There is a myth about having children in our world today. It seems that couples are having less children than ever in our times. Some get married and decide not to have any at all. As a mother of five, I have been asked numerous times from random people, and even family and friends, if I'm going to have more kids. After the delivery of each of my children, people asked: "Is this it, or are you going to have more?" Just to clarify, it is not that I find it rude, but I feel that it is not any business of theirs, whether it be out of curiosity or an expectation that I should stop. Do they have a part in raising my children that I was not aware of? It confused and saddened me to hear this and made me feel their lack of understanding about love and sacrifice. Personally, I've spoken to many women who are asked questions like this by friends and family, or even random people at a grocery store. This brought me to the realization that the general society's perception of a family consists of mother, father and 2 or maximum 3 children. Most hotels do not accommodate or have options for large families in one room, which shows their lack of prevalence.
I believe, as a Catholic, a couple should be open to life. When I got married, it was not in the plan that we would have 5 children. Before we got married, I did not recall hearing anything about the big catholic family during the marriage prep course. So, we really supposed we would be like the average family with two kids. As I grew closer to God and realized that contraception is not a part of God's design for marriage and that we should rather be open to life... number three came. A few years later, we thought we should have one more and so we had number four. Then 5 years later, in the middle of moving and much chaos, an unexpected gift arrived. Despite the challenges of having a little baby in the midst of moving our home and work, I still felt like I was blessed. Our youngest daughter is the most joyful gift that our family has ever received. I can't imagine how people can think that children are such a burden. I had much help from the older ones, so it was a different experience for us. I now have a 19-year-old, a 16-year-old, a 14-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a 4-year-old. As Catholics, the presupposition that we should go into marriage planning to have one or two, or twelve, children or perhaps purposely stopping future pregnancies from occurring goes against everything that marriage is about. Marriage is about making sacrifices, the husband for his wife and children, and the wife for her husband and children.
I have many wonderful friends who have 7 and 8 children and they are the happiest and most beautiful families I've ever met. Of course, it is not easy, but no one ever said that life is easy. I have also met many older women who regret not having more children once it was too late for them. Sometimes, I find that women yearn to have more children, but they begin to overthink, thoughts like "I will be X old when they start high school", and "I don't feel like changing diapers and breast feeding for years all over again", and so they begin to talk themselves out of the idea of welcoming more children. Sometimes the man wants to have more children but the woman opposes the idea or vice-versa, and this can cause much strife.
I feel very blessed for having a big family. I know that not everyone is able to have children, which is a cross that many couples bear. But the most unfortunate reality of all is that women are given the option in our times to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy, while millions of couples wish that they could conceive. A child is a precious gift from God, no matter what the circumstances of their conception; they are still a precious gift.
It is obvious that "choosing" how many children a person wants is what has gained popularity in our society. But I would encourage you to remember that as Christians, being open to life is one of the most important parts of the sacrament of marriage. They are the fruits of love, the glue that keeps family together. No amount of joy is comparable to what an innocent child brings to a home.
I will end with the words of a famous poet, Khalil Gibran:
"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."