How to Tell People You’re Probably Not Done Having Kids (And 3 Reasons Why The Method Works)

My husband Shannon and I are the blessed parents of two little girls.  Abigail, our oldest, is three years old and her younger sister Madeline just turned two.  Life is full of sippy cups and tricycles and laundry piles of vibrant, juice-dripped 3T clothing.  I wake up early and go to bed late to make time for homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and quality time with my husband.  Actually, Shannon and I have a pretty great little “quality time” vacation to look forward to coming up!  We’re taking a toddler-free, overnight trip to enjoy some room service at a very expensive, top-rated establishment.  Incidentally, the establishment is a hospital and the room service will be limited to to nursing staff and my obstetrician.  Oh, and the bed is only big enough for me and our little newborn son who will arrive midway through our stay.  When we get home from our “trip,” we’ll have three kids ages three, two, and newborn.  Parenthood: when giving birth is a destination vacation.  

The future big sisters

The future big sisters

As I excitedly prepare for the day of our son’s homecoming, I am struck by the realization that my idea of a tiring day of homemaking is about to be changed completely.  Think it’s hard to meal plan, sort laundry, or plan preschool lessons now?  Add a nursing, fussy newborn to the mix and I’m sure I’ll look back on these days and laugh at myself for ever feeling overwhelmed.  As my father has been diligent to remind me, “Two plus one somehow does not equal three.”  (Thanks, Dad!)  There are challenging days ahead, but we truly look forward to them with joy.  If there is one thing we’ve learned about parenthood, it’s that the exchange rate of hard work for love is worth every sleepless night, missed shower, and stack of neglected dishes.  As a third-time mom, I’m blessed with this foreknowledge. :)  Children are worth it!

Shannon and I have gratefully accepted our three children as blessings from God.  From the earliest days of our engagement and through nearly six years of marriage, we’ve been committed to allowing God’s providence to determine the size of our family and when each child would be born.  When we became Catholic in 2012, we were thrilled to find the fulfillment of our convictions in the ancient teaching of the early Church and through the beautiful encyclicals of Pope John Paul VI and humanae vitae (of which openness to life is emphasized as a primary act of faith for married couples).  Like with so many other aspects of Catholic theology, we “came home” to the fullness of truth for what we already knew to be God’s plan for married Christians: to be fruitful and multiply – to allow for God’s hand in marital love.

And so, with two toddlers running around us and my obviously pregnant self announcing to the world that we are about to add another to this mix of controlled chaos, we’re frequently asked a common question: “Are you ‘done’ after this one?”  

Me @ 34 weeks with #3, due 5.9.13

Me @ 34 weeks with #3, due 5.9.13

It’s a fair enough question.  We live in a culture where having one child is wonderful (and it is), having two children is adventurous (and it is), and having three children is downright ambitious (and it is).  Three children, especially three young children, seems to be a commonly accepted “max out” point for today’s family.  Relatively few couples even discuss having four or more children.  So it came as no surprise to us that people were curious about our future reproductive plans (especially after we announced that our third child was a little boy).  The first few times someone asked if we’d be having more kids, I stammered a bit with a vague, “Yeah, probably, maybe in a couple years…” and tried to change the subject.  Why was this so hard to answer?  Almost all of the people asking were just genuinely curious (if not being a little intrusive), and as far as I knew none were planning to go on a tirade about irresponsible environmental stewardship or anything like that.  I brainstormed possibilities for the best response to these types of questions and made a mental list of both politically correct and snarky answers to draw upon for moments of interrogation.  I wanted to be prepared for this question, darnit, and I wanted to appear to have it all together while simultaneously proclaiming that “Yes, we expect more of this.”  I wanted to be The Winner of The Argument if someone was looking to pick a fight about it.  And now, after months of prayer and reflection and googling, I have determined the #1 Best Way of Telling People You’re Probably Not Done Having Kids:

Blame your Catholicism.

Please forgive the anticlimactic nature of this unclever and non-witty response and consider three reasons why using your faith as a scapegoat reigns supreme in the market of other ideas:

1. It’s Honest

When someone like a casual friend or fellow mom at the playground asks if you’re done having kids, it makes little sense to say “no” but lie about your reasons why. “I just love changing diapers!” is not realistic and nobody will believe you anyway.  Use this opportunity to tell your friend or acquaintance that your faith is important to you in a simple and up-front way.  When someone asks if you’re done having children, try responding with something like “Well, we’re Catholic, so we’ll always be open to another child.” It doesn’t have to be a big production – just an honest glimpse into your convictions.  Depending on the situation, your response may lead to further discussion between you and a friend that may have otherwise never come up.

2.  It Tells the World That Catholics Still Believe This Stuff

Our family of four on a recent (real) vacation.

Our family of four on a recent (real) vacation.

Due to many factors, many modern American Catholics actually reject the Church’s unwavering belief about the grave sin of contraception use.  Many of these Catholics are genuinely unaware that the Church even teaches against contraception anymore!  One solution to this grievous reality is for devout Catholic families to provide a witness to the world about God’s design for marriage.  The next time your family pharmacist is filling your perpetual prescription for prenatal vitamins and asks if this is your “last bun to be baked” (as mine did recently), smile and try something like, “Oh, we’re Catholic, so you can hope for lots more business from me over the next decade or so!”  If you’ve been blessed with many children, citing your Catholic faith is a great way to remind others that Catholicism, the largest and most unified faith in the world, still professes that children are a blessing from the Lord.  Pope Francis is doing a great job and all, but we have a responsibility for properly articulating the faith too!

3.  It Makes People Less Likely to Argue With You

Once in a great while, a Catholic will encounter an argumentative person who advocates for “responsible” family planning: small families, childlessness, population control, etc.  From what I’ve seen of these folks, the debate fizzles quickly once the antagonist learns their opponent is a convicted Catholic.  Catholic parents of large families have endured much sacrifice for their convictions already: multiple long pregnancies, sleepless nights, financial pressure, hard manual labor, stress…  The next time a raving environmentalist is trying to shame you about your breeding (almost always online, of course), laugh loudly and say something like, “I’m a Catholic parent of ___ kids.  You can’t scare me.”

A far less hostile scenario may play out during a discussion with your medical provider.  Though I’m only on baby #3 and have never encountered this issue, I’ve heard stories from other mothers about doctors who are less than supportive of multiple pregnancies, pregnancy past a certain age, or even natural family planning (which is an effective and licit method of achieving, avoiding, or spacing pregnancies according to Catholic teaching).  Try explaining to your caregiver that you’re Catholic and wish to remain open to life for the duration of your childbearing years.  Even if he or she thinks you’re a religious fanatic and disagrees with your choice to embrace your fertility, your doctor must still respect your decision, especially when your faith is concerned.  If they are disrespectful or dismissive, find a new provider who will accept you – and your convictions.  As for me, I recently told my obstetrician that I’m a devout Catholic “and will probably be seeing you frequently over the years.”  She laughed and wrote it in my chart as her reminder not to bug me about contraception at my postpartum visit.  She’s great (and now I’m not nervous for that discussion).

So there you have it – three reasons why using your faith as a scapegoat is an effective way to answer questions about your family planning (or lack thereof).  Here is one additional important reminder for using this method: always strive to convey the joy that comes with having many children.  If you’re at the grocery store and tired, half-dressed, and ready to lose your mind at six children running rampant in the aisle around you, it may not be prudent to respond to someone’s commentary about your family size (however stupid it may be) by blaming your convictions with an exasperated sigh of misery.  It may be honest, but it’s not good evangelism and it definitely isn’t likely to do anything other than confirm the world’s opinions that the Church is a woman-squashing institution concerned with nothing more than growing their membership through aggressive procreation.  Sharing your faith through faithful marriage and parenthood means keeping your own attitude in line with God’s.  And isn’t that something we should be doing anyway?

7959_10101115511852409_1554951137_nBecause I know that some clever visitor to my blog will now ask if we’re done having children, I’ll reveal my honest answer: we are almost certainly not done!  Not only do we remain open to life, but it would seem that we are blessed with very healthy fertility as well (to say the least).  We’re also hoping to adopt someday if God opens those doors for us in the future.  I’m blessed to look forward to our family’s future with only mild trepidation.  ;)

Well that’s enough blogging from me for one day.  The girls are on their fifth episode of My Little Pony and should probably be eating something other than Easter candy for lunch.  I also have that vacation to pack for…

Leave me your feedback!  Do you have a large family (or do you hope for one)?  What kind of response have you found helpful when dealing with questions and comments from others?  

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45 Comments

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45 responses to “How to Tell People You’re Probably Not Done Having Kids (And 3 Reasons Why The Method Works)

  1. Loved this! And I was starting to get a little jealous of your upcoming vacation until I realized that I am having one too….

  2. Kallie

    This makes me so happy and so sad at the same time. After years of birth control & failed first marriage where God was far from the center of it, my new husband and I are ready for more children. (You know I already have 1) We have been ready from the moment of ‘I do’. We had prayed & talked & prayed some more and decided our Baptist religion & God’s leading was telling us to be a birth control free family- forever. Now almost 9 months into the marriage, God still has not given us a baby. That’s not to say He won’t. I know His timing is perfect, but I can’t help wonder it if all those years of birth control had something to do with it. I’ve spent hours googling and researching the side effects of bc & usually end up in tears. So many friends are pregnant & I truly am happy for them, but never the less, after every phone call or trip to get a pedi where they start off with “I have great news” I know as soon as I hit my car or hang up, the tears will start. Children are a blessing- everyone of them! Here’s to you & your family & a God who is full of love! Can’t wait to see pictures!!

    • Hi Kallie, I’m so sad to hear that you’re struggling with this. You and Nate are such wonderful parents to your daughter and I know that any other children you have will be blessed beyond measure to call you Mom and Dad too. Before I got married, I was on the pill for medical reasons and quit right before our wedding. We didn’t conceive until the time of our first anniversary and I too wondered if the medication didn’t have something to do with it. The worry was intense. I’m praying with you that you’ll soon have happy news to share!

    • Shannon

      Consider looking into NaPro. It is a great way to comprehensively evaluate your fertility with a NaPro specialist so you can see what is going on. There are a lot of great success stories with them. Google things like “NaPro” or “Pope Paul Institute/ Dr. Thomas Hilgers” for more information.

  3. KJL

    This is an excellent post! Though it may take some courage, this honest answer is truly the best of them! I anticipate getting this question too many times now that we have a daughter and will be having our son in September. “One of each!” They’ll say, “so I guess you’re done!” Um nope. Not even close. I’m not in charge of that answer.

    After I miscarried our second child, I can’t help but KNOW that each child is truly a blessing and a gift. Thank you for this post!

  4. I come from a family of 11 kids and I now have 4 of my own. I’ve heard this question so many times! I think you provide a great response and rationale for it. My usual response is: we are open to God’s will, but we are hoping for a breather right now. :) We also really hope to adopt someday. Thanks for writing this lovely piece. I think I’ll go tweet about it. :)

    Oh, and prayers for a safe and beautiful birth!

    • I like your phrasing of “hoping for a breather.” :) That’s where I’m at too. I’ve been either pregnant or nursing for five straight years now and while I’m not one to complain about it, I do wonder if some bodily autonomy might be nice for at least a couple months! Thanks for tweeting me and also for your prayers!!

  5. Elsie Morrissey

    It was great seeing you and your family at Easter Mass yesterday. My daughter has 5 children and in the past 3 years has lost 3 children through miscarriage. She had funerals for them and buried them with her husband’s father who died about 5 years ago. She visits their graves often.
    We are praying for you at the Thursday night prayer group at St. Paul.
    Your advice about family size was correct and inspiring!

  6. Darlene

    Beautifully-written! I definitely chuckled about your upcoming vacation plans. :-) Yep, my last vacation was nearly 2 years, 3 months ago = Luca’s birth. And in my experience, your Dad is correct!!! One, two were a breeze for me (personally). I lost a few marbles at three. :-o BUT, I wouldn’t change a thing. We’ve definitely grown in so many ways.

    • Yes, my dad has a tendency to be correct about these types of warnings, lol. I struggled after #2 because I couldn’t multitask. I think I’ve gotten much better though, so maybe #3 will be my “personal best.” We’ll see!

  7. Marca

    We have 5 children we got to keep and 4 that we lost almost before we knew they were with us (early pregnancy) and one of my answers to those questions was “We are perfecting the process…. when we get a perfect child, we will stop!” My youngest takes great pleasure in reminding me of my snarky reply! One more reason to cite your faith as the basis of your love of large families!!! My other reply was “I am one of 5, my husband one of 11, my parents are from families of 12 and 14 kids. I LOVED growing up with more cousins than I could count!! Why would I deny my kids that same joy?!?”

    • I love that response! And yes, I can see how your youngest would love it too (until, of course, a “more perfect” child comes along). Ha! I’ll keep that one in mind when my girls get a little older. ;)

      I’m the oldest of three and I too loved having siblings – especially now as an adult. I think siblings are a true blessing to one another just as they are to their parents.

  8. Just found this post on twitter (thanks, Micaela!!) and I’m in love. I also have 2 and 3 year old girls and a 5 month old little boy. I just did a quick scan of your info on the left and I’m also a Catholic revert. So basically you need to join my bff club :)
    This post is fantastic – I have read plenty of funny suggestions on how to respond to these types of questions/comments and while they are chuckle worthy, this right here is SPOT ON!!

    • So nice to meet you Jamie! I’m looking at your icon picture to the right and thinking to myself, “Wow – that’s what I’m in for in just a few weeks here!” BFF club indeed! :D Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you found the post helpful.

  9. Please keep having kids. We need more educated loving parents to have more kids. Keep the faith!!!! We only have four but most people think we are crazy. God Bless you!!!!!

  10. NJ Kim

    We’ve actually had the opposite reaction from people! When our 3rd child was born (all girls!), I didn’t even make it out of the hospital before people started asking if we’d try again for a boy. (what a slap of disrespect for the little life I just brought into the world, suggesting that because she’s a girl, we’d have to try again to get it right!) My husband’s response to the nurse who first asked the question and then my response ever after is “No, but maybe we’ll try for another girl!” That shuts them up!

  11. Love this! I also found this via twitter – we currently have 4 kids, ages 3, 2, and 4-month-old twins. My immediate reaction when we found out (at 30 weeks) that we were having twins was, “WE ARE SO DONE HAVING CHILDREN!!!”

    Then my husband reminded me that that’s not our call to make… And that I’m not allowed to make decisions like that in times of stress :P

    But we’ve definitely gotten the “Are you done yet?” question, and “No… We’re Catholic.” has definitely been the easiest answer for people to digest! What I find strange is that they often find it necessary to ask what my husband does. He’s a lawyer, which apparently they find agreeable (not that he makes as much money as people *think* lawyers make, which is why I’m still working…). But I wonder, if I answered that he’s a teacher (or a garbage man or a cashier or someone that didn’t make much money), would I have some argumentative folks telling me that we don’t have enough money to raise our children? It’s just such an awkward conversation to have, and one I try to avoid with people I’m not close to – you never know if a couple is struggling with infertility and is TRYING to have more kids but can’t…

    I’m definitely ready for a little bit of a break – I’ve been pregnant or nursing (or both) since 2008!

  12. Love this! We also like to take those questions as a chance to point back to our faith. Most people have looked at me like I have three heads when I tell them we are leaving our family size up to the Lord though.

  13. Tiffany

    For any questions that catch me off guard, I try to remember to say…”Why do you ask?” It puts it back on them and they usually realize that they have probably crossed a line in asking you.

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  15. ark and dove

    A mother once told me, quoting her own mother–“You have one–you take him and run. You have two–you make do. You have three–you stay where you be!”

  16. David & Maria

    When my wife and I had two girls we were asked “are you done?” many times. We had switched to NFP by then and our answer was “one day at a time” and “never say never”. Then we had a boy. Well then the comments were “you got your boy” and I would answer (fed up by then) “he needs a brother”. He has a brother. We stopped at four, two girls and then two boys. Serious reasons to pause at four, some chances were taken, nothing happened. We have four. All teenagers now: 20, 18, 16, and 14. We are in the college years. So far so good. God will provide. Christina and Shannon, God Bless, we wish you all the best.

  17. gradchica

    When I told people I was having a second boy, I got a few pitying comments along the lines of, “Oh, too bad, you won’t one of each.” As if I were only allowed 2 children–getting 2 boys meant I “lost my chance at a girl.” Hah. I’m pregnant with #3 now–boys are 3.5 and 1.5–and I’m not sure if finding out if #3 is a boy or a girl will make the comments worse. If it’s a girl, clearly I must be done. If it’s a boy, will I still “try for a girl”? Bah. The “is this one planned?” comments started coming much more with #3, too…I’m sure those will only increase with #4! Usually telling people we hope for at least 4 children leaves them too baffled to speak.

  18. Dr Justin

    Your answer is similar to mine. When people ask how many kids we have I say: “4…so far”. The response is always the same: “so far??? You’re having more???” And then I respond: “well, we’re Catholic, so you never know!” I think it’s important to let the world know that there are Catholics out there who actually try to be Catholic. Btw, we found going from 2 to 3 to be challenging and from 3 to 4 to be relatively easy.

  19. Martha

    This is great! As a mom of 4 with a non-Catholic husband I get this question all the time and usually stumble through my answer. I usually end up saying something stupid like “My husband always tells me he was done at 2…but I keep talking him into more so we’ll see :)”

  20. motheroffive

    Cradle Catholic, oldest of ten children, mother of five-three birth children and two adopted with special needs, hoping God blesses us with more! I love the look on everyone’s faces when they find out how many children I have and even more so when I tell them my husband and I embrace God’s plan for our marriage. Never miss an opportunity to plant those seeds, especially when so many are unaware of church teaching. God Bless!

  21. Shawna

    Sometimes, people start asking the “are you done yet?” question even earlier. After two heartbreaking miscarriages, I finally had my first child when I was 36. i was astounded when my doctor casually asked if I wanted him to tie my tubes when I had my c-section. We were surprised at all the post-partum booklets that heavily advertised long-term birth control, with a heavy message that babies mess up your life. My husband said, “It’s like the world is saying: congratulations on your baby, now knock it off!” Many people are surprised that we would like more children, and cite both my “advanced age” and my bipolar disorder as reasons I should go on birth control or have my tubes tied. And explaining we’re Catholic doesn’t seem to help – the only people we ran into that even knew NFP wasn’t rhythm redux were a nurse-midwife and a lactation consultant!

  22. Melissa

    We are a large Catholic family & your answer to the constant question, “are you done yet?” is superb. I have used it, but I think I will use it more in the future. I am currently pregnant with our 10th baby (13th pregnancy) in 15 years. We have 8 daughters & one son, I am 41, so I’m guessing we are nearing the end, but I am still stumped when people who actually know us & our convictions ask the question.

  23. Amy Voorhees

    I have 5 boys on earth and 3 children in heaven. My first little girl was lost recently at 20 weeks when she got tangled up in her umbilical chord. Naturally I have the built in “we have to work to get that girl!” answer but truthfully it hurts knowing we do have a girl and two additional children waiting for us in heaven. I still struggle with what my answer should be. In the past I have said we are open to whatever God’s plan for our life is.

  24. carriekwi

    I am expecting number 8 and if it makes you feel better, somewhere around number 5 people stop asking. They just assume you will. No more “announcing” your news… a year or two passes and your friends and family start to express surprise their you aren’t pregnant!

  25. We may be living somewhat parallel lives…this September we will be celebrating six years of Holy Matrimony and baby #4 is on the way. It’s funny, I always call our trips to the hospital our almost kid free vacation. They tried to kick me out early last time and I said no. There was no way I was giving up a day of meals and pain meds being delivered to me and resting without worrying about kids or the house. Especially where I am (so cal) 3 is definitely the most acceptable max. Close family members temper their congratulations with “good luck paying for college” and “you do know you can can stop this, right?” I am going to start saying “I just can’t keep hubby off me.” Congrats-hope you h ave a smooth delivery.

  26. Heh, I’m an agnostic who would prefer to eventually marry a Catholic woman. That seems to confuse most of those few to whom I mention it, but one of the explanations they seem to accept fairly easily is that I want a large family, and Catholic women seem more open to that. There’s more to it than that, but it is part of the reason and it seems to satisfy their curiosity in the matter. Imagine, though, how puzzled they look when I add that I’ll be raising any future children of mine in the Church as well…hahaha.

    I still say Christina’s husband Shannon hit the nail on the head rather hilariously when describing their birth control method as “Catholic Roulette.” I about wet myself when I heard that, hahaha.

  27. Jenny

    I always say, “We’ll see!” And it’s true. God has not guaranteed us more pregnancies, or a bigger family. I haven’t done anything to guarantee another pregnancy won’t happen. I have no idea what the future holds. I take the kids one at a time and don’t even think about the hypothetical “next one” until my fertility returns (usually 18-24 months poatpartum because we breastfeed ecologically) So… We’ll see!

  28. L.R.

    How funny, we have two little girls, and are soon to have a boy as well! We’ve received lots of “you got your boy/done now/etc” comments as well.

    I usually just say “why would we deny him a chance at a brother?” or something along those lines. Of course, then people assume we’d stop at 4…

  29. Shannon

    I don’t have kids yet, but my husband and I have been asked when we plan to have kids. I don’t think it is terribly appropriate to ask that, because it’s a loaded question. Your answer will either tell people that you are struggling to get pregnant, OR you are trying not to, and then they will have something to say about your use of NFP if you get pregnant right away. I choose to just say, “I’m open-minded about kids”. it’s kind of hard for the person asking to get all judgmental about that answer without really sounding like a jerk. Also, it seems to keep people from probing further into the topic of your fertility!

  30. Joanne

    I found your post on The Pulpit. Great post. I always tell people that this is what marriage really is. Marriage is accepting what is given to you. It is true that most people quit questioning after your family gets too big. We have five children, two in heaven and God willing I will deliver my sixth child, a girl, in July at the age of 45…21 years after giving birth to my first.

  31. Hello there. You and I share an entry on the New Catholic Blogs site. Nice to meet you!

  32. Jennifer

    Thank you for this post. Exactly what I needed to hear. I have 5 kids and I get so discouraged with the constant, “Are you done yet” question. God bless you and your family!

  33. Andrew

    Good post. You are wrong about one thing. Every single person in the U.S. knows what the Church teaches about birth control. No one can say they have never heard about that.

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for visiting and nice to meet you. Could you explain further why you believe all Catholics know the Church’s teaching on contraceptives? Its been my experience that many people actually don’t know!

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