There are probably millions of articles written on the subject of birth control and the Christian, so I doubt I have anything new to add, but here’s a few thoughts from my personal experience.
I come from a family of eight children. Needless to say, if my parents did use birth control (they didn’t) they must have been terrible at it. I also come from that weird, homeschooling, girls wear skirts, self-sufficient type of family that everyone has stereotyped in their mind. So, my “norm”, when I reached adulthood, was one of large, happy, home school families who raised 6-12 children on a single income, lived frugally, and memorized Bible verses. My life experiences are dotted with periodic new babies and the famous “buddy system” in which older kids (like myself, as the second oldest) paired up with a young sibling to most effectively run the household and maintain order during an outing. I loved it. Never, in my entire childhood and it’s list of petty childhood woes, was “too many siblings” a complaint. Neither were, “I don’t get to have new clothes and toys” or “my parents don’t have enough time for me”. Those things just never crossed my mind. I was surrounded by my best friends and it was a blast!
Then I reached adulthood. After a careful look around, I realized that not everyone was like ‘us’. Not even all the Church people we fellow-shipped with. In fact, most of them weren’t like us at all. How weird, I thought. Still, I assumed that two-child families must merely have struggled with fertility issues, or some such thing, and I shrugged it off. I got married without even seriously considering the question of birth control, because, for me, it had never been a question at all! Married people have as many kids as God gives them, end of story.
So I was in for a big surprise. Within three months of our wedding, Jordan and I were thrilled to be expecting our first baby. Some people (from Church) commented that it was a little earlier to be thinking about a baby, and wondered if ‘it’ was an accident? I was like, “Huh??” And then, when our oldest was a meager 4 1/2 months old, we were blessed with another pregnancy. (Side note: apparently I am not one of those females for whom breast-feeding is a fertility suppressant.) This time, we were a little shy about telling people right away, because the instant reaction was…pity. Commiseration. Questions. “Wow. Was this a surprise?” Well, yes. Aren’t they always a surprise? “So, are you done after this?”
It was during this second pregnancy that birth control finally became an issue for me. Jordan and I wondered if maybe we were doing things wrong. After all, there was not a single family in our 500+ member “Conservative Baptist” church with more than three children. Our Pastor preached that it was “irresponsible” to just “have kids”, that God gave us a brain so that we would use it, and using it obviously meant limiting the size of our family. Our friends said they would love to have more than two children, but they wouldn’t be able to spend the right amount of quality time with them if they did, or couldn’t afford to raise them. Other friends said we would destroy my body if we didn’t quit after two, or at least wait a couple years for the next one. Some well-meaning people even suggested that it was wrong for Jordan to “do that” to me.
The end of my second pregnancy was rough. The first four months of William’s life was even rougher. When my cycle returned, as it had before, withing 6 weeks of giving birth, in spite of a voraciously nursing infant, I actually became afraid of getting pregnant again. Jordan and I discussed the possibility of using some sort of birth control. Maybe it would be better just to give us some space? Jordan was afraid of hurting me, physically, if I became pregnant too soon, and I was afraid of the emotional stress of another hard pregnancy and newborn. We toyed with the idea for awhile, and these are the conclusions we came to.
1. Children are a blessing. Period. Even when they don’t feel like it. Scripture makes it very clear that one of God’s blessings on a people is fertility and a large family. Just because other people don’t think so, doesn’t change that truth.
2. Society’s definition of normal should not be our guide. It was very not normal to have children less than two years apart, but you know what? If that’s what God gives you, it’s your normal.
3. It’s a trust issue. I realized I was afraid God would hurt me, give me more than I could handle, crush me to the ground with hardship, just because He could. The idea was, if I didn’t protect myself and take matters into my own hands, God would do things His way and it would be awful. But that’s just not true. When William was 4 months old I realized that I am God’s child and He wants to take care of me in the most perfect way, and that includes managing my fertility and whatever pregnancy hardships I must face. So, I began praying about it. I prayed (as if He were a loving Father, not a bully) that God would give us a little more of a break between William and the next one, simply because William is such a difficult child. I prayed that I would learn to trust Him with this and see whatever He chose to do as good. And suddenly, I stopped worrying. I stopped holding my breath every month, cringing if my cycle was a millisecond late. I stopped being afraid of what other people might think if/when the next pregnancy happened.
We were super thrilled to find out God was blessing us again. It was a little disheartening to share this amazing news and get the, “Oh, poor you!” response, but even so, we knew – we know! – we are blessed by this third child, and every child who comes after, and that God’s timing really is perfect.
And…that’s way too much for one post. More on the birth control issue later 🙂