Walking into mass, my feet became heavier and heavier. Trying to reconcile my anger with the Church and my desire to be in communion with Jesus. I looked at my husband. He saw my hesitation, my anxiety, my concern. Taking me by the hand, he whispered, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Before I became Catholic, I thought being ‘open to life’ meant being okay have children. I believed that you could be completely open to life even while contracepting. I thought it was the "responsible" way to go. I saw those big Catholic families and cringed. I thought they were messy, loud, and poor decision makers. I thought I knew better. I thought that they needed a lesson in family management. I was wrong.
When I converted to Catholicism, I went through Natural Family Planning classes. I began to learn about my body and my natural cycles. I knew more about my fertility and my body than my friends. Most of which were on birth control pills to “control their cycles”. The more I learned, the more I understood about my own premenstrual symptoms. I no longer needed birth control to control my PMS. My doctors now gave be better advice and better treatment.
I married my husband, who was also Catholic and open to life. However, we were in graduate school and living in campus housing. We could not financially afford to care for a baby on two student stipend salaries. At that time, being open to life meant using natural family planning to avoid pregnancy. We would have loved and accepted a baby had it been in God’s plan. But, it wasn’t. We used my natural fertility cycles to avoid pregnancy and spent three years completing our Master’s degree.
In my last year of school, my husband began working. We felt that financially we could afford to care for a baby. We wanted our family to grow. We made the decision to begin our family. Two days later, we had conceived our first son. He was due on my graduation day. I received my diploma from the comfort of my couch while snuggling my first baby.
Three months later, I began my clinical fellowship year to receive my medical accreditation. My husband and I felt that this accreditation was an important step in my career. We also wanted to give my body some time to heal. Therefore, we again began using my natural cycles to avoid pregnancy.
When our first son was seven months old, we had begun talking about the timing of our next child. We wanted our children to be close together, but were not sure if we were quite ready for two babies. However, we had no reason to wait other than nervousness. We were financially stable, had good jobs, room in our house, and a desire for more children. Two days later, we had conceived our second son. He was born a week before I received my medical accreditation. I opened the letter from the credentialing board while nursing my second baby.
Have two children under 18 months is rough. I am not going to sugar coat it. I cried from stress several times. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. Those double baby snuggles live in a special place in my heart. That first year was a roller coaster of ups and downs. But to this day, those little boys do everything together. People have asked if we make special time for each of them. I just say that they won’t let us. They cry when their brother is not with them.
Because we were mentally and emotionally stressed, we began using my natural cycles to avoid pregnancy again. We waited quite a bit longer to discuss our third baby. By that time, I had gone to very part time to be at home with our sons during the day. When our second son was two and our oldest was three and a half we felt we were ready again.
We began trying again, thinking that we would conceive quickly again. However, it did not happen that month or the next. Or even the next. Finally, I had a feeling that I was again pregnant. However, we experienced an early pregnancy loss that month. We were in shock. I was about 4 and a half weeks along so we did not tell anyone. We just began trying again.
We conceived again a month and a half later. My husband and I were so happy. Our sons were excited and decided that they were having a little sister. We brought them along to the sonogram at 8 weeks and they were able to see our little one’s heart beating along with us. We could not wait to watch our family grow one more time.
However, at 12 weeks we lost our fourth baby. I had begun bleeding and we ended up in the ER. The ultrasound tech could not find a heartbeat. We were devastated. Losing a child is the most difficult thing a person will ever experience. At that time, being open to life meant respecting life. We made sure that the body of our little one was treated with dignity. She had a proper burial and a funeral at a local cemetery for unborn babies. It took us over 6 months to feel ready again to begin trying for another baby. We were both scared to try, but still had the desire to grow our family. Several months later, we conceived our daughter. We are now a family of seven, with two little ones watching from Heaven.
Now when I see those big Catholic families, bursting at the seams with children, I feel a pang of jealousy. When you look at our family, you see a mom, a dad, two little boys, and a baby girl. However, I ache for you to also see the two babies that we lost. I want you to look over and wonder, “What were they thinking?” I want you to notice the crazy mess. When you ask how many children I have, I want to answer five and my heart drops when I actually say three. When you ask, "So are you done yet?", I will tell you that I don't know. I will take all the noise, chaos, and crazy that comes with a big family. My children are my life. They are the most majestic way that God has ever shown his love to me. I ache to have my babies back, but I accept the will of God. I want more children and pray that God will provide. However, being open to life doesn’t always mean you have a big family. Sometimes it means your get pregnant in two days. Sometimes it means you have two children in diapers. Sometimes it means you wait three years until you can care for a child. Sometimes it means you sob for days after your daughter’s funeral. Sometimes it means you try for years and finally experience of joys of parenthood through adoption. I am open to life, whatever that may mean for our family. Our situation changes daily, but through it all I will trust that the Lord is sovereign and will provide.
I am a writer, a crafter, a DIYer, a mom, wife, a daughter, a professional, and whatever I decide to be tomorrow. While I spend most of the day being called mama, I am much more than that.Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.