A New Season
Remember those heady days of early blogging when the mommies – and the blogs – were plentiful? I was messaging with a writer friend this morning, reflecting on what an unusual and also extraordinary thing it was to be part of it at the beginning, to be one of a handful of Catholic women fumbling around with a blogspot dot com at what felt like the advent of the era of digital self-disclosure and the birth of online community.
I remember having to explain myself to people in real life that I also had real friends who I’d met online but, uh, never actually met in person. It was a little weird! Not anymore, though.
Those were the days, weren’t they? Truth be told I still love it when one of the OSB cranks out a low key day in the life post (I’m looking at you, Bonnie, Christy, Kendra), and while I don’t write many of them myself lately, it’s not for lack of affection for you, dear readers; it’s just that I’m starting to feel a little bit like I’m wearing the wrong size shoes. The self disclosing and rambling that once came so naturally now feels a little bit, I don’t know, over the top?
Part of it is being a mother to kids who are older.
Not older kids, because with my oldest nearing only nine, I’m not exactly out of the elementary years over here, but just being a mother to kids who can read has changed the rules of the game, big time. Not that they read my blog, nor do I expect they’ll ever want to – not the boys anyway. Just that something feels “a little bit not good,” as one of my younger siblings was known to say, when I identify one of them by name, like I’m chipping away little by little at their privacy or autonomy or something.
Funny stories about public nudity and diaper explosions are great when they feature feral toddlers as their stars, but older kids require more nuance, more deference, and more privacy.
The other thing is this: I feel disingenuous sometimes. Like I’m here on the other side of the computer screen handing out advice and tbh I’m just figuring things out as I go along.
I really don’t look to style myself as any sort of expert on anything, except maybe painting things which were previously thought un-paintable, so I feel a little sheepish sometimes when I do write about more serious stuff. A sort of existential angst like, gosh, I hope nobody thinks I have this all figured out.
I don’t. Have anything figured out, that is. And the older I get and the more kids we add, the less certain I am of anything. Things that were set in stone with babies one through three went out the window when Luke the Verb was born. Still more fat was trimmed away (not literally, alas) when Zelie made her debut. (Buh bye breastfeeding, don’t let the door hit you)
And I’m certain that come late November, this year, things will shift once again when we discover whether or not kids are cheaper by the half dozen.
Not where you thought I was going with this, right?
It’s true, we’re expanding our crew, and he or she is due to make an appearance right around Thanksgiving time.
So forgive me if the blogging becomes more…unreliable.
To anticipate a few questions, if I may:
Yes, this baby was “planned”. Well, planned in the sense that we knew we were opening ourselves to the statistically higher probability of conception. There’s always a chance, you know? I sort of hate the language around ‘trying/not trying,’ even in NFP circles. The older I get and the more kids I have, the less certain I am that we’re in control of anything in our lives, much less our fertility.
THAT BEING SAID, Marquette has been a godsend for us. As dwellers on the extremely, very, intensely fertile end of the spectrum of fertility, we found a method that helped us truly appreciate and understand our physiology. The challenge, in fact, gradually shifted from “oh my gosh could we please get some breathing room” to “gosh, we really have this down to a science now…and it’s up to us to discern whether we have grave reason to avoid.”
Guys, I just never thought I’d be there. I went from “delighted yet overwhelmed young mom” to “bitter and slightly panicky middle experience mom” to “relieved and also awed-by-responsibility” older mom, all in the span of three (3!) different NFP methods. I’m so grateful we stuck it out and found a method that worked for us, because it was hard.
And NFP is still hard. There is a reason the Church gives it to us as a means of recourse, but not a requirement. Can I go so far as to say that NFP is probably not good for every marriage in every season? But also, that it can be the saving grace of some marriages in some seasons? Catholicism has a funny way of holding seemingly irreconcilable things in tension like that, does it not?
Anyway, to make a long story longer, we were confident enough with Marquette to actually get to a place of “wow, we could actually be done having babies,” which caused us to consider the question, repeatedly, over a number of months “are we done having babies?”
And, well, I guess the obvious by now answer is: no.
I don’t take my fertility lightly. What felt like a crushing burden in my early thirties feels like a solemn responsibility in my later thirties.
At the end of the day, even this, our fertility, isn’t ours to rule over. God entrusts us with certain resources and asks us to make good with them. For whatever reason, God has called us to accept the challenge of parenting a larger family.
As a girl who never dreamt of having tons of kids, it feels strange and mysterious and also a little crazy. I don’t smile with obvious joy when someone reacts strongly to us in public. Honestly, lady at the Y, I’m just as surprised as you are. And not because I don’t know how it works, but because I know exactly how it works, and even had a pretty good handle on maintaining the status quo, and He still asked for more!
Oh, and one more question I’ve gotten. Ages! Our oldest will be 9 when this baby comes, so the lineup will be 9, 7, 5, 4, and about a month shy of 2. Yes, that’s crazy. But no, I don’t homeschool. So to have ages 4 and up in school, at least part time, will be a significant game changer.
I hope you’ll bear with me as I navigate this new season and look for a new balance irl and online. I’ll never stop writing because, apart from having many babies, I truly believe it is something I was put here to do. But things might change in the coming months, a lot or a little. One bigger change? I’ll be writing more feature pieces like this one and this one for CNA. I’m thrilled and a little intimidated to be stepping into the role of legit journalist, and it’s a responsibility and an honor I don’t take lightly. I can’t wait to share more stories like these with you guys.
In the meantime, I would love your prayers for our little baby, and also for couples who are still struggling with their fertility. We could easily be back in that place after this baby comes; I know nothing is as static as we’d like to believe. I have so many friends whose arms ache for babies who haven’t come, for babies they’ve held and lost, and from the weight of holding as many babies as they’ve been asked to hold.
Congratulations!! I am 27 and pregnant with our first, due in October. My husband introduced me to your blog long before we started trying (when I had many hesitations and insecurities about ever becoming pregnant), and I have enjoyed reading about the struggles and graces your family shares for several years.
I am excited to share part of my first pregnancy journey with you, even though you have been through this many times before. Thanks for sharing.
Congratulations to you and Dave, and to your family. We will look forward to the arrival of your newborn and continue to pray for everyone’s health and wellbeing. Hope this pregnancy, delivery and postpartum are easy on you. Much love to all.
I have grown to dislike the idea of “achieving” or “avoiding” pregnancy. Even the most awesome and Catholic medical people I know use these terms. I feel like I’m just married and living my life and the kids have come because that’s just what happens.
Love your writing!
So many congratulations! It’s heroic and an amazing testimony of faith!
I did not see that coming! How wonderful!
For the record, I have never thought your blog posts seemed disingenuous. I appreciate your honesty about the good, bad and ugly parts of Catholicism, parenting, etc. You are my favorite blogger because you are so open about it all. Keep doing what you’re doing! But also rest and take care of yourself and baby 🙂
Congratulations! Very excited for you and your family.
Congratulations and thank you for your gift of authenticity in writing! I am new to your blog and have been enjoying reading past posts!
I was hoping you might be able to direct me to a post you may have already written, but that I may be using the wrong tags in trying to locate: could you help me understand what you mean about NFP being a “means of recourse, but not requirement”? To be honest, I started last week looking for some sort of loophole for this challenging season (not great moments), but God is good and led me here for some much needed validation of the practice as a path to keep growing on. However, that aforementioned line has been on my mind and I’d love to understand. Thanks so much!
Congratulations Jenny 🙂 your line, “What felt like a crushing burden in my early thirties feels like a solemn responsibility in my later thirties” sums up exactly how I feel. I love reading your posts, as my husband and I have not always practiced NFP. Growing older and more faithful we finally have the courage to follow God’s plan for us and not use contraception. It is a scary place for us as we are also a fertile mix but I am finally seeing this as a complete blessing. Prayers for your new baby to be, you and all your family.
Ohh Jenny!!! I was SOOO so excited when I realized where you were headed with this post!! More Uebbings are ALWAYS an amazing blessing. I pray you feel well and have a smooth pregnancy.
I think you hit the nail on the head here with what you said about NFP. Certain seasons, Marquette is an absolutely amazing tool (#objectivity!!!), But for others, I’m so glad we can throw it out the window. No matter what, something is a cross, it’s either in the shape of a lot more abstinence than we like, or in the stress of a difficult baby (the only brand we’re capable of producing, apparently!). But great joy in both of those as well!! More proof of the beautiful both/and of Catholicism.
Can’t wait to see this adorable new babe in a few months!
Congratulations, Jenny! May God bless you in this journey!!
When we got pregnant with our youngest (number 8), I was 45. Instead of fear, I had an overwhelming love for that child in my womb (which I knew had to come from God). My little boy (he’s almost eight now!) is such a huge joy–not only for me but for the whole family! I cannot imagine not having had him.
Trusting God with everything is not always easy, but, oh my, does it reap rewards!
Prayers for you and your family, my friend!
I read you simply because you make me feel less alone, let’s be honest this motherhood thing is tough. Your honesty keeps it real . I have zero interest in bloggers who sugarcoat everything.
I also have 6 kids , the youngest 2 I had at 40 and 42 yrs old. Yes, we were open to life but were using NFP (, maybe loosely at times) but the struggle is still very real.
God Bless you Jenny
YAY! YAY! YAY!! Congrats!! So happy for you!
Never, ever stop blogging! I hop over here almost every day hoping for something new! Your posts never disappoint!!
We visited our newest grandchild at the hospital today, and each new child added to a family is such a blessing. So, to read your blog just now and see you are going to be adding another new life to your family is so special. Families growing in size is certainly one of the great gifts and one of the most exciting challenges God gives to us. You will be in my prayers!
Wonderful news ! It encouraging to senior citizens like myself
that younger Catholics are living the faith. Please do not stop writing about life with your precious children. Of course you need to protect their privacy, but your humor in describing situations of daily life, church visits and shopping, help other young Moms to relate to you (my daughter as an example). God bless you and Dave !
Congratulations! Hope you are feeling great! God bless you for doing His will and give you lots of help.
Congratulations Jenny! Very happy for you and your family.
Congratulations, Jenny, all the way from Portugal! We had our eighth child four months ago, at the age of 46 (me) and 47 (my husband), our eldest son now twenty. So it has been twenty years of great joys and great sufferings too (“number three” died with a brain tumor when he was 18 months old), and every minute of it was worhwhile! I love reading your sensible and honest posts about maternity, and I identify strongly with you. Praying for you! Teresa
Congrats to you!!!! Love your blog and always love reading your posts. 🙂 God bless you and your family!
Congratulations Jenny! Thank you so much for your courage and witness! I know it is counter-cultural to have larger families, but whenever I hear of someone having their 4th, 5th, or 6th baby, I can’t help but think of John 1:5. New life for the win! Prayers for a happy pregnancy.
Congratulations! I do so love your blog. I have 4 kids (same ages as your oldest 4 kids) and I’m pregnant with #5, also due in November. I’ll have a 3.5 year gap between #4 and #5. This pregnancy has been a challenge because, although we use NFP, this baby caught us off guard (Hello early Phase 1 baby!) We knew there was a small chance and God swooped right in there. Apparently, we also live on that “extremely, very, intensely fertile” spectrum. It was challenging at first, as the fatigue and nausea are terrible, but the biggest joy has been the reaction of my other kids. They are so delighted at the thought of a new sibling and it brings me such happiness so see them so excited. Prayers for you for peace, grace, and big kids who are helpful around the house 🙂
Congratulations! I like the bit about having more children as a solemn responsibility. The good of society starts in the family. I have lousy fertility, and I’ve been trying to treat it for six+ years now. I’m passed the point where I even really desire more children- I have the sweetest three-year-old girl- but I feel like God has placed the duty on heart to keep trying. We are called to be faithful, not successful. God is good all the time!
Congratulations to you and Dave!! I’m so happy for you. Prayers for an easy and blessed pregnancy! What a beautiful gift you are giving your children. Our kids are 14.5, 13, 12, 9, 7, almost 6, 2.5, and 10 months. It is hard AND beautiful. I wouldn’t change it for the world. When our 6th was born, our oldest was 9 too- so hang in there. Get some rest! God bless you!
Hello from Ireland (glad you enjoy our butter 😉
Congratulations! Being able to identify very much with you on being intensely fertile and also having issues with PPD and anxiety, I think you’re very brave! I’m 30, using NFP and teetering on the question of whether I can even cope with considering a baby nr 3. And as a ‘convert’ from what you refer to as the crackpot sspx (that made me laugh!), your blog has been a huge encouragement in navigating life as a faithful, committed (non extremist) Catholic. So regardless of how often you get around to it – please don’t stop blogging!
Wow, I already saw your announcement on FB(IG?) but just now reading this post and YES. So much of what you’re entering into is what I’ve been navigating the last couple of years. The online presence, the solemn responsibility of fertility, the new stages of parenting, the surprise that yes, these ARE all mine. It’s been an intense season and I’ve been stretched like never before. Anyway, I’m excited for your new format of writing and even more excited for your new little one!
Hi Jenny!! Congratulations!! Your family is beautiful. I have a question about what you said regarding NFP – “And NFP is still hard. There is a reason the Church gives it to us as a means of recourse, but not a requirement.” Can four point me to resources about NFP not being a requirement? I’ve never heard this and would love to read more. Thanks!
Thanks! Oh, what I mean is that NFP is the only Church approved method of spacing/regulating births. So we *may* use NFP in our marriages, but we aren’t required to. We’re just prohibited from using contraception. But if people want to just take babies as they come and not dig into the science and the specifics of their own cycles/fertility, that’s totally legit. Does that make sense? Humanae Vitae gets into it:http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html
Oh, I see!! Thanks for clarifying. I was like, surely there’s not some church teaching about contraception I’m missing?! I appreciate you responding!!
First, congratulations on the new baby on the way!
I’m completely new to this blog and stumbled across it somehow from internet searches on NFP, and I was wondering if you (or another commenter who might know) could explain what you mean by the idea that NFP is “a means of recourse, but not required” for Catholics? Are there other Church-accepted methods of family planning that no one talks about? I feel like I only ever hear about NFP. Thanks and blessings!
Wow, whoops, I can see that the person above me had the same question. 🤦🏼♀️ Guess I need to start reading the comments sections!