I have been asked many times how many children Michael and I want to have. My answer is always that I don’t have a number, not anymore.
We have been married for seven years. We have three children. We would love to have more. We have had to postpone pregnancy for serious reasons. We have had to wait on the blessing of a pregnancy. We have been surprised by a pregnancy. We have been surprised by the loss of one. We have dear friends who struggle with infertility, secondary infertility, and miscarriage. We have friends who had their spouse tragically die young. We have had friends who delivered a perfect–but unexpectedly stillborn–full-term baby. We have friends and family who formed their families through adoption. And we have had friends for whom exceptional fertility has been a great cross.
Life has schooled us in reality and given us tender hearts for sharing life-affirming perspective with others when it comes to having babies. We’ve learned that a culture of life starts with each one of us forming our own minds and hearts in perspective and truth. Life-affirming social habits–what we say and don’t say–will follow.
Don’t question or comment on family size
We can never assume anything about a couple’s intentions or faithfulness regarding their family size. We have to be diligent in not promoting or participating in speech that questions the intentions or motives of others.
Cari’s article last summer was compassionate and spot-on. She called out those who slip into any kind of “devout objectification” of children, thinking of them like living trophies that show the world how faithful our family or another family is, or how much a couple has accomplished.
More recently, Michaelyn pointed out that there are many faithful Christian couples with no children or fewer children who have said “yes” just as deeply to God’s plan for their family as those couples with large families. Infertility, sub- and secondary infertility, and multiple miscarriages are silent, breathtakingly difficult crosses that require a different, but equally courageous “yes.”
There will always be those people who see a couple with no children and start making awkward comments about when to expect the first little one. There will always be people who make snide comments to the mother-of-many about how to “just say no” to her husband. There will always be those people who talk about how “so-and-so are just really good at NFP.” Just don’t go there. And pray for the social grace and courage to skillfully diffuse or redirect comments and conversations that do go there.
Don’t make fun of new parents
There was a meme floating around Facebook a few months ago making fun of “What I Did When I Had Just One Child.” I shared it on my page like thousands of other mothers wanting to pass on a good laugh. I want to apologize sincerely to those of you for whom that share was hurtful.
“You have a beautiful family”
When we see a happy family all together, something inside of us responds to that image as something that is beautiful. We can’t help it. It turns out that we are created to see beauty in the family, because the family is an image of God.
As Catholics, every time we do the Sign of the Cross we are reminded of the trinitarian nature of God. The Father and the Son loved each other so much that their love gave birth to new Love itself: the Holy Spirit. In a wonderful echoing of that, the love of a husband and wife produces new life as well.
The family unit is an image of the Trinity, no matter how many lives the love of that husband and wife create. Creating a culture of life can also start with making it a point to tell our friends, family and neighbors of all family sizes: “You have a beautiful family.”
Sometimes being reminded that what we are doing is beautiful, mess and all, is the best affirmation in the world.