Thursday, January 15, 2009

Contraceptive Parenting

A mom, a dad, 2.3 children (a boy and a girl, of course) a golden retriever and an SUV... what more could a family ask for?

For those lucky two children, whether meticulously planned or resultant of the "oops" inducing factor of breakthrough ovulation,* life is good. They have an unlimited supply of mom and dad's attention, an incredibly high salary cap on their allowances, and a myriad of opportunities and privileges denied to those less fortunate, sibling-laden peers.

At least that's the argument.

I've had many discussions with friends who are "planning" their families, certain that their will is the way to go... in some cases, even confident that their will is God's will, as well.

"Any more than two children," the argument goes, "and quality of parenting suffers. There just isn't enough time/money/love/resources to spread around."

The funny thing about infinitely valuable resources, however, is that quality and quantity don't necessarily operate on an inverted scale. Love, for example, can either expand or grow cold and die. It is not finite, nor does it reach a point of exhaustion if stretched too far. It is the strangest thing, this human capacity to participate in something infinite (love) even though we as human beings are ourselves finite.

God understands this - heck, he created us this way - and so he gives a unique gift when he invites us into creative collaboration with Himself (read: parenthood). In our participation with His creative power, we open ourselves up to the infinite possibility of being able to give more than we are actually capable of holding ourselves.

Thus the curious phenomena of additions to a family bringing with them additional love, both in their own person and in the capacity of their parents to love more deeply, and in a way they were previously unaware and incapable of!

Anyone who has ever been in love understands the sometimes painful and always rewarding process of enlarging the heart in order to accommodate the completely new thing that didn't exist before the beloved came on the scene: your love.

This is why it's impossible to accurately predict your capacity for love without having encountered the person, the other, whom your love is to directed towards.

I've heard from parents who marvel over the births of their fourth and fifth children, wondering where on earth that extra love came from. That's just the thing; it's not from earth.

It's from Him. And when we give God room to work in our lives, He does big things. The tricky part is, He's not usually satisfied with half sized portions or partial offerings of self. I mean sure, He'll work with what we give Him, but ultimately, He wants all of us.

Including our fertility. Our ability to say with total freedom to our spouse, "I give you all of myself. I'm not holding anything back, from you or from God." Let me reiterate here that while not every single sexual act is designed to result in conception, (this is physically impossible) every sexual act is designed to result in complete cooperation with your spouse and with God.

That means being totally open, totally vulnerable... and totally available to participate in His plans, which are not necessarily our own. This kind of openness lends itself to a general shift in attitude, an openness of heart that allows you to love your existing children better too.

Kids who are born to non-contracpting parents start out with a natural advantage: they were always, unequivocally wanted. Older siblings who see younger ones welcomed into the family are assured of their own worth and value in mom and dad's eyes. All in all, it's not a bad system... and one that's been in place for thousands of years with a decent rate of success.

Look around at today's families. Are they happier? Are marriages more fulfilling and longer lasting? Are children turning out more accomplished and better adjusted? Has the ability to take matters into our own hands and alter reality, tailoring it to our own selfish needs, brought more joy or goodness into this world?

* Breakthrough ovulation rates vary by the form and the dose of the OC used. With OCs, breakthrough ovulation is more likely with lower doses of estrogen and with imperfect rather than perfect use. Perfect use of OCs implies taking them consistently and correctly (ie, in the correct order, on time, each and every day, and without other medications that might diminish the effectiveness of OCs). Typical use is described as the full range of usage patterns for OCs that actually occur in women. While some smaller studies that evaluated small numbers of women for 6 or fewer cycles have reported breakthrough ovulation rates of near 0, studies that evaluated women for at least 6 cycles demonstrated ovulation rates ranging from 1.7% to 28.6% per cycle. For POPs, reported breakthrough ovulation rates range from 33% to 65%.

1 comment:

  1. The greatest gifts we'll ever give our children are their siblings. I shudder when I think of the sort of parent I would be if the third, fourth and fifth children hadn't joined our family: I could easily have been a parent whose determination to apply perfectionism to motherhood created misery for everybody in the family.

    Each of our pregnancies has offered instruction in learning to trust God's plans for us. It's hard to give up control - the temptation to seize it back is ever-present - but we are learning to say yes to what God intends for us and trust that when He's in charge, it's all good.

    Tell your friends not to be afraid! The work of raising a bigger family is a happy mess!



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