Catholics Do What?,  Contraception,  Culture of Death,  Evangelization,  guest post,  infertility,  Marriage,  motherhood,  NFP,  reality check,  Sex

Waving my white flag {guest post}

A dear friend wrote something so important, so beautiful, and so honest for me, and it is my privilege to share it with you here today.  A wife of 10 years, a mother to 4 on earth and 1 little saint, and a Catholic convert, I’m so grateful for her transparency and her humility.

Because NFP? It ain’t no bed of roses. But the thorns can be wonderfully refining.

I’m 4 kids deep into this motherhood thing, 5 if you count our sweet guy in Heaven. We count him, and wish it was PC for the world to count him too.

I am open to life. Not because I always want to be. Not because I can handle it. Not because it’s the cool thing to do.

But because God calls me to be. 

Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t come into it most days kicking and screaming. I mean yes, in theory I can list all the incredible, awesome, fantastic ways that being open to life is God’s plan and even the theology behind it, but putting it into practice is a totally different matter.

So here I am, ready to waive my white flag and say that sometimes I wish I didn’t have to be open to life.


It’s hard to say and even harder to admit the hardness of my heart that wishes sometimes that I could say that I am “done”.

But just like I know better then my six year old (even though he doesn’t think so), praise the Lord, God knows better for me, too. 

But y’all, that does not mean that this is easy.

And it does not mean that just because God wants this for us that the world, our communities, our churches, our friends or even our own families will support us.

And that is tough. How are we to live this “call” out alone, with no one cheering us on?

Maybe I’m wishing for too much. But doesn’t it seem like this journey would be a heck of a lot easier if more of us shared the “hard”, the “it’s not easy”, the “I feel like I can’t do this” with each other?  We need each other, y’all. We need others there to say “I understand”, “I’ve been there” instead of saying or thinking “well then why are you having more kids???”

Because to be honest, I could use some cheering on right now.

If I get asked one more time “are you done?” and I have to politely smile and say “probably not!” all the while secretly wishing sometimes that I could be, I’m not sure how I’ll handle it. It might come out more of a grimace.

Sometimes I don’t want to put on a fake smile and convince people that I’m not done and I am JUST TOTALLY HAPPY ABOUT IT. Because sometimes? I’m really not.

Because being open to life sometimes does. not. make. sense. I mean why in the world would I not be “done” if it is so hard? That’s what the rest of the world is doing, after all. And sometimes I want to have a temper tantrum and say “I want that too!”  

And it feels like if I don’t put on a happy smile and say “probably not, we’ll see!” I’m some kind of a fraud. Or am at least setting myself up for more comment along the lines of “don’t you know what causes that?/why don’t you stop?/he should get “fixed.”

And deep down…I do know that God knows better. I really do trust Him. I really do know that his plans are perfect. I believe that. Well, I try.

And I also know that fertility is a gift. I know some of you reading this may have a pit in your stomachs and wishing you were on my end of the fertility spectrum, and would maybe give anything to be in my shoes. And for any pain reading these words causes you, I am truly sorry. It’s not far off from my memory when we lost our first little one and tried to get pregnant for what felt like a life time. It’s also not far from my memory having surgery for endometriosis and enduring HCG shots to regulate my hormones to help us get pregnant. Or having countless progesterone shots to help me keep my baby.  So I understand, even as I sound  I know I sound like an ungrateful you know what.  This isn’t exactly my proudest moment.

But if I’m honest, I’m just here trying to live out the call to being open to life and it is hard.

Hard because I want to determine the number of kids I have. I want to have sex with my husband and not worry about getting pregnant.  I want to not gain and then (have to try so hard!) to lose 50lbs (again!).  And I know all of those are selfish reasons. (And listen, I know a thing or two about good reasons to avoid too…I have had my hands full of health problems, children with behavioral issues and really rocky times in our marriage).

But maybe we could all use a bigger dose of honesty with this open to life thing??

Maybe my words will make one of you not feel so crazy or alone.  Sometimes I have the feeling like everyone else is doing this open to life/NFP thing with JOY and LOVE and a SMILE and I’m over here wondering if I missed something. Can we all take a deep breath and let it out? I mean, c’mon I’m not the only selfish, prideful sinner, right??

So here I am 33 years old and I’m staring down who knows how many *more* years (I know it’s a blessing!) of fertility and the possibility (again a blessing!) of a few more babies, but I’m lonely in a world where being “done” is the norm. 

Don’t get me wrong… I ADORE my kids!  And I look forward to a Thanksgiving table in 20 years that is bursting at the seams.  But some days I need to let my guard down and admit that if I had it *my* way I would like to just throw myself on the floor like my 3 year old before God and scream “ I don’t want to”.

But here’s the thing. When I sift through all my sin and my pride in this area, I come upon a startling truth: I truly am grateful for the boundaries of the call of being open to life, because I have a God that knows me and desires what is best for me: To be with him for eternity. 

And He knows in order to get there my soul needs (daily!) refining, and that my path that is most particularly refining is motherhood (and marriage, but that is another blog entirely 😉 ).

Thank God – He knows me better.

Thank God – He wants more for me.

Thank God – He gave me the boundaries of NFP and the call to openness to life that gives me the opportunity to practice examining my conscience and my heart daily – hourly – to root out selfishness and pride.

Because if I said I was “done,” I wouldn’t be giving Him room to stretch me. 

And stretch me He will – and you too for that matter, if you let Him.

So here I am sitting here before you, waving my white flag. Wishing I was “done” but  knowing that I’m not and grateful for a God who gives me the opportunity to wearily lay down my white flag and pick up my cross and follow Him.


  • Kathleen

    This made me cry! Just yesterday I had a conversation with a guy who came to help us out with something on the house and saw that I was pregnant with our fifth…. All the kids were home because of the stomach bug and my husband was out of town… He said “wow nobody ha 5 kids any more, you must really love kids” and of course I said “we sure do!” But what I really wanted to say was “actually this is really hard, but I believe and trust Gods teachings on sex and marriage so here we are!” Really really good and honest post…

    • Kaitlan

      You are so right! Honesty is what we need. I get asked the ‘are you going to have more’ question all the tine, and I’m right there with you I just smile and say “probably”! But what I really wanna say is “how is that any of your business at all”? Or “I don’t feel comfortable sharing my bedroom status with you for your entertainment, I’m not a freak show.”
      We need to honestly tell people how it makes us feel when they intrude into our lives like this, because people don’t know how hard it is to try to live this lifestyle authentically. I know I live in a state of self questioning and reluctant God, I don’t people feeding my doubt.

    • Amy Leader

      With all respect this is a mistaken, man-made side-alley rather than God’s will. Christianity isn’t about living medieval in the 21stC, fellow Catholics use cars not donkeys tho’ I doubt God’s thrilled about pollution – We have GOD GIVEN intelligence & technology to take responsibility for our own breeding; if you opt out fair enough but it’s YOUR choice not God’s, you can’t annexe your contraceptive decisions onto God! Why would God find it pleasing for us to ignore the responsibility of family planning? Surely God’s more concerned of the overpopulation & exploitation of this beautiful planet or the suffering of children already here tragically unfed or unloved, not our entirely personal whims about contraception.

      • Jenny Uebbing


        If you’re interested in what the Catholic Church teaches about contraception (and why she is against it, for the sake of marriages and out of respect for the profound dignity of our sexuality and the rights of children) then I hope you’ll consider reading Pope Paul VI’s brief, prophetic encyclical “Humanae Vitae.” St. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” (or one of Dr. Mary Healy or Dr. Ted Sri’s treatises’ on the same) is also a must read for every Catholic.

        In short, the Church says nowhere, as you have posited, that we are to “ignore the responsibility of family planning.” After you read HV, you’ll see that we are actually tasked with precisely that. I think you are conflating contraption with responsible, discerning parenthood. Contraception is always opposed to and fundamentally incompatible with marital love. Discerning through NFP whether and when it’s a good time to conceive is something that we are all called to have recourse to, however, if the burden of bringing another soul into this world is seriously taxing to either parent or to the marriage or existing family.

        I really hope you’ll open your mind and your heart to the beauty of why the Church opposes contraception – just like all of Christianity did until the early 20th century. You might find it eye opening to read Martin Luther’s commentary on the matter, too.

        Praying through the intercession of JPII for all of us to be more open to God’s plan and more docile to His will, not our own.

      • Sarah

        Faith and reason, yes Amy, that’s really true. We need to engage our intelligence and educate ourselves about our fertility and how to faithfully follow the natural moral law, which is so beautifully taught to us by the Catholic Church.

    • Mary Jo

      What a spiritual journey this blog post became! What beautiful hearts so many of you shared! I am almost 68 years old, used NFP for 30 years prior to menopause and am mom to 5 grand mom to 14 plus 2 known in heaven. Until recently there was no such forum to connect with others using NFP. Please continue to share your hearts with others. We used ST method for many years before discovering and embracing TOB. For those who struggle and we all do to a greater or lesser extent, please consider discovering TOB with your spouse ASAP. I see that some of you have, but it truly affirmed what we had been doing all those years and made God’s plan for us so much clearer. We pray for all of you and your struggles daily, always giving thanks. I think the key once we have these teachings under our belts is to realize the difference between desire for union inspired by love and the desire influenced by our fallen natures. I also think we are in a unique position. If we are truly following God’s plan, we get to share the marital act with Him. Each time is a renewed joy. Our celibate brothers and sisters are not so blessed, though they are blessed in other ways. Frequency does not necessarily equate with the joy one true experience of the marital act can afford. It is all part of our spiritual journey and this earthly life is always short when compared with eternity. I also look to the marriage of Mary and Joseph to inspire us in our struggles.

    • Beth

      What a great comment he made: “You must really love kids!” I can’t think of a better observation. I often find myself using that as my reply or “quick explanation” for catholic family planning theology. Having a big family isn’t “required” but somehow, at the point that most accept that we ARE called to openness to life and to love others, the Holy Spirit kicks in and we find ourselves really loving kids (regardless of our actual family size/outcome). I grew up in a “big” family of 7, and if there is one thing I learned, it is that my parents LOVED kids and being parents (and still do 🙂 ).

  • Keri

    This is by far the best post on NFP I’ve seen for those of us fortunate enough to be fertile. Thank you for this, a million times over. As I sit nursing baby 4 but feel nauseous and fear that this means I am pregnant (am 4 mo pp and tests are negative but could still be too soon to know), I appreciate this so much. We live in a largely evangelical Protestant community which is wonderful for sharing a love of Jesus but notsomuch for sharing about this topic. It’s a lonely world. And then I see devoutly catholic couples with 4 kids who Seem ‘done’ with the youngest in middle school and have to wonder if they are just completely celibate. (Or much better at NFP than we are!) anyway- just thank you for this. So thankful someone had the courage to lay it al out there. (And all the yeses to the gaining and losing 50 lbs!!!!)

    • Lisa

      Hi Keri,
      I had the same nausea issue with breastfeeding at 4 mos pp with my last baby- I was almost paralyzed with fear at the thought of being pregnant so soon! I saw a health practitioner about it (sort of a chiropractor but not) and she did some manipulations and offered some vitamin supplement suggestions. Anyways, it went away a few weeks later. I’m not sure what the cause was- if it was related to a vitamin deficiency or blood sugar issues, but maybe it’s something similar for you?

  • Maureen

    Aren’t people rude! How dare they presume to make comments about my family size(or lack of it). It is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS!
    Yet they do. I have 5 (now adult) children. For various reasons, there is a gap between number 3 and number 4. If I had a penny for every comment about ‘the little one in heaven’, ‘an angel in the family’ etc I would be wealthy. I know the folk don’t mean to be rude, any more than the ones who used to comment on the size of my family (don’t you have TV where you live? ) But it got really irksome for a while. Fertility is not something you can predict, and that wait has given me an inkling of what it is like for my less fertile friends…
    By the time I was 39, medicine had to take its course, and there were no more babies. Part of me was glad to be off the fertility waggon. Part of me hankered after another little bundle to hold. But God knows what we need. My youngest, born when I was 38, has special educational needs. I needed to baby him a lot longer than is usually the case, and then fight his battles (I still do). God knew I would need the time and the energy to raise this wonderful man.
    In 2002 the first of my grandchildren arrived. What a bliss that is:-) The joy of that wonderful baby smell, the softness of the cuddle, but none of the pain, exhaustion, etc. Truly a gift from God. Now I have 10 grandchildren, and I want to tell you something really sad, yet also amazing. Most of my friends ‘stopped’ at 2 children, or maybe 3 (even the Catholic ones). Many of them are still waiting for grandchildren, even though their children are in their 30’s. The message of not being open to life is making itself felt in their lives now. And now they envy me. Gone are the snide comments about family size. Now they would gladly have a grandchild. But that is not what they taught their children, and their children learnt the lesson well.

    So when folk look at you oddly for having 4, 5, 6 or more children, or say personal things about your sex life, or your brain, smile politely and walk on. In a few years, when your festive table is seating 19, 20, or more, you will feel happy, content, and at one with God. They will have to come to terms with having taught their children another lesson altogether.

      • Keri

        Great perspective from Maureen from those of us in the early stages of motherhood. My husband and I always say we look forward to the big picture- the gaggle of adult family in the backyard enjoying each other. It’s easy to forget what all the hard work today affords us later.

        • Julie

          Yes!! When people ask me how many kids we will have (3 now), I say, “I don’t know. I would like a gaggle.” Humorous, polite, indeterminate, and BIG sounding!

          • Beth

            I used to say that I wanted to have one more than people were comfortable with….guess that depends on the region. My husband reminds me that our children are not conceived to spite people, but I really didn’t mean it as spite–just wanting to be open enough to be willing to push the envelope a bit.

    • Jessica

      Maureen, your words are so beautiful!! That’s exactly what I want, a house full of kids and then grandkids, and to teach our children how difficult but also how good it is for us to follow God’s will, but my husband doesn’t feel the same. We’re both Catholic and practicing NFP, but he’s adamant about not having any more. It’s so hard for me, but I just pray and pray that God will soften his heart. Thank you for this, I really appreciate your perspective!

      • Leigh

        Jessica, I’m in the same boat. I’ll pray for you and your husband if you pray for me and mine! My husband is truly a wonderful person – we just disagree about whether we can handle any more children. In my case, the sacrifice that God asks of me isn’t the demands of a large family, but the sacrifice of my own wants and the humble acceptance of our small family. I know I should feel grateful that I have neither the pain of infertility nor the exhaustion of a large family….but still, it’s hard.

        • Laura

          I really needed this post, and the comments that followed. I often feel isolated in our Catholic faith, even among my close friends and family. I don’t have many people that I can discuss these topics with who will provide faith-filled support and encouragement, and who lovingly help me stay on God’s path. I know my friends and family love me, but they’re often so quick to rationalize the easier, softer ways. I’d rather someone say that yes, it IS hard. Like really CRAZY hard. But no, I’m not insane (or a religious nut job) and what I’m doing (or trying to do) is right. My husband and I are not on the same page with NFP and openness to new life. In his words, he is “done.” I waffle. I resent that he is so adamant in his “no,” but honestly when I had to take a pregnancy test two months ago, I was paralyzed with fear. We can’t afford it, I’m not a good mom to the kids I have, I am old (40 :)), my husband is really old (47). I wish for menopause. And then I wish for more children. Please pray for me to wave my white flag in surrender to God’s loving will. Jenny – I thank God for your blog site.

          • B

            Laura, this was me (also 40) and my husband (46) a couple months ago. Him: done. Me: a little open, mostly resentful of his no. I literally said to my best friend “If God wants us to have another, He’s going to have to change my husband’s mind.” I prayed about it (I’m a terrible prayer, too), and 3 days later, he actually brought up the possibility out of the blue. I was so shocked *I* started to cry… Two weeks later, we’re expecting #6. Pray about it. God doesn’t speak in riddles, He will answer you.

          • Theresa

            Comments on all of the above – Maureen, my mother had 11 of us (and I am so glad she did – I loved being in a big family!) and I am now expecting number 9. My mom has told me she has had countless friends who chose to have only 2 or 3 children tell her in recent years they really regret that, because their children are not having many (or any) kids and they so wish they had more grandkids to enjoy. Jessica, Leigh, and Laura, my husband and I have weathered many moments in our marriage when we didn’t agree on whether we could handle another child or not. I am much more laid back, always wanted a big family and have plenty of support from family and friends. He is more anxious and has a family that has often been critical of our having so many kids. Early on we argued about it and I tried to convince him of my side. In recent years I have learned to give it to God and trust He will work it out. I thought my #8 was really the last one, though I hoped otherwise. God had other plans and my husband decided it might not be so bad… so here we are, very much looking forward to the next (and probably last) baby to arrive. I love that NFP forces us to communicate about this question over and over –
            I think that God’s grace finds its way in through that frequent conversation between the spouses, somehow… Anyway the rough parts continue to come – it is so tiring being older and pregnant, keeping up with all the teenagers’ activities while still having to bring little ones every where I go while the older kids are in school – but I also know the joys on the other side, as I am so grateful for all my siblings, nieces and nephews who fill my parents’ house these days. And it helps to realize that God’s plan for each of us is unique and the crosses of one may be very different than the crosses of another (I can’t compare the challenges of mothering all these kids with my brother’s struggle with infertility and long waits for adoption – both are very hard in their own way) but God will never give us more than we can handle. Even if some days it feels otherwise.

      • Julie

        My husband is not even on board with practicing NFP…hence an unplanned #3. He wants a vasectomy and it makes me so so sad/tearful/resentful/angry/confused. It’s so hard when you are both “good practicing Catholics” in theory, but in practice that isn’t always borne out. I don’t even know how we are supposed to come to the same page (or live with each other) after this baby comes when we can’t agree on family planning. It is crushing to be on opposite sides of the fence and I’m not sure how to resolve it…I have not been good about letting go of this for God to answer. It definitely seems like something I should be able to argue and reason my way out of. I’ll join the prayer chain for this intention wholeheartedly!

    • Bea

      Very beautiful,Maureen. My parents (who had 5 children) are experiencing that stage of life right now and I know they’re loving it despite all those hard years with 5 little ones under 10. They’re fairly young grandparents (which is awesome for everyone) and most of their peers are still waiting! On the flip side, NOT having those big family gatherings in the future is my biggest fear as my husband and I struggle with infertility. As much as I want to experience those early years as a mother, I also want to have grown children and grandchildren around me as I age.

    • Ann Marie

      Wow! What a testimony! This right here is what we mom’s in the trenches need to hear right now!!

      My grandma had 11 children, 39 grandchildren. She passed away fairly suddenly in 2000, going into the hospital on a Friday and passing away on that next Monday. She left this this world in a hospital room full to capacity of her family singing and praying and loving her from this world and into the next. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave behind!

    • Lisa in Texas

      I also have a slightly larger gap between babies 3 and 4…and a special needs child who is #5 as well as our “last.” She was born when I was 37. I used to harbor hope for just one more, but I know it was for selfish reasons. I wanted to have a “better experience” so as to not end on such a difficult pregnancy and delivery. I wanted an even number of children so that I wouldn’t have a middle child. I wanted #5, my daughter with cerebral palsy, so strangers wouldn’t think we were done because we “finally got our boy” after 3 girls. I got very angry at God for “doing this to me” when my daughter was born with brain damage at 31 weeks. I was generally a miserable person for several years. Now that she’s 6 years old I’m finally accepting of her as a blessing. But man, it’s a hard road to walk! Thank you for your honesty. 🙂

    • Jennifer P.

      Maureen, thank you for the awesome response. I feel so relieved. I too am a mother of 5 on earth, 2 in heave. And my eldest is a non-verbal teen. God gives us what we can handle. It takes tremendous strength and faith to follow what he asks.

    • C. Rock

      Wow….Maureen!!! What a powerful message, and it inspires this mom to 9 to carry on with a smile on my face and a determination in my step. Great reminder and an excellent post! Thank you!

    • May Whitehead

      I can relate, Maureen. I had four children 6 years and under, was taking a math class at college at night when one of the male students, noticing that I was pregnant, asked, “don’t you know what makes babies?” I fired back at him, smiling, “If anyone knows I should…I have four already.” The students immediately around, snickerd. He shut up. This was in the 1960’s, so even then people were in favor of smaller families.

    • Kristen

      I am the oldest of three and my parents, to my knowledge, were completely open to life but struggled to get pregnant after me. I pray that I am able to show my girls (almost 5 and 2.5) that we (their parents) were open to life even if God doesn’t bless again. I am 30 and we have been actively trying for over 2 years to grow our family. While I never thought I would struggle (I do not like saying that for all my friends who are infertile) it has made me appreciate and not take for granted the two precious souls He has given my husband and I to raise. I truly hope and pray God blesses us again as my husband is the youngest of eight and we both dream of having a big family but we are learning to trust God’s will. I also pray my girls if called to the vocation of marriage, they will be open to life and have babies because I would love to be a Nana one day. I want to make the saying, “you have a beautiful family” instead of “wow you have x number of kids” or “only x number of kids and you’re Catholic?”

  • Jennifer

    AMEN! Thank you for sharing so openly. After each pregnancy I feel equally spent and pondering the next one. You have helped me to feel less alone in my own struggles. NFP needs more honesty like this, for therein lies its greatest potential beauty.

  • Colleen

    Oh my gosh. Amen. I think you managed to express so much of what my tired brain can’t! Or, if my brain cells are firing, my gaggle of blessings I was told I might have trouble having will likely interrupt & not let me give the complete picture. Sigh. Such a blessing. Such a crucible. Such a school of virtue I am so lacking in! And, if I only express 1 or 2 of those parts…did I actually share the truth of this beautiful, hard thing? Or did I just confuse people with my grimace-smile, or my admission of exhaustion?

  • Lucy

    Dearest sister in Christ,

    I am now 55 years old. And a mother of “only” 3 almost now grown sons (19, 23 and 26).

    I could write many words about my regrets as a mother, but NONE would come even remotely close to the day several years ago when out of the blue I received a “conviction” in the Holy Spirit from God the Father and Creator , showing me just how much He loves me , and simultaneously, penetrating every fiber of my being with a parallel interior Knowledge : just how much He is wounded by my fear to freely procreate for His Glory. It was an instant of extraordinary, personal judgement and revelation that I have come to consider as perhaps the greatest spiritual event in my life, to date. Everything was encompassed in that instant of Understanding the Meaning of Motherhood.

    Truly, I can say that I have never wept like that before…. or since. Bitter, bitter, bitter tears of sorrow.
    KNOWING that I could never regain the lost years OR all of the children the Father had desired to bless our marriage with in the Divine Will ….if only…. if only…. if only… we had been fully OPEN TO LIFE.
    But we were not. And so the fruit of our union produced “only” 3 sons… and the Father wept…

    Not long thereafter, the Lord further brought the Life “lesson” home to me as I was reading His Word :
    1 Timothy 2, verse 15 , which says :
    “But she (the woman) will be saved (sanctified) through MOTHERHOOD, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

    A now there is a new sense of a prophetic warning that is rising up inside me, one that applies to the entire Mystical Body of Christ in our day : We are living in the times of 2 Thessalonians 2, in which we are ALL being verified, tried, tested and purified in the Flame of Love, precisely in order to determine our Love of TRUTH. Day after day, choice after choice, situation after situation : Do we choose that which bears Eternal Life, which is always the Truth borne with Love ?

    In the Gospel of Saint John 18 verse 37 , we read that Jesus (The Way, The Truth and The Life) tells Pilate that He was born and came to this earth in order to testify to the Truth. Our Lord declared His purpose to Pilate just a few hours before He went to the Cross.

    Surely, there is NO TRUTH greater than the sanctity of LIFE ? In fact, ABUNDANT LIFE IS THE UNIQUE SIGN OF BLESSING FROM THE FATHER (Genesis) .

    Given the powerful Spirit of Deceit ( and Death) that is covering the face of the earth in our times, seemingly with ever-increasing intensity (until the Lawless One of Iniquity is revealed) , anything is possible, since the “horns” of the media have been given apparently limitless access to our unformed and unprotected collective mind.

    So, when I read this week that there is a “rumor” moving about Rome that soon there will be some form of allocution coming out concerning Humana Vitae, I was more than alarmed. “What if” Holy Mother Church should not uphold the Fullness of Truth with Love, perhaps somehow placing Humana Vitae in a fog of confusion ? What if….

    And so truly, truly, we must get on our knees and offer the most pleasing sacrifice of praise so that the Church would proclaim NOW , even more loudly and clearly than ever before, the True meaning of Life and of Love as they are expressed in Humana Vitae concerning the Sacrament of Marriage, which is THE temporal sign of the Eternal Covenant !!!

    For those who prefer to rely on the Word of God instead, we might also contemplate the sentence in Genesis 9 verse 5 which says:
    “Indeed for your own lifeblood I will demand an accounting”. An accounting ? God has indeed a Perfect Number of children that He desires for every single marriage there is. Anything less is not the Truth.

    Motherhood IS a place of trial and indeed, the Way of Life IS the Way of the Cross… the quintessential Sign of Love. Motherhood IS like the Living Eucharist in action : small, hidden, wounded, over-flowing in life, pouring forth love, sacrifice and oblation. Yes. All the Theology is there in Motherhood….

    May Our Most Perfect Mother Mary cover all wombs and all marriages with Her Mantle of Truth, Life and Love in Jesus Christ and may we make the firm decision to consecrate our wombs and our marriages to Her Immaculate Heart.

    Saint Joseph, pray for us !

    • Mary Jo

      Wow!!! Bless you for your courage. I believe those of us who value this truth are indeed a remnant. I thank the Holy Spirit for your profound sharing.

    • Kelly

      I am so, so paralyzed by fear…such bad depression and anxiety after my first, and during my second pregnancy. Your post inspires me to pray for the grace and strength to be open. I so desire a 3rd child.

      • Cassie

        Hang in there. I, too, suffered severe PPD and anxiety after my 2nd, my 3rd, and during my 5th pregnancy. I now have 7 children. After the 2nd, I waited almost 3 years because I was so scared….the others that I experienced were because I went off medication, which I have come to accept that I will be taking the rest of my life (humility, gulp), even at a low dose during my pregnancies. I have talked to so many mothers of several children and we are not alone. So many mommas have experienced this – and these are faithful, traditional Catholic moms. That, alone, made me feel better. I am now at a point, however, where I am experiencing some PMS and low level anxiety. We are avoiding right now and I’m not sure, honestly, what our future holds. I take it month by month. I no longer ever say, “I will not have any more” and nor do I say, “We’re gonna have another” (learned this after infertility when trying for #2 and then later, 3 miscarriages after the 6th). I always seem to be wrong about those statements. God bless you – I know how hard it is!

  • Ari

    I think it was Danielle Bean that said no one really has a problem with “NFP” (which is just a method), you have a problem with God’s design for sex (marriage, babies, open to life, etc.) That perspective has helped me every time I curse NFP, and lately, every month that passes with no child in my arms. To be open to life is to be open to hurt, messes, crosses… It’s all hard.

  • Holly

    Hmmm, did I write this? I am 33, have 4 kids, have been married 10 years, am a convert and relate to every word you wrote. My oldest is 9 and the youngest is 1.5 and life is much harder now than when they were all under 5. Easier in some ways, but mentally harder. My husband is not Catholic (yet) but does come to Mass with us and is supportive of my lack of birth control, but he is 40 and very much wants to be done. I want more, but preferably not for a few years. Life is just so hard right now! But in a few years, life may be harder and we will all be older too. Just three years ago, I would never have believed that I would be at this point – I really thought I’d happily have as many as God sent. And I still will! But I might cry a bit more than younger me expected. Ha. Thank you for sharing! I really do think we all need to hear things like this.

  • Momof4

    This is exactly where I’m at right now. My question though. I’m very fertile, but we just don’t have the money living in California… at what point do you intentionally stop? We have 4 and although I’m (somewhat begrudgingly) open to more, I’m not sure how we could manage financially and still be good stewards.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I think this falls squarely into the “grave reason” category of discernment. I’ll give an example from my own life, since we are all tasked with discerning with God and as a couple our particular circumstances, but there have been many seasons during our marriage where we have avoided (using NFP) because of my severe postpartum depression and anxiety. Those reasons might not look grave to the outside observer, and another couple might not find them to be so, but for our particular marriage and for my mental health, they were, and so we abstained a lot and applied the rules of our NFP method very vigorously. We ended up actually learning a new method for that very reason.

      I think it cuts to the heart of discernment of God’s call for more children as being an ongoing, month by month and year by year dialogue. It’s not easy! None of us signed up for this as the convenient Catholic version of contraception (at least, if we did, I’m sure all the rude awakenings have occurred by now.)

      There’s nothing to really compare it to with the wider culture, because there’s such a profound difference of understanding reality, of what life is and what it’s for, of what marriage is ordered towards. It’s really the work of a lifetime, but the short answer to your question is that the Church does not call us to disregard our circumstances and just go for it, but to make a prudential judgment based on our lives, our bodies, our marriages, and then apply our knowledge of fertility to make the best decision for our family and for our souls. (And just like contraption, there is no foolproof NFP method. As long as we’re having sex, there’s always, short of a total hysterectomy or post menopause, a change of pregnancy.) And hey, I just spend a lovely long weekend in California and heard the real estate horror stories from all my friends there, so I get it. The cost of living really is unliveable!

      • Vanessa

        Again, I think we need to be very precise in the terminology we use when discussing NFP. “Grave reasons” is a mistranslation in the Pauline edition of Humane Vitae. The proper translation found in the Vatican edition is “serious reasons.” The Catechism uses “just reasons”: “A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children (2368).”

        A couple should not feel like they have to be in dire poverty to space their children, which is the connotation that “grave” gives.

    • April

      MOMOF4 We are right there with you! My husband’s work has brought us to California and the financial burdens feel so overwhelming sometimes (especially when you are so fertile and have so long to go until menopause). Can’t say I have any advice, just wanted to put in a word of solidarity.

  • Carolyn Astfalk

    At 45, I’m finally able to dodge the “Are you done?” Oh, I still get it often, but now I can just shrug and say, “I’m 45, so . . . ” and leave it at that. Thank you for a beautifully honest post. Things worth doing and ways worth living are seldom easy, but we have faith that they are worth it.

  • Vanessa Johnson

    Lately I have been thinking how much I dislike the vague phrase “open to life” and prefer the more theologically precise notion of sex being “ordered towards procreation.” Too often, the phrase is misunderstood as “open to pregnancy,” which can be very confusing for couples trying to live out the teachings of the Church. If we say that “open to life” means open to the possibility of conception, there are many times when there isn’t that possibility or intention and it is still morally acceptable to have sex: infertility, pregnancy, post-menopause, and couples who discern that they are not called to pursue having a child (perhaps indefinitely). As a pregnant woman, I do not think of my sex life as being “open to life” in the sense of conceiving another child, but I am very open to the particular life growing in my womb as I pray and care for it everyday. My infertile friends are not “open to life” in the sense of expecting a miracle, but they are open to life in the way they pursue their vocations as teachers and care for their students and in their pursuit of adoption. Likewise, couples who have discerned that are finished having children (unless God has other plans) manifest their openness to life not through childbearing, but in their care for the children they have and for their wider communities.

    Certainly, we have a different mindset than secular society when it comes to having children and we should always be open to the fact that God’s plans might be different than our own, but it is not against Church teaching to discern that one is most likely past the childbearing stage. The Church asks us to maintain the integrity of the sexual act ordered towards procreation which means not using contraception. (This also better clarifies why some acts are illicit even if pregnancy is not a possibility. i.e. Why sex must end PIV even if that sperm is not going to fertilize an egg, because it is still ordered towards procreation). There are risks that come with advanced maternal age, which is a perfectly valid reason to not pursue pregnancy. We are not obligated to have children on and off until menopause.

    Again, the phrase “open to life” can be harmful if not understood properly. I just read about a woman who is pregnant with her 4th child after several NFP failures, is in a desperate financial situation, is struggling with the Churches teachings on NFP and is considering sterilization and leaving the Church. She and her husband are done having children and don’t feel “open to life.” If she understood that it is okay for her to not feel called to have more children (that this doesn’t make her less “open to life”), if she understood that it is more important to maintain the integrity of the act ordered towards procreation by not having her tubes tied, that she can use NFP indefinitely to avoid children (perhaps a different method like Marquette), she would be much better off. Perhaps down the road her circumstances will change and her heart might be opened to having more children, but it is not wrong to be “done for now.”

    • Vanessa Johnson

      I should add, I don’t believe that the phrase “open to life” is even found in any official Church document. It seems to originated by those popularizing Theology of the Body.

    • Lisa

      Thank you for your note of done for now. We are at that point due to a horrible miscarriage that I almost died of. NFP continues to be difficult because the want for more children continues to be there but medically I should not get pregnant. I wish I could say done for now, but unfortunately it is done for good but not infertile which is a whole different struggle.

    • Sara

      Thank you Vanessa. I feel it probably took a bit of bravery to say this on this blog, but I hear you and agree with you that this particular phrase “open to life” is really getting over used and narrowly defined.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Would’t want that Theology of the Body to start spreading like wildfire now, would we? 😉

      I think “ordered toward procreation” can also be confusing to people, for the exact same reasons you list. Because pregnant couples, post menopausal couples, profoundly infertile couples, etc…how can their sexual acts be ordered toward procreation when in the acts themselves, there is no possibility for new life coming forth? I think both phrases are useful and both points are valid. (and I think we’re all on the same team here.)

      • Vanessa

        I think I was unclear. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but the phrase “open to life” is not found in TOB or John Paul’s writing, but seems to have been promoted by people like Christopher West. Of course we should want to promote Theology of the Body, but we should also be clear with the Church’s teachings and recognize the limitations of the phrase “open to life.”

        I suppose I could see how “ordered towards procreation” could be confusing if you don’t have a philosophical background, but I think a basic familiarity of natural law is important when trying to understand the nuances of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Understanding that sex is ordered towards procreation, that this is the telos, the end of sex, even if conception isn’t possible or intended, allows one to see that we must conform to this model and respect the integrity of the act by not using contraception. I think the emphasis is on “ordered towards” which does not mean that the act will result in procreation, but that it is still directed towards its proper end. Sex is still ordered towards procreation in the pregnant couple or infertile couple or post-menopausal couple as long as the act is completed properly. Again, why is oral sex (without intercourse) still not okay even when a couple can’t conceive, because they must conform to the model of sex that recognizes procreation as one of the proper ends.

        • Jenny Uebbing

          From Familiaris Consortio, sect. 33: “It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.”

          I feel like we’re parsing hairs here a bit, but I don’t think “open to life” and “open to fertility” are substantively different concepts.

          “Ordered towards procreation” is not confusing, unless you’re working with a couple who are profoundly infertile or post menopausal. In that case, while in a general sense their expressions of love still fit the bill (and must always come into conformity with natural law, as you outline above), we know that for those couples, there is no possibility for procreation. So while their actions may still reflect the design and intent of God’s plan for marriage, in these particular circumstances, they are not technically “ordered towards procreation.”

          • Vanessa

            I think as long as we understand couples who discern (perhaps indefinitely) to not pursue children are still open to life/fertility by not using contraception, that’s fine. I think the phrase can become problematic when it makes couples feel guilty for discerning to not have more children (unless God deems otherwise). Their marriages are still ordered towards procreation and open to fertility because they are not undermining the meaning of the sexual act by contracepting.

            A woman may decide that at a certain age, the risks of pregnancy are a just reason to avoid having children indefinitely and I don’t think it’s wrong to determine that she is probably done having children. Of course, God can always move her heart to discern otherwise or pregnancy can occur despite her intentions, but she can still remain “open to life” despite her intention of not having more children.

            I still maintain that the infertile couple’s sex life is still ordered towards the natural end of procreation even if “the parts are broken.” It is still directed towards that end, even if that end is not possible. Regardless, they may not be “open to life/fertility” in the narrow sense of reproduction, but we can recognize that there are various ways of being open to life in the wider sense and that can also apply to women who have discerned not to have more children.

          • Cami

            I’m thinking even for couples who may have experienced menopausal symptoms or an infertility diagnosis, they can still fall under “ordered toward procreation” since ultimately God can produce life under any circumstances, provided the necessary organs are intact. We learn from scripture that couples of advanced age and thought to be barren conceived in God’s timing. So even if a couple believes they cannot conceive, they still are completing the act in the same way as fertile couples. I don’t think the wording needs to be changed to include such circumstances. That’s my understanding anyway.

  • Meg

    Thank you for writing/sharing this! Any advice or tips on how you discern the “when” of the next one when, you are feeling the white flag surrender?

  • Gloria

    I have asked our Blessed Mother “Can I please just be done?” many times (I am pregnant, at 40, with my 6th). The answer is no, for all the reasons you gave. If I had had the career I studied for, the career I desperately wanted, I know now that I would have been a horrible person. Selfish, greedy, prideful, probably an alcoholic. This vocation isn’t “what I wanted” but it’s what Mary knew I needed. This vocation brought be back to the Church, back to Our Blessed Mother, and back to Our Lord.

    A thought I had this morning: Sr. Lucia (of Fatima) said “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” “Don’t be afraid,” she added, “because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.” Think of it: we have been hand-picked by our Lady to serve in her army against the greatest spiritual battle of our time. Pretty amazing.

  • Caroline

    I was number 8. I, for one, am glad my mother and father decided NOT to ‘be done’ at 2, or 3, or 4, or 5….. or seven.

  • Rebecca

    This resonated with me so much! My husband and I have three kids (newly 5, 2.5, and 10 months), and a couple weeks ago I was sure that I was pregnant again and had such a meltdown. We had a plan! I needed a break! We were going to wait a little longer! I’m struggling to be a good (at least decent) mom to the kids we already have and felt so completely overwhelmed by the idea of another new baby, when we’re facing a job change and move halfway across the country in the next year.

    And while it turned out that I am not currently pregnant, it sparked some good conversations between me and God and also me and my husband about how open to life we really want to be and can be right now. Luke 6:38 came to mind: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I want to give to God as he has given to me — generously, without fear, wholeheartedly. It brought to light my desire for control and so many other things I need to let go of.

    Anyways, thank you so much for sharing!

    • Melissa

      Rebecca this is right where we are too. 5 yr old, 3 yr old, 1 yr old and a few weeks ago I swore I was pregnant again. Also facing down a possible job change (the fourth in as many years) and my own mental health issues (anxiety) and we are also trying to take a much needed break. It can be so hard to discern what God is asking. And I was actually dissapointed to get a negative PG test. I have no great point to make but I appreciated and always appreciate knowing others are in the same place, which is why both my husband and I loved this post.

      • Rebecca

        Thanks for your reply, Melissa. Solidarity really helps!

        And I know what you mean — after I had a total breakdown thinking about having another baby so soon, when I figured out I wasn’t pregnant, it was a little bit of a letdown. I don’t want to miss any little person that God wants to send me.

        Prayers for you and your family!

    • Victoria

      Thank you for posting this scripture! It’s so very encouraging. Perhaps some would say I’m foolish, but I figure that this life is very short; we are all going to die some day and all that will matter then is how generous we were with the gifts God gave us. Did we bury our talents or invest them?

  • Ann-Marie

    At roller derby the other night I was chatting with a lady. She said, “Wow, three girls! Are you done?” I smiled and said, “We’re always open.” She smiled knowingly and said, “Ah, going for that boy?” I looked her dead in the eyes and said, ” No, that’s not it. We are Catholic, and we believe and respect what Jesus and his church say about marriage and sexuality.” She was stunned. She wait a second, recovered, and said, “Wow, thank for you for saying that. I don’t hear that very often.”

  • CatholicMutt

    I love the openness and honesty of this post. I am single, and (following another difficult yet beautiful teaching of the Church) therefore childless. I am getting to an age where I question whether I will ever get to be a mother (though it’s still possible so far), and that hurts a lot. Therefore, it seems a little unlikely that this post would strike any chords for me, yet it did. I think truly honest writing has that tendency to open doors. Know that I will be praying for those of you that are dealing with the other end of the spectrum from my cross…

  • Monica

    I read just a brief excerpt of the article early this morning. Mostly just the part about how hard it is to be open to life. All day my mind went to dread. I am currently pregnant with our fifth in five and a half years. Each pregnancy has been in full cooperation with God my husband and myself. And yet here I was despairing. “Nine, nine scares me 10? 12? There’s nothing cute about 12 it’s just a scandal” what a subtle conniving sob the devil is. I asked God, my father, to give me a word and I opened to Luke’s narrative of the Annunciation. God chose​ Mary a teenager from​ a nowhere town to be the vessel to save humanity. The story crucifies reason, defies logic and is the same kind of work God has fulfilled in me. He has
    Given me a new life and all the unsurmountable things (9, 10, 11,12 children) He will do them in me like Luke 1: 36 says “for nothing is impossible with God”.

  • Sarah

    Thank you, I have cried so much today because “I’m pregnant and I don’t know how to feel… of course I’m happy but sheesh!” My nearly 4 year old, 2.5 year old and 9 month old all looking at me to reassure them that I’m ok. Am I ok? My husband says I will be. He says “wow, another blessing, you are amazing, God is amazing we will be fine”. Thanks be to God, there are others out there… there are none here in my town. Thank you for putting words to my thoughts and making those thoughts ok. God bless

    • Amy M

      Sarah, May God bless you! It’s a hard place to be, with many young ones and another on the way. I have been there, as well. My oldest is 7 and my youngest is 1.5… 5 children all together. The important thing is to trust in the Lord. Yes, there will be some super hard times. There will also be some amazingly blessed times. It’s ok to struggle but never forget to turn those thoughts to the Lord and keep going back to Him! A friend of mine just yesterday was speaking about Uniformity to God’s Will (a book written by St. Alphonsus Liguori, really short but incredibly profound, maybe take a look at it?). The idea is that no matter what comes our way in life- good, bad, hard, easy- our joy is in the Lord. That doesn’t mean we’ll always be skipping around with huge smiles on our faces, but that we know God’s will for us is what’s best because of His infinite love for us. We may not always understand it, but if every single moment, every hard time and good time, we entrust ourselves to His Perfect Will, we will find true joy. This definitely easier said than done! But it is also worth every bit of effort. When I was in a hard place mentally earlier this week another friend happened to text a link to this short sermon. It really turned my week around. I hope it does the same for you! Don’t be thrown off by the title. He explains at the beginning that while he’s speaking to one group, the sermon can actually apply to any phase of life.

  • Rosanne

    Cheers to everyone here! NFP is hard; being open to life is hard. My husband, who though Catholic from birth, wasn’t really on board with it for most of our fertile years. He was angry about abstinence and even walked out on our marriage because of it (though just for a few hours). We started using NFP for secular reasons – natural, cheap – as both of us were less than stellar Catholics. So the whole “God’s will” thing didn’t enter into it in the beginning. I went through a conversion when I was 33. My husband went through one 17 years later. I was SO glad that I did not have to face a contraception decision after my conversion.
    With my conversion, I realized that NFP was a blessing and God’s plan for our marriage. It made me better understand my husband’s anger. I marveled at the fact that he stayed in the marriage when abstinence was so hard for him and that he didn’t have the “God’s will” back up. I realized that he was in fact truly devoted to me and to our children. That could be the only reason. Wow. What a testimony. What a man I had for a husband!
    I had a particularly hard time after our 4th child was born. Our third had had medical problems and number 4 came when he was 2 years old. This new baby was extremely strange. Now I know that he had Asperger’s. But that was back in the early 1990’s, and Asperger’s wasn’t recognized. So we had a 2 year old with medical problems, and a really difficult new baby, who, in turn, also ended up with medical problems.
    My mother-in-law was on my husband (who still hadn’t gone through any conversion and basically was angry with the Church) day and night to get sterilized, telling him that he was a bad father for having so many children. I was terrified of getting pregnant because I totally believed he would get sterilized if I did. So we used NFP to the max, straining our marriage further.
    All our Catholic friends by this time were sterilized. The last of them had just had their fourth child around the same time as we did. When they got sterilized, I just about lost it. They were “good” Catholics, involved with the Church and very nice people. Here I was with an angry husband, children with medical and emotional problems, tandem nursing, and older kids who needed attention with school and activities. I ranted to God day and night. Please let me get sterilized! Why not?! Everyone else is! They are good people! Don’t you see what I am going through? I have enough children! I am going crazy! Are you there???
    God let me go on for months and months. My prayers were desperate, angry, and constant. Finally I told God, “Look at me yelling at you day and night. Look at me complaining to you all the time. If I could get sterilized or something, I would stop and you wouldn’t have to hear it anymore!” And God said one word to my heart, “Exactly.”
    “Exactly.” Exactly, you wouldn’t pray anymore. You wouldn’t need to. You would be master of your own destiny. You wouldn’t need me. You wouldn’t have any need to trust me. All the gifts, all the blessings I have, you would turn away from since you would have your own designs and plans. Exactly. I want you to trust me. I want you to have real reasons to love me. I want to work miracles in your life that you can’t possible imagine at this time. I want to you to cling to me in desperation, and I will hold you up and let you see eternity.
    So, my prayer changed. I didn’t get pregnant at that time. As a matter of fact, I didn’t get pregnant for another 5 years, when I was 40. That child, our son, was born when I was 41. (I have another whole story on that!) He is 21 now and will be graduating from college next year and plans to enter the seminary. My husband went through a powerful conversion shortly after he was born. We became NFP teachers. We became marriage prep instructors and now I am the head of marriage prep for our diocese.
    I am 61 and my husband is 63. We recently adopted 5 children from Africa. Our lives and our house and our hearts are full. I could have NEVER imagined what God had planned for us, nor could I have done anything without his constant support. Praise God for his marvelous love.

    • Cami

      Tears in my eyes as I rock newborn #4 in 5 yrs while reading this. Thank you for sharing this. We need these stories to keep going! God bless your work in marriage prep and may your encouragement of NFP reach and conform hearts to His Holy Will!

    • TerriB

      God bless you, Roseanne, for sharing this. I’m coming out of the fog with my youngest child, the 6th here but 2 more saints in heaven. I’m 41 and wondering, no, praying for the Lord to close my womb. But, I also want all the blessings he wants to give me. Wow, your words are so timely.

  • Diana

    Thank you for the infertility part in there. My husband and I have been married 11 years, started “trying” almost 8 years ago and a whole lot of tears, an infertility diagnosis, and a ton of paperwork later, we have adopted one child (now 4) and are 3 years into waiting for a second. We definitely thought we’d have more kids at this point in our lives. So many of our friends and family say they are done (open to more life or not) and it’s tough looking at being “behind” and not knowing when/how our next kid(s) will come from. It’s tough feeling sympathy for unplanned pregancies when our journey to kids is so different. Thank you for acknowledging that.

  • Marissa

    I appreciate articles like this. Honestly, 7 years into marriage, I have not found the NFP to be particularly burdensome, though I most definitely understand that this is not the same for everyone. However, it does have its challenges and as someone who likes to plan, it can be humbling to realize that I’m not in control!

    I love being an advocate for NFP and all methods of FAM because I feel it is an option that all women need to be aware of given the side effects of many other forms of birth control. It feels like I ALWAYS have to be positive about it, because if you ever share any struggles, anyone who isn’t on board (which is still the majority of our society) sends a snide comment your way. It’s nice to find communities where you can share your struggles and be positive about it at the same time.

  • Jenny

    Thank you for this post! It is exactly what I need to hear right now. My 5th is 13 months & I found out a few weeks ago I am pregnant with my 6th. When I found out I cried and was so mad & upset; not being ready for another baby, when #5 is barely sleeping through the night, and not every night and many other reasons I could think of. I was (and to some extent still am), not wanting to hear the disapproval of family members about having another kid or ‘don’t you have a tv’. Also for not supporting my family in our decision to do NFP. Many times I have to realize I am taking the road less traveled, the narrow gate & this is how the good Lord wants to refine me. Thank you for helping me realize I am not the only one with these thoughts, but am being called to a higher calling. Thank you & God Bless!

    • jeanette

      You are absolutely right about taking the road less traveled.

      “The Road Less Travelled” is the title of a book that I read many years ago in college, written by Dr. M. Scott Peck. I cannot point to anything particular of memory from it, but I do know that it made sense for the Christian: the road less traveled is exactly what it is to live our Catholic life faithfully in all areas of our life. Because the Cross of Jesus Christ is most definitely the road less travelled in this world.

      We crave support along that road from among those people who are in our life, and often they might be the very ones who fail to support us. However, we need to take up these crosses in our life in order to give witness to those who, like ourselves, need our support. Even those whom we don’t know or don’t realize look to us and draw strength to also follow the teachings of the Church. Your life then becomes an outward sign of a willingness to struggle. On a personal level, it gives you opportunities to become holy. The call to holiness is for everyone, and it is a lifelong work.

      If I look back over my life and the struggles of motherhood that challenged me then and now, I would say there were far more struggles than joys. The joys are more respite from the struggles. But I’d rather have it that way. After a period of time, you come to realize that it is the struggle that draws you closer to God. Then you begin to have less fear of the struggle and more confidence in God, and you surrender yourself to the peace that comes from being in that intimate contact with God.

    • Malia

      This is me too. 5 kids age ranging from 18 months to 10 years and just found out I am pregnant with number 6. I sat in adoration last night and cried and cried. I kept asking the Lord “why?” Why does he think I’m worthy of this calling? So much of me does not feel ready to carry a baby again, to try to find another vehicle that fits us all, to feel the stress my husband carries as he works his tail off to support our growing family, to spread my time and love amongst another little soul. Though we’ve not shared this news with any friends or family yet, I already dread all the negative comments. “Don’t you know how that happens?” “Aren’t you don’t yet?” “Wow, you two really need to find another hobby!” And on and on and on. I dread telling our non-Catholic family, because how do you explain the teachings of our beautiful faith in 5 minutes? I dread social gatherings with friends who will wonder why I’m not having a drink, and I dread picking my kids up from school with a pregnant belly and multiple littles in tow while other moms of “only” a couple kids look at me and pity me. I realize these are all very selfish thoughts and I have no doubts I will be madly in love with this newest blessing, but I have yet to feel the excitement and the joy, only the worry and the fear. While I know and understand why we’ve chosen this path to remain open to life, it does not always make the journey easy, and trusting the Lord with our fertility remains an extremely difficult task. Thank you for sharing your heart–it was exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ll pray for you and ask that you pray for me too!

  • Lorna

    Wow, powerful piece and lots of powerful comments.

    I needed to hear that, I’m at the other end of the fertility spectrum (basically not) Married for 8 years and actively ‘trying’ for quite a few (of boy was that stressful) and now mum to two adopted boys (also fairly stressful!).
    And with hindsight, I now know that my ‘job’ was to be there when they needed me. God knew that – I took a little longer to catch on.

    So much is written about the struggles with infertility it’s kinda nice to know that it’s not a bed of roses on the other side. My heart aches for those of you hurting and struggling with parenthood, with pregnancy with too many blessings. I have 2 and its hard work, more than 2 I can’t even imagine!

    All our stories combine together to make our community here on Earth, with each other we can and will do it.

  • Tamar

    I have 2 children and 1 in heaven and know absolutely that I am done having children. At 40 and 44, my husband and I have chosen abstinence for the last 4 years and will continue to do so until menopause. If you discern you aren’t equipped to parent more children than you already have, you don’t have to have any more. Catholics don’t have to have large families to be loyal to the teachings of the church.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Tamar.

      Of course you are correct, Catholics do not have to have large families to be loyal to the Church. They only have to respect the laws of God and nature and abstain or use NFP to space or avoid pregnancies. God bless you and your husband in your heroic sacrifice.

    • Vanessa

      Agreed! I do think this article makes it sound like you can never say you are “done” and must be open to having a big family/kids till menopause in order to be a faithful Catholic. I just can’t see myself being 40 with a newborn, not to mention I don’t want to put myself or my child at risk health wise by getting pregnant at that age.

      Just curious if you mean total abstinence or abstinence with NFP. I can’t imagine total abstinence and hope Marquette can carry us through menopause.

      • Tamar

        Total abstinence is the only way to 100% not get pregnant and that is what I mean. I’m not saying that is the path for everyone, but it is a licit choice within marriage if you discern you are done with childbearing. My husband and I are growing in virtue by disciplining our carnal desires, others might be growing in virtue by practicing patience and fortitude while raising their large family.

        • Vanessa

          Wow! That’s quite the sacrifice. I feel very confident with Marquette, but perhaps as we get closer to menopause I will add the new tests that confirm ovulation.

  • Jennifer

    I just wanted to mention that I’ve been on both sides of the fertility thing and it really does change your perspective on NFP. I had three kids in four years (intentionally), and after 18 months we started trying for number 4. Now it’s two years later (my youngest is 3), and I’ve had three really early miscarriages, and I’m 35. We use the Marquette method to space, and also to get pregnant. Now, we’re just…tired of trying. I’ve spent a fortune on pregnancy tests hoping I was pregnant, and the whole thing is something I only discuss with my mom and sister, because few people understand trying to get pregnant with a fourth child. So, for the people who are “super fertile”- that was me. and now medically, I’m fine, but I’m a little older and we just aren’t in control of it. So even if you think you are on the super fertile end of the spectrum, realize that that can change. The beautiful thing about NFP is that it helps you deal with all the vagaries that come along with being open to life. I’m on the end of trying to come to terms with maybe not having another child while desperately wanting one. And now I’m just trying to relax and trust God, and do a good job of the loving and being thankful for the husband and children that I have. —Just another plug for everyone to remember that you NEVER know what is going on in someone else’s marriage with respect to fertility/open to life/contraception- even if they only have 1/2/3 (insert # here) children.

    • Allison Howard

      JENNIFER, this was my exact position a year-and-a-half ago: three kids in 3.5 years and now hoping for a fourth that wouldn’t come. I never expected years of infertility after years of super-fertility and it was not a cross than many understood. Eventually, NFP helped me diagnose a hormone imbalance that was in part related to my diet. A fabulous NaPro doctor near-ish to me helped me uncover this, probably saving me severe health implications down the road, and also helping me achieve pregnancy. I fell to my knees with that positive pregnancy test, sobbing in my bathroom and will never forget my overwhelming joy and gratitude for this gift. My third is now 4-years-old and I have found the baby stages SO MUCH EASIER with the extra years in between. As a family, we are loving every second of this baby. Additionally, struggling with secondary (tertiary?) infertility has given me such insight into that side of the matter — another complete gift as I minister to my friends and family who struggle with such crosses. Finally, as I’m typing this, my oldest just asked me if he could read two verses from his new Bible to me: “Hanah prayed: ‘The Lord has filled my heart with joy; how happy I am because of what he has done! I laugh at my enemies; how joyful I am because God has helped me!” Samuel 2:1). Hannah’s prayer, the mother of Samuel who begged the Lord for a son. Thank you, Lord, for my son and the wisdom that flows from You, through him, and to us all.

    • Kristen

      Thank you so much for this. My husband and I have been married for six years, practicing NFP the entire time and we have two little girls (almost 5 and 2.5). We did not struggle at all to conceive them but here we are almost 2.5 years into actively trying to grow our family and this is something I never imagined would happen to us. We are working with our family doctor (who happens to be NaPro too) but we often wonder how far do we go with working with her and just leave it in God’s hands. It has been quite the silent struggle and lot of tears and prayers of why but also prayers for peace in my heart. I always imagined we would have a big family (my husband is the youngest of 8) and his siblings have lots of children too. Even now I get asked (by family, friends, and strangers) if we are done or if we will try for a boy or if we want more. I want to scream from the top of my lungs we have been trying for over two years and sometimes you don’t just get pregnant when you want to. The Holy Family only had 3 people and they were the holiest family ever and we all need to strive to have holy families. Anyways, I’ll step off my soapbox now. Again, thank you for sharing this. Our “struggle” to add to our family has definitely changed my heart for the better. God bless you and your family!

  • theresa

    I am late to this post, however I really enjoyed reading all these comments! What I see most is that as women, we all need support, regardless of our station in life, we all need help! I have 3 lovely daughters (29,26,21) and while I always imagined we would have a larger family (I am one of 6) – it wasn’t meant to be. Because of the ongoing special care and attention our 3rd daughter requires, quite frankly, there has been no time for regret. The Lord showed me where my mission is. From single women longing for a holy husband to share life with, sweet women who long to have children, adoptive mothers who have a beautiful calling, to hardworking loving mamas of small tribes — we all need love + understanding. All of you who commented here are amazing, brave saints and your stories are now tucked into my heart. Seriously – all of you are so intelligent and holy, gosh I learned so much! Jenny, when I remember, I love to read your blog, even though I am 56 😉 and I will be a first time grandmother in several months. Blessing! Oh and whenever I see a large family when I am out and about, I smile and admire! Wish I could make you all a cake and hold your babies 🙂 GOD BLESS YOU.

  • Meg

    Thanks for this! I hope you can find irl friends that share this struggle with you. Because it’s real. Doing the right thing is HARD! But the truth sets us free right?!?! I am expecting number 7 in my forties and feeling like a freak show. My family is not picture perfect- we have our warts. I cringe at discussing my fertility with strangers and yet it happens every time I leave my house. Another friend – expecting number 10!- gave me great advice she got from someone else. When someone else makes a comment or asks a question just answer “God has a different plan for everyone”. It helps remind me he’s in charge and gives people food for thought without getting in their face!! Best of luck!

  • Caitlin

    I’m 34 and just found out that baby #7 is on the way. This blog is exactly what I needed today, and I’m so grateful for this online community that makes me feel not so alone.

  • Kathleen

    Phew, this is a hard topic for me. I am sure the comments are past and the survey is closed, but I feel compelled to comment.

    My parents were NFP teachers, I come from a large family–and until 2 years ago I would go to bat for NFP up, down, and sideways. My husband and I took CCL (sympto-thermal) methods before we got married, and practiced it for two years after getting married.

    Then we got pregnant and I miscarried. And I found out that for a Church that pushes us to be so “open to life,” it is pretty ill-equipped when it comes to death. The lack of support certainly existed for us after our miscarriage in our parish/diocese, but more than that–it exists throughout the entire (US) Church community. My NFP-centric family, my NFP-knowing circle of friends, my Catholic high school, my Catholic college all speak a great deal about fertility, family-planning, and the morality of contraception but hardly a word spoken or breathed about the grief and trauma of miscarriage. I felt ill-prepared to navigate this part of my fertility and married life, and I still hold a great deal of resentment around how little effort seems to be put to communicating about miscarriage, especially given how common it is, compared especially with the drum-beat of marriage, fertility, childbearing, etc.

    I also feel the Church needs to be better equipped to deal with mental health issues, as a part of its committment to a consistent life ethic. To me, mental health is intimately coupled with my miscarriage and fertility–my miscarriage triggered a severe depression that required medication to pull out of, and it’s that same medication that would pose a real risk to a developing baby if I were to get pregnant now. Perhaps my faith is poor, but it’s not enough for me to say “God will protect my unborn child while I’m on this medication,” and without it, my depression would be debilitating and possibly fatal. Because of this reality, my husband and I use contraception–and I do so with a clean conscience. I’m not healthy enough to be a mother or to go off medication, and I also don’t think God is calling us to be celibate for years.

    Lastly: the Catholic Church needs to figure out way to engage those without children/suffering miscarriages/infertile couples in the rich life of a parish. Sure, I could join the ladies altar society or teach Sunday School, but I know my husband and I aren’t the only one who feel that the lifeblood of a parish is less accessible to us than it would be to, say, a family with school aged children.

    • Vanessa

      That sounds really rough, Kathleen. I’m sorry for your loss. I have wondered how to support friends going through miscarriage. It is all too common and I wish our churches would do more to support women in this time.

      Your comments about choosing contraception over NFP made me wonder if you didn’t trust NFP when you were using it or if you considered using another method. I’m sure you know the rates of efficacy between the two are pretty much equivalent. I’ve known friends who have gotten pregnant while using contraception so while celibacy is not ideal, I would think it’s the only guarantee for not getting pregnant. I will say that I am much happier with the Marquette method than I was with sympto-thermal. I feel very confident in the objectivity of the monitor and I don’t think I’d feel any more “safe” with birth control. Some couples choose to only use phase 3 and also use temperatures to double-check ovulation (or even go so far as to confirm ovulation by ultrasound), which is much more conservative than necessary, but in a situation like yours, could be a good option that doesn’t conflict with the teachings of the Church.

    • Victoria

      Kathleen, I also come from a large family and lost my first baby to a miscarriage. It was shocking and utterly devastating. I didn’t know how common miscarriages were (precisely as you said, nobody really talks about them) and I assumed that because my mother carried so many babies to term I would too. I couldn’t been around infants for months without breaking down. My own mother didn’t seem to understand. “Rachel weeps for her children, and refuses to be comforted…”
      I will be praying for you and your husband. May I suggest that you pray the Seven Sorrows Chaplet of Our Lady? She lost her only child. She really knows what you are going through and she wants you to know that God really wants you to be peaceful and happy even if things don’t make any sense right now.
      If you know the Anima Christi, that’s a good one too:
      Soul of Christ, sanctify me; Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me; O good Jesus, hear me; within your wounds, hide me; let me never be separated from you; from the evil one, protect me; at the hour of my death, call me; and bid me to come to you; that with your saints, I may praise you forever and ever. Amen.

    • g


      I am so sorry. I’ve had 4 miscarriages (also have six living children), and my very pro-life/anti-contraception mother was so incredibly cruel to me after one of the miscarriages that I have hardly had a relationship with her since. It was really eye-opening to me–at the time, I was working in a secular environment with people I know to be pro-choice, and every single one of them showed me nothing but kindness and compassion when I experienced the miscarriage.

      Like you, I grew up in a very pro-NFP environment, my best friend is a Creighton teacher, and most of my friends and family would never use any form of contraception. My husband and I were also totally onboard (tried both CCL and Creighton, worked closely with practitioners, etc.) for the first half of our marriage, but when my body fell apart, he made a huge sacrifice (he came from a very large family himself and loves, loves, loves babies) and said “no more” after our 6th. We are now over 25 years in, very much enjoying our 6 children as they get older, and remain best friends and devoted lovers. And if a surprise baby should show up in our lives, we’ll move over and make room for one more, with open arms and hearts (unlikely at our ages, but I’ve known women older than I am who have had babies, and nothing short of complete abstinence or a hysterectomy is 100%, so you never know).

      I will always be a huge advocate of FAM methods (I’m very anti-chemical and anti-foreign body insertion to achieve fertility control), but they don’t work for everyone in every circumstance. And they certainly aren’t some sort of magical formula for wonderful marriages any more than contraception is some sort of automatic marriage destroyer.

      I wish you and your husband a future of health, happiness, and fruitfulness (in whatever form that may take). May you take comfort in the belief that some day we will all be reunited with our lost children, and there will be great rejoicing!

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