I'm convinced they do not represent the majority of Catholics.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    Petticoat Philosopher,

    I don't really want to hack Melissa's subject, but I just wanted to say I don't mind being in the Orthodox "minority". Jews are, were meant to be, and will always be a minority in the world. There were many sects in Judaism over time which constituted a "majority", yet eventually they got so far from Judaism as to blend with others or become a completely different religions. Christianity started that way too, from a Jewish man who introduced novel teachings. A Jewish sect that does not adhere to the minutae of the Torah, Mishnah and Gemarah, will never stand the test of time.

  • Elizabeth

    I came back to add something.

    What really irritates me in the QF mindset is the absolute disregard for individual capabilities. I mean, there are people who handle large families well, and there are those who don't. In the past, with no choice of birth control, the latter would probably still have baby after baby, only they would grind themselves to the bone and be miserable, while today they can have the reasonable and rational choice to have a balanced life. For me, adding another baby right now would be throwing our whole family into a situation of extreme stress.

    It's not all black and white, either. Things might yet improve for us. We are planning to go to marital counseling, and financially things might pick up as well. Perhaps we will have more children in the future. Heck, we're both so young that we might even yet end up with a large family!! But no, for the QF-ers it's all or nothing – they will insist that it's a sign of "faith" for two people who heavily rely upon their parents for financial help, whose marriage is a disaster, to bring more children into this world. In fact they might even say it's because we "sin against the Lord's will" that we have all these problems. This kind of blindness drives me mad.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    And just to the question of how one can know so many grandkids, my husband's Grandma had over a 100 and knew them all by names, ages, personal characteristics, likes, dislikes. Sure, she couldn't have them all over at once, nor perhaps spend as much time individually with each one, but her house always teemed with children and she spent time with ALL her grandkids.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "In fact they might even say it's because we "sin against the Lord's will" that we have all these problems. This kind of blindness drives me mad."

    This kind of victim-blaming mentality is one of the worst parts of the whole thing, as far as I'm concerned. If you struggle, it's your fault. Ugh! The stories about "A mother's life being saved" make my blood boil. So what if a mother is saved? Was she just not good enough, not faithful enough? Her death is her own fault? It's so messed up

    Anna T–I shouldn't haved used the term "minority" as I don't wish to start a "who's more of a minority" contest. We all are, for the record. I was simply pointing out for the benefit of the many people who are not familiar with Judaism (most people) that, in most Jewish families or places of worship, you will not see the ideas of patriarchy being endorsed any more. Orthodox Judaism is not representative of Judaism, any more than fundamentalist Christianity is representative of Christianity (as opposed to Episcopalianism etc.) Judaism has always evolved with time, including Orthodox Judaism, and yet it has stayed what it is. We are not a splinter group, we are not Christianity, we are the Jewish people changing with the times and staying Jewish. Our identity is strong enough to handle it. My grandma was raised the daughter of an Orthodox rabbi and she loved her family deeply, yet she came to Reform Judaism as an adult, when she got married. Having just survived Auschwitz and lost most of her family, I can assure you that the survival of Judaism was very much on her mind. But she believed it could survive even if women could sit with men in the synagogue, become rabbis, and control their own fertility. I believe her. The Jewish Enlightenment, out of which Reform Judaism came, was 200 years ago and we're going strong. Many of the more liberal, mainline Protestant churches are no older than Reform Judaism, and they are just as authentically Christian. Being a textual literalist does not make somebody a better Jew or a better Christian or whatever. That's just one to have religion in your life.

    I think it's a very harmful idea that religion must not change in order to stay what it is, particularly when this idea seems to often invoked to defend patriarchy. I think the only way religion can survive is by being willing to constantly re-examine itself. At least, that's how it can survive without causing harm, and not causing harm is a Jewish value that's rather important to me. The laws of Judaism were meant to serve a higher moral purpose and, as our concept of that higher moral purpose changes with the scrutiny of time, I think some of the laws must change too. It makes sense to me. And I think a similar thing can be said of liberal religion in general. It's the spirit over the letter.

  • Anonymous

    I'm not a practicing Catholic, but I did take a NFP class at a Catholic church, because I wanted to learn from a teacher and it was the only one available (it was actually suggested to me by my NP at Planned Parenthood when she found out I was interested in FAM, she actually sat with me and showed me how to chart, and then suggested a class so I could get more than just the basics, but did give me a heads up that all of the ones in our area were religious to make sure I was OK with that…) Anyway, point being, I have a book that was put together by the diocese that says "Natural Family Planning is the only form of birth control approved by the Catholic church." "Avoiding conception" or "avoiding pregnancy" was the term most commonly used by my teachers, but the text book definitely used the term "birth control." Which it is (for me)…I traded in an IUD that didn't work for me for FAM on account of the fact that I am sort of an anatomy geek who's fascinated by this stuff, and also because I can't afford the (copper) IUD that I want…but for me, it's still birth control.

    -Lisa

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01609481957296510873 Amanda

    Like Anna T, I'm grateful for my church (Catholic) embracing children and encouraging husbands and wives to be open to children, but also having balance in not advising anyone to have as many as possible just because. Since I'm Catholic we have the option of periodic abstinence (NFP) to space children or avoid another child indefinitely. I have used birth control before and deeply regret it, using NFP while being open to God's call to have more children someday has been freeing. The difference in mindset is profound but difficult to fit into a small comment box. I think there is freedom in both being open to God's blessings in the form of children, in taking joy in your role as a mother, but also in being able to abstain, to not have children if prayer and thoughtful discussion determine that the circumstances warrant it.

    While I don't agree with the Quiverfull theology, I do think the Duggars themselves seem to be well-meaning, attentive parents and their children are all fed, clothed, healthy, and about as happy as the rest of us. So if they're excited about #20 then I'm excited for them. We could use a few more hard-working, kind young adults in the world.

  • Cici

    "I can’t shake the feeling that without continuing to have kids, I basically don’t exist." – In my humble view, I feel that having many children does not mean you exist more, it simply means that you are so tired, overwhelmed, busy etc that you never have time to ponder another existence. If that makes sense. Melissa I hope you continue pursue outside interests and become more aware of the tremendous value you are adding to the world. You are not in this world as solely a baby maker.

  • Anonymous

    This is interresting to me . It just seems like a case of the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. I grew up just my brother and I although in the 60's lots of people still had large families most of my friends had at least 7 kids in their families. So much all my life I wanted to be part of a big family it was wonderful, and my friends would love to come to my house and get a bath ALL ALONE !! I loved slideing into a soapy tub with 5 other kids what a hoot! Unfortunately I did not find a man to marry till the end of my childbearing years and so I only have 2. I did take in any forlorn lonely neighbor child so our table was filled with children for years.It is dull with only 2 children truely and I am sure a mother of 8 may wish for dull.I dislike to hear people speak so hatefully of the Duggars ,My friends who came from families of 7 or 12 kids grew up to have 1 or 2 so they could lavish attention and money on them and now regret not having more kids ,Make up your own mind with prayer stop reading people advice ha ha would be my advice!! I am older 53 so I have seen a lot. Some people will resent coming from a big family some not . Do not be tricked into believing you are going to be so fullfilled if you get to focus on yourself a lot sometimes that only makes you more dissatisfied. No families are perfect. Do not ruin what you already have by wishing you had more or hating the Duggars because they have too many in your opinion There are messed up families with only 2 kids also believe me, I have had lots of them at my house.

  • on being selfish

    anonymous @ 1:23 on 11/15. I did not hear Melissa or anyone else say they hated the Duggars nor is she ruining what she has by asking the thoughtful questions she is asking.

    I don't get the idea that she plans on focusing on her self so much she turns into a selfish monster. She is simply trying to express that women can have an identity outside of motherhood and that is not self absorbed thinking.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03772650901291752373 David

    I think the Duggars have become attention whores, or they would not trot the whole family out on prime-time TV for every private moment. The corporate pay-day from the networks has become more important.

    Trying to use your kids as your identity is a bad idea. No matter how many you have, they will all leave home one day. You have to have a sense of self that is separate from being a mother. From what I have seen here, you are a loving and effective mother to your kids and a good wife to your husband, but you are also a thoughtful and insightful writer, and that is just as important.

    Think about this for a moment- It is five years from now, Baby-Boy has just started school, and you have six hours of your day for you. Sure, there is still some housekeeping to do, but there is also all that extra time to do something for you, be it trying to catch up on ten years of lost sleep or going to college because you always wanted to.

    The other side to the coin is this- no matter how much you try, you can only do so much and you will get to the point where you have no choice but to make your oldest children raise the younger ones, like you had to for your mother, and that will just perpetuate the cycle, and your children will have all the doubts and fears that you have, and go the same heartache trying to sort them out.

    Some horrible things have been and are still being done in the name of religion, and QF is one of them.

    If God didn't intend for us to use birth control of all types, and limit family size to what we are comfortable and happy with, He wouldn't have made it possible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15377583333000789903 Mrs. Anna T

    David, the attention-seeking thing about the Duggars is something I don't get either. They have a very large family, great; but why can't they just lead a nice, quiet, modest life? Why the parade? So much publicity is not good for the children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15454965172669677301 Bethany

    "…managing the crowd…" Yes.

    You know I grew up in a Quiverfull family too (though a "modest" one, as you put it, with only 8 children), and we were not just taught that our lifestyle was the only right one, but we were also coached on how to defend it when others asked questions. There was absolutely no room for difference of opinion, and that seems painfully obvious in interviews with Quiverfull families. Twenty children coming to identical conclusions based on their own studies, beliefs, and unique personalities? I think not.

    I know how very hard it is to break away from the mindset that spacing children or deciding you're done is denying blessings (or in a less churchy mindset, choosing not to give life to precious new people you would love). There's almost an implication that you're killing children by choosing not to conceive them. Even though my husband and I are delighted with the two children we always said we wanted, I still struggle with this.

    But at the same time, I remember how my parents lost any chance of closeness with my siblings and I by making serial pregnancies a higher priority than the children they already had. One of my deepest psychological issues stemming from this is a constant sense of abandonment. My two precious daughters already ask more of me than I have some days, and no ideology is worth them losing their mama to a slew of dutiful pregnancies.

    Sorry for the novel of a comment. :) I so appreciate your thoughts on this, and wow friend — can you ever write!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02686901666568131164 carol

    I just want to say 'thank you' for your blog and for putting yourself out here in the blogging world. I'm not an young mom, I'm an old mom :) I was not homeschooled but I homeschooled my 3 children. I've spend several days and nights reading your posts and, oh girl, I can so relate.

  • Disillusioned Ex-Homeschooler

    Mrs. Anna T, I think the attention aspect is probably as much about providing for the endless children they're creating as anything else. How else are you going to feed that many mouths? I grew up in and around a lot of large families (some full-blown Quiverfull by belief/philosophy and others just somewhat inclined that way), and one thing I experienced is that the "God will provide" ethic doesn't always work out. Even less so for second generation quiverfullers, who are raised to start families super, super young, without the education or experience to get the kind of job needed to provide for a large family on one salary (and those jobs are more and more scarce anyway). Part of me pities the Duggar children for having been dragged into the three ring circus, but another part of me says hey, at least they have health insurance and plenty of food on the table. That's more than a lot of quiverfull families have.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02979828437531268794 Rebecca in ID

    It seems like there is a lot of comment focusing on whether children in big families can possibly get enough attention, whether mothers can have their own interests when they have a lot of kids, etc., and those are interesting points but I think Melissa's focus wasn't so much on that, but on the sense of *obligation*, which can really be stifling–or at least, that is what I took away from what she said. I know a few families who have closely spaced children, or many children, or many children closely spaced. It seems to me that some of them truly are given a gift to desire this and to be able to do it, physically and emotionally, and I admire those people greatly. I personally would not do well with closer spacing than the nearly three years between each of my four children–I seem to have a really limited capacity in many ways, but I'm okay with that; I know that I have my own gifts. My husband's brother and his wife have twelve children, and I see them growing up to be mature and independent young men and women. They have learned to be responsible and nurturing, but they have also been allowed to be kids, to have a lot of fun, to pursue their own interests. I am sure that is a balance that parents of large families struggle with, but it *can* be a really good balance. But it is of utmost importance that what *should* be a matter of freedom and individual capacity, should *not* be turned into a duty, a matter of obligation. Trust in God, but use God's gift of reason to discern about the size and spacing of your family. The obligation mentality can lead to a great deal of guilt and confusion–mothers wondering why it is so difficult for them to do something if they "know" they are "called" to do it–when what they should be doing is taking a step back and assessing their and their children's emotional/mental/physical limits or capacities. I hate to see the free generosity of choosing a large family–just as someone might freely and generously adopt several children in a desperate situation, or do something else like that–turn into a matter of guilt. It is generous when done with love, and with the keen awareness of the needs of each family member, but not everyone is called to that particular generous act.

  • Anonymous

    I'm really liking this discussion.

    Since the question of NFP has come up, I'd like to throw in my two cents.

    First, I have been on both NFP and the Pill. I fully support any woman who makes either choice, as long as she's doing it based on what's best for her and her family, NOT choosing one or the other out of guilt.

    Having experienced both, I can tell you that the attitudes and motives for doing each were the same (for me, at least). Both were intended to prevent a pregnancy. My NFP instructor talked a lot about how NFP allowed people to be "open to life" during the act of sex. However, there was ALSO a lot of talk about how "reliable" this method was to prevent pregnancy. So I have to ask–at that point, are you really open to life? If you were open to life, you'd be having sex during your fertile time too, and you WOULDN'T be emphasizing how likely this method was to keep a pregnancy from starting.

    My husband and I eventually stopped NFP because, contrary to what we had been told by instructors and many, many other couples who were using it, not everyone can read their signs of fertility easily. After seven months, we were still seeing many confusing signs, and our instructor was at a loss how to help us further. In seven months, we had intercourse a total of four times.

    Ultimately, we stopped NFP because it was putting a strain on our marriage that we had never felt before. And that's the point I'm trying to make: the health of yourself, your marriage, and your children should be the reason for choosing a birth control method–whether that's no birth control, NFP, or a medical form of birth control.

    I think that's what the heart of this post is about–making a choice based on what's healthy, rather than trying to fit into the box of what someone ELSE thinks is healthy for EVERYONE.

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

    As you know, I grew up Mormon and had a very fundamental upbringing. I came from a family of 10–I was the second oldest–and I always figured I would have a big family. Physically, I'm not sure what will happen, or if I will even be able to bring one more into this world, but I am still fighting against my religious inclination to "multiply and replenish the earth." I guess I feel like I will be empty if my kids grow up and I don't have another baby to hold, but who knows?

    One goal I made before having children is that I would value every stage they went through and not just push through the early years of parenting. I haven't been perfect, but at least that mode of thinking is in place, you know? So I respect you saying that and acknowledging that many large families "herd" rather than love and appreciate each child. I really wonder just how much Mrs. Duggar (I can't remember her name) really knows her own children. My mom certainly doesn't know me. My personality was such that I fell between the cracks of large family-hood. I didn't do anything rebellious (until leaving the church, which wasn't an act of rebellion) and was clearly the poster child or Mormonism. But, my mom doesn't know me. Our relationship is pretty much null because we don't have much to talk about, she was too busy dealing with babies to have philosophical discussions with me when I was a teenager.

    I am not criticizing my mother, just explaining that one drawback to large families is how easy it is for one, or more, child to disappear within the crowd. As you said, individuality is repressed and critical thinking is criticized (ironic, no?). A quiverfull isn't so much about the children, it's about building your own church congregation to lead forever.

  • Anonymous

    What about forsaking your health to have more children when you have a beautiful multitude of children that need their mother? Mrs. Duggar is an amazing woman, but maybe a little misguided? Perhaps she and her husband need to think about the babies they do have instead of making more. I would think the pain of losing a mother (especially as a small child) would be very great indeed. I DO NOT support abortion, but I can't see the downside in NFP when you have babies that need their mommy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01122659239039900398 Sue

    What a fascinating blog post!!

    I have no children at all, and I'm almost 41. I will never have any children.

    What strikes me about the Duggar's view is that it's so 4000-years-ago. Sure, when you're a part of a desert tribe that doesn't have Google earth or the West, with its insatiable appetite for stuff so that the world is bursting at the seams in every way, a quiverfull of children makes total sense. I just don't know how sustainable it is in a resources sense, now that there are seven billion of us on the planet and it's groaning.

    I just get frustrated when people ascribe all sorts of things to God that God may have said back then … but would God be saying different things now that the situation is different? It's like boxing God up into this … well, it's boxing God up into the bible, isn't it. And not being able to use our own nous or thoughtfulness or understanding or wisdom to discern that maybe having 20 kids is not such a great idea for anyone.

    I don't know. I don't MEAN to sound critical in this. And for some people having a massive family is right for them. But it just makes me feel sad for those people who may feel stuck in situations they never really wanted to be in, doing it for God simply because that's what's recorded in the bible as being said to a group of people who are not us.

    Sorry for rambling :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15812398542039030481 rae

    i totally love you. Could relate to this post so much. Just wanted to say keep pushing on. There IS so much life after children. :)

  • Claire

    I did not grow up Quiverfull, but with some of the same theology regarding personal depravity. I could identify so much with this:
    "As babies became toddlers you could see the first elements of their “sin nature” and their rebellion against God only grew the older they got. Now I wonder what it would be like to enjoy my kids at every age, and embrace them for who they are."

    It makes such a difference to be liberated from that view, doesn't it? I really do enjoy my kids so much more when I do not feel compelled to fix or admonish what is completely natural, age-appropriate behavior.

  • Anonymous

    I just found your blog through this article and I wanted you to know that I've very glad I did. I've been hopping through it and happily read a lot of your older posts and I'm very impressed with your writing.

    I would also like to add my own opinion on this matter based on my own recent experience. I'm in my late twenties for some context. During this past summer, I went to my gynecologist because of pains and other odd things that had been happening both durning my cycle and sometimes outside of it. After an exam and a ultrasound we discovered that both my ovaries were riddled with masses and cysts, so badly it was hard to tell they were anything else at one point at time. Luckily, the sample that was tested was not cancerous but the amount of them meant something needed to be done.

    They could have done surgery to attempt to get rid of the masses and cysts, but it was almost guaranteed that they would grow back eventually. There was also a concern because there is a history of cancer in my family of the sexual organs, specifically my Dad had testicular cancer. The was a pretty good chance that the masses would eventually grow cancerous, so the other option would be a full Oophorectomy, removing both ovaries.

    That is the option I chose. I had to go through long talks about what I may have to do because of the loss of hormones which wasn't a bother, all of my doctors and my nurse practitioner were lovely and supportive while everything was getting settled until a hospital volunteer sat me down and explained (rather like I was a child) that this would mean that I would never have my own children and did I really want to do this? I explained to her that yes, I did want to do this and I'm about 99.9% that I never want to have any children at all This based on the other health concerns in my family (there is a history of heart disease, alcoholism, and metal disorders) and my experiences with my four young cousins that were colored by my own personality. I've tried my best with them, willingly taking them for a few weeks while my aunt and uncle were in Europe doing Habitat for Humanity. They're great kids, but my personality and my own mental issues made the month very very hard for all of us and I don't think that it would be fair for a child to have to deal with living with me for 18 years of their life.

    The volunteer though seemed completely confused, she asked me almost five times if I was sure and I believe even started to ask what else I was going to do. Now I don't know if she was Quiverfull and I would never automatically assume anyone was, but the way she spoke seemed to illustrate one of the major points of the philosophy that you have illustrated. As a woman, all I should do and want to do is be a mother. Without my ovaries and my ability to have children, I should be purposeless. But putting that issue aside I'd like to just look at the health issue of it.

    If my ovaries were in any shape to produce eggs after all the cysts and masses had been removed, I am fruitful and multiply like I should be, and have four or five children what would happen to them when my masses grow back cancerous? If I died that could leave them with mental scarring and possible abandonment issues because my future husband would have to work a lot to support all of them.

    Yes, perhaps my wish to remain childfree may be a little selfish in some ways that also think about the things I can do without kids, but I half of my decision is the fact that I don't want any child to have to have me as a mother. I also don't want to have children because there is a very likely chance that I would eventually develop ovarian cancer and possibly die.

    Would anyone fault me for that? Especially if God was indeed the reason my ovaries were basically destroyed? Doesn't that imply that God doesn't want me to have children either?

  • Anonymous

    This is such a problem for us. We are not Quiverful but we are Catholics.

    After committing to be open to children from the start (I fell pregnant on honeymoon) we finally relented and determined to use NFP after our third child and my 5 pregnancy in 7 years but have been unable to reconcile it's use with our beliefs.

    The process of charting, waiting for that "safe" time and hoping we don't make a mistake feels like we are using contraception (we never have but it's how I imagine it). My upbringing was very strict and I have only ever really felt comfortable with sex because we were making babies and now we are trying not too I feel guilty and – well dirty I guess.

    My husband is more accepting of NFP but he knows how I feel about it. As a result the physical side of our marriage is down to pretty much zero. He says he's okay with it but I know it must be difficult for him. As Catholics we can't be intimate unless my husband can make love to me so he's effectively celibate.

    It's a terrible thing but I find myself envying infertile couples (which I'm deeply ashamed of). Even if we gave up and just accepted what comes we would be back here after my next pregnancy. The only option is pray I guess.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Anonymous Dec 15- I know what you mean about feeling guilty and dirty for preventing conception. This is the very first time we have ever attempted to do so and it took a little bit of time and persistence to resolve those feelings.

  • Anonymous

    I guess I was brought up to think that whatever it ment to men for women the only real justification / purpose of sex was to get pregnant and if we"re trying not to do that I feel it's wrong to do it.

    I try to be more positive because I know how hard it is on
    my husband but it doesn't really help.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Anonymous- Have you tried going to a therapist/counsellor? There are also some good books out there on this topic, including some catholic ones. You can email me if you like. seekeronthejourney @ gmail . com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10983885021582156186 Dina

    To put things in perspective, I am from a "fundamentalist" sect of Judaism that views a woman's purpose as largely being the birth of as many children as possible. However, it is not only discouraged for FORBIDDEN for a woman to get pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term if it puts her own life in danger. Why must our thinking be so black and white? What if women's lives were as important as childrens', but that didn't mean only having two children but instead having as many as one can take good care of and is healthy for one's body? What if adoption was considered to fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply, since it saves lives? What if we valued how much more mature and well-balanced and less self-centered teens were who grew up actively involved in raising their siblings, but also made an effort for those teens to be involved actively in pursuing their own interests? BTW, I am a mom of 9 but I started having children far younger than I'd ever want my children to (due to non-consensual childhood marriage). I am so glad for my 9 lovely kids, and I hope to have as many more as possible, but I also value that my religion teaches that a woman's mental and physical health also matter and can be considered in family planning.

  • Anonymous

    “Which would you rather regret,
    the children you didn’t have? Or the child you did?”

    I cried when I read this, because I am one of the latter. I love my children, and they will never hear me say this, but sometimes I do regret having so many. I am so overwhelmed, even with my husband doing more around the house than me, in addition to working full time. My self-esteem has been in the toilet, and I risked my life and my health with my last pregnancy. If I got pregnant again, I might not make it. I take every chance I get to get away from the noise of the children. So much so that I feel like I am missing out on their lives. We don't do anything fun because it's too overwhelming to prepare the kids and drag them around. Now that almost all of them are potty trained, I thought it would be easier. But now the screaming and fighting stage has begun. I love my kids…but I don't *like* them. That is terribly sad. And that just makes me feel even more worthless. I think there is a growing generation of quiverfull women out there suffering in silence, like I did, because they think they are alone, that everyone else is normal and is a good mom, while they themselves are failures, and that they have no choice but to keep popping out kids. I completely lost myself as a person over the years. I'm only now trying to find myself again. I look at my older children, who are becoming resentful of the noise, the extra work, and the fact that my husband and I are too busy/tired/angry to stop and listen to anything they say…and I wonder what it would be like if we'd had only them, and not the rest of the children. I imagine the relative peace and quiet, the fun outings, and the basic necessities they would have had, that we can't give them. When my husband takes the older children out and leaves me with the youngest three, it feels so quiet. And I wonder some more about what my children have missed out on, by being part of a big family. They have suffered through a lot. Yes, they have plenty of siblings to play with–but was it worth trading a normal, fun childhood for? It breaks my heart that I feel that way. But I've finally admitted the truth to myself. My husband feels the same way. I'd never tell my children how I feel, though. I know some people will read this and just say I'm a terrible mother. But I've done the best I can. I really thought I'd be the best mother ever. I *was* a good mother, in the beginning. The first three were so easy. But I realize now that I just wasn't meant to handle more than two or three children. If I had it to do all over again, I would wait two years after getting married to have a baby. At least. Then I'd space the children a minimum of two years apart, and make sure I was ready to handle another baby before I let myself get pregnant. If people want to judge me for speaking out, let them. Women need to hear the truth. If someone can handle a large family, that's fine. But people or churches who guilt-trip women into surrendering their lives, bodies and souls to live up to a nearly-impossible ideal are just cruel. In the beginning, I wanted a big family. But the last few children, I didn't. Because deep down, I knew I couldn't handle it. But I didn't feel like I had a choice, unless I wanted to go to Hell. Now I realize that I created my own hell. I love my children, but my heart just breaks for all that they need, that I can't give them. I just have to do right by them, as much as I can, and make darn sure that I don't get pregnant again. So just think before you act, ladies. You DO have a choice. Make sure that–whatever the choice–that the one you make is truly YOURS, for the right reasons.

  • Anonymous

    It's a sad fact that half the world seems to be tormented by infertility the other half by fertility !

    I am an ultra conservative but atheist man in (by my own choice) a deeply Catholic marriage (my wife follows this blog) so forgive my highly opinionated view.

    My own view is that when a couple have sex it should be (as Caholics say) "unative and procreative" I.e capable off and open to conception. But if the couple are generally fertile then they need to decide whether or not to abstain if they want to avoid or delay pregnancy.

    It has to be a mutual thing (and here's where I get controversial – I don't thing women should ever use any form of contraception) but if as a couple decide they don't want to conceive then they should either abstain completely or use NFP.

    My wife and I follow strict Catholic sexual morality – and at present we are delaying – that is my wife's well being leads us to avoid pregnancy – for the present, so we are not sexually intimate. It is difficult but we do not want to risk it (after 5 pregnancies all at the first attempt so to speak) intercourse is not an option and as we hold to the Catholic teaching that the marital embrace must culminate in intercourse we simply abstain.

    For my wife this is simply following her religion – for me it is a combination of respect for her faith and observance of my conviction that (as I believe it is morally wrong and I have forbidden her from using contraception) it is up to me to restrain myself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13978540582978450208 Charlotte

    Identities,
    You and I are speaking the same language. Come on over to my blog sometime, if you see this.
    cheeky pink girl

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01407878783882226996 KTElltt

    I'm going to leave my beliefs out of this and just drop you this comment to reiterate how courageous I find your writing. It is such a huge step for someone who has been living in oppression to make their thoughts and struggles known. Praying for you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00153117604262687451 RilianSharp

    My mom is one of eleven kids. I don't think my grandparents used any kind of birth control. But I don't think they are quiverful, because the kids mostly went to public school, and my grandma had a job. Also, not one of the eleven kids has a big family themselves. At least not so far. The one with the most kids has 3 that were all adopted. A couple of them don't have any kids and it seems that they never will. Also a couple of the kids (including my mom) have become atheists, and they were never ostracized or anything.. not even preached at that much. I can't really decide how many kids I want to have. Definitely at least one, via adoption.

  • Anonymous

    “Which would you rather regret,
    the children you didn’t have? Or the child you did?”
    Reading that last quote was a punch in the gut. I've known for a long time that my parents regreted having me. Or to be more precise, my father regreted impregnating a woman he barely knew and my mother regreted letting him do it. Throughout my childhood they let me know, in a thousand insidious and painful ways, that I was unwanted. A burden placed on them that they would tolerate but not appreciate. Whenever people condemn GLBTQ parents like you as being evil or unnatural, I want to scream at them that it's better to have two "weird" parents who love and want you than two "normal" (straight) parent who wish you didn't exist.
    Your friend is right. It's far better to prevent conception and celebrate the blessings you have instead of grasping unceasingly for more. The children you have (and any future siblings they may be blessed with) are lucky to have parents who care for them so deeply.

  • Kimberly

    I have so enjoyed reading all your comments. Melissa, you have opened my eyes to a very “messy” issue that traditional Christians don’t want to discuss and changed a lot of my thinking. On the matter of children, there have been so many times that I felt “less than” for my inability to get pregnant after my first and only child. I am not QF, but attended a conservative, evangelical church. I can’t tell you how many times I got the judgmental comment “Just one?” when asked how many children I had. Everyone assumed that my only child was spoiled, which they retracted after getting to know him. My husband and I decided not to pursue treatment, which probably would have resulted only in frustration given my endometriosis and fibroids. So my body has implemented NFP ever since my child was born–no birth control and no pregnancies. I can’t imagine how judged I would feel in a QF environment. It took many years to realize that I hadn’t been cursed by God, wasn’t being punished, or wasn’t being told by God that we were incapable of raising Godly children. The one child we had seemed to need everything we both could give him–he’s intellectually gifted, sensitive, philosophical, active, and creative–and has been very difficult to raise. He’s turned in to the most amazing young adult. I can only imagine the disaster if had been in the middle of a huge family and not had all the attention and care we both have given. And I can only imagine the disaster if my composer husband, also sensitive and brilliant, who was raised Catholic, had been prompted by guilt to have more children. He experiences sensory overload by noise and too much stimulation. And as a composer trying to use his obviously God-given gift, I had to work until our son was 4, so that we could survive. (Let’s just say that “Focus on the Family” broadcasts were enough to make my whole work experience fearful and guilt-ridden, even though I worked at home 3 days/week.) So was my infertility only a physical defect, a punishment, or a gift from God?


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