The news of my latest pregnancy (#5 if you don't know me) was greeted by my family with about the worst possible response- short of being disowned. I waited until I was 12 weeks to tell anyone other than my husband and a close friend because I knew the reaction would not be pleasant. My family has always had concerns about our growing family because of my health conditions. I've never had any trouble and come through each pregnancy fine. However, last summer our youngest son was diagnosed with a degenerative neuromuscular disease known as Spinal Muscular Atropy. It is genetic. My husband and I are both carriers. We learned that each time I was pregnant we had a one in four chance of producing a child with SMA. The devastation of having a child with SMA was overwhelming for a time. I honestly couldn't see myself ever being happy again. In time, I came out from under my dark cloud but always looming in the distance for us was what do we do about any future children? For my family, and any one who doesn't agree with the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception the answer is to get my tubes tied, or make my husband get a vasectomy. We knew these were not options and so, with what we considered to be the gravest of circumstances we resumed the practice of Natural Family Planning. But, God seemed to have other plans for us because I became pregnant earlier this year.
Now I'm battling against the misconception that my husband and I are selfish because we supposedly planned to bring this child into the world, even though he/she might have SMA. We're irresponsible because we don't use contraception or sterilization to prevent pregnancy. We're saying 'it's God's will' to excuse our actions. Perhaps there is even some underlying hatred of a Church that would 'force us' to have children under such circumstances. And so on, and so on.
I don't think I can change everyone's minds. I'm exhausted at the thought of trying to convince some of my friends and family to not hate me. But whether they want to admit it or not, somewhere along the line society came to believe that God has nothing to do with the creation of children. Newsflash, God creates life, not you and He has a purpose for each individual.
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I hallowed thee, I appointed thee a prophet unto the nations. Jeremiah 1.5
And most especially, society has forgotten that the primary end of sex is children. The purpose of sex is to make babies, not entertain you on a Saturday night. If God designed sex just for fun, we wouldn't have to introduce so many artificial barriers to prevent the inevitable. Even if you examine sex from a purely scientific standpoint, you have to acknowledge that it's primary end is procreation. It's how we keep our species going.
Plus, the fact of the matter is, people don't want me to bring another disabled child into this world. Sure, they love my youngest son but when speaking of an abstract, unknown child, I suppose it's better if such a child didn't exist. For his/her sake because living a disabled life must be so horrible, and mine, because why would I want that burden? And if that's not the underlying reason, why shouldn't I have another child? Or another 10? Then you open the floodgates to the all the criticisms of large families in general.
People, regardless of what they do on Sunday, believe very little in God's sway in their lives. People believe they have free will and that the choice is entirely theirs with God's participation limited to guiding them through the tough times and 'rewarding them' with the good times. They fail to see how it is possible to accept things contrary to what they want and regard it as God's will. Negative circumstances are to be avoided. No one but the staunchest Catholics understands the role of suffering in today's world. Although Jesus never promised an easy life for any of his followers, many Christians have come to expect it. They want God to take them out of tribulation not allow it to befall them in order to make them holier. Such a concept runs counter to modern thought in the Church and mainstream society.
So it is no wonder that my acceptance of this pregnancy, which is considered a horrible mistake by many, could be misunderstood. They can't see God 'blessing' us with a baby given our circumstances so this pregnancy must be the result of a stupid mistake or bad judgement on our part. They see contraception and sterilization as a God given option to preventing such mishaps and our refusal of them our own curse. They fail to see each as an immoral choice given the moral option of abstinence. It'd be like choosing to steal a loaf of bread to feed your family rather than pay for it. You'll eat either way, but one is wrong. Because people have no idea of self control the though of abstinance is downright appalling to them and basically they don't believe people can control their urges.
I think the choices we've made regarding family planning also make other people uncomfortable about the choices they've made, as if we're judging them by not contracepting and having lots of kids. You've made your choices and we've made ours. Why are you allowed to criticize the size of my family but I have no right to be appalled at your choice to contracept?
I guess people feel it's more responsible now to plan pregnancies and have less children. Most couples now feel like they can't handle more than 1 or 2 kids again forgetting that God gives you the grace to handle what he sends. We really have so little control over the surprises and tragedies that come our way but we always find a way through. We become tougher and stronger and we look back are realize we've done the unthinkable along the way.
Heavens knows I'm scared and my husband is scared but we've been scared before and looking back over our lives, we can see how God brought us through those times. We can turn our trust over to God and accept these trials, crosses, surprises-whatever because we know He is there with us as He always has been.
How do we know God's will? How can we be sure we are treading the right path and not being irresponsible or selfish? Our road map is the Church. Her teachings are the compass that point straight to heaven. We may not always be happy in this life with the trials we face by taking the road less travelled, but we can be satisfied knowing God is pleased with our efforts. Following our own whims and desires may be easier, more convenient, may please others, help us fit in better but if we acknowledge our faults and our nature as sinners we must question the ability of such a lifestyle to bring us lasting happiness in this world or the next.
Great resources for learning about the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception.