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A Bundle of Myrrh

"My beloved is unto me as a bundle of myrrh." Song of Solomon 1:13

Fertility Story Series

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 I asked if anyone would be willing to discuss a topic that isn’t easy and share the story of their fertility journey. I have had a very good response from many of you and I’m honored to finally begin presenting some of the stories that have graciously been provided by some wonderful women.  

In this series women with different experiences will share the pain and blessings that the gift of fertility carries with it, in the hope of bringing out God’s grace and promise to those couples struggling to welcome this gift when it is not known how it will turn out in a sinful world. 

Whether the result be a healthy child, a child who goes almost immediately to be with Christ, or there is no gift of life, all women of child-bearing age wrestle with this cross and the unforeseen works of God that are to come.

While we might envy God’s work in another woman or couple, Christ alone designs the cross appropriately for each. To desire to please God in this sinful world will entail suffering. But there is comfort in knowing we are not alone. There is value in hearing each other stories, that while our paths are different, it is still a struggle of faith, which all God’s children share. 

And it is a great comfort to know that God’s love is not found in how many children we are given or have taken from us, but in the saving sacrifice of Christ on the cross and in His glorious resurrection.

Our first story comes from Kelly who wrote her story on her blog Fearfully and Wonderfully Made .

Kelly’s Story

When my husband and I were engaged, we talked extensively about our desire for children someday – both biological and adopted.  We knew the someday would come when we were ready for such a feat, but we knew the “someday” was not as newlyweds.

 I mean, I was in the middle of graduate school.

My husband was relocating to live with me in an apartment the size of our current living room.

My husband didn’t have a job and I was a graduate assistant.

This was not the time.  We both knew it.

So, a couple months before getting married, I talked to a doctor about the best ways to prevent pregnancy once we were married.  The doctor gave me her advice (the Nuva Ring), and told me to try it before the wedding, so my body would be ready.

And I did.

Phew, that was a rough patch in our soon-to-be-married relationship, because I. Was. Hormonally. Crazy.

Throw-the-scrambled-eggs-across-the-room-because-they-made-me-angry CRAZY.  Yes, that did happen.

My fiance gently said, “Honey, do you think maybe you should try something else?”

It scared me how much that drug controlled me, when in fact, I was using it to control me.  That is what birth control does.  You think you are controlling baby-making, but really it is controlling you and your cycle and your emotions and your life and your relationship.

Long story short, we made the decision to just do barrier method for pregnancy prevention.

Something had always sort of seemed wrong to me about using “barrier methods,” but I didn’t exactly know why I felt that way.  As a woman who waited until marriage to have sex with my husband, it just seemed WAY more “I have sex with lots of people so I don’t want their body to touch me” than I was really wanting in a marriage.  It seemed cold and distant…and sort of a passion buzzkill, right?

But, alas, I wasn’t doing any hormone drugs and I was determined to not have babies yet, so barrier it was.

My husband found a job.  I graduated with my master’s degree.  He was accepted to seminary.  We moved to a real adult-sized apartment.  I got a real adult-sized job.

WE decided it was time.  We had always talked about adopting before having biological children.  So, we started down the foster care/adoption road (or more like a dirt path with humongous potholes and giant hills).  We did the classes.  We did the homestudies.  We did the paperwork.  We got approved.

. . . . . . .

Yep. . . just waiting here. . .

All the while, barrier method it was.  We were in control of the situation.  We were trying to adopt a child who needed a family.  We were being good people…doing good things for the world.  And we were controlling the pregnancy situation.

And we were still waiting.  The system is broken.  Adoption is a hard road.  There is so much heartache involved.  But gloriously, then it happened.  A young girl, 13 months old, Hispanic, beautiful.  She was going to be ours.

But, did I mention the system is broken?  She ended up somewhere else.

Insert tears.  Lots of tears here.  The system may have been broken, but it was not as broken as me.

After the shock wore off, my husband and I decided it was time.  We were taking control of the situation, and we were going to get pregnant.  The system can’t take away our conceived baby like it took away what we thought was our baby.

One month later, I was with child.  See, we were in control.  We stopped preventing and it happened.  In our minds, that is how birth control worked.

We told our families.  We prepared our lives.  We ate the right foods.  We visited the doctor to confirm.  We took the right prenatal vitamins.  We were a family of three.  It was awesome.

We walked into that first ultrasound (approximately 10 weeks pregnant) holding hands and smiling.  I had played the whole scene in my head.  I knew enough pregnant ladies and I had seen enough movies to know what to expect here.  A black and white screen.  A round circle with a budding little human.  A heartbeat visible with little lines.  The kiss and smile from the husband.  The “Oh, that is our baby!”  The tears.  The whole thing.  I knew.

Except that wasn’t what happened.  Well, there was the black and white screen.  Then.

Well, then there was silence.

And then there was the kiss from the husband, but no smile attached.

And then there were the tears.

This.  This I did not expect.  This I did not know.

The apologies.  The explanations.  The planned surgery.  It was all a blur after that black and white screen. I was no longer in control of the situation.

Little did I know at the time, but I had never been in control of the situation.  We are led to believe in this “obviously everyone uses some sort of birth control world” that we are in control.  The fact is, the only control we have is the control to prevent or end a pregnancy.  That isn’t control.

Our miscarriage made my whole worldview get flipped.  We did it by the book.  We waited until we were married.  We waited until we were “ready.”  Then, our baby dies.  Let me say it again, THAT is NOT control.

So, why don’t we prevent pregnancy anymore?  Well, there are a lot of reasons.  The biggest reason is because birth control and barrier methods made us sin against the first commandment.  We were not loving and trusting God above all else when we were “controlling” the situation.  We were creating our own god of the family we wanted and when we wanted it.  Every reason we had for preventing pregnancy was selfish.

Do I believe there are circumstances in some marriages which necessitate preventing pregnancy?  Yes.  Most certainly.  But we don’t have any of those and we never have.  All we had were excuses for a lack of trust.

We have now been blessed with three more children (one through adoption shortly after our miscarriage and two biological).  They are all three and under.  I get the usual, “You’re done now, right?  You have had your girl now.  Three is enough.  Your hands are full.” comments.  I smile and say, “We will see what God decides.”

Behind that smile and statement is a WHOLE LOT OF FEAR…

How can I buckle ANOTHER one into a carseat?
Who will help me in church?
What if I am sick for the first 35 weeks of another pregnancy?
AHHHHHHHH…..

I am not without those thoughts.  I live with them daily.  Obeying the first commandment is not something I am very good at.

As a breastfeeding mom who has not gotten her period back, I make it a policy to take one pregnancy test every month.  Breastfeeding and postpartum hormones will get you to believing you are pregnant everyday.  It is crazy what we can make ourselves believe about symptoms.  So, once a month, I wait those three-five minutes.  I go in thinking, “Oh. My. Goodness.  Please be negative.  I need some sleep.  I need a shower.  I need to be able to pee by myself.”  Then, the one line shows up and tells me I am not pregnant.

Something strange happens in that moment.  I feel sadness.  I feel a sense of loss.  And then I know.  I know another carseat will fit in that van.  I know a friend will join me in church.  I know my husband will hold my hair back during first trimester puking.  I know if God so chooses, I will be overjoyed to welcome another life into this family.

Being in control is terrible.  Actually, no – thinking you are in control when you really aren’t is terrible.

So, even though I was never able to meet our first child, Jovi still taught me as much as my other children have.  Jovi changed my view of control.

Read more from Kelly on her blog, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Elizabeth’s Story

My family of origin was my father, my mother, and a younger sister.  My mother had a hard time with keeping her babies.  She lost 9, for various reasons, and growing up we were aware of that.  I think this helped to paint children as a gift, not “a given.”  I grew up assuming it would also be difficult for me to bear children as well.  Difficult, but still possible.  I know that by the time my sister was born, my mother was considered “advanced maternal age” and that she’d already lost one ovary due to an ectopic pregnancy.  Several of her losses were at the end of the pregnancy (one horrific car accident, several were stillborn, etc.) and she’d undergone many c-sections.  The advice of the doctor’s was that her life and health were at risk if she continued to try for more children, so they stopped.

I think we’re constantly being taught something about marriage and children simply from observation.  I don’t remember any particular conversations, but I was so proud of the fact that my parents remained married when my friends’ parents were getting divorced.  (They just celebrated 35 years of marriage!) Although I don’t recall my parents talking with me about marriage and children directly, they did raise me in a Lutheran home.  In our home we read and talked about Scripture often, were encouraged to be in the Word daily, to pray and ask for prayer, to grow in faith. Most of what I learned  about marriage and children was from asking other Christians (usually professors at the Concordia I attended or pastors I knew and trusted) as I matured and was becoming closer to actually being married.  I read a lot too (both Scripture and Lutheran authors and lots of blogs from confessional Lutherans).  Before being married, I would ask and have discussion with my parents about what I was reading and learning.

Before marriage we never put a number out there of how many children we’d have.  We enjoyed talking about future children’s names.  We knew we wanted children, but how that would happen and how many we’d be given were a complete mystery to us.

When my husband and I became engaged, I was told by a doctor that I had some hormonal issues and to be prepared to not be able to conceive and/or carry a child to term.  I was afraid that made me “less” of a woman.  I became angry with God for a long time.  Ultimately, my future-husband and I were already attending adoption information seminars before we even wed.

My parents encouraged us to wait to have children.   Given their difficulties and clear desire for children, I thought that advice was odd. We were married right before my husband’s vicarage and the up-in-the-air nature of our housing and insurance made my mother nervous about our ability to provide for ourselves, much less a newborn.

We did use the Pill the first year we were married.  This wasn’t in an effort to avoid having children, but rather to help my body heal from the cysts on my ovaries SO THAT we could have children.  Looking back, it sounds very convoluted (this was the medical advise I was given and I followed my doctor’s orders. I wish we hadn’t.)

At that time, I talked a lot with a bioethics professor about this “go on the Pill to heal your body” business.  After much discussion, he told me that between my motive (which was to enable my body to have children or at least a chance) and the likelihood of my being able to conceive without this step being very low (I think this was addressing the abortifacient nature of the Pill.  If I can’t conceive without doing this step first, then it can’t act as an abortifacient), that it was an ok thing to do.  I don’t know his entire thought process and I think he saw how much I hoped for children, so maybe that swayed him to say that to me.  But we went with that in mind.

The recommendation was to stay on the Pill for a year to allow my ovaries to heal.  It took some time to get the dosage right but we did do the recommended year and two months after stopping, we were pregnant with our oldest daughter.

As soon as our daughter was born, we didn’t want to go back to doing something that, although it may have been helpful in enabling us to get pregnant,  also prevented us from receiving more children.  After she was born, I think we thought more about the possibility that the doctor’s were wrong and we could conceive just fine without using the Pill. It took time to grow in faith, to let go of some of the anger I carried at the thought of not being able to have children, to relax into the not knowing.  I wish there was a helpful something (conversation or book or blog), but I don’t recall specifics.  Just time for our heads and hearts to shift.

There is a four year gap between our first two children and I wonder, often, what would be if we hadn’t spent that year under the Pill.  That was a long, hard time of waiting, praying for contentment, whatever the circumstances.  We started to look into adoption again, and then we were pregnant.  I really thought it was a miracle!  I thought, “Look at how much God loves me and cares for me, His daughter!  He’s blessed me twice; He’s done what doctor’s said were impossible!”  When we lost that baby due to miscarriage at 9 weeks, my world was rocked.

I struggled with depression and anxiety in the months following.  I struggled to reconcile my feelings about our perceived second miracle and what did it mean that that miracle died?

Especially after our loss did I feel convicted about not using any contraception.  It was easy to not use it when we weren’t getting pregnant, but after the miscarriage, we both wanted as many children as our Lord would give us.

Notice in all of this that I keep saying “feel”.  We were very experience and emotionally driven, but those things inspired us to investigate further.  I started reading lots on other Lutherans who welcomed however many children the Lord gave them.

It took time and a very dear pastor/professor gave quite generously of his time to help me process it all.  By the time our middle daughter was born, a lot had changed for my husband and I.  We confess, loudly, that the proof of God’s love for us is not in our children, but in Christ alone.  Christ, hanging upon the cross, is the clearest, firmest “proof” of God’s love for us and we cling to that.

We may still adopt, we may be given more.  I don’t know.  As a person who likes to KNOW, I’m learning to be content in this area.  I learn daily to trust that what has been given to us is what is supposed to be for our family.  I am thankful that we do not use any contraception now; I know that we aren’t missing out on a blessing.

When I was growing up, I never felt as though I was good with children.  I never thought I’d want children (mostly because I feel inept as a parent and I still have those insecurities).  I never knew what our future would hold and here we are with three children born unto us.  I view my children as gift and I am humbled that God has entrusted them to my care.

I would like to add, here, that although a gift, that doesn’t equate a possession.  I am prone to thinking of them as “mine” when in truth, it is far greater blessing to know our children as belonging to the Lord.  I pray daily for the Lord to sanctify my efforts as a mother, to continue in His steadfast care for them, in body and soul, despite my sin.

I would also add (especially for those who are barren or struggling after a loss) that although children are a blessing, they are not the means by which women perceive God’s love for them.  That is known solely through Christ and His great work for us.

My advice to women who are marrying, is to not do something they may later regret. Don’t assume you will be able to conceive.  Don’t assume that being open to children means that you’ll receive them and if you are given loads of children, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to stand up under it.  We accepted a lot of “this could possibly be ok” and we complied in my doctor’s suggestion.  But we do regret it.  That year spent under the Pill always makes me wonder if we would’ve had more children had we not delayed intentionally.

Life is hard and messy.  We live in a broken, fallen creation.  Things don’t go as planned or as God designed them to go.  Sometimes our bodies work and sometimes they fail us.  So often, especially in this day and age of Pinterest and Facebook, our identity gets caught up in how well we can do something, how much we can do and of course this translate to fertility, ultimately. There is a slew of books about how to become pregnant, controlling your fertility, etc.  but the truth is that God alone is in charge; we aren’t.

Our identity is bound to Christ in our baptismal waters, not in our ability to bear children or rear them with Mary Poppins-esque skill.  Knowing, in all things, to whom we belong helps tremendously.

Marie’s Story

I am the second of two children, the only daughter. As a child, I begged my mom to have more children. (I had no idea the strain it might have put on her or her marriage, as I now believe she wanted to have more children, but my father did not, and my mom also had some mental illness.) Growing up, I always wanted to have a “large” family, but never really considered what that meant. I dreamed of marrying a pastor, and being a stay-at-home mom while teaching full-time at the Christian Day School. I’m not sure I ever realized it wasn’t possible! Maybe it was the “women can have it all” culture talking!

I remember often wondering why some families were smaller and some were larger, but never really asked anyone about it. I also remember being extremely confused as a 5 year old when an unmarried woman we knew became pregnant. I didn’t know that was possible! I’m sure in confirmation class (taught by my father), adultery and fornication were specifically addressed, but I don’t recall those conversations.

Also, I’m sure in talking about boys with my mom, she would say something about “saving yourself for marriage,” but it was all much more vague than we talk about it with our own children. As for the birds and the bees, my parents handed me a book about it when I was 6 or 7, and I was shocked and disgusted about the whole thing, and couldn’t believe my parents would do such a thing! Looking back, I’m surprised I had such a drive and desire to become a mother, because so much around me urged me that the teaching “ministry” was the most important calling for a woman, and there were not that many women around me who had larger families. I can see now that God put that feminine drive in me!

On our second date, my husband brought up the topic of birth control. (We were on the fast track to marriage, and he didn’t beat around the bush!) He didn’t want to influence my ideas, so we spent a few minutes writing down what we each individually believed on paper and then compared our ideas. All I knew was that children were a blessing from the Lord and I dearly wanted to be a mother. I also wrote that once at a county fair, I’d picked up a brochure from a pro-life group that said that the pill can cause abortions, and I’d always wondered about that. My husband had gone to graduate school at Notre Dame and had thoroughly discussed the issue with many traditional Catholics (who opposed birth control). We mutually decided to take an NFP class and that’s what we’d use to “space” our children.

It never occurred to us that we didn’t have to space our children and could leave the fruit of our union in God’s hands. When we discussed having a “big” family (as if it was really up to us!), we always settled on 4 children. Then, one day, we saw a photo of a family with 8 children, stair-stepped from biggest to littlest. We loved it, and started saying 8 kids (still thinking it was in our control)!

At the time we married, my husband was a professor at the college where I was a student (hence the fast-tracked marriage… no need to wreck either of our reputations!) I was at the top of my class, and still had two years of studies left. My parents didn’t say a thing about kids, one way or another. My husband’s parents, insisted that I would finish school before children, because of course, it would be ridiculous for a PhD to be married to “only” a high school graduate. That played into part of our thinking. The pastor who did our marriage counseling also told us that it was okay for us to wait to have children. At that point, we were already taking NFP classes, and we disagreed with him because of the methods he suggested.

As a girl, I thought of “having a child” as a decision to be made– as if children were possessions to have if you wanted, and avoid if you didn’t. “To each her own.” Now, as an adult, I realize the precious gifts they are truly are, and how not everyone who wants a child can have one. I also believe the children are the natural fruit of the marital act, and should be a married couples’ expected “default”, rather than others assuming a couple will “wait” a certain amount of time before the “right” time to have children.

The burden of proof for birth control rests on those who tout it, rather than on those who choose to accept the blessings of God as they come. As a couple, our views have also changed. When we began our marriage using NFP, it was extremely difficult to wait 7-10 days to come together as newlyweds. (Maybe now, 10 years into marriage, with babies waking up at night, toddlers bed-wetting, and children with nightmares, it might not be so hard to wait! It was definitely a frustrating period of our marriage. But any other method of birth control was very much against our conscience. So we stuck it out.

But we still felt that we were in “control” of the situation.  After our first daughter was born, we were relying on ecological breastfeeding to naturally space our children. I was struggling with post-partum depression (and didn’t know it— I just thought motherhood was simply awful), and had it been up to me, I would not have chosen “now” as the right time to have another child. But God is good, and gave us our second child anyway (who, incidentally, reset my hormones and snapped me out of the PPD)!

After her birth, we decided that unless we had some terrible circumstance, we wouldn’t use birth control or NFP to space children, but would just take them as God would give them. Which was terrifying for me, considering my first two were only 19 months apart. I’d regularly do the math, realizing that handing over my fertility to God might mean 17 or more children!!!! But, with God’s perfect timing, our 2nd and 3rd children are exactly 2 years apart (we get lots of comments about “our” good timing!), and our 3rd and 4th are almost 3 years apart.

We’re nearly to my 4th’s 2nd birthday, and I’m aching to be pregnant again, a feeling I never knew I’d feel, after being scared and nervous about conceiving another child “so soon” in the past. We also had a miscarriage in between our 3rd and 4th living children. That, again, put us in our place with feigning control. We can’t choose to bring a child into the world. They are gifts from God.

When we were first married we used NFP, and that was mostly because we didn’t ever consider that “not planning” our family was an option. That had never been brought up to us as an option. Perhaps it was also convenient considering that I had wanted to finish school. But to us it was “use NFP” or “choose an immoral method” like hormonal methods that can cause abortions, or a barrier method that we felt would break the 6th commandment and come between us. I think my husband and I have always been on the same page with each other regarding this. We have been each others’ main influence and sounding board, rather than being influenced by parents, friends, or advertising.

We hope and pray we will never be given a serious enough cause to consider permanent child prevention. I would find it very very emotional and difficult to know I was pregnant with or nursing my “last” child.

We have been blessed with 4 children, but we did lose one child through miscarriage, and have just barely touched on secondary infertility after our last child. I have had 10 cycles now, and still have not conceived. It is bittersweet. There were other times in our marriage where I would have been so grateful to have 10 cycles without conceiving! But now, I ache to grow another baby! How fickle my heart is, and how good is God!

We plan our lives around our children and our family, rather than planning our children and family around our lives. We do not plan anything farther than 9 months in advance, because we don’t ever know if we will have a new baby during that time. We are constantly reevaluating the needs of our children and rearranging our home and schedules to meet those needs. My husband and I are really unable to have “individual” lives/careers because of the needs of all of our young children (4 of them 8 and under). We really live as a family and try to work through problems as a family, rather than having competing self-interests.

This lifestyle has allowed to us to easily consider bringing my mom with dementia into our home. It’s not as if she we cramp or change our lifestyle, or like I will have to “give up” any of my own interests to care for her. Yes, it will be a challenge, but she’s another person who needs care, just like our children. It’s not really an amazing sacrifice, as some people seem to think it will be.

“Children are a gift from the Lord”. God said it, and He will make it so. He didn’t offer conditions on this. It’s not as if children are a blessing from the Lord when the following circumstances are met. They just are. We never say “no” to other blessings from God like patience, generosity, or love, so why should we say “this isn’t a good time” about children?

I want other women to know that even though I think living a non-contraceptive lifestyle should be the default, I’m NOT judging them for their own decisions (as I have often been accused of doing). God has not called me to make those decisions for you. As a sister in Christ, if you confide in me or ask for Biblical counsel, I will do my best to give it. If you are using contraception and your conscience is good before God, you don’t need to worry about what “I” think! But if you are concerned that I somehow seem to be judging you, perhaps you are not really all that confident in your decision. You don’t need to justify your decision to me, only to God.

I just wish that the people of God who had these convictions would have taken me under their wings and taught us and gave us reading material so we could think about such things. I aim to do that in the future, as we are able. Even though my husband and I are often uncomfortable, we try to talk frankly about these things with our children. Reading through the Bible offers lots of good examples for discussion about adultery (David), rape (Tamar), abortion (child sacrifices to Molech), and best of all, how Christ has loved the Church, and given Himself for it!

Mary’s Story

I didn’t grow up in the church and I don’t remember my parents ever talking about “family life” (we never ate together or spent time together), so I am not really sure where my ideas came from except the Holy Ghost and faithful Christian friends. My neighbors, a barren couple, were the first people I ever saw love and respect each other and it was with them that I first went to church.

When I chose my college, I wanted a place where this new Christian faith would grow and the professors were a big part of my reason for attending the place I did. I honestly don’t think I thought much about the future–other than desiring to have sex! I didn’t think about contraception or having babies…so I don’t know exactly what I was thinking.

One professor in particular took me under his wing, brought me around his rich, lovely family life, and there I caught a vision for the beauty of family. It was in stark contrast to my family, who had also been broken by divorce that year. I don’t know what he was referring to exactly but one day, in his office, he threw a book or paper down and said, “I’m tired of this modern birth control culture.” “What do you mean?” I asked. I had no idea what he was referring to…I didn’t really know how people just had two kids–but that was all I ever knew growing up so I didn’t question it. He must have said something about marriage and babies going together, and that made sense to me. From that time on, when I spoke with men that could be future spouses, this was the first question I brought up. “Are you willing to have whatever babies God gives?” It broke up more than one courtship.

Through my own research, I’ve been convinced of the evils of contraception in society–abortifacients, but also its link to porn, infidelity, divorce, etc.

When my husband and I married, I was 28, so I knew there was no reason to wait to have kids, nor did I think that right to do anyway. We were as open as could be, and over the moon about getting pregnant on our honeymoon. People (my dad, family friends) did question the wisdom of getting pregnant so soon. Did we really know each other? How would we afford it?

And then our world was shattered when our baby was born with a major genetic defect and spent months in NICU before dying. Hadn’t we been faithful? Hadn’t we done the right thing–waiting to have sex before getting married, and then being perfectly welcoming to any children of our union?

We were eager for more, though my body had been very stressed from grief, and I wasn’t able to conceive right away. I had two healthy babies with a miscarriage in between, but never tried to prevent a baby and were always happy to find out we were expecting.

Our 5th pregnancy was just months after delivering our 4th. That baby ended up with major, life-threatening birth defects, including two surgeries. Due to the stress and need to get some things under control (he doesn’t sleep much/well) we are abstaining to give us some time to recover and him time to learn to sleep. And since I have a tendency to make sick babies I well know that I could have more hospital time ahead. That’s hard on my family who has no family around to help.

We are not abstaining permanently; just catching our breath for a few more months. We are open to more children and if God doesn’t bless us with more biologically we will probably adopt. Meanwhile, we recognize the connection between sex and babies and respect that. We have found lovely ways to connect as we wait and are always reevaluating whether the waiting is too difficult.

Rebecca’s Story

I was born the 10th child out of 12. I always knew that I wanted a lot of children, like my parents.  I married my first husband and we waited for 3 years to have children.  Then after our daughter, he did not want any more.  We later divorced and I thought that I would only be blessed with one child.  It made me very sad.

I married my second husband and we had a son. (We talked about the fact that we would not wait to have more children, if God would so bless us.)   I felt like I was given a second chance to be a mother again.  Our son died from Congestive heart failure at 4 1/2 months old.  I felt like I was being punished for my past sins and that maybe God thought that I was not a good mother.  (I know that Satan was planting those seeds of doubt and unbelief in my heart, but it still crept in).  My husband and I both knew that we wanted God to make the decision of how many children we should have and how spread apart they would be but it was scary to think that we could have another child with a heart defect.

We then went on to be blessed with another daughter and two more sons.  During this time,  my health started to suffer a little.  I had a stint put in my aortic valve after our fourth child was born.  After our 5th child, I had to have open heart surgery.  We were told that we had two choices.  One was to have an animal valve put in my mitral valve or to have a mechanical valve.  With the first option, I could have more children, but most likely I would have to repeat the surgery in 1-3 years.  With the second option, I would need to be on a blood thinner that would be a high risk for a baby.

We talked to others and prayed about it and decided that God had given us five children and we could be thankful for that.  We felt that by getting the mechanical valve, I could be a better mother to the children that I already had.  We also found out then that because of my families heart history, we had a 25% chance of having another child with a heart defect.  I am glad that I did not know that after our second child died.

After my surgery,  we decided to have my husband have the procedure done to prevent any more pregnancies.  Our initial thoughts, when we were first married, was to never do anything that would prevent us from having more children. My physical health changed that whole plan.

There were times that I was so sad to think that my baby was my last one.  I do know that now I am content with the beautiful family that God has blessed us with.  I truly feel like children are a gift from the Lord and that God allowed my heart to be okay through five pregnancies and deliveries.  I hope to hear other stories and hope that you all can read each of these stories with an open heart.  I know that I do now.

 Ewe’s Story

Looking back a few generations, my grandma came from a family with 3 sisters and a boy that came to live with them before the days of official adoptions. After 10 years of marriage God opened my grandma’s womb and she had 4 children in 4 years and then her womb was closed. I thought her family was perfect because she had 2 boys and then 2 girls so everyone had someone their age to play with. I can’t imagine how busy she was with 4 young children before the days of washers and dishwashers. Two of my grandma’s sisters had children when they were in their mid 40s, but my grandma had her last at age 36.

My parents waited 4 years of marriage before they had me. Then they waited 7 more years before being blessed with my sister when my mom was 38. My parents had some friends that were Roman Catholic and had several children. Once when we visited them I said, “They ought not have so many children.” My mom stopped me then and told me children were a blessing. My parents would have loved to have more children if God would have granted them. I knew my mom was against the pill for health reasons and I grew up knowing I would never use it.

 When Ram and I went through premarital counseling, the pastor had us take a compatibility test. The pastor said he had never had a couple that came out so similar. We both grew up in Christian families and both sets of our parents had been married about 30 years when we were married. We had spent much time talking about our future life together. Our biggest disagreement was that I wanted 4 kids and he wanted 6.

When I was single I had a friend that was married but they did not desire to ever have children so they did NFP. When we were finally married after a year engagement and both in our late 20s, neither one of us wanted to do the barrier method. While we were engaged and living long distance apart, Ram and I each read about NFP. When we were first married we loosely practiced NFP. The biggest reason for this was I felt responsible to continue my teaching job until he graduated from Seminary and we would move. It was not for financial reasons. It was not because we wanted time together before children. NFP seemed good because I wasn’t taking hormonal birth control; it was free; I could continue teaching; and when he graduated we could start our family right away.

We loosely practiced it and would have kept any children if I would have become pregnant then. It was a blessing to not worry about being pregnant or not pregnant each month as a newlywed. I never purchased a pregnancy test while we did NFP. I did learn a lot about my body and how my body works during those days of NFP. Sometimes I wonder if we would have one more child if we hadn’t done NFP at the beginning of our marriage.

As engaged and then newlyweds, I don’t remember anyone telling us either that we should wait to have children or start our family right away. I think all our family members trusted us at that point in our lives to make our own decisions. A friend of mine said she would give me 6 months of NFP before I would be pregnant. But that didn’t happen. I quit charting after we moved to Ram’s first job and the very next month I was pregnant.

I was hospitalized for a week with extreme morning sickness. Other than that it was a normal pregnancy and easy birth. My son was diagnosed with milk soy protein intolerance and we had a very rough first 2 years of his life. I don’t know how in the middle of that I got pregnant, but I did. Shortly after my son’s first birthday I had a miscarriage. I was not prepared for this after the first pregnancy went so well. Since we had already told friends and family that I was pregnant, we had to tell them that we had a miscarriage. I was surprised then how many women told me that their second pregnancy was a miscarriage.

After the miscarriage we had two more boys. With both of these pregnancies ultrasounds and blood tests prepared us for possible complications or birth defects, but both of them were born healthy and normal. My third son was born when I was 34. Even with the miscarriage I took my fertility for granted then because when we stopped NFP I was pregnant immediately and we had 3 children born in 4 years. Now I am 40 and we have 3 boys ages 10, 8, and 6 and a total of 9 miscarried children in heaven. I have been pregnant at least once during every calendar year from 2003-2014. (My 3 boys are spring babies so that put me pregnant in two years for each of them.)

Through our marriage I have done everything that I think is morally acceptable for pregnancy. Ram and I pray about this continually whether I am pregnant or not. I attend church regularly and take Holy Communion when it is offered. I have done everything the doctors have told me to do before and during pregnancy, even shots twice a day. I eat healthy (mostly gluten free) and drink filtered water. I take prenatal vitamins and baby aspirin daily. I actually think all this is the reason why it is so easy for me to get pregnant. Ram and I have never “tried” to get pregnant and yet I have been pregnant 12 times in 12 years of marriage.

After some of my miscarriages I found out I have a blood clotting disorder (Factor II). This could become serious and even fatal when I am pregnant or if I were on hormonal birth control. I am so thankful that I never took any kind of hormonal birth control. Young women are warned about possible side effects, but they think it will never happen to them. But you wouldn’t know if you have a disorder until it is too late.

God has granted me 3 boys to raise here on earth and the rest of my children are in heaven with Him. This is not easy. I could write pages about the inconveniences and grief all these miscarriages have caused me. I’m sure some of my friends wonder why I haven’t done something to prevent pregnancy especially now that I’m 40. As much as I complain to God about having a miscarriage one more time, I have no regrets. I do not think there is anything I could have done differently. That means more to me than if I would have “gone on with my life” a few years ago and declared my family size was complete. It is also amazing to me that someday I will be surrounded by a dozen children in heaven. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all boys and I thank God that He took care of 9 of them so I didn’t have to raise a dozen boys!

Even though people didn’t speak to us about fertility as newlyweds, recently I have heard from people that know about my miscarriages. Some think it would be ridiculous to have another child now that our youngest is 6 and I am 40. From talking to friends I think this is a common American way of thinking-both newlyweds and older women should take birth control. When your youngest is school age, why would you want to do diapers again? When you are past age 35 your baby has a higher chance of birth defects. There are many other reasons given.

Psalm 127 was read at our wedding. I often felt that my quiver was not full and I got to the point that I hated this Psalm. I did nothing to prevent pregnancies and yet it looks like my quiver is so small compared to others. The devil is so good at tempting me with facts that remind me that I don’t have very many arrows in our quiver. We live in an area surrounded by many people in religions that have large families. I almost cry when I am asked how many children we have. That is a normal simple question that I am asked frequently. I want to answer that I have a dozen children so people know that we did not do anything to keep our family size small. Our kitchen table seems to be missing one child because only 5 of the 6 chairs are filled. It is very difficult for me to accept that my 6 year old was the last child that I nursed.

As a pastor’s wife I am reminded by members and visitors almost every Sunday how much of a blessing my boys are. Most of those people speaking to me have no idea that I have 9 more children in heaven. When I attended the He Remembers the Barren Retreat last July many of the women there had no children. They couldn’t imagine having many miscarriages. They reminded me that it was a blessing to be pregnant 12 times. I’m sure I have many friends that don’t understand my desire for more children when I have been blessed with 3 boys.

It has been a long road to realize that only God can control my fertility. I have repented for taking my fertility for granted. I have repented for hoping to not get pregnant as a newlywed. I know that God knows the future and will work my future to His glory. I do not know when my last pregnancy will be or if I have already had my last pregnancy. I know that God has the best in mind for me even when it does not look that way to me. I am so thankful to God that none of my miscarriages have had complications that made this physically difficult.

If I was talking to a woman about to make choices about her fertility, I would ask her to think seriously and have a very good reason for doing anything permanent. We have no idea what the future holds. Your circumstances can change in an instant.

One of my friends had the normal American family of 3 children and had her tubes tied. Then her husband left her. When she remarried she would have loved to have another child with her second husband. He accepted her children and then grandchildren like his own, but he missed out on their first years before he was in the picture. At the age of a grandpa he was teased about how many diapers he changed and he was sad to answer none. Another friend with many children lost her husband in an accident and then remarried. Many friends that had children in their 20’s and thought they were done had another one in their late 30’s and are so happy to have one more. Some friends had no choice but to do something permanent because of medical reasons and this has caused much grief.

I would also ask her to think if she does something permanent whom else it will affect besides herself and her husband. You hear stories on the news of women that carry babies for their sisters because their sisters can’t. Will your parents be disappointed to have no more grandchildren? Will your daughter miss having a sister? Would your teenagers be great big brothers? Will your best friend be caused grief knowing that you did something permanent by choice while she battles infertility? You also do not know what the future holds for the children you have now. Many parents bury a child before they go to heaven themselves. We just don’t know the future and if we will later regret a permanent choice made now.

If I would speak to a newlywed couple, I would ask them seriously think and talk together before using contraception. Please don’t use contraception just because that is the normal American way for newlyweds. In my opinion, no job (for either spouse) is worth trying to prevent a pregnancy. Finances will work out. You will get to know your spouse even if you become pregnant on your honeymoon. It is very easy once you begin contraception to take years before you feel ready to have a baby. You could want to financially be ready; have some time alone as a couple; get to that point in your career; finish school; and the list could go on and on before you are ready. It may be too late to have children if you wait until you feel ready. Please trust God to provide for you even if you don’t feel ready to start a family yet.

If I were to speak to a woman that had children with closer spacing than she would have liked or had many children, I would ask her to not take her fertility for granted. Just because you have several children now doesn’t mean you need to plan ahead to buy a bigger vehicle yet. You may be like my grandma and have your children quickly and then your womb may be closed. There may be a medical reason later that means you have no choice but to close your womb. It takes two healthy spouses to make a baby; you can’t take it for granted that you will both be healthy in the future.

If I were to talk to a woman with a baby that is screaming in the middle of the night and she doesn’t know how she is going to make it through the next day with her toddler, I would tell her to cuddle that baby and be thankful for him because it may be the last baby that she rocks to sleep. If you see a + sign on another pregnancy test, don’t assume that you can’t handle one more child. God will provide what you need and when you need it, please trust Him.

I don’t say this without knowledge of how hard it is. I had extreme morning sickness with my first. After he was born he never slept more than 15 minutes at a time for his first 2 months of life. I also lived through terrible morning sickness with 2 toddlers. Also remember that a positive test doesn’t always mean that you will be blessed to hold a baby that cries in 9 months.

I have many friends that had a baby or adopted after many miscarriages or fertility problems. From the outside it looks like they went through hard times but then they got their happy ending. Some times I wonder where my happy ending is. I have struggled through 9 miscarriages, isn’t that enough? I don’t know anyone else that has had that many miscarriages. Then I remember that I have a wonderful husband and 3 boys. My boys are even more miraculous after I found out I have Factor II.

My happy ending has nothing to do with how many children I took to the baptismal font. My happy ending is because of Jesus’ resurrection. Every day I can thank and praise God that He safely brought me to another day to live out my baptismal life in Christ. I continue my vocation of wife and mother while I keep my eye on eternal life in heaven.

God has granted Ram and Ewe with 3 Lambs to raise into young men. You may read more at Ewe’s blog at Day by Day, at Home, Away.

Bridget’s Story

Before my husband and I got married, we assumed, as society expects, that we would wait a little while before having children. We both felt strongly against hormonal birth control, but we decided on the use of a barrier method. However, after we got married and began praying about this issue, we both felt convicted that we needed to trust the Lord in the area of family planning. The more we searched the Word, the clearer it became that the Lord sees children as blessings, and desires His people to be fruitful. We conceived our first son a month later, and he was born exactly ten months after our wedding day.

His birth was unexpectedly dramatic, with an emergency c-section and a ten day NICU stay ensuing. It was difficult in so many ways and threatened to shake our resolve, but after much prayer and being so in love with our baby boy, we determined to stay the course of trusting the Lord. I was breastfeeding and I expected that to delay my fertility, but God saw fit to open my womb again when our son was only three months old. Our daughter was born exactly twelve months after our son, a planned VBAC turned forced “elective” c-section. I was devastated that I wasn’t allowed to try for my VBAC. I developed postpartum depression and was overwhelmed recovering from major surgery and caring for two babies. I absolutely could not understand why God put me through so much trial when we had been trying to do the right thing in trusting Him. This time our faith truly was shaken, and we decided to use Natural Family Planning. 

NFP has been a paradox in many ways. On the one hand, learning about my body and cycles has been one of the most awesome and empowering things I have ever learned. But one does not need to practice NFP in order to learn one’s body. Whereas we had once trusted the Lord with the timing of conception, NFP gave us a sense of “control.” Though it is morally more acceptable than methods of birth control that risk aborting a newly conceived baby, it is the same as other methods in the sense that it seeks to work around God’s natural design for sex to make babies. This is where I see our thinking has become warped by the culture. We want sex, sex without “consequences” aka babies. So we pop pills or put barriers between us or chart our cycles.

Can God work around these methods? Absolutely, and sometimes He does. But if we truly believe Him when He says babies are blessings, why would we do everything in our power to block them? It’s a slippery slope. Although at the time I was passionate about using NFP because I believed the surgeries and the depression were serious reasons to prevent pregnancy, as I look back I see how double-minded the contraceptive mentality is.

Trusting God with our family size is an ongoing struggle because it requires faith. It also requires having an eternal perspective, and that is something that is difficult for our human minds sometimes. In the spiritual realm, children mean blessings and rewards and legacy. In the physical realm, it means morning sickness and sleepless nights and sinful natures.
It’s sacrifice in every sense of the world. And it’s a very visible sacrifice, which means the world sees it and doesn’t like it. Dealing with sarcastic and hurtful comments from others, many of them Christians, is a big and intimidating part of welcoming more than the average number of children. The fear of being different, of breaking away from the “normal” and embracing what the world calls “burdens” can be crippling. When did we become so afraid of babies? Walking around with a pregnant belly and little ones in tow clearly proclaims that we love life, and that is a message that not many in this anti-life world want to hear. It is a struggle to call “good” what the world calls evil.
But beyond the struggle, there is freedom. There is peace. There is joy. There is freedom from having to rely on our own fallible wisdom, freedom to enjoy the gift of the marriage bed with no guilt or restrictions, freedom from the stress of trying to control what was never meant to be “controlled.” There is peace in knowing that our life, our family is in the hands of the Creator of the universe, whose wisdom is infinitely higher than ours. And there is joy, so much joy in welcoming these little lives, these precious souls who have a unique purpose in this world and will live in eternity.
Even though we have once again chosen to trust our fertility to the Lord, I try not to say that we want a large family, or that we want only a certain number of children. Because the truth is that we don’t know what our future holds, and no one else does either for that matter. Perhaps our youngest now will be our last, perhaps we will be blessed with more. The important thing is that it is in God’s hands, not ours.

Leigh’s Story

My mother said she loved children. She wanted lots of them. But she had only two for reasons due to her own depression and anxiety she suffered. She was sure she couldn’t “handle” more than two. She had a boy and a girl, so I guess that was the perfect time to stop. I don’t remember ever talking about children and how many a couple “should have.” I only recently learned that she originally wanted several. My mom’s two sisters each had two children. On my dad’s side, his sister had two and his brother had five. To me, at that time, that was large family.

I never thought about how many children I wanted to have, only that I wanted to have them. I remember watching my mother’s reaction to a friend at church one Sunday when she confided in my mom that she was pregnant. I baby sat for this family and was thrilled that she was expecting number three. My mother gave no congratulations, though, only sympathy. I was confused by that but did not ask for an explanation. My guess is that there were financial strains on the family. My mother also gave a deflated, “Oh no” to me when I called her with the news of baby number three years ago. I was shocked by that. She was thinking of the financial strain on the family and the emotional strain on me, I can only assume. I had a new life growing inside of me! Her grandchild, even! I expected excitement; words of congratulations, not sympathy.

When my husband and I married we talked about having children, that we wanted them, but never specifically how many. I thought three might be nice. A bigger family, by my standards. Maybe even four, but that might be pushing it. But what did “pushing it” mean? Pushing what? Pushing the patience I would have for my children? Pushing the seams on the family wallet? Pushing the size of a home we could have? We never talked about it. We just had an idea that two or three kids would make a good family for us. I never even considered being pregnant beyond three. As if being pregnant more than three times was alien. Strange thoughts.

I did take the Pill and after a couple of years I stopped because we decided it was time to have a baby. God decided otherwise. I could not get pregnant. I tried the popular ovulation drug, the name of which escapes me. I went to a fertility clinic and had many uncomfortable tests done. We went to seminars and started talking about adoption. Friends told me to stop worrying about it. Easier said than done. I remember being on vacation one summer and my husband and I made a decision on where to draw the line. We drew it at IVF. I don’t know what drove us to stop before that procedure, but we were firm about it. We did not want to try IVF. I’m glad we made that decision.

Several years later we were blessed with a pregnancy and we couldn’t have been happier. The pregnancy was a good one and we had a healthy baby boy. But again we waited longer than we wanted with number two. Eventually he came and we rejoiced again. My husband wanted to stop. No more, was his wish. Our home was very small at the time, as was his salary. My emotional state was challenged, to say the least. I was experiencing the same depression my mother suffered. What he was saying made sense to me. We never talked about letting the Lord decide, as He had so obviously done with the first two. But I still had the urge for just one more.

Low and behold I was pregnant before number two was out of diapers. Due to health concerns he was to be delivered by C-section. My husband and I spoke, and decided three should be it.

So I had a tubal at the time number three was delivered.

My stomach flips now, thinking about that. I’ve talked about it, confessed it. But reading it. Reading it makes it final. I have suffered waves of guilt off and on for the past 9 years because of that decision we made together. My husband and I both have experienced the feeling of someone missing from the table, the room, our lives. It’s strange. I wonder who he or she might have been.

The guilt I felt was due to the decision we made in God’s place.  We decided we were done having children, rather than letting Him have His way with our family.  I was too scared of the possibility, as was my husband, of having more children than we could handle.  The guilt was due to a lack of trust in our God, although we did not see it that way at the time.

So for anyone considering the option of having a tubal, or even of your husband having a vasectomy, I would ask that you please pray about it first.  Talk about it a lot. Talk about all the possibilities; the possibility of having more, of having none.  Talk about the possibility that you might be making God’s decision for Him.  Talk about your fears.  Because from my experience, that is the only thing that caused us to decide in favor of a tubal for me.  Our fear of having more children than we could handle.

From Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”  This verse has been a steadying word of comfort for me through so much.  As we have children, or don’t have children; as we raise many little ones, or only a few…He has our life plan in His hands.  I rely on that fact.  I rely on the gifts of salvation each Sunday morning.  I rely on God’s forgiveness and His mercy.  And I rely on friends who are in similar life situations.  We remind one another of God’s goodness.  His mercies are new every morning!

Sarah’s Story

I come from a tricky background. I have three brothers, only one of whom I really knew, and two sisters, again, only one of whom I really knew.   Each of us, also had the pleasure of having a different father. Told you it was tricky. My brother and sister that I knew, were 20 and 16 years older than me, so I was pretty much an only child, just the three of us. Step dad, mom, and myself.

Unfortunately, my mother has been through 6 marriages and I was her last baby. She never really discussed ‘when you have children’ or ‘when you get married’. And she was really the only one that would have talked to me about it and didn’t. Personally, I didn’t see myself being a mother until motherhood happened. After that, there was no way I could think otherwise.

My husband and I were brought together in marriage because we were having our oldest child. I was a strapping 18 years old when we got married, we were both super nervous and glad we had support from some of our family members. In the beginning of our marriage, between children, I would get on ‘the pill’, but after our third, after we started getting more biblical views on the gift of childbearing, I stopped using it all together.

As my husband went through seminary he gained a deeper realization that God is the God of the living and He is the God of Life. During this time it was either passages he would read in class or those we looked at together when we read the NT that made him more certain of this understanding, that we are put on this earth to be fruitful and multiply in the name of God as is said in Genesis. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

He also had conversations with a fellow seminarian about birth control pills causing abortions which we were worried about, so we stopped and our third child made her appearance. My husband and I began talking more about the issue of birth control and together we came to the conclusion that God will let us know when we are done. We decided to simply leave it to God. It’s not our place to say how many children we are to be blessed with. If we are not to have anymore, then He is doing so with good reason. If our views had not been changed, we might not have had our last three children. What a loss for us. What a blessing from God. At first, I was unsure of having a LOT of children. But the more I was blessed with, the more I fell in love with the role I was given.

When I had Mara, my 6th child, I was in labor for two hours. I’m a fast deliverer. I don’t play around. With six kids, I’ve had overall maybe 15 hours of labor. Mara decided to make her debut a little more … What’s the word ….. memorable? I was 9 cm dilated when the doctor broke my water. Then he said, ‘That’s not a head. That’s a hand. And she’s holding my finger.’ So they prepped me for a C Section, not as bad as you’d think, I’m a baby and if I can have one, you can, and they cut me open.

Easy peasy right? No. Mara was sideways. And her head was stuck. My uterus contracted on her head and they couldn’t get her out. So they had to make another cut. That extra cut, with the birthing of six children, has, in no kind words, beaten my uterus up. And if I were to conceive again, my uterus would rupture, resulting in immediate death of the baby, and a 50% chance of death for me. So at the moment, we have to use contraception.

I have struggled. It’s been easier for a little while, but then I’ll donate Mara’s clothes that she’s already outgrowing because I’ll never need them again. It’s not that I’m not happy with what I’ve been given, and trust me, I feel like a whiny two year old not getting her way, but in the words of Ariel, ‘I want mooooooooore’.

The gift of life is a beautiful thing. The kick you feel in your belly. The heartburn (I had a love/hate relationship) you get when you even drink water. The feeling of a newly born babe on your chest feeling the breath of life from them. It’s hard to believe, but I now understand what a barren woman feels like. I can have no more children. Yes, I got to bear six. But the fact that I will bear no more is heart wrenching.

I will bring forth no more life from my womb. I won’t need little socks anymore. I won’t need diapers when Mara is done with them. I won’t need a crib around anymore. I’m not ok with it yet. But God is good and we trust Him.

My husband and I always said, when He says we are done we are done. So now we must pray for comfort and understanding. Pray for the peace that only He gives knowing that he knows better than we think we know.

I pray a lot for forgiveness for my selfishness, and for Him to ease the pain of my ache along with the ache of every barren woman. It’s a tough situation sometimes. But it’s getting easier every day.

I have six children, but I am medically barren. I have not lost the feeling, yet, of wanting to have more children but I have recently had to deal with the feelings of being barren. I have cried for barren women everywhere, because I can’t even imagine never having been given children. I have been blessed with six of God’s creations, but I can receive no more of His gift inside my womb.

My life now, is full of chaos, crazy, little feet running around, new milestones every day, and an almost teenager devouring everything in his sight. When I hear the words  “Children are a gift from the Lord” I smile and nod with a fake smile on the rough days, because yes, there are rough days. And on the good days, which outnumber the rough days, I smile and feel joy outpouring and overflowing from my heart. I have been abundantly blessed with children.

Andrea’s Story

I was born into a family of 2 children. In a way this did affect my decision on how many children I wanted to have. My sister and I were 6 years apart and I was lonely when I was little and always wanted more siblings. We had very few cousins as well.

There was not really a time in my girlhood or teen years that I was taught anything about marriage and children. I’m pretty sure that my mom and I would talk about things here and there but no sit downs, etc. Just in passing.

At the time my husband and I decided to marry we did want children but the number was undefined.

My parents would have preferred us to wait because we were 18 and 20 when we got married. My in-laws were all for children right away. In the little bit of premarital counseling we received, we touched on the topic of children but since we both wanted children and were on the same page, we didn’t focus on it much.

Our feelings on this topic since we were married 17 years ago are much different now than they were then. Back then, we just knew we wanted children and more than one. We assumed it would be easy to conceive and we would use contraception in between children (we were not avid church-goers at the time) because we wanted to be somewhat prepared when we had each child and we didn’t want 10 kids by the time we were 30.  A lot of whatwe wanted.

So, we had our first 2 children (in 1999 and 2001) before I was 22. I never felt quite done but was overwhelmed with 2 little ones less than 2 years apart and finding it necessary to work full-time outside the house and go back to college to get the degree I never finished. When my husband came back from Iraq in 2005, I just had this overwhelming desire for more children and our girls also wanted more siblings. After talking, my husband reluctantly agreed and 3 months later, we were pregnant with daughter number 3, born in 2006. Our second child was then 5 years old.

We make light of the decision for a 3rd child. My husband wanted a semi-truck and I wanted a baby, so he gave into me because I let him start his trucking business. However, I remind him that we still have the baby (now almost 9 years old) and he does not have his semi…so I think I got the better end of the deal.

Our first 3 children came as we could have expected. No issues conceiving, using contraception in between.

Then in 2010 our lives changed by going to seminary. By February 2011, we decided to let God’s will be done without us interfering with contraception. We conceived our 4th child by April 2011. This child was stillborn in September 2011.

In January 2012 we conceived our 5th child, a son, who was born that October and died that December 2012 due to a heart defect. Our 6th child was conceived in January 2013, but was a 5 week miscarriage. Our last daughter, our seventh child, was conceived in September 2013 and born in May 2014.

The month before I found out I was pregnant with her, I was finally allowing my heart to come to terms with the fact that maybe we would not have any other children. Nine months to conceive isn’t a long time compared to some but for us, it was a long time.

After losing 3 children and this being a tough time on my body and emotional state, I had my tubes tied and feel very comfortable with my family being complete. But I will say that having my tubes tied was a mistake. Not because it is keeping me from having children. We would welcome any additional children. But because of the additional medical issues it has caused for me.

Deciding to have a tubal was difficult in some ways but when we decided to have the last baby via c-section because we were worried for her safety. Our previous full-term baby was born via c-section because of a heart defect that was so severe that natural labor and delivery would have been life-threatening. We almost did a VBAC with our last child but my anxiety and my husband’s anxiety was so high that the c-section just seemed like the best for us emotionally at the time.

We had buried 2 children in the previous 2 years and lost a 3rd to miscarriage before our last daughter. If I had not already been open on the table with the c-section we probably would have had my husband get a vasectomy instead but since I was already having the abdominal surgery we thought it made sense. Both my husband and I again were in agreement and felt like our biological family was complete but would be open to adoption if the Lord lead us that way.

I was never a very sexual person prior to the tubal but after the tubal all desire is gone. I feel awful for my husband because he feels like I am rejecting him but I am just so uninterested in sex and it is uncomfortable as well. This is so extreme for even me. It is taking a toll on our marriage.

At the same time, the other physical issues I am having is increased weight and girth around my stomach that just won’t stop. This gives me another issue because I feel awful about myself as well and along with this last baby I have the worst sleep deprivation which has added to the weight issues as well. I was just trying to get through our newest daughter’s 1st year and praying that she got a little less clingy at nap time and bed time and would sleep without being held. But at the same time I was cherishing her clingy-ness because she was my last baby.

Children are a gift from the Lord…no matter how many or how few you are given or for how much time. Everyone’s story is different and we can learn from them all.

Jane One’s Story

I grew up the second of three living children. I’m the half sister to a fourth child (the oldest) who never got to see the light of day. She/He was killed in the womb shortly before my oldest sister was conceived. My father had gotten his girlfriend pregnant and she chose to end the pregnancy through abortion- much to his dismay. Shortly after that he was in another relationship with my mother that resulted in a wanted pregnancy. My parents married before she was born and after that my mother gave birth to two more children. After I was born, my parents started attending church and did so throughout my childhood. I was raised in a home that was adamantly opposed to abortion due to past scars and new beliefs. But I think the connection between biblical love and a Christian marriage somehow never connected. A few years into dating my mother pulled me aside and told me I should try not to have sex but if I do, to use protection. So, their beliefs on sex in a nutshell.

I married at the age of 21. We were still in college and so we were very careful not to get pregnant. I was on birth control for 2 1/2 years. I didn’t feel super comfortable with it but I believed I was doing what was right. Our society has engrained in us the “right” path in life: Get into college, get a great-paying job, get married (if you’re into that), and have children after you have saved enough money to never go through a difficult time. Make sure you are financially stable! After being on the pill for awhile and having a lot of mood swings as well as reading the latest studies linking long-term birth control use to infertility and cancers, I got off of birth control.

We switched to non-hormonal forms after that. My husband was attending a Presbyterian seminary and so it was still “bad timing.” It wasn’t until a doctor told me I would have a hard time getting pregnant due to very irregular periods, that we decided we would get off everything completely. We figured it would take a few years. I got pregnant that month. I was pretty excited. I’ve always wanted to be a mother. After the birth of our son we prevented children for a short time so as to space our children out.

Our daughter came 22 months later. It was during this time my husband and I converted to Lutheranism (formerly Presbyterian) and my husband was told he should go to seminary again-this time as a Lutheran. We were already taking care of two kids and finances would be tight so we made the decision to make a permanent fix to stop conception. My husband made an appointment for a consultation but the doctor called us with concerns. My husband was only 29 and he really didn’t advise getting this done until at least 30. He agreed to at least meet and talk it over but it was enough to scare us off for awhile. So, we resorted to non hormonal means of preventing children again- mainly through barrier methods.

With babies being born left and right at seminary, I started to get the itch. I wanted another child but my husband was not on board. He feared it would take too much away from his study time and be a financial burden. After awhile, he agreed to at least stop our current form of birth control and see what happened. Once again, I got pregnant pretty quickly. I was excited but when I told him he didn’t seem too happy. In fact, he was upset. His reaction crushed me but soon our third child was born, a second girl. We were done. God was not.

During vicarage, a friend of my husbands challenged him on his beliefs regarding children. He pointed out verses like Psalm 127:3-5

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

He also pointed out that until the 20th century, preventing children was considered a sin cross-denominationally. After a lot of study, my husband came to the conclusion we should not prevent blessings. I remember the night he came to me in tears-repenting of his former beliefs and reactions. I was moved. I was up for another child and we soon became pregnant again. This time, it was met with gladness. Only, I was so sick. I get pretty sick every time I’m pregnant. Puking everyday and several trips to the ER are totally normal. But I realized this could go on and on for at least another decade. I wasn’t on board anymore. I told my husband this was the last one and my body could not go through it again. Reluctantly, he agreed to use non-hormonal birth control again. I know he was praying for me and I was very aware of his love and patience during this time.

About a year later I had one of those “ah ha” shower revelations. Probably because those are some of the only times my life is quiet enough to think about things. I realized I was trying to take control of my life and fertility and the conviction to give God the reigns was overwhelming. I talked to my husband and we stopped preventive measures immediately.

Our fifth child came about 15 months later in December of 2013, followed by our 6th child in December of 2015. I have to say, giving it over to the Lord was so freeing. It’s not to say we haven’t struggled but I’m truly okay with what God has in store-even desiring more children. But giving it over to God didn’t mean it was all easier. It just meant that my ever-changing emotions no longer dictated our resolve. Some days are harder than other. Some days I don’t “feel” like I could take another, but we have left that up to the Lord. And I can’t help but daily thank God for these children that almost never existed due to our obstinacy. I’m just so crazy about them! I know children are a blessing and I hope God sees it fit to continue to fill our quiver. To God alone be the glory.

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