I was reading a post over at the wonderful DanielleBean.com.In this post she responds to some female readers who are on the fence about having a 3rd, 4th, or 5th child. Danielle ponders why this topic seems to come up again and again and then answers her own question by saying:
The reason this topic is so dear to our hearts, I think, is because it is one of the most obvious ways that Catholics are counter-cultural. It makes us stand out. Most of our neighbors aren’t doing it. And being open to life happens to be particularly life-altering as well.
I mulled this over for a little while and I think she is right. Larger families are a counter-cultural witness. My wife and I are expecting our 5th child in 7 years in just a few weeks. Honestly, we don’t think much of it. We have always been in agreement that we would joyfully accept whatever God would send our way. This is our accepted way of life because we try as best we can to trust God with our fertility.
I will hit upon the witness aspect of larger families in a moment, however I wish to quickly comment on the trust aspect of fertility and family size. My wife and I are no different from most other families. We have the same concerns over money, room in the house, and saving for college that all other families have. We have no special trick for affording a larger family, other than trust. God has always made it work before and I am sure that he will continue to do so. This trust is amazingly liberating. We simply don’t sweat it. It is amazing what trust can do.
Back to the counter-cultural witness aspect of having larger families. I refer only to the concept of having a “larger family” rather than a “large” family. Frankly, I don’t consider 5 children as a large family. If my wife and had met when we were a little younger, we would most certainly have significantly more. However, this is not the view of the rest of the world.
This fact has been recently reinforced for me. The company for which I work is currently going through a merger with a large competitor. As a result, I have had the privilege of working closely with many new people and it seems that I am meeting someone new all the time. This introduction frenzy has highlighted something that may have otherwise gone unnoticed by me. (I am quite oblivious at times). Many times I have been introduced by various people in this way.
Introducer: “This is Patrick Archbold, he is the director of blah blah. “
Introducee: “Hello. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Introducer: “Patrick is expecting his fifth child!”
Introducee: “Really?! Wow!”
To the introducer, my family size is a noteworthy piece of trivia requiring immediate full disclosure. Oddly, upon learning of my fecundity, many people are then completely liberated to give me all the gory details about their reproductive lives . “Two was plenty for me, I got the ol’ snip snip!” , “After I delivered my last baby, I told the doctor to tie up those tubes while he was in there!“,”This shop is closed!“, or the ubiquitous “I’m done!” Even more remarkably, people often feel strangely comfortable opining on my situation. “Are you Crazy?! Ever hear of birth control?“, “Can’t you stay away from your wife for a few minutes?” or some such silly thing. I have learned to roll with such comments and try to offer my little witness along the way.
Curiously, the real interesting responses are usually the people who say nothing, at least at first. Several times these non responders have privately approached me later and said things like “I think it is great that you have a large family. I am from a family of five myself. My spouse doesn’t want anymore but I still think about it sometimes. I would love to have another one, but he/she isn’t too keen on the idea.” The source of the reticence is usually money or stuff. (I thank God every day for my wonderful wife and her openness to life!) I usually follow up by speaking of the blessings associated with children and how my wife and I just trust God to take care of our needs. After some more polite discussion the conversation ends, but I can see that the idea is there. The seed is planted.
When things like this happen, I feel privileged that in some little way I have been a witness for my faith. The counter-cultural nature of my larger family is a conversation starter that God can use for His higher purpose. Perhaps one day a child will be born because of it. How cool would that be? In the meantime, I am enjoying the realization that I am counter-cultural, who knew? Now where did I put my Birkenstocks?