Sometime ago, I was admiring the newborn son of a young couple at our parish. An older woman from the parish approached the group of us and heard me say, “What a beautiful baby you have!” To which the older woman replied, “Ellie, don’t you get any ideas.” Generally speaking, I don’t take offense to comments like that, but it was the third time that month that people had taken it upon themselves to tell me that I shouldn’t get any ideas of having another baby.
My somewhat belligerent personality wanted to respond: “At my age, if I get pregnant, it won’t be my idea, it’ll be God’s…” Instead, I kept quiet and laughed off the comment.
In our modern secular society, many people seem to think that they have some sort of role in a couple’s intimate decision-making process of deciding whether to plan a pregnancy or avoid one. You’ve heard of the pesky grandmother nagging her kids to give her a grandchild or another grandmother telling her son and his wife that they have enough children and that they should “just stop.” Or the well-meaning relatives who don’t think you can “afford” another child.
When it comes to deciding whether to plan or avoid a pregnancy, this decision rests solely with the couple and God. Prayerful discernment and communication between husband and wife are essential in this process and although comments from outsiders (even within the extended family) may be well-meaning, husband and wife need to realize that they have the responsibility to make the best decision possible for their family and they are the ones who will ultimately be accountable for such decisions.
Of course, the prevalent attitude in our modern society is one that says that a man and woman should have complete control over their fertility. The term “Birth control” coined by Margaret Sanger’s Planned Parenthood, says just that.
Taking this to the extreme, if there is “control,” then others can have control over us as well. This is obvious in China, where the one child policy is (sadly) enforced to the point of mandatory sterilization and abortion.
This idea of “control” is also evident in the case of Christian couples who say they have “surrendered all to Jesus,” but have refused to surrender control of their fertility and are using the Pill…or a spouse who has been sterilized because “We don’t want any more children.”
With regard to family size, however, the number of children is not so important as the couple’s attitude. A couple may have one or two children, but for medical or other serious reasons, they have made a virtuous decision to limit their family, remaining open by using Natural Family Planning. On the other hand, a couple may have nine children but have become sterilized and/or may have a negative attitude regarding life and love, despite the large number of children they have.
As well, there are some couples who belong to the “Quiverfull” movement (often called providentialists), who allow babies to come frequently without any attempt at avoiding pregnancy.
God is the Author of Life. With regard to children and how many a couple ought to have, this decision should rest solely with the couple in partnership with God. Only husband and wife will be accountable to God for the decisions they’ve made with regard to life and love. God gave us the gift of our fertility. He also gave us the knowledge we need regarding fertility (Natural Family Planning) so that we can make good decisions: to work with Him, rather than against Him, in the area of our family size.
Copyright 2010 Ellen Gable Hrkach