My children are not a statement.

My children are not a statement. May 12, 2011

On Friday, I’m going to announce my pregnancy at The Register.  I know that most of the readers will be gracious and congratulatory, just as you lovely people were here.  Most of my readers are fairly clear that news of a baby is always good news.  The timing may not always be great, and the circumstances might be tough, but the baby itself?  Good news, period.  Once the child is already conceived, the only civil thing to say is, “Congratulations!”   And if you can’t muster that up, you don’t say anything at all.

I’m horribly nervous.  I needed to make an announcement, partly because — well, it might explain why my posts get a little feeble from time to time, when I’m typing through waves of nausea; and also because — dammit, it’s good news!  I’m happy, my husband is happy, our other kids are happy, and good news wants to be told.

So, by way of announcement, I recycled an old post which I think is pretty funny.  But I still know that there are a certain number of people who will be disgusted, even outraged, when they hear that I’m having another baby.  And they will comment.  They will say that I’m irresponsible, mindless, and selfish.

I expect to get 90% nice comments, plus a few “Kill yourself now, you filthy breeder” comments.  I’m also expecting a couple of the following:

“I’m a Catholic, too, but I don’t see how it could be God’s plan to ruin the Earth with even more consumers.”

Well, I am at peace with this false dilemma.  First, our family is pretty green, and I feel sure that our children will be, too.  I’ve covered this here.

Second, even National Geographic, no conservative rag, openly calls for focusing on the betterment of living conditions, rather than on reducing fertility.

And third,  my personal family size has no effect — ZERO, whatsoever — on the overall physical well-being of the world.  Even if you still believe that the world is headed for a population explosion (which Hania Zlotnik, director of the UN Population Division, does not believe), then the fact is that the world can well afford for a family in rural New Hampshire to have nine children.  I could have a dozen more, and each of my children could do the same, and the environment wouldn’t break a sweat.  To think otherwise is just hysterical nonsense.

“I’m a Catholic, too, but you damn well better be able to pay for all these kids.  There’s nothing Catholic about financial imprudence.”  These folks are the ones that keep me up at night.  But my final conclusion is this:  if you should really only have a baby if you can pay for all the attendant expenses with cash on hand, then you’ve pretty much told all of Africa to go childless.  Think about it.  If you should only have a child when you’re 100% financially independent, then you’ve just turned a very basic and very dear gift from God into a perk for the wealthy.

I know that you can take this idea too far, and there truly is such a thing as financial imprudence, of course.  But — when we were very, very poor, the only beautiful thing in the house was our baby.  Her conception is the thing that brought me and my husband back to God.  I wish conservative Catholics would be much, much more careful about how they talk about money and children.

I only have one other thing to say.  I don’t think I’m holy because I have a lot of children.

I don’t think I’m a superstar, and I don’t consider it an achievement.

I don’t say or think everyone should have big families.

I try not to use my family size as a marketing tool, and I think I have expurgated all foolish notions about small families from my heart.

We have children for our own reasons, and aren’t trying to say — well, anything to anyone.  My children are human beings, not a statement.

And yet, people still see our very existence as a challenge or a rebuke, or an argument to refute.  This hurts me almost as much as it hurts me when they see me as a fool or a leech.  I don’t even know what’s in my own heart half the time, so why would I have a theory about why you, perfect stranger or casual acquaintance, have fewer children than I do?  I don’t need to hear your sterilization story or hear about how your voting history reflects your worldview and is superior to mine.

My baby does not deserve your contempt or need your approval.  My baby has nothing to do with you.  All I want is to take care of my family and to protect them, most of all the littlest one who has only been here for a few months.

Do I worry about bringing an innocent child in to a world with war, racism, pollution, and so on?  No, not really.  Probably the world we live in today would have seemed like a dystopian nightmare to our ancestors — and yet I love it so much, and I’m glad I’m here.

No, what I worry about is that, when my baby is born, people will not see a child.  They will not see the dark eyes, the sweet, milky, velvety neck, the dark downy hair, the tender, tender being who comes to me fresh from the arms of the very One who invented love itself.

They will see — a threat.  How can this be?  How can this have happened to the world?  It used to be that you didn’t have to have a reason to have a child — if you were married, it was what you did.  In my house, that is how it is.  I hope my children understand that.

And I hope that, when they have children of their own, they will have a circle of friends who can rejoice with them.  Because that is how it ought to be.  A baby is always good news.

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  • I remember reading this back when it was originally posted, but wanted to comment to say it still is a huge source of reassurance and comfort, and I appreciate you candidly writing these thoughts down. So thanks for that 🙂

  • byzantinecatholicmama

    thank you for this. I feel exactly the same way.

  • Elena Marshall

    This was just recently brought to my attention,….I hope by now, you’ve had your 10th! ;o) As a mother of 8 beautiful gifts from God (and I’m NOT Catholic), I am honored to be their mother. Congratulations on having so many blessings!

  • Oh how I LOVE this – thank you. Non-Catholic mama of 8 here and you have echoed my every sentiment. Living in a relatively affluent suburb of Philadelphia we don’t get the financial comments much anymore (I guess people assume that if we’re here at all then we must have the $) but we do hear the “ruining the environment” stuff plenty. It always makes me laugh. Our neighborhood is full of families of 3 or 4 living in nearly 3000 square foot homes on 1/3 acres – we fit 10 people with relative comfort in that same space. Many people here drive large SUVs, as we do, the difference being that every seat in our car is full. The idea that families like ours are somehow taxing the earth’s limited resources is just ludicrous when you stop and think about it. 🙂

  • Althea70AD

    “(W)hen we were very, very poor, the only beautiful thing in the house was our baby. Her conception is the thing that brought me and my husband back to God. I wish conservative Catholics would be much, much more careful about how they talk about money and children.” I loved that part! I could relate 100%. We have 12 now (we ARE Catholic), and we just chose to have the kids rather than pricey vacations and cars. God even dropped a 3500 sq ft house in our laps because He knew we needed it. Great article.

  • SavdByGrace50

    Sort of off topic but your statement that “a baby is always good news” was how I felt when I was pregnant with my first and not married. My father urged me to give my baby up for adoption. Besides not being able to imagine walking down the street, seeing a little one and wondering if he or she was mine, I also saw my baby as redeeming. I could either be a young woman who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock (I’m 62 now so that’s how we were referred to as in my day) OR I could be a mom with a baby in her arms and at her breast. I chose the latter and never looked back. A baby is always good news.

  • GRUMPY

    We weren’t able to have more then 7, but that was God’s chose. Every one of ours, we’ve loved, cried, gnashed our teeth, and cried with joy and sorrow. Never once did we feel we did anything spectacular or the reverse, ‘STUPID’. God gave us what we needed, a family. I always thank HIM. My Sister in law once in answer to snide remarks (9 birth and 7 adopted) , got up from eating, lined up her little ones and asked the person, ” Which would you like me to kill, one of these, or the one I’m carrying in my womb?”. She said it loudly, and got a rousing applaud from the other patrons. So have your new one, shout it from the house tops, and remember , HE will never give you more then you can handle. ……. Good Catholics, Passionate Protestants, Practicing Mormons, and those who know large families always have enough people play a game of baseball.

  • GRUMPY

    Oops forgot. I’m Catholic too, But I would have just as many as GOD provided , anyway.

  • Middle Aged Single Guy

    I am a 48 year old man, single, healthy, attractive.
    I have never been married, I am not a father. I don’t think that I will ever be either one.
    I love kids, I love families, I love seniors.
    I feel that I am always being judged. “You must be afraid of commitment” “You are selfish” “You just haven’t met the right woman” “You must be gay”
    None of those is true. I am just not wired to be a family man.
    I work full-time helping homebound seniors regain their independence so they can stay out of hospitals and nursing homes. I work with the families to teach them how to keep their loved one safe and independent. It’s my calling and I love it; I drive 100-150 miles a day to visit people. I work overtime and weekends to get it all done!
    But I am constantly being judged, and it gets really tiring.

  • Emily Scott

    I appreciate every part of this article. I have 3 children right now, but I expect more at some point. “My baby does not deserve your contempt or need your approval.” Exactly- There is no reason for others to even pretend their opinion matters more than God who put that baby here.

  • Dawn

    I’m a Mom of 10 and not Catholic. Babies are blessings. Period. I now have 2 married and one grandchild, and let me tell you, the blessings just keep racking up!!!!