Monday, May 4, 2015

Thoughts on NFP, And Having Kids Sooner

This is part one in a series on Family. The second post, "Is Being Too Busy a Good Reason Not to Have Children?" will be up sometime this week.

I have always wanted a lot of kids. When I was growing up, my parents kept foster children (in fact, my Mom and Dad still do sometimes). Since the time that I was a little girl, we were always welcoming another newborn into the family. Taking care of babies was truly a way of life for us! Additionally, I had some really great role models of (not weird!) families who were raising 6 or more children in my immediate community growing up.   I worked in a Pre-School for a year when I was newly married, and loving babies and little children, my husband and I were both on board for having at least 5 children, if not more.

A woman recently stopped me as I was waiting in line to purchase some Spring dresses for my two younger daughters. I had them, plus their younger brother, in line with me.  She looked at our family, and saw my pregnant belly, and burst into a litany of questions, like, "Wow! You have so many kids! How do you do it? I'm forty and I have one- a six-year-old. Did you want that many children? Or how many did you want?"  I told her the truth: "I have always wanted a bunch of kids, but I didn't know how many."

My husband and I are about to have our fifth child in less than eight years. When we got married, we were open to life. We talked about having around five or six kids, but didn't expect to get pregnant as soon as we did. I truly believe that fertility is just something that God gave us as a gift.   I don't think everyone can, will, or should have as many as we do. It certainly isn't easy. We figured out how to do NFP- more on that in a minute- when "The Pill" made me cranky, irritable, and sick-feeling.  I had such an adverse reaction to any pill form of birth control methods, that I simply quit a few months into being married. In fact, my husband actually encouraged me to quit, after talking about it quite a bit. This was also after visiting doctors, after several hang-ups had me incredibly frustrated.

We had our first when we had been married a year and two months.  We spaced out our first two by a little over three years, using traditional birth control methods, although I had long-since abandoned the Pill. We became Catholic when our second daughter was a few months old and not by chance, but by the counsel of the Holy Spirit, we got on the Catholic no-birth-control bandwagon wholeheartedly, and learned to embrace NFP.

~Questions and Answers about NFP~

What does NFP look like in our family? If this subject wigs you out, feel free to skip this section! NFP looks like a lot of things. It looks like dirty diapers. It looks like a lot of abstinence.  It looks like a healthy, rounded out knowledge of my cycles, for both me and my husband, Stephen! We wanted to space out our kids, for a minimum of two years if we could, for this current pregnancy, so that meant being really, really careful, as well as being very aware of my body. It wasn't rocket science to get the hang of spacing, but it was hard, and it took time.  All of these things, most of all being really, really careful, worked for us this time around, I think.

What do I say to those who do not have as many children as we do? I say: That is fine.  Not everyone wants as many kids as us.  However, some of the best parents I know would say "Don't Wait!"  You {really!} don't know what you're missing, until you see YOUR baby. Until you see a baby who looks like you and your husband…. until you have a child of your own, you just can't make an informed decision about family planning.

Should we have children now or in three years from now? If you're newly married, my personal opinion- take that for what it is- is to take your age and subtract your desired "Me Time" or "Us Time" by about three or four years, and then start trying. Main reason? Number one reason? You don't know if you'll be infertile until you start actually trying.  Most people I know say "We want to travel, enjoy each other, or keep it 'just us,' for a while" and if that is your dig, I'd say.... make it two years, tops. You will not regret starting early..... the woman in line behind me at the store was forty with a six-year-old. That means, when we're getting down to brass tacks, that she will be fifty when her first and only child is fifteen.  Starting earlier means I have more energy, and simply put, we had more options for family planning! Don't give infertility any edge room, if you can help it.

The joys that children bring to you while you are taking care of them cannot handle any kind of price tag. And can I say, that is not to mention, that little word “family” is so much deeper, richer, and more valuable than just “couple” or "you and me." Why? You are beginning your heritage. You are forming community with people like you. The woman is becoming something new- a mother. She brings motherhood to marriage, and it makes her beautiful, kinder, more humble, more compassionate! I’m always wondering about people who don’t have a lot of kids. If you can’t have kids, that is one thing. I’m deeply sorry, truly.  If you can have kids, my humble advice to you is: don’t wait. I know there are some people do want kids, but you're just unsure of how or when or where, or if you are sitting on the fence... or you’ve been sitting on the sidelines far into the fifth quarter, this post is for you.

Those who have tried and can finally have kids know the thankfulness of being able to care for those little ones. I know that sometimes, what might happen is, you want to have kids right away, but your spouse isn’t on board. Or, alternatively, your parents think you should wait a while to start a family, but you’re not sure if that’s for you or not.  Consider what I’m saying and weigh your options. And if you have questions, feel free to ask me.

One other thing to take into consideration is the fear of pregnancy (sickness) and childbirth, among other fears about the actual childcare and costs.  To that, I would say, first, I will say more on fiscal responsibility in another post. But secondly, despite its challenges, I actually sleep better when I'm pregnant. I sleep really, really well!  I need more sleep, and it is nice to feel exhausted, in a good way, when you go to sleep at night.  The first few months of pregnancy and new-baby are always hard, but God gives us graces like meals from friends, and unexpected help from family and awesome babysitters along the way.  I always worry, but we always make it through just fine... with the expected bumps in the road- but that's life, really.

As for childbirth, you can read some of my birth stories here at my blog, if you're interested (or bored!). Again, I think it is important to take a peaceful approach, and prayerfully look for God's will in each individual pregnancy/birth. We all individually have a different God-given mindset and a different pace,  and I think I have had a different mindset and pace with each child! So in that we always have to remember the old adage "know thyself," and also, don't worry about tomorrow, or live in fear about these things- both childbirth and pregnancy. God has a plan! And I know that sounds cliche, but it is actually, really really true. Commit your worries and fears to the Lord (some conscious, meaningful time in prayer), for he knows the plans he has for you.

What do you think? I welcome respectful comments! :-)

Coming up this week, I will share quotes from some crowd-sourcing I have done on Facebook, Twitter, and Email in regards to Busyness + Raising Children. Stay tuned!


Debbie said...

Tracy - I love that line - you are beginning your heritage and the woman is becoming something new - a mother (same for the man). What a precious gift we are given in our children. Thank you for posting this - so needed in this age when the family is under attack. God bless you and yours!

Anonymous said...

I have five and wish we'd had more, honestly. The first one was born 18 months after we were married. I would always counsel people (if they ask me) to go for it sooner rather than later!

Tacy said...

Thank you Debbie.

Thank you @lesliesholly!