I've actually been asked about this topic (in person) several times in the last few months, so I decided I'd go ahead and blog about it. I'm not doing this to step on any toes, really. Just to get the 'splanation out there so the folks asking about it can read my "put together" thoughts. As I've stated before, I think much better when I'm writing than when I'm speaking.
Not too long ago, while perusing one of the discussion boards I piddle around at now and then, I came across a mom who was wondering how to explain to her children just why people were SO cruel with their comments about the size of their family. Her story wasn't the typical "Are they all yours?", no....this one took the cake. She'd gone to run errands with her five children, who were being well-behaved (not the standard post-office brats who can't seem to understand that public offices aren't playgrounds), and just the mere size of her brood aroused the ire of a man in the office. He resorted to shouting insults and suggesting very loudly that she should just "slit her throat and get it over with", that she must be psychotic and needed to be on medication. She calmly assured him that she did indeed LOVE the wonderful children that God had blessed their family with, but his tirade continued, to the amusement of several others in the office. Her children were terrified, but that didn't seem to deter the nastiness, and when she got home, she had to attempt to alleviate her 9-year-old's fears that their mother was one step away from insanity.
I've had some off-the-wall comments since our family size expanded past the 2.1-child "average", but that one...I'm not sure I'd have handled it as calmly as she did. What is WRONG with people? Nevermind that mothers don't seem to be enforcing the "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" rule anymore, this type of attitude goes straight to the core. Has our society truly rejected what God calls a blessing, and decided across-the-board that children are burdens to be avoided, insulted, and considered a "curse" when their arrival is unplanned by the parents?
By society's standards, what is the criteria for determining how many children each family should have? National averages? Seating arrangements in a vehicle (don't laugh, I've actually heard that one--"Don't have more children than your sportscar can hold")? How many bedrooms a house has and whether or not you'll still have space for that media room and an office? Social status? Are only the Brangelinas of the world allowed to have large families (nevermind they're not even MARRIED--he says they'll marry when "everyone" can)? Maybe it's your tax bracket or the size of your bank account. Is it the number of designer wardrobes you can afford and how many college degrees you are willing to finance?
It was actually that question that prompted us to reverse what we now consider to be a horrible mistake, although it took almost eight years of mental agony to get to that point. We'd not really even considered the attitude we'd taken toward children until the vasectomy had already been done. But almost immediately, a comment I'd only half paid attention to started echoing in my mind. A year before the vasectomy, when we announced our third despite-birth-control pregnancy, the only thing we could say was "Obviously God meant for us to have three children." The reply was "Well, I certainly hope He doesn't intend for you to have FOUR!" We lost that baby, and very quickly made the decision to end the possibility of having more "accidents". We weren't even really thinking about what we'd said regarding that third pregnancy being "obvious". It didn't really hit home until we realized we were feeling a twinge of heartache every time one of our friends announced a pregnancy by using the words "blessing from God". With each birth around us, the fact that maybe God had something in mind that we'd not even considered for our family smacked us firmly across both cheeks. Did we even believe they were a blessing? Or was the 'blessing' thing just a fluffy little euphemism that we attached to baby shower cards just as flippantly as people say "bundle of joy"? Is it true that they really are a BLESSING? A gift? Something that God WANTS us to have?
We have both known for a long time that we are the type of couple who does things differently. Neither of us has ever been "mainstream" people, but yet there we were, letting mainstream ideas form us and plan our life so we looked like, talked like, and lived like everyone else in the world. What if God wanted something different? Looking to God's Word, neither one of us could find anything in Scripture that spoke favorably of man (or woman, for that matter) plotting his own path--there is plenty speaking negatively of man's "plans", though. We also couldn't find anything that agreed with the world's anti-child view of family planning. It perplexed us to learn that until right around the beginning of the 20th century, the vast majority of the world's Bible-preaching churches (of just about all 'flavors') condemned the use of birth control, and people truly believed that God was the Author of ALL life--that each and every child born into every family was a blessing to be treasured. More horrifying was the knowledge that Planned Parenthood's founder is one of the most outspoken humanists of our time, and that "modern" birth control was used by feminists to promote the idea that a woman should have "more" than the life of a wife and mom. As if all of that wasn't enough, we then found out that the now widely-accepted birth control pill and IUD (as well as several other forms of hormonal contraception) use aborifacient--abortion-inducing--methods of "avoiding" pregnancy (that is, unless you believe that life begins at conception and not only when implantation occurs).
All of these things really began to eat at our hearts, and we were convicted to hand that portion of our lives back over to God. In November of 2001, we did just that--Pete's vasectomy was reversed. We didn't have the reversal in an effort to have as many babies as we could possibly fill our home with. We're not competing with the Duggars, I assure you--although Morgan and Jamie are fascinated by such a large, loving family when we watch them on TV. We had the reversal to surrender to the Lord a portion of our lives that we'd kept Him out of and told Him that we "knew better". It has meant adding four new faces to our family portrait, and in all honesty, we'd welcome ten more if that's what the Lord has in mind for our family before my body loses the ability to bear children safely. Why? Because we believe God when He says He opens and closes the womb. We don't have children because they're just some natural function of a biological event, we have children because God chooses to place each and every one of them in our family.
Do we judge people who don't do things the way we do? Heavens, no. Quite frankly, I'm a little too busy with my own bunch to worry about somebody else's convictions! Am I overwhelmed? Sometimes, but you know....I find myself far less overwhelmed than I was with just the first two, because my heart and my mind are in a different place now. I don't see my kids as burdens. I don't see them as financial liabilities or injustices against my own personal dreams. I see them as individual souls, to be raised up for God's service and aimed into the world to bring glory to Him.
Am I psychotic? Maybe...I'm sure I have my moments! I'm human, I'm not perfect, and I struggle with my own issues just like every one else in this world. Am I on medication? Well, that depends--does chocolate count?