(This post is an elaboration that I started to write yesterday after someone asked a few questions in the comments of yesterdays post that I thought were good, but that I also thought could probably fill it's very own post. Hopefully this clarifies a little what works for our family! It's not meant to be a road map for anyone else, it's just a post on the conclusions that our family has reached for our family and an explanation of sorts that was aimed to answer questions raised both by yesterdays post and that I've encountered in the past!)
There are various groups with various stances on the whole birth control topic among those who self-identify as Catholic and they run through a range from one end of the spectrum to the other. There are those who use birth control and don't know the Church teaches that it's wrong. There are those who use birth control, know that the Church teaches that it's a sin and don't let it effect their decision. There are those who have taken more permanent measures, taking the question off the table altogether. Some come to regret the decision and some don't. And then there are those who've accepted the Church's teaching prohibiting artificial contraception, whether joyfully or fearfully (or with a wide range of emotions in between), who then looked at the other options when looking towards the future.
Some people use Natural Family Planning (NFP for short) to space births, hopefully discerning whether they have a serious reason to avoid pregnancy (I say hopefully only because I was in a group once where the topic came up and there were a surprising number of women who said they had never been told that they were supposed to have any reason whatsoever to avoid. They absolutely seemed very genuine, and I do believe they were, so I thought I'd throw that in here, for anyone who's never heard that we actually are supposed to have a reason...).
No I'm not talking about people who don't use NFP who use other methods. I'm talking about people who don't use NFP or artificial means to space births.
Usually in the little online Catholic world I feel like I have a lot in common with most of my online friends. But I also always feel a little weird when the topic of NFP comes up, and no, it's not because I'm judging you.
It's because people can get kind of disparaging about people who don't use NFP. Somewhere along the line, amid all the cheerleading for NFP, some corners of the internet began to basically see it as a requirement and something that "responsible" people do.
Now let's be clear about this. None of us are required to use NFP. It's just simply not a Church teaching, at all. No matter how much you love it and how great you think it is for your marriage, charts and temps and mucus just aren't something you have to keep track of in order to be in good standing with the Church. You don't need to tell me all the reasons that you think it's super, super awesome. I've read a ton. I know how to use two different methods and I understand how it works. And after much thought and much research and much prayer we don't feel like it's a good fit for our family.
Apparently this makes me a "Providentalist", I guess because there has to be a name for everything. Maybe it makes me a little bit crazy to outsiders when the topic comes up and I finally admit that we're okay with whatever God sends our way, be it 1 or a dozen. In our world, Catholic or not, that is kind of shocking.
Sure there are other choices that we could make that would mean that our lives would be very different than they are now or than that they will be in the future. So far I've never felt like anyone gets less attention than they need, maybe because they're all with me 24 hours a day 7 days a week. They pretty much get all my attention, all the time. They even get individual one on one time when other kids are doing others things that completely occupy their attention.
If we had less children they would likely have their own rooms, but as I listen to Maggie and Sadie giggling at night and come in to find Sadie sitting next to Maggie telling her a story about two princess and a prince that just happen to be named Sadie, Maggie and Patrick, I find myself leaning towards having shared spaces even if we were someday plopped down in a house with many, many bedrooms.
If there were less of us I'm sure I'd be more likely to shuttle people around to competitive sports or various lessons, and I'd probably push more for someone or another to be a prodigy in something, but instead, as time has passed I find that the things that seemed important when I was thinking of being a mom are less important. If a child is interested in something I'll absolutely support that interest, but I'm also not going to let what is essentially a game become the center of our world. God is that center and I want that to be clear in our days and in their structure.
I have heard it said, plenty of times, that God gave us brains and that we should use them to avoid (insert serious horrible thing that might happen) so we can certainly us them to avoid pregnancy. And we can use them to avoid conceiving, if we have serious reasons. That option is left open to us. But it's also absolutely left open to us to not plan these things and to just let them happen in their own time. And I don't think the comparison with any sort of disaster from a disease to a car accident to playing out in the street and being struck is a good one when thinking of welcoming new life, because the life growing within me isn't a disease or a disaster.
After all, it's just a baby (although that too makes me smile to type that as if any baby is ever "just" a baby!). It's not a disaster or a tragedy. He or she is a blessing we can wait to meet. And welcoming this baby is a joy we've been blessed with and is also a part of my particular vocation. The upcoming birth is an eagerly awaited event with the kids dreaming of what the baby will be like and planning daily what life will be like with this new baby sibling that they can't wait to meet.
And as I look forward I can't help but think that God doesn't give us the graces to meet the future until we get there. I'm not being asked to be the mom of ten kids right now, and I may never be. I'm only being asked to be the mom to the ones we have and I've found day by day, that I tend to have only what I need to meet that days challenges.