No matter how many times I hear this and no matter how well intentioned the speaker, it always rubs me the wrong way. One time in the grocery store I did actually lift my hands from the cart, bearing two blonde heads, and hold them up in the air whilst the baby dangled from the Ergo across my midsection and loudly announced “NOT RIGHT NOW I DON’T!” which sent the kindly fifty-something woman sharing the bread aisle with me scooting backward, nervously, laughing out of confusion and fear.
But yes, I suppose my hands are full. I just feel like I’m in some kind of bizarre, narrative-driven ABC family drama when complete strangers announce it to me over and over again. Can you imagine yelling to a man walking his dog down the street “wow, you must pick up crap all day long!” or maybe suggesting to a person in a wheelchair “Man, I bet your arms are always tired!” Not that I’m comparing my children to dog poop or a mobility impairment, but come on people, let’s try to be a little more creative.
Catholics do, in fact, tend to have larger than average families, though that number is sadly diminishing, at least among the cafeteria variety who don’t actually practice what the Church preaches.
(This is emphatically NOT a jab at smaller Catholic families who are for whatever reason unable to have child(ren). This piece is a must read for facilitating better understanding between families of all sizes in the pews.)
And why do we have more children than the average family? Ding ding ding, I’ll take patriarchal oppression and denied access to contraception for a thousand, Alex. Oh, wait, nope, that’s actually not the reason. Want to know the real reason Catholics have more kids?
Okay, are you ready for this?
It’s because we like them.
Like we actually full on appreciate small humans and think the world would be a better place with more of them around. Isn’t that bizarre?
And it’s also because we practice realistic sex: sex as it actually exists in reality, in nature, in all it’s messy and impressive and inscrutable design.
And in reality, sex is where babies come from, when everything is in proper working order.
Did you get that? Catholics have more babies because babies are sometimes the result of having sex. And since we believe that sex is good, true, beautiful, and perfectly designed by a God who loves us and wants us to be happy, we accept it on His terms, embracing the mystery and honestly, sometimes, the suffering inherent in our fertility.
Now, just a little PSA because I’m kind of embarassed by this as a fellow female of the species but did you know that you can’t actually get pregnant save for a small (or large, in my case) window each month during a woman’s cycle? Apparently like 90% of adult women have no real idea how their bodies work and that’s just sad to me. And a little bit the opposite of empowered and independent and free choice-y. But I digress. We’ll get there later this week.
Back to the babies. Oh, those babies. See, the reason we keep having them isn’t, contrary to popular belief, because we haven’t figured out what causes them, or because we don’t have a television. The reason they keep showing up is because, frankly, they’re kind of the best thing about being human, and having them is an incredible privilege and it’s hard as hell and yes, self denial and self obliteration on a daily basis but … it’s so worth it.
And since we’re not supposed to be using contraception, we actually have to discuss the possibility during seasons of fertility (i.e. months where you get a regular cycle) whether or not it would be prudent to have another child at this juncture. And then, if the mutually discerned and prayed for answer is: do it, then we do it.
Ba dum ching.
But seriously, do you know what kind of freedom that can bring into a marriage? And how selfless you have to be to ask these kinds of questions over and over again? And how incredibly incapable you know you are to handle yet another little responsibility with your last name, but then they get here and you can’t imagine having said “no,” and slowly your grinchy little heart begins to grow and you actually become a better, more productive, and – please God – holier member of the human race.
It’s a wild ride.
But seriously, we’re just in it for the sweet retirement party. And for the moment when we can whip out our iPhone 27s in the grocery store and torture innocent bystanders with holograms of our 8 children and 34 grandchildren because finally, our freaking hands are empty and we can work the keypad.