Ask anyone nowadays, any more than 1 or 2 kids is looked upon as crazy or masochistic or selfish or any number of other not-so-nice names. So how did I wind up having 5 kids? It's a long story, as it's a story that spans my entire life!
My dad was one of 5 children, and my mom was one of 5 (but one died as an infant), so they were both from larger than modern-average sized families. But my mom wasn't really the nurturing type and my dad had felt picked on and neglected as the youngest of 5 so they were going to stop at 2, or at least wait a while before having another "set". My mom had been in a car accident as a teen that broke one of her vertibrae - the same one as quadripulegic Joni Eareckson Tada. She was in the hospital on large doses of morphine and because she had scoliosis, the morphine easily melted her spine into an S and fused it that way. She was told she'd need physical therapy to have a chance to walk again and that she might be in a wheelchair. She had been given emergency blood transfusions that did not match her blood. In additon to this, Mom had ulcerative colitis since she was 19. She walked, in later years she ran a small farm! She did always have excruciating chronic back pain forever though. Anyway I'm getting ahead of the story here...
She married my dad when she was 22. I was basically a honeymoon baby and arrived on the scene 10 months after the wedding. When I was born, I was very sick. The doctors surmised that the blood transfusions long ago must have caused some issues that would now be known as RH incompatibility. Basically her body thought I was a threat, a foreign object, and began trying to kill me. Doctors back then didn't really know much about RH incompatibility in pregnancy I guess because they didn't do anything about it or suggest any way to prevent it in the future. They told Mom they thought it was probably a one time thing. My parents had my sister 3 years and 3 months after me. She was planned and there were no RH issues with her. 2 years and 2 months after my sister was born, my brother arrived. He was a surprise. When Mom was 7 months along, the doctors said he was losing weight and they were concerned he was dying like I was and advised a C-section and a tubal. My mom was terrified of having another baby hospitalized for weeks, life on the line. She felt her body was not meant for bearing children and obviously she was really fertile as 2/3 of her kids were NOT planned. 3 was alot of kids anyway, as there was alot of social pressure to save the planet by having only 0-1 child per couple, and she was sick and weak and tired and didn't think she could care for more than us 3 anyway. Besides, my parents were really poor. My dad was an electrician's apprentice making very little money and my mom was a SAHM (planning to go back to work when her kids entered school). It was "logical" for her to just have her tubes tied during the c-section.
So the tubal was done and that bridge was burned before my mom woke up to find my brother, despite arriving supposedly 6 weeks early via c-section and supposedly losing weight and dying, was full term weight and healthy as a horse. After a while she began to regret the tubal. Through the years, I would catch her watching my little brother play alone with tears in her eyes. She regretted having the tubal more and more as the years went by. Through bouts of the ulcerative colitis being so bad that I would sit in her room and watch her breathe as she slept, fearing each breath was her last, she still regretted the tubal. Through colon cancer and being miraculously healed, she regretted the tubal. Through being overwhelmed with having to pull me out of Kindergarten and homeschool me and later my siblings, she regretted the tubal. Despite my learning disabilities that would have my brain understanding my mom's explanation of my math as though it were a foreign language I'd never heard before, she regretted the tubal. Through years and moves and farming and 4-H and homeschool groups and teenagers, she regretted the tubal.
I guess seeing the sadness in her eyes as she watched my brother when he didn't notice, and knowing from the very few times she talked to me about it that it was a longing for another child, a brother for my brother to play with, sunk in to my very being. I didn't get along with my sister anymore once I got to pre-puberty, and my brother was 5 1/2 years younger than me, so I felt lonely too. I had a couple friends who had 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 siblings and I adored being in their homes. Everything was so structured and yet so relaxed... I began to wish my mom had had more kids too! I wished I had a dozen siblings! I also began to see permanent sterilization as a curse, maybe even a sin of some sort. My mom had all the reasons in the world to get "fixed" and I think there would be precious few people on this earth who could have looked at her and how sick she was then and known anything about her history and health and still told her a tubal was a bad idea. But still she regretted it for the rest of her life! That had to MEAN something, I thought in my young innocent mind. There was SOMETHING innately wrong with sterilization. Maybe it wasn't a SIN per se, I mused, maybe it was just one of those things the devil tricks you into thinking will fix your problems or make you happy but really it does the opposite. Yet another way the devil perverts sex/love/marriage/fertility/babies so that it ruins us inside instead of builds us up.
I clearly remember a conversation I had with my dad when I was probably about 16 years old. We were discussing the goats. It was almost fair time and with all us kids being in various livestock shows all week, my parents were concerned about a couple does who were due that week. My dad was considering inducing them the week before so that the kids would be safe on the ground and he wouldn't have to stay home to babysit pregnant does and miss all our shows. There was one he was iffy about though because she wasn't due until the week after the fair. Dad didn't want her to kid early on her own while we were gone in case she had problems, but inducing her 2 weeks early to prevent that made Dad nervous. Kids born 2 weeks early aren't as alert and don't eat as well. Kids that don't eat well can get sickly fast. He was discussing his worries with me and I asked what he would use to induce them. He told me the same drug they injected into the does when they weren't coming into heat (ovulating) to trigger their fertility would also cause them to go into labor. Which made me think about how much we seemed to have to "play God" with the animals. My dad explained to me that we're not playing God because God Himself gave us dominion over the animals. That means we manage them and take care of them. We're in charge of them, not to abuse them, but to manage, propagate, conserve, and use them for the good of mankind. Then a lightbulb came on in my head and I said, "But we do the same thing with HUMANS! And God never gave us dominion over OURSELVES! He has made it clear that we are to be in subjection to HIM!" My dad kind of smirked in a way that said he was proud of the way my mind was connecting things and working things out through a Biblical worldview. I asked him to help me with the thoughts swirling around in my head... abortion is murder, obviously, but besides that it destroys something God created that we as humans don't have dominion over. Then I thought further about humans and birth and all the ways humans try to control and use and prevent pregnancy and birth. Was it a sin to induce a human then because we don't have dominion over ourselves and induction isn't risk free? What about birth control pills? Well obviously permanent sterilization bears some bitter fruits- I saw that in my mom for a decade! Condoms then? Is that the same thing? Was it just plain wrong to try to control the number of offspring one had? What about fertility treatments? What about medical intervention as a whole? Oh my! Can of worms in thought process indeed! My dad told me he didn't know the answers, and advised me to pray and read the Bible. I was all in knots over it. This was like a culmination of all the questions and doubts building in me all my life!
I eventually decided that I didn't know about all those things, and I didn't know if I wanted to know, or needed to know yet. I did want a big family though. 20 kids. Well that's alot, maybe a dozen... A dozen sounds nice.
I still don't know all the answers! My husband was from a family of 3 kids and thought his was a really large family. When we were engaged we discussed how many kids we wanted. He said he'd love to have a big family! I told him 'ME TOO! A dozen at least!' and he freaked out! He thought 3 was huge so his idea of a big family was 2-3 kids! After some back and forth, he talked me down to 4. I felt a sense of loss but covered it up. Then when we married in the spring of 2002, his schedule in the military was not conducive to raising a family so I got on the pill and we waited. After a year, the pill had added 100 pounds and a ton of health problems to my young body and we discussed it and decided I needed to be off the pill. If I'd known then about the abortive facet of the pill, I never would have gone on it. If there's one thing I've always been 100% sure of, it's that killing babies, born or not, is wrong. And believing that life begins at conception, and that the pill flushes a fertilized egg out by making the uterine lining inhospitable, well that makes my pro-life stance and being on the pill incompatible. But alas I didn't know that about the pill when I was on it. I got off it because it felt like it was slowly killing me.
We prevented until he got out of the military in the late summer of 2005. I remember everything in the news at that time was beginning to be horribly depressing and terrifying. It's nothing compared to now, but compared to how safe I felt as a child, it was really scary. I felt like the end was near and I could not bear to bring kids into the world to be martyred in their youth. My heart could not bear it. My husband felt the same way. In addition to that, my cycle since getting off the pill had gotten worse and worse. It had been 3 months between the last 2. So that seemed like a sign from God to us that we were probably not physically able to have kids anyway. We cried, sad to relinquish the thought of having children. We prayed and explained our new stance to God (He didn't need the explanation, we knew, but we wanted to confess to Him the deep inner workings of our hearts.), acknowledging that we may be wrong as shortsighted humans, and asking Him to forgive us if we're in error and letting Him know that if He were to cause a pregnancy despite prevention, we would take it as a sign that we had been entirely wrong to decide to not have kids.
God took us at our word and despite the fact that we increased vigilance regarding preventing, and used 2 different kinds of non-hormonal birth control simultaneously, I was pregnant before my next cycle! *I* took this as our sign that we were in fact supposed to have kids, and though we didn't understand, we should carry on as though we had not at one recent time decided to never have kids. My husband took it as a sign that God was giving us *A* kid despite our objections because we needed to have *A* child. So when I, full of joy over the pregnancy, at one point made a quip about the "next one", I was stunned to find out that my husband was DONE! I felt cheated. He had agreed to 4! And obviously God was saying we were wrong about that not having kids thing! I tried not to make a stink but I did let him know that we had clearly each interpreted this sign in a different way! I thought he'd eventually change his mind. When baby was 8 or 9 months old, I became pregnant again despite prevention. This one was not to draw breath on this earth though; I lost him at 7 weeks gestation on 7-7-2007. I didn't see all the 7's as a sign until later when my husband told me that the miscarriage had made him realize he did want ONE more kid after all. I rejoiced! 2 was no dozen, but God had a lifetime to work on us, since there was NO WAY I was getting a tubal. Ever. So baby #2 joined us a month before our firstborn turned 2. And then I patiently waited for DH to come around to the idea of #3. I dropped rare teasing hints about wanting another baby and then he dropped hints in return that he was toying with the idea of a vasectomy. I was really upset about that. I prayed. My heart longed for more children! I had longed for many children since I was a small child! I would daydream about running a home for orphans in some impoverished country, or being Gladys Aylward, or being like the moms of my friends with many siblings growing up. Now that I was a mom, I had heard of Michelle Duggar and met a couple moms of many online and they were my new heroes. I heard the term "quiverfull" and that opened up a whole new can of Google worms! I devoured anything large family related like a starving person. I mostly stopped mentioning it to my husband unless he asked, though once in a great while I would joke about someday getting my dozen kids. He was still toying with the vasectomy idea. One day he came home and told me he'd been looking at the side effects and costs of vasectomies. He told me he thought it was only fair that his body get sterilized since my body had already had to be pregnant 3 times and birth a large baby twice. I told him I did not see it that way and that I would do my best not to but that I feared I would struggle long and hard with a great resentment for him if he did something permanent. I shared with him some of what I'd been learning about why some people don't prevent pregnancies. I told him I don't know all the answers, I am still lost and confused about so much, but one thing I had come to believe wholeheartedly since childhood was that doing something permanent to destroy one's fertility was a slap in the face of God.
I think he was surprised. He indicated he had thought all my teasing was just empty teasing, or perhaps sarcasm to indicate how much I never wanted to be pregnant again. He knew how rough pregnancy was on me with our daughter, throwing up from the morning sickness until I was so dehydrated that they couldn't even find a vein. At the birth, I was egged on by a bad midwife to "purple push" (she basically told me I'd have a dead baby if I didn't hurry up) and wound up ripping a cavern into the back wall of my insides just inside the perineum. In fact the edge of my perineum there was thin and hard as plastic, like the rim of a cup. I tore forward too. It took me 10 months postpartum to be intimate with my husband with any less than extreme pain, and over a year before the pain was minimal. Then the miscarriage was hard on me, hard on our marriage. Then with our son, I was experiencing extreme pain at first and the midwife thought it was a tubal pregnancy. Later in the first trimester there was spotting, and later in the pregnancy I was dealing with preterm labor. At the very end I was in so much pain in my pelvis because he was transverse that I couldn't sleep at night. I went weeks barely sleeping until he finally arrived 2 days late. Then the afterpains were insane. I was under so much stress, physically and emotionally, that I was still having afterpains bad enough to make me want to quit nursing, as well as postpartum bleeding, until baby was 3 MONTHS old. My husband couldn't figure out how I could possibly WANT more kids after that! When he put it like that it did sound crazy... no wonder he thought a vasectomy would be a favor to me.
After hearing how hurt I would be if he got a vasectomy, he decided to wait a while. I kept devouring anything large-family related. I prayed fervently for him to come around to the idea of more kids! If not an unlimited (or God-limited) number, if not the dozen I'd always dreamed of, then at least, could he maybe agree to just one more, and maybe after a few more years, just one more again? I was willing to take it one at a time, so long as we didn't do anything PERMANENT! One at a time, and maybe after 3 or 4 I really would feel complete and not this constant ache like someone is missing! Just so long as my ability to hope wasn't taken completely away!
To my surprise, out of the blue one day my husband said that he's been thinking about it alot and after growing up with brothers, he doesn't want our son to grow up without a brother. He'd like to try again on the possibility we could have another son. And he said he has been thinking how unfair he's being to agree to 4 kids before marriage and then now he's saying he's done after each one... so he re-agreed to 4 kids. He told me he can't see himself being okay with more than that, ever, but he feels that he did agree to 4 and that siblings would be good for our kids, so we could try for 4. But he wasn't ready to start trying for #3 yet.
I was rejoicing! It was more than I'd hoped for! Agreeing to 2 at once... Wow! And my mom's warning to me in the days leading up to my wedding about coming from a long line of ultra fertile women proved true as the day my husband told me he'd decided he was ready to start trying for the next one, I got pregnant with baby #3. It was my best and easiest pregnancy and birth and she was not as colicky a newborn as her siblings. In fact, everything went so smoothly that we decided we were comfortable letting nature take it's course when she was only 6 months old and I wound up pregnant immediately! This pregnancy was not an easy one. My own health wasn't as great as I thought it was, considering I'd only had 6 months to recover postpartum from the previous baby. My mom was in the final stages of dying from cancer and my parents were on the brink of divorce. The stress was causing preterm labor. When my mom died, I still had 3 months of this precarious pregnancy left and I had to force myself to be emotionless to prevent another episode of preterm labor. Sometimes I would slip a bit, or someone I loved would call me to vent their grief, and as their emotions leaked into my own bottled up ones, I would wind up dilating and praying and taking herbs to stop the labor. It did always stop... Thank God! I never wound up having to have a stitch put in to prevent dilation as I'd feared I would. After she was born, our 4th child and 3rd baby girl, I spent months untangling my feelings about my mom's passing. I'd bottled them up for 3 months to protect my child, and now I could let them out and I didn't know how. It was a slow process but I was finally able to let it out and let it go. However that pregnancy took a heavy toll on me. I lost 3 teeth and nearly destroyed half the remaining ones. I'd never had a cavity, never a need to see a dentist, and then during that one pregnancy, my body was obviously still depleted from the previous pregnancy and I lost the integrity of nearly every tooth in my mouth all at once. I'd gotten a pelvic injury while preggo with #3 that I found out wasn't as healed as I thought when it became a source of great pain during the pregnancy with my 4th. I felt worn down in every way. When this baby was born, she was slower to all her physical and mental developmental milestones. I don't for sure know if the stress on my body and baby was because of the grief, or because of the close spacing of babies. It took me a long time to recover after this baby. Another stressor was that my middle daughter was still nursing during the pregnancy and my body, having otherwise never lacked for supply, now struggled mightily to provide nourishment for both an unborn baby and a nursling.
Throughout the final pregnancy and afterward, my husband kept making a half-serious joke that had me hopeful! He would say things that added up to, "Well we are done now. So I guess if God gives us another baby after this I might have to admit that He wants to be in control of the number of kids we have!" I miscarried again when baby was a few months old. Then when she was over a year old, I got pregnant again. We were no longer allowing nature to take it's course so it was kind of a miracle both times. Sorta. To hear my late mom speak of the family fertility, it's probably a wonder I wasn't preggo more and sooner, prevention be darned! Anyway, baby #5 arrived 22 months after #4. My husband just stopped talking about preventing for any reason other than to get a healthy spacing between them from there on out. I think he gave in, like he joked about, and thought that short of something permanent, if God wants to give us babies there's really no stopping Him! ;) Despite this final surrender, we are still preventing because baby #5 has a severe dairy allergy and we feel that she needs to nurse as long as she can. She's only 17 months old now. We have been trying other kinds of milk. When we find one that she can tolerate, it's possible that I'll wean her right away. Perhaps I'll just nurse her until she's 2 or 3 years old regardless, and then whenever we do wean we will leave things open for the possibility of a 6th child. We know nothing is guaranteed. I feel strangely calm though since our 5th was born. I haven't felt that desperate longing, that emptiness like one of my children is missing. I don't know if it's because I no longer have the fear that my husband will do something permanent, or if it's an instinct telling me that 5 is all I'll have so I'm feeling content. Maybe it means nothing at all. But I'm thankful for it. I think having to continue nursing right now would be less enjoyable if I felt my biological alarm clock screaming at me like I usually do by this time. :) I really do love nursing!
So there is the answer to "Why do you have so many kids?" and "Are you done having kids now?" for me. "But wait!" you ask, "What about all those other questions you had?! Is medical treatment as a whole a sin or what? And all the other stuff? Fertility treatments?" You know, the older I get the more I know that there's much that I just don't know. ;) IOW, I don't have all the answers. I know some things that are pretty obviously wrong, like murder. I don't think I could say that fertility treatments are across-the-board wrong, but I do feel that the majority of people getting them are doing it for the wrong reason. Social perception of children in the birth control era is that they are a commodity, that you DESERVE one if you want one, you DESERVE to abort it if it's defective or if you don't want one, and that you DESERVE the taxpayers to pay for whatever you decide. The Bible says that God opens and closes the womb, and that doesn't necessarily mean He doesn't use fertility treatments to do it, but I'd encourage people to consider their thoughts and motivations when using fertility treatments. Do you feel like this is a medical treatment to correct a medical problem to allow your body to do what God intended it to? Or do you feel like you're owed a baby and if you can't bear your own baby with your own genes then it's not fair? Are you so stuck on that attitude that you've spent or will spend enough money that you COULD have afforded to adopt at least 1 already born, lonely, motherless child, on a gamble that may or may not pay off, simply because you feel that God or the universe owes you a baby with your own genes? There is one type of fertility treatment I'm strongly against in any case. In the case of in-vitro (IVF), YES I do believe it's a sin. You are creating human beings in a petri dish for pity's sake! When you do that, you decrease the odds of survival of each fertilized egg (which is a human child!!), and in most cases you won't use all the eggs in one try. In most cases doctors fertilize many eggs, then implant 3-4 of them and freeze the rest for another try, research, or embryo adoption. Every time the fertilized eggs (HUMANS and ALIVE from conception- from the moment those sperm entered the eggs they were alive and human!!!) are thawed or refrozen, their chances at surviving to be born decrease dramatically. On top of this, if more than 1 or maybe 2 of the eggs implant and begin to grow, the doctor's usual tactic is to advise aborting the "extra" one. And even if you only have 1 or 2 eggs implanted at once or firmly remain against abortion of any "extras" no matter how many are implanted, that doesn't let you off the hook for creating lives in a petri dish and then by proxy sticking the extra ones in a freezer to slowly die. And if you only have 2 eggs fertilized and there are no extras to be aborted or frozen, you are STILL not off the hook for creating those two lives and immediately putting them at risk because risking those children's lives is worth it to you to have a chance at getting the baby that you think God owes you. Yes I'm vehemently against IVF because I believe life begins at conception. If IVF is the only way you can birth your own genetic child, then I implore you to stop worrying so much about whether the child is defective or not or looks like you or not and ADOPT a child who needs a loving family! LOVE a HUMAN BEING. Having a child is not like ordering a look-alike doll from a catalog store! As for vasectomies and tubals and the like, I would feel like doing anything permanent to prevent pregnancy would be a very serious thing. I feel like it may have a place in a medical emergency, but then my mom's situation was a medical emergency, another pregnancy could have killed her, and yet I saw the fruits of a lifetime of misery and regret. I see the Bible as unequivocally PRO-LIFE. If it's not a true medical emergency, I would feel like I sinned if I were to do anything permanent. Temporary though, for the health of mother and child? I don't know. I saw what happened in my case when I didn't space them farther apart. Maybe that's God's job though too. I don't know. So far He hasn't seemed to show me any signs or scriptures that would make me feel like spacing pregnancies far enough apart for the health of the mother and child, and so the nursling can have adequate milk would be a sin. If He's shown you some reasons and scriptures, don't ignore them. It's easy as humans to try to take where someone else is in their walk and use it to justify not doing what we've been clearly shown is right. "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin." That means if you know better and do or don't do it anyway, you're sinning! One thing I'm 100% sure of is that killing people is WRONG, whether they are born or not. I believe that life begins at conception, so to use hormonal birth control now knowing what I know about how it works, I would be possibly taking a human life every time I took the hormonal birth control into my body. So that means that the good I know to do is to not take anything that could harm an unborn child, including hormonal birth control. Ditto for the IUD which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg. It would be a sin for me to use these. I'm not a relativist, I believe that if you know that God is real and believe His Word, if you know anything about the science of how humans are conceived and about the ways hormonal birth control works, then you know deep down in your heart that abortion and taking abortive things like birth control are sins. Not to despair: sins can be forgiven, he has already paid the price! I've asked forgiveness for using hormonal birth control before I knew better. I could have killed my own child(ren) and would never know they existed this side of heaven. Whatever you've done, He can forgive you!