Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dear Newlywed, You're Probably Worried About the Wrong Thing

Dear Newlywed,

Congratulations! You're embarking on an exciting new chapter of your life. You've got hopes and dreams and plans. Plans, plans, plans. You've got the next few years mapped right out. You're going to finish school and you're going to pay off school and you're going to achieve your professional goals and you're going to make the world a better place.

THEN you're going to have just the right number of kids.



That's exactly where I was, thirteen years ago. My husband was starting graduate school. I was going to work until he was done with that, then we were going to have some kids. Probably four.

It didn't work out quite like that. We had kids right away, and lots of 'em.

You look at me and my kids. All my kids. All my so, so many kids. And maybe you think whew, plenty of time for that later. Or maybe you think, jeesh, I could never do that. Or maybe you cry a single tear, because "the environment," and "me time."

But, suffice to say, whatever your reasons, you don't want kids right yet. And anyway, you know that if you don't take steps to stop them from coming, you will have twelve children. Maybe fourteen. Maybe sixty-nine. Everyone knows that. 

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage. It's right there in the song. So, you'll have to do SOMETHING or you'll have a perfectly ridiculous number of children. Everyone knows that.



So, you learn NFP. And you do NFP. Or, maybe you decide that the having and not having of children is too important to trust to the old-fashioned teachings of the Catholic Church. So you resort to other measures to make sure you don't have all those children.

But here's the thing. It's actually pretty unlikely that you were ever going to have as many kids as I do. 

What I observe is that it's MUCH more likely that you won't have as many children as you'd like to have.

I get emails every week from women who always thought they'd have children, or more children. I get requests for prayers, and for support, and for sympathy. I get stopped in stores by women who tell me they wish they could have had a big family, but they weren't able to.

There is a general perception that the only thing keeping every woman of childbearing age from having fourteen children, is some method of family planning. But the facts really don't support that perception.

The total fertility rate in the United States after World War II peaked at about 3.8 children per woman in the late 1950s. In 1999 it was at 2 children, almost exactly the same total fertility rate as the period of 1930-1939. Certainly, there were forms of artificial birth control available then. The Lambeth Conference in the Anglican Church, which took place in 1930, ushered in Protestant acceptance of birth control. But it took a long time for that teaching, which they intended to be narrow, to be accepted and implemented by everyone. So it's likely that, for the majority of American women at that time, two children was just all they were able to have.


I have seven children, yes. I expect I'll have another couple before this part of my life is done. You never know, of course, but it seems likely. But I, and every other crazy passenger van mom you see, we are the exception. Not the rule.

In this generation of my immediate family, there are four happily married couples. None are taking steps to prevent pregnancies. My husband and I are just taking them as they come, not seeking to achieve or avoid pregnancy. But the other three couples, who have been married for between four and nine years, are actively pursuing the having of children. 

And those other loving families have two children, and two children, and zero children. 

Wanting more children -- or any children at all -- has been something I've watched my sisters struggle with for many years.

I used to look at a family with two children and think, "Well, they got their two, I guess they're done." Or I looked at a couple with no children and thought, "She must just really be focused on her career." And if the place I saw those families was in Mass, I most likely made some unfair assumptions about what they were up to. May God forgive me, I know better than to do that now.

I know that many of those families would gratefully have accepted more children. That many of them wished dearly to do so. That many of them had endured miscarriages, and treatments, and surgeries.

I have watched my sister-in-law gracefully field question after question about why they haven't started a family yet, knowing that's the thing she'd most like to do.

I'm not interested in fear mongering. I'm not trying to scare you. I'm not trying to tell you, or any other particular woman, that you won't have children, or that you won't have the number of children you wish to have.

But I do want you to know that, in general, our society is worried about exactly the wrong thing. We are worried about getting pregnant. We are told we should fear having children too soon. We are told we should fear having too many children. We are told it's the thing that will ruin our lives. That's what everyone says.

It's a lie. 



The true heartbreak lies in infertility, in subfertility. But "they" won't tell you that.

When I was a newlywed, it never would have occurred to me that I wouldn't have just as many kids as I could possibly want. And I have. But I know enough now to not take it for granted. I've brought hundreds of prayer requests from readers along with us on our pilgrimages, and almost HALF of them have been prayers for a child, or another child. 

It makes me grateful, now, for those times early in my marriage, when everything was still new and nothing was settled, when I sat there in tears over a pregnancy. Or another pregnancy. Because, despite all that conventional wisdom about how we were too young and too poor and too newly married and too unaccomplished to start a family, it all turned out all right. Better than all right. It all turned out so beautifully. Those early babies made my marriage stronger and made me a better person.

I now know dozens of women who have struggled with infertility and subfertility and secondary infertility and miscarriages. Most of them felt blindsided by the fact that getting pregnant and having many children wasn't automatic. Marriage can be hard, parenthood can be trying. I've certainly known many women who would say that. But I've never known a woman who wished she had fewer children.

You're just married. Maybe this really isn't a good time for you to have a baby. There ARE good reasons to wait. Reasons that even an old-fashioned church approves. NFP is a very useful thing to know. Understanding how your body works is helpful no matter which part of the journey you're on.

But just know, from me, that if you turn up pregnant despite your best efforts, it's likely to be the best thing that ever happens to you. Every single time. And if you don't turn up pregnant, despite your best efforts, it's likely to be the biggest cross of your life.

"They" won't tell you that. But you should know. So you won't be worried about the wrong things.

So much of this isn't in our own hands anyway, of course. Maybe, hopefully, you can learn not to worry about anything at all. 

Cheers,
Kendra




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102 comments:

  1. I like your use of the page from The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes :-)

    Even though what you say is right, and I should know better, I still find myself falling into the belief that if every couple "doesn't do anything", they will all end up with an enormous number of children. But the facts don't lie, and it seems that this is not the case for many. Thankfully, I'm not afraid of a big family, so if I turn out to be one of those people, I will feel blessed (I hope).

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  2. I love this! Starting out there were so many things that I thought we "had" to do before we would be ready to welcome a child into our family... if we had waited we would still be waiting. DH just finished grad school after six years. It still wouldn't be the perfect time yet that I was so adamant we needed to wait for. Thankfully we were blessed with finding out that I was pregnant about a year after we got married and once she arrived the idea of more didn't seem to impossible, even with the challenges. So instead, we're expecting #4 in a few months and these days I feel acutely aware of the blessing we have been given after watching so many people I love struggle with fertility issues. And I am so thankful that we didn't end up waiting until the "perfect" time because I'm not sure that day ever would have arrived!

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    1. Smart girl! Hug those babies tightly! God has rewarded you richly!

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  3. I love this post...especially since it is coming from someone who gets pregnant easily and has many kids. I think way too many people are way too scared of their fertlity and just take it for granted. Sometimes I've longed for nothing more than to just get pregnant without trying...without charting and peeing on ovulation sticks and lying on my back with hips elevated and taking supplements. I'm grateful that I have 4 children and that those things do at least seem work for me (eventually).

    I see people especially taking fertility for granted in older moms...as though everyone will easily get pregnant when they are older than 40. I've had people tell me things like "oh, you're only 36, you have plenty of time left." which I don't think is true at all.

    I definitely agree that many people overestimate their fertility. In the past, before birth control was wide-spread not everyone had super huge families...people forget that.

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  4. That's great wisdom, Kendra! Even though we have been blessed us with 6, we've experienced a miscarriage, and know so very many others who long to have more and for unknown reasons, can't. It's really much more likely you'll have a small family, rather than a large one. But you're right... as a mom of six there's not a day that goes by that I wish for less of them. My children are the biggest blessing that we've been given in our marriage.

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  5. That was beautiful, and you are exactly right, Kendra. There were times, particularly early in my marriage, when I wish I had been more open to another pregnancy. Now, at 40, I just lost a very desired baby #7 to miscarriage. I never thought 6 would feel like too few kids! Young women need to know that each and every child will be treasured, even when they might come quickly at first. And then - even if you do have a lot - you'll have teenagers to help you out!

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  6. Amen. I have never heard anyone say that they wish they wouldn't have had so many children but I have heard numerous people say they wish they would have had more.

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  7. This is such a great post per the usual. I'll definitely be linking back to it because I just did a post earlier this week about NFP and BC and this would round off the scope perfectly!

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  8. I've never, ever come across a post like this. Thank you so much. I just sat here reading it in tears because what you described is exactly my experience, and the experience of many women that I know. I have had almost every older female in my family tell me they wished they had more children. I am currently pregnant with #6. 2 in heaven, 3 rowdily eating breakfast in my kitchen, and 1 kicking the heck out of me. :) None were easily conceived. You name it, I've dealt with it... infertility at the beginning of our marriage, miscarriage, stillbirth, secondary infertility. It seems miraculous to me that I have four living children, but I would not have anywhere near that if I hadn't married so young and been open to children immediately. My advice: do not wait unless there is a serious reason! The quote above is true: having a child will be the best thing that ever happens to you!

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  9. I totally agree. They don't sell you the pic of the miscarriage (with subsequent D&C) in the Hallmark aisle when describing your first pregnancy. I was amazed when we first started "trying" how few minutes of the month were actual likely to result in an actual life. It truly is a miracle. Once I began talking to people about our infertility bookending our secondary infertility (with our miracle in between, Thank God, along with all three angels in Heaven) I realized I was NOT the exception, but rather a very popular rule. Thanks for this topic.

    Sarah

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    1. Sarah-

      Totally agree! Our first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and we were completely blind sighted. I think our culture's views on pregnancy and children have made miscarriages such a taboo topic that people flat-out avoid talking about it. Thank you for sharing and God bless!

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  10. I love this so much. As hard as it was for me to have married later in life than I would have hoped, one of the greatest, most unexpected blessings was not having to "worry" about having too many children. I love that my husband and I have been able to take children as they come (or don't) without feeling any pressure to "plan" them.

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  11. Great post! Thanks for writing it. I hope many, many people read it.
    I never thought that I would have so, so many miscarriages. I never thought that I would not get to hold any less than five babies in my arms, but here I am at 38 with three living children.
    Control, one way or the other, is an illusion. Women need to know the truth.
    God bless you!

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  12. Beautiful, Kendra. And so timely for me. Your desire to be inspirational to your readers has been successful again with this one!

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  13. I love this... Forwarding it to a friend who's getting married in a few months.

    The Starving Inspired

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  14. I actually was worried about the right thing :) I was afraid I couldn't get pregnant, or stay pregnant, or get pregnant again. So I got pregnant in the first year, even though we were too poor and young and not ready. And I can't say I've regretted it! It took 3 months to conceive #4 and I was still terrified it would never happen. And #3 was a surprise I wasn't quite ready for, but she is a darling blessing and whenever I'm afraid of getting pregnant I remember - I wasn't asking for her. She was the gift of God from letting Him work.

    Maybe part of the problem is that your kids are so OBVIOUS. There you are, with 7 kids. Miscarriages and stillbirths and infertility are invisible.

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    1. So true about the lost ones being invisible. I always wish for my lost ones back.

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  15. We actually haven't had any infertility problems (yet, thanks be to God) but we still won't be able to have as many kids as we hoped because...c-sections. Lots and lots of years of avoiding lay ahead for us.

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    1. Obviously I don't know your situation, but I'm always skeptical of doctors who tell you that you can't have anymore kids because of your c-sections. Often times doctors are trying to cover their own tails or are going off of unchallenged assumptions rather than facts; in fact, I believe I know a family that has had six children in spite of the mother being told to stop having kids because she'd had c-sections. Sometimes it helps to seek out an alternate opinion!

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  16. Best post I have ever read by you. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you. I will pray for your siblings and in-laws that are yearning for more children. I know that yearning very intimately.

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  17. For those of you with fertility issues, have you considered adoption? If not, why have you not considered adoption? If I insult anyone with this question, I apologize. I've never really understood the desire to go to great lengths to get pregnant. If I couldn't have a child on my own, I would simply find a way to adopt. I'm just curious how often this is considered as a viable option in cases of infertility.

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    1. Hi Annette! It actually can come off as offensive, but I see the sincerity in your question so I won't take offense. :) Adoption is a calling unto itself. A beautiful one, but still, a calling. The desire for a child of your body is completely natural, and that is why infertility is a terrible cross. If you'd like to discuss further, I would be happy to talk. My blog has some about this. Also, adoption is not at all simple. It is very complex, and often unfortunately takes a lot of time and money- not unlike infertility treatments. Coming to the acceptance of your infertility and making the decision to adopt is a very personal issue, and indeed a calling, and is never simple or quick. I appreciate your question, though.

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    2. I know you are asking sincerely, so I will respond sincerely. At least in my experience and those of many friends one doesn't "simply find a way to adopt". There is not much simple about the adoption process at all. However, my husband and I are huge advocates of adoption. In fact, my husband probably wouldn't be here were it not for adoption. His grandfather was placed on one of the Orphan Trains back in the early 1900s and shipped west from NYC where he was orphaned. He landed in MN and the rest they say is history. (Tangent - google "Orphan Train" - it is a fascinating part of our American history that not many people know about it.)

      That be said, not everyone is called to adopt, adoption can be very expensive, not everyone can adopt due to health conditions (I myself am in remission from cancer, some agencies don't approve that), not everyone's spouse is on board with adopting, the list goes on and on.

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    3. My husband and I are prayerfully considering adoption while coping with infertility. There is nothing simple about it. It truly is a special calling, and one must feel called toward it because it comes with its own set of hopes of disappointments. Most of us don't have $30K instantly available to complete the process. Adoption is another process where the outcome is out of your control, and many peaks and valleys of hope and disappointment are inevitable. As an infertile couple, are our hearts ready for ANOTHER process that is out of our control and full of a roller coaster of emotions?

      Annette, I know you mean well with your question. Before I knew I had fertility questions, I too said many times, "If I couldn't have a child on my own, I would simply find a way to adopt." Now that I am in the throes of this and really might not be able to have a biological child, I see how complicated discerning and going after adoption really is. There's no need for you to understand what an infertile couple experiences (I think it's near impossible if you haven't been there), but we sure would appreciate additional prayers that we find peace with this very heavy cross. Thank you!

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    4. We have several friends who have adopted through the foster care system and it is basically FREE. There are kids in your area - babies, toddlers, children, teens - who want someone to love them, who want a Forever Family. There is still discernment, the peaks and valleys, and it is not going to be what everyone is called to, but for parents who are interested in adoption but don't have the aforementioned $30k, it is something to look into and pray about.

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    5. Adoption is, simply, a calling. It has it's own unique struggles and honestly not everyone is cut out for those challenges. And, though it sounds harsh, not everyone has the same feelings toward non-biological children (whether it's adoptive, step, etc.) so it just doesn't feel "right" for many and those are good things to be aware of when considering the choice.

      Also there are many families who don't qualify for different types of adoption due to age, income, health, etc. Many agencies won't place children of certain needs in a family without one stay-at-home parent, or a proven income to provide for medical treatments - so there are many families who just hit roadblocks.

      Another side to the coin that not many people talk about in the local adoption/foster care scene is that children can be reclaimed by their biological parents (up to a certain point in time) and that can be heartbreaking. To put all your efforts, time, resources and expectations into something (or even live with the child as part of your family for years) only to have a last minute decision change everything.

      For my two cents, being part of a sub-fertile couple we've set ourselves a goal, if you can call it that. Basically that we want to put all our efforts toward biological children for a few more years and after we've reached a certain point begin the road toward adoption. We're open towards it, but our personal journey with God has made it clear that right now is the time to be open to the life that God may or may not create with us, and there will be a time later that we maybe called to reach out to others. =)

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    6. I also read the adoption question as sincere, so am responding here with my thoughts. So many thoughts!! Some people, by the nature of their situations (age, location, circumstances) will never be eligible to adopt through any means - whether it be domestic, international, through foster care, or else. For those with these circumstances who are also infertile, you can imagine how hurtful the phrase ‘just adopt’ must be, can’t you? No matter whether they feel the calling – the doors are slammed. I know several people in these kinds of circumstances. There cross and burden is heavy. They need our prayers. When they got married, they looked forward to the same hopes for a family that every newlywed did – and every month when those dreams are once again crushed – there is no way to make it better. Prayer and a sincere want to understand their pain is something we can give people who live this reality every day.

      Another OFTEN overlooked (and extremely important) component of infertility is that there is often (always??) an underlying disease at play. And when I say underlying – please don’t misunderstand me. I mean the kind of illness that is so obvious that it interferes with your basic living and happiness. It’s not just a detail that you can’t conceive or carry a child to term. You are ill. Infertility doesn’t just metaphorically hurt. It is emotionally, mentally, and PHYSICALLY painful.

      When my husband and I first married (one year and one month ago today), we had no idea that our newlywed year would be spent with me violently ill, recovering from multiple miscarriages, surgeries, and medicines that did and did not work. We had no idea that we would be brought to our knees in every sense. We also didn’t know that the Catholic community surrounding us would have no clue how to comfort or support us (nor did we have any clue what we ourselves needed). The reality of our newlywed year is that instead of love and nurturing, we were inundated (and isolated) by a bunch of people making comments about how God's plan didn't involve us or our yearning for children. Just adopt, they said. “It was a blessing our children died.” And lots of other things that will never make sense to me, so I won’t write them here. We sat and watched as 6 couples gave birth to babies that were conceived on our wedding weekend. We wept as those babies were baptized. We've watched them grow and our hearts continue to break. All the while, we have not completely healed the things that are at the root of our infertility.

      Saying ‘just adopt’ is a way to make sense of the things you don’t understand. It is a dismissal of the severe illnesses that fill the lives of the people who are infertile and pray fervently for children. It is a blind eye to the people who cannot – through circumstances out of their control – ever be approved for an adoption. And though we would be happy for children *however* they came our way, we are called to love each other in sickness and in health. And we are called to live out the sacrament of our marriage whether or not children are its fruits. Our love is and never will be contingent on welcoming children into this world, but we would give every part of ourselves to dream that into reality.

      I will humbly ask that you pray for me and the other (roughly) 20% of couples who married and are suffering with infertility. And those who have adopted and still suffer with infertility - and those who cannot adopt and suffer with infertility. We may be 1 in 6 couples, but Christ called us to suffer WITH each other. That means there is an opportunity for 5 out of 6 couples to suffer with me. And that’s what the author of this blog post did today, ever so selflessly. It spoke directly to my heart. And I hope it also did for anyone out there who read this with the ‘just adopt’ mentality. Thank you so much for reading my thoughts and God Bless.

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    7. Annette, I can tell you are asking sincerely...usually that sort of question is hurtful to us women/couples with infertility. Adoption is a whole separate animal from having a biological child. There is a separate discernment process for adoption. I hope I write this clearly- because my thoughts are swirling.

      My husband and I are discerning adoption- we are praying about it, asking for God's guidance. But, for me, I have to "give up" on having a biological child before I can commit to loving a child from another person. That may be strange, but that is what I have discerned so far. I've also realized I have to grieve the children I will not have before I can love an adopted child. I cannot leave my heart open on the two paths- trying for a biological child and trying to adopt at the same time. Some women can, but I cannot.

      I know couples who have adopted, and are in the process of adopting. I also know couples who have discerned adoption is not for them. And I know couples who have tried to adopt but been denied. Infertility is such a heavy, heavy cross.

      An adopted child does not simply replace a biological child. It is not that simple. You have to be ready to love a child not born of your womb. Not every person is capable of that.

      Just like biologically getting pregnant is not simple, so adoption is not simple. There is a mountain of paperwork, background checks, fingerprints, and it is expensive.

      I guarantee you, that every couple going through infertility, as some point considers adoption!! Adoption is a calling within a calling. It is not for everyone. And even within adoption, there are some called to adopt children with special needs, and foster children (who usually have emotional/physical abuse in their background) and some realize they are not able to adopt those special children.

      I hope my rambling thoughts made some sense and answered your question. :)

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    8. To add to what Being Refined said, some agencies actually REQUIRE that the couple no longer peruse fertility treatments in order to adopt. So these couples must decide if they are at peace with completely giving up on biological children before proceeding with the adoption process. Surely this is a long and complicated matter for each couple to sort out.

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    9. Adoptive mama chiming in here... I am a cancer survivor and I thank God daily for adoption since it is the one way that I was able to be a mom.... we have been blessed with three children.

      That said, adoption isn't easy. Among my adoption mama friends, I don't know any that don't still grieve infertility. One doesn't necessarily replace the other.

      Adoption is also very costly. I am open about our expenses because people often are naive when they say "why don't you just adopt". We have spent over $100K to have three children. We have multiple failed matches and there are no rules... money spent is money lost. We are fortunate that we could afford this journey... many families can't.

      Adoption isn't a sure thing. We waited nearly three years for our oldest (3.5 year old) to join our family. Our other two children came very quickly.... but I know families that wait for years to match with a birth family.

      Adoption is also tough-- hard issues come from adoption. Adoption starts in loss. Our birth families are incredible people that had to make an impossible choice. My children will always grieve for their first family.

      Speaking of birth families, most modern adoption work supports the idea of open adoption. It's hard work to remain open and loving to people that aren't necessarily sharing in your family's values. We spent the last day of our vacation (yesterday) connecting with one of our daughter's birth mom and birth father. Both leave hard lives... and it's hard on all of us but it's a commitment that comes with adoption.

      We are a transracial family-- Korean-American, Caucasian, and African-American. We don't go unnoticed. For the most part, that's okay... but it's not always easy to stand out in the crowd. We also receive dumb comments-- such as, you are lucky.... your oldest daughter is going to be so smart (because she is Asian)... or your son is so lucky not to grow up in a Black family. OUCH! Not easy parenting moments.

      My children's races also impact our future. We've contemplated leaving Los Angeles for Arizona to be closer to my parents. But I don't want my children to be the only "minority" in their peer group.

      Like I said, adoption is tough. It's not a solution for infertility.

      PS- Any Angelenos that come to the March for Life, stop me... I am the mom with three little people that all look different but are wearing the "Superman is Adopted" tees :) We remain good humored about our story.

      PPS- One myth dispelled--- it's very unusual to have first families "take back" children. While there are some clear loop holes in the laws that apply to adopting Native American children, the law is very clear and not able to be challenged in most cases. For my three children, our birth parents relinquished rights for good (can not go back on it) 10 days post-birth, 4 days post birth, and 48 hours post birth (depends on birth state.)

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    10. I say this in great kindness...."Why don't you just adopt?" is quite possibly the most hurtful thing a person could say to someone with infertility. You may be unaware of what the intense heartache and suffering that goes into both infertility and adoption. You may be unaware of the intense physical, emotional, and financial scrutiny that a couple agrees to when they attempt to adopt a child -and even after spending upwards of $30K, they still may be left without a child. You may be unaware that you often have to prove that you have health insurance, stable employment, no medical condition which could affect parenting, such as cancer or M.S.,( in some cases you must have a doctor sign a statement of infertility). You may have to own your own home, disclose the number of bedrooms & square footage, how many closets, etc. You may have to be fingerprinted down in the jail, along with the common criminals. You may have to get notarized copies of your marriage license, the deed to your house, a statement from your employer, and any mental health records which could disclose that you have nothing that could negatively affect your ability to be a good parent. You may also have to answer questions about your closest relatives - whether anyone in your family has ever been in jail. You may not qualify as an adoptive parent, much as you long to. You may get your baby for a few days or even weeks, and then the birthmother could change her mind and could take the baby back. In some places she has 6 months to change her mind. You could take the baby home & then the birthfather refuses to release the child for adoption, even though he is a criminal and a child molester - yes, he still gets awarded that baby over you - a stable married couple. It can take years to successfully adopt. Oh, and your baby can also die during the birthmother's pregnancy or even shortly after birth. Sometimes this does happen. As far as foster care - these children are extremely difficult to care for, so very few people are able to take on this difficult task. Most foster children are very emotionally disturbed from the abuse that they have experienced. It takes a pretty strong couple to be able to withstand the challenges of foster adoption. Some children have such challenging behaviors that they end up becoming a threat to the parents or to other children, or they end up abusing the other siblings in the family. Many foster-adopt kids are very angry and do not give the adoptive parents the unconditional love that parents would receive from a newborn baby. Furthermore, foster-adoption may be financially free, but emotionally, there is a huge toll on the parents. Who wants to have a child for four years only to have to give that child back to abusive parents. Another consideration is that the child is not "all yours" ever - there are always visits with the biological parents, who often are a bad influence, and sometimes will lie to get the child removed from the foster-adoptive placement. I am just saying that it is not easy. I hope this gives you a better understanding of the difficulties of adoption. Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it is never easy. While I would never want to discourage anyone from choosing to adopt, it is an extremely difficult path, fraught with many tears and heartache, but hopefully, ultimate joy in the end.

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    11. My husband and I have discerned adoption - and we've had three of them fall through.

      But what has us waiting now is realizing that we have one biological child already, and we are concerned about how the adopted child will interact with our bio child. Adoption isn't a picnic; these kids come to you hurting, with great emotional and spiritual wounds. I know that we would have to be prepared to love that child, even though the adjustment period could be very very difficult. I cannot honestly say that my husband would be okay if the adopted child acted out towards our daughter; I don't think he is prepared enough to deal with that situation in a way that is fair to the adopted child.

      So many people think the adoption narrative is straight forward: kids need homes! people want kids! what won't work?! But children who have been waiting in foster homes or otherwise separated from loving care have such deep needs. Taking them into your home if you're not prepared to meet those needs, unconditionally, for the rest of your life, is irresponsible and not fair to anyone. I get what most people are saying - isn't any home better than no home? I'm not sure adult adoptees would agree with that sentiment. I have read their accounts, talked to them, and so many of them have hurt upon hurt from the way their adopted family treated them.

      So yes, adoption is a calling. It's not like bringing home a puppy or a blank slate - being given up by your biological parents is always felt as abandonment, even when it's done for the most selfless of reasons.

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    12. @Martha- I am an adoptive mama (see above)... and I am also the bio child/adoptive sibling in my own family. I am happy to chat about the dynamics of growing up with an adopted sib. Short story-- it was great and I am well adjusted as she is. That said, she was adopted at birth.. which would be different than bringing in a fost/adopt child to your home.

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    13. Adoption is not a "cure" for infertility. My husband and I suffered terribly with infertility during the first three years of our marriage before finally being able to conceive. While adoption may give you the child you long for, it does not take away the fact that your body is "broken" (as in, it doesn't work like you would expect it to.) Infertility made me feel inadequate as a woman, as a wife, and as a Catholic. In addition, I was dealing with the severe chronic pain and hormonal imbalances that come with endometriosis, which we came to find out was causing the infertility. Every month was torture both physically and emotionally. Many well-meaning people threw out the "just adopt" comment, which like other commenters have said, is one of the most hurtful things that can be said to an infertile couple.

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  18. Thank you for writing this. I think it's extremely powerful, coming from your perspective. For me, as a young newlywed Catholic who doesn't have a uterus... I always feel extremely left out and saddened by much of the NFP conversation. I feel like NFP is pushed on people in the wrong way- when instead we should be preaching, "Fear not, children are a blessing, and don't even worry about NFP unless you have a good reason." Even in my own (recent) pre-Cana, the first thing they said was, "here's an NFP class brochure"... and I had to awkwardly explain that we had zero hope of conceiving. So, I just wanted to say, THANK YOU for writing this.

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  19. This is such an important and beautiful message- and so few women are saying this. In fact, I've really never read anything like this post. Thank you for writing it!

    I have not struggled with infertility, but our family/fertility *is* looking a bit different than I'd anticipated. Our first (and only!) child, at 17 months old, has quite a few food allergies/intolerances and aversions, which has led to me breastfeeding on demand for far longer than I'd initially thought I would (so that she can receive at least some proper nutrition as she becomes a better eater). She still nurses quite a bit through the night, so my fertility has not yet returned.

    I have friends who are already pregnant again, some who have had a second child whose first child is the same age as my baby. Anyway, if/when we are blessed enough to become pregnant again, the children will be spaced out further in age from each other than we had "planned". As they say, "we plan, God laughs".

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  20. This is all really wonderful and I agree with it all Kendra, even though I don't have all your wisdom yet and still struggle with anxiety at crazy levels.

    And whenever I read Country Bunny I feel a ridiculous amount of solidarity with her. Like much more than a grown woman and an illustrated bunny should have. But ya know what, that bunny is pretty awesome and raising pretty awesome baby bunnies. Sooo...I'll take my role models where I can get em!

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  21. Thank you for writing this. I've found the same thing. Whenever I ask for intentions on my blog roughly half are asking for prayers for the blessing of a child. I've definitely learned not to take our fertility for granted.

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  22. Amen Kendra! When we were going through our years of infertility, I felt so alone and isolated. But as time went on, I realized I wasn't the exception and how common infertility really is. It seems that at least HALF (if not more!) of my good friends from college are now struggling to get pregnant and/or stay pregnant. Only one couple that I can think of is actively trying to slow down the babies. And we were mostly married in our early 20s! Years ahead of the country's average. I hope many young couples read this and are touched by your words. Thank you.

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  23. I was one of the ones who assumed. I always thought that I'd have a big family... after we married when I was 23, I thought the first baby would come along before 25, the second at 26... and eventually I'd have at least five.

    Well, that doesn't seem to be in the cards for me. I'm staring down an impossible timeline I set for myself, and knowing that my expectations were way off. I wish I'd spent less time worrying about getting pregnant, and more time learning about my body. Because man, I had (and still have!) a lot to learn.

    Thank you for this post- and I'm praying for your dear sister.

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  24. Really well done, Kendra. Thanks!

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  25. This is really profound, and really true. Cheers to you, too!

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  26. I love you thoughts and children do change your life.... for the better. Each child is a gift from God whether or not it was planned or a surprise. I tell this to my moms at Birthline as I encourage them to carry their baby to term. I have a long prayer list of women hoping to have babies and if there is an occasional baby up for adoption a long list of moms wanting that baby. Each baby conceived deserves life and a family to love him.

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    1. So true! Thank you for encouraging these mothers to choose adoption. It is really a rare choice in this day and age. So many people are misinformed & think that there are babies just waiting to be adopted, but really, there are hundreds of couples who want every single baby available. I know the statistic says 40 couples for every baby available - but those are only the ones who are already registered w/ an adoption agency. So many, many couples would want and welcome a baby, but are never given the chance to adopt.

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  27. Needed this today. Thanks for this post. :)

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  28. One of my children was a total surprise. I was so shocked to be pregnant and he has ended up being a sweet little apple of my eye. Thank God The Lord sent him; he is the only child I have who is a pure pleasure to parent, almost all the time. I cannot say that about the kids I "planned".

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  29. Kendra, thanks for posting. I shared on Facebook even though I don't have a lot of Catholic friends - I've been asked numerous times (and I will say it's always been well meant and not nasty) if my husband and I are going to be "just like the Duggars" and I've never really been able to articulate why I think the concern is misplaced, even if well-intended. My dad's parents came from families of 13 and 10 children, and even back then "in the dark ages" it was unusual. If I wanted to go for that, I would really, really have to try - not breastfeed, go for Irish twins a bunch of times, not to mention probably marrying at least five years earlier (and I'd have to not wear myself out being pregnant that many times). I've been blessed with very good, "textbook" female health so far in my life. But that can change anytime, and I know it.

    I also think it's sad that some people feel like they need to say this kind of thing to someone who has 2 children. "Are you going to go for a record? You know, since you don't use birth control?" I'm 27 and have 2 children. Apparently that's super weird now.

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    1. I don't know if you'd have to be really, really trying, as you say, to have a lot of children. I didn't start until I was 28, and I am 38 now with 7 children. I was frightened at first that I would not have any, because we really, really DID try hard for our first baby and it took 9 months. I know it's not long in terms of real fertility struggles, but I was pretty scared those 9 months, not seeing ahead! And then 7 children. We didn't try for timing things. I have not stopped breastfeeding for the past 9 and a half years, and I am usually tandem nursing (like right now), 2 or even 3 little ones when I am pregnant. I just had to say that if someone has a lot of children, it doesn't mean that they have necessarily tried hard for it, or that they have made decisions like quitting breastfeeding in order to boost their fertility - I never did, and God blessed us every 16-19 months with a new precious little one. I know I am very blessed, and that I'm not the norm, but I think that trying or not trying doesn't make much difference to God's plan for your family.

      Every baby I have, I wonder if this is the last one God will bless us with. Especially as I am nearing 40. I do still hope that I might have more...

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    2. Fertility does not automatically end at forty. Don't think that it has to - I have four children that were born after I turned forty. So God may have more planned for you.

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    3. Hi Alice,

      I was referring to me specifically having to try hard. I know for some women that is just the way that they are, but I don't think that's me (or most women). I think Kendra's point is that throughout human history it's been much more likely that a woman would have fewer children than she wanted, instead of more. Either is possible.

      (My first two are 25 months apart and I did nothing to create that spacing besides breastfeed. My youngest is 14 months and my fertility still has not returned...although I am starting to get baby fever :-). I have a suspicion, although I know anything can happen, that the spacing will either stay the same or get longer as I get older. Hence my saying that in my case, I would probably have to make deliberate changes in how I do things if I wanted to get pregnant more often.)

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  30. Thank you Kendra, I was just talking to my mother the other day about these fertility statistics and how, as a mom of a small family, it actually helps me put things in perspective. That while larger families used to be more common than they are today, smaller families of say 2-4 are not completely "abnormal" either.

    I wrote about a very similar idea a while back while processing my miscarriages - not only do we not prepare newlyweds for infertility/subfertility, but we also don't prepare them for loss and that's all a part of being "open to life". It's accepting the feast AND the famine, not knowing which you're going to be given.

    This is actually a conversation I want to have with a few newly-wed relatives - that while they see so many "good reasons" for putting off a family, I just want to scream out "I'm only 31 and look at my struggles already! Don't wait too long! I don't want you to go through this too!" but I don't know if I'll ever have the opportunity to do so. Hoping that just the knowledge of our struggles will help them reconsider their reasons if it's right.

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  31. Great post! We always had that awful fear of "but if we don't DO something we'll have 5 billion kids" and random acquaintances certainly don't help. I'm often asked "are you going for 19?" and I always reply "I'm nearly 30, do you really think I could possibly give birth to 15 more children in the next 10 years??"

    And now, we have three by birth, one by adoption. And that seems like a big family to some. It's the number I wanted at first (my plan was eerily similar to yours and we also accidentally got pregnant while my husband was in graduate school. But now I have to be on a medication that is completely incompatible with pregnancy for at least several months if not indefinitely. The medication also tends to mess up my cycles and cause anovulation so once I stop it it might take several months more for my fertility to return. It sucks. My youngest is nearing 2 and I'd love to welcome a new baby sometime but I suppose instead we'll be using NFP for awhile. Both my mom and aunt had hysterectomies in early 40's for uterine fibroids so I am not counting on any babies after 40. So even a healthy young couple who starts having babies right away and has freakishly fertile Irish genes on their side can find themselves abruptly without babies earlier than planned or have a long and unexpected phase without any new babies to welcome. Now I kinda wish I hadn't spent those silly nights sorting out in my head how many babies I'd end up with by the time I was 40. Now I know I'll be blessed if we are able to have one or two more babies before the end of our thirties.

    My new advice to newlyweds....don't worry, just love your wife/husband, prevent nothing if you can, and leave the rest of it up to God.

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  32. This was a wonderful post Kendra. I really do hope that this is being presented to couples who are taking NFP.

    My mother had her last baby when she was 34, then one miscarriage and then nothing. At 31 myself I do not take it for granted that I have much more time for babies. With babies coming quickly right now it seems I could be on my last, or conceivably have 6 more. Only God knows, as they say.

    This called to mind another excellent post by Leila Lawler. You're post and hers should be required reading for all engaged couples: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2014/04/the-third-secret-to-destruction-proofing-your-family/

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  33. "And if you don't turn up pregnant, despite your best efforts, it's likely to be the biggest cross of your life." Yes!!! This post had me in tears. It is absolutely true. I got pregnant with my first three children so, so easily, and I never truly understood how painful it is to want a baby and not be able to have one until my fertility seemed to just sort of shut off on me after my third daughter was born. I am so glad you wrote this (even though it made me cry). Thanks.

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  34. Oh Kendra, thank you for this!! We foolishly(!) thought babies would come easily, after all "the world"/"culture" tells us we can have babies on OUR schedule and to disregard God in the equation. Well, when we finally felt ready for children, none came... we are still waiting for children and still dealing with the underlying disease causing my infertility. Sometime in the next few months I will have my fifth surgery for Endometriosis. I'm praying it will be my last surgery.

    I used to dream of having a large family - I wanted six children. Now I would be happy with just one - and I don't even care if that one child is not perfectly healthy. I'll take whatever God wants to give me.

    More women and couples need to read this and understand this. Babies cannot be ordered up like a fast food meal - on your time table. Babies are gifts from God. Not gifts you can earn either. Just gifts!

    From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for writing this.

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  35. Just wanted to say thank you for this post today. Our newlywed dreams of a large family are being held hostage by our infertility right now and it helps knowing we are not forgotten by the Catholic community of parents in the opposite situation.

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    1. I hope you know you are not alone at all. I know more women who struggle with infertility or secondarily infertility than I do those who are swimming in children.
      Prayers for you and your husband.

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  36. God bless you for this post.
    I got married at 25, and wasn't worried at all, in fact, Honeymoon Baby #1 was on top of my To-Do list.

    Eight. Yes. 8 years later. Still childless.

    I stress the childless part, here, because there is a painful dichotomy to the cross of infertility. First, it is the physical- the acknowledgement that your body as a woman is not functioning as it should, that your womb cannot aid in creating, or sustaining life beyond its own. Excruciating.
    But in addition to this is the childless (or lacking of more children) and feeling like your family, your life is incomplete, on hold, in limbo.

    As painful as the physical aspect is, for me personally (and other women I know), the childless part is worse.

    What Michelle wrote about adoption is spot on. And I am here to shamefully admit that articles like this one that bring the darkness, the "invisible" infertility struggle to light- well, they don't usually pull the "inadoption" (inability to adopt/ i.e. denied home study) into the same light- and that struggle is my own.

    As SOON as we were able to try to adopt, (after 2 yrs of marriage) we did try. Over. And over. And over again. Tried fostering. Twice.

    The answer always the same. No.

    As much as adoption and fostering are beautiful, grace-filled callings that seem like the "easy fix" for couples struggling to conceive, remember that there are unseen struggles even atop the more visible ones.

    We are not called to "fix" others' crosses, or to suggest ways they can ditch it and run to sunny Mexico ;) We are instead called to stand alongside in prayer and support, and perhaps at times, to help to carry.

    Kendra, thank you for helping to carry ours, today.

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  37. What nobody tells newlyweds is just how impossibly hard it is to plan your family.

    Nobody says just how common infertility is. Nobody talks about how common miscarriages are. Nobody talks about ectopic pregnancies.

    On the other side, nobody talks about unplanned pregnancies. That even the most responsible couples can have be unexpectedly expecting. Nobody talks about how difficult it is to prevent pregnancy—couples can use a method that less effective or one that is hard on the body.

    Nobody talks about how a couple can have both unplanned pregnancies and infertility depending on their stage of life.

    Nobody reminds newlyweds that babies (usually) only come one at a time. Newlyweds are shocked at families in large passenger vans—as well they should be. But they will be parents of an only child first. Then parents of two. 7 children looks scary when you have none, but you'll be an experienced parent of 6 by the time you get there.

    Nobody talks about how the baby years don't last forever, even though they feel like it. Having babies in our early twenties was hard. Having a ten year old in our early thirties is awesome. Older kids are fun.

    Nobody talks about how many couples really like having children. Voluntarily "childfree" couples get the headlines, but they are the exception, not the rule. Many couples do want children, but it's taboo to want more than two and, outside of Catholic (and possibly Mormon) circles, it is often seen as selfish and irresponsible to want another baby. Couples may want three or four, but do the "responsible" thing and have fewer. I know one Protestant woman who had two perfectly planned children, then couldn't have any more. She said she wished she'd had an unplanned pregnancy during all those years she was "responsibly" avoiding so that she could have had more.

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  38. This is beautiful, and so true. My husband and I started really trying while he was in grad school and it took us a year and a half to get pregnant. So glad we didn't listen to the conventional wisdom. And we also hope(d) for a large family, which may not be in the plan for us. We both wish we'd married younger, started sooner, and could have had more.

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  39. yep, was newly married and hoping we'd fall pregnant straight away and then found out I didn't ovulate and we needed to see a specialist. A few rounds on a fertility drug and I was pregnant with our 1st baby, then we had an ectopic pregnancy and I lost a tube and I thought it was all over. Then we had twins. After everything we'd been through the OB gave me the prescription for the pill after I had the twins and insisted I take it home. I said I won't be doing anything to prevent pregnancy. After the twins everything got back to normal and I had cycles like clockwork.I went on to have another 2 beautiful babies, a few miscarriages and am now a few weeks out from giving birth to number 6.
    there is no way we could have known we would be struggling to fall pregnant and that it is so common. People are so surprised that we would have had any trouble falling pregnant as we certainly look like a fertile couple with 5 small children and another on the way.
    We just feel blessed beyond belief. I would love for everyone to have the same results that we did but I know that's not possible but I hope that couples who are really struggling find a way to have their own family
    Corrie:)

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  40. This is exactly what happened to me! We were so careful to wait and not have a baby too soon, but now we're 28, have had two miscarriages, and are afraid we won't get one at all! I SO wish we just hadn't worried about it.

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  41. Love this. Indeed we married with plans and then five hours after our firstborn reached my arms, the plans changed forever. He died after nearly a month of living in the hospital. We went on to adopt and birth seven more kids and then we'd suffer five miscarriages (four consecutive). I honestly wasn't ready for all the suffering but it turned out to be a great blessing. I thank God for ignoring my plans because His were definitely better. BTW we had #8 last year and (while I don't have favorites) he is the joy of my life.

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  42. Thank you so much!!! We are parents to three thanks to Domestic Adoption. I can't have children-- I am a cancer survivor. While we want more, it's unlikely we can afford (yes I said afford) more. Adoption has been financially tough on us... but it's well worth it.

    There is part of me that feels less than because my family is small compared to many Catholic families. I want that experience of a large family. Hearing you articulate that you get it... helps me. Thank you.

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  43. This is so fascinating. I have so many friends who have struggled with infertility, but always assumed it was because, in my social circle, women tend to marry/start families quite late, and have very stressful jobs (which has to have some impact, I think.). But I had no idea it was so widespread. Another situation, which I'm sure you've seen as well: when one spouse wants more babies, but the other says no. There's true heartbreak there, as will. And you can't even share it together.

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  44. I love your graphic of Matthew 6:25! And this whole post. Thank you for spelling it all out so beautifully. It needed to be said, that any sort of "family planning" is probably not going to go according to plan! We delude ourselves so much about this inconvenient truth.

    I linked to this in a post of my own, sort of summing up the message I received out of all these openness to life posts lately.

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  45. This is a great post and so true! During my MBA at Cambridge University, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Harvard author of 'Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children' sat and talked with us about not waiting too long to have children. Here is a link to the Harvard Business Review article http://hbr.org/2002/04/executive-women-and-the-myth-of-having-it-all/ar/1 which begins, "There is a secret out there—a painful, well-kept secret: At midlife, between a third and a half of all successful career women in the United States do not have children..."

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  46. Is this a lady's corner or something?? I didnt see any husbands posting here :(
    I am a youngster of 26 years. All i wanna share is that , I got "goose bumps" on reading this post and comments and my eyes got filled on reading "my children is the biggest blessing" .
    Now i feel like - "I wanna get married tomorrow and wanna start a "school" of my own!! (even if i have not found any girl or have not yet started searching for one)
    May be, this would look like a dream when I face the reality in future :(

    I noticed my dear sisters sharing the thought - "i should have got married earlier".

    I just want to ask my beloved sisters the following two questions :-

    1) Have you ever found yourself struggling to keep this so called big family, in terms of food, dressings and education etc.?

    2) What age would you prefer, if you had a chance to time travel back to meet your husband early at some other time in your life?

    Pray 4 me and all the youngsters around the globe. Will surely pray 4 you all my dear moms.

    You made me happy :) :) :)

    May God bless you and your loved ones +

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    1. @Matt- Love your reply!

      Answers to your questions--
      1- My family isn't large (three... wish for more)... What I can say is when you become a parent, lifestyle changes. Your priorities shift. What you spent on date nights and expensive dinners turns into your weekly grocery budget. And it's fine. It's natural. It's good. I have no regret...
      My point- we didn't struggle but would have struggled if we stayed self-centered instead of family-centered.

      2- I married late-- 34 and my husband was 35. I wish we had another four years of marriage and children together. But we don't.. so we'll not focus on the what-ifs!

      I was told by a colleague when I was in my 20s that I should never date a guy who was under 30. While I agree with that statement, I know there are tons of men ready to date seriously at a younger age. Men (and women) need to be ready to move the focus off of "me", transition to "we" and then be ready to grow that "we" into a great big family of "we". Not everyone is ready to do that at a younger age.

      Praying for you! You seem like a real gem!

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  47. Oh Kendra! Pregnant and teary eyed over here. This is so true. I've had three babies and three miscarriages we waited till after the bar exam to start a family and those years stole babies from us. Sharing on FB.

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  48. Well said, Kendra! I love this and agree completely.

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  49. What a nice post! I liked this. The only thing I disagree with is you saying you have "lots" of kids. Seven isn't lots. You can count them on one hand plus change. Please don't misuse the poor word "lots" where it doesn't belong because you feel like you need to buy into some ideal of society about family size. :) I just wrote a post about that on my own blog. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe a lot of my family has just been "extra fertile", but I kind of doubt it. Infertility is real, but so is fertility for many women.

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  50. I wish I had read this as a young mom. I'm 44 and have four but often wish and wonder if I would have had more if I hadn't been so fearful and practiced BC in my twenties. I didn't even know what NFP was back then.

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  51. Hi! I just stumbled across your blog today, and I have to tell you that THIS IS THE LONG AWAITED ARTICLE I'VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR! I have so many friends who are newly engaged...some Catholic, some not, some planning on using NFP, some not, but ALL OF THEM who have told me that "they need to wait until they (insert thing: take a trip to Europe, turn 30, have enough money, etc.) to have a baby." As someone who has been trying since I first got married at 24, and had 2 miscarriages and several surgeries along the way, and am just NOW in my second trimester for the first time, I have been trying to find a delicate way to tell them NOT TO BE AFRAID without seeming like I was fear-mongering. I wanted to find a way to tell them to please accept what God sends your way, because a full home will never be as painful or as difficult as empty arms. Thank you for eloquently writing what I have been too clumsy to say. I absolutely love this article--thank you, thank you!

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  52. I have a bit of a different perspective. I’m sure it’s because of my experience – I am apparently very fertile and have had four babies, all surprises, while using NFP to avoid. I understand that infertility must be horrible and I don’t want to offend anyone struggling with infertility, but I honestly don’t think that fears about getting pregnant too soon are completely unfounded, especially among people who marry young.

    Many young couples want to wait to have kids until they can afford to live on one income or until one or both of them is finished with school. These are absolutely serious reasons to avoid. I got pregnant unexpectedly just three months into marriage at age 23, and I really, really wish it had been later. I had to go back to work full-time when the baby was 3 months old, and it was awful. I missed her so much. If we had been older and made more money, I would have only had to work part-time at the most. Having a baby so young only confirmed that we absolutely had serious reasons to avoid. Of course no one is going to regret their children once they are here. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious reasons to avoid. It seems like so many Catholics just gloss over these reasons and romanticize having babies right away. Maybe “society” teaches us to fear babies, but conservative catholic culture does the opposite and downplays the difficulties of having children at a young age.

    It also really irritates me when people say “If you don’t have kids right now (regardless of what’s going on in your life, apparently) you will NEVER be ready.” Absolute hogwash. My husband and I were not ready for kids when we first got married, but if NFP had worked and we had waited a few years until we could afford to live on just his income or have me work part-time, we absolutely would have been ready. People also like to say, in response to someone who is waiting to have kids, that there is no “perfect” time to have kids. Where are they getting this from?! Where do they get the idea that we’re waiting until things are “perfect?” Just because I’m waiting until a pregnancy would not cause a nervous breakdown doesn’t mean I’m waiting until things are “perfect,” for crying out loud! This stuff reminds me of people who think you can use NFP with a “contraceptive mentality.” Just total nonsense.

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    1. Wow! I really want to reaffirm what you wrote sdecorla. I was on the receiving end of "waiting for everything to be perfect" judgement from some Catholic friends and it really hurt. It's hard to abstain. It's a sacrifice that you make with your husband that involves much prayer and discernment for the good of your family. And ultimately, it's nobody's business!

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    2. Agreed and very well said. Of course children are a blessing. Of course you won't regret any child you have. But the Church does not teach "have as many babies as you can" and I think many conservative Catholics fall into thinking that, which leads to unnecessary judgement of others.

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    3. We had our first when I was 24 and she was 22 and our second 19 months later, both unplanned while using NFP to avoid. I too get really irritated by people who gloss over how hard it can be to have children young, because yes, financial difficulties are real and it's not just about being "selfish". Furthermore, because it is so counter-cultural to have children so young, it's hard for young couples to find a good support network.

      Now I'm almost 34 and many of my friends are having children. So for anyone else out there, now that we're coming out on the other end of this:

      1. Find a method of NFP that works for you and take the time to learn it well, if you haven't already. For us, Creighton was useless, STM was good, and a combination of Billings+STM worked the best. A lot of couples have had success with Marquette. Don't beat yourself up if you don't do everything perfectly, but don't give up on it either.

      2. Couples who marry young ARE extra fertile, but you will not be that fertile forever. Your fertility declines, the fertile periods get shorter, and everyone cools down a bit with age,

      3. Having a baby in your early 20s is hard. Having a 10 year old in your early 30s is awesome. You do have the energy to keep up with your children when you are older that your kids' friends' parents (who had children at the "right time") don't. And if you have more children, then they will have older siblings to chase after them.

      4. Having your first baby in your 30s is more of a shock. It's never easy, but if the more you get used to living "child-free", the harder it can be to adjust.

      5. Infertility is real and extremely frustrating for couples who have to go through it.

      6. Haters gonna hate. You can't satifsy the peanut gallery. Even if you did have as many babies as they think you should have, they'd find something else to criticize. It's not about you, it's about them and their need to feel more secure in their faith by belittling you.

      7. You don't have to have as many babies as you can. Mary and Joseph only had one son. There are saints who gave up marital relations completely. There are many ways to live a marriage vocation. You must lovingly accept any children you get, but this doesn't mean that you have to have a certain number or that you must actively seek to have more.

      8. Hard times don't last forever. Good times don't last forever either. Things may be hard now, but who is to say what the future holds. Even if you waited for everything to be perfect, it wouldn't have been perfect for the next 18 years.

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  53. Just wanted to thank you for a well-written article!!

    I was lucky enough to grow up in an environment that encouraged children soon after marriage (if possible and prudent). Even though I was very young, I watched my own mother (who had me at 35) go through multiple miscarriages. And so, I grew up as an only child, in a family that desperately wanted more.

    As I began suffering health problems, eventually becoming severe "female health problems", I pretty much assumed I'd be unable to have children. Even when I began to find some treatment, I doubted whether I could ever be fertile........not that it mattered, as the years ticked by, and I remained unmarried.

    Remarkably enough, I got engaged at 29, and immediately sought surgery from the Pope Paul VI Institute, which was amazingly successful, even by their standards. (I began cycling regularly, where I'd not cycled in well over a decade, and only 3 times in my whole life.)

    Less than a year after the surgery, and a month after the wedding, we were pregnant. (A complex, filled-with-complications pregnancy, followed by a postpartum period so unusually stressed by external circumstances, it had me on my knees in prayer, wondering what I'd gotten myself into.) And, amazingly again, this was followed by pregnancy #2 about 9 months later.

    People look at me - married just over 2 years, and about to give birth to baby #2, and probably assume we're just super-fertile people, or something. But I'm just shocked and amazed, and don't take any of this for granted. Nor do I have any confidence in how long this may last - for all I know, we may never get pregnant again, or we may have multiple miscarriages.

    But, as crazy hard as this has all been........I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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  54. Wow this is so beautiful. I think it is so true that a common thread in society is the fear of getting pregnant, even among NFP practicing Catholics. But why do we fear it?! Also I too, too often jump to conclusions when couples don't have a baby or not right away making assumptions. As a young single lady with "unproven" fertility it is scary to think that I might be one of those that is unfertile, subfertile, or miscarriages state. It is a reminder that nothing is guaranteed in life and that we must remember it is all in His hands weather we have 0, 8, or 15 children.

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  55. I also want to thank you for this beautiful, spot-on post. In addition to everything you wrote, there are so many additional comments with which I agree. As someone who is infertile, is resuming treatment not to conceive, but rather to make my body healthy, and is the proud adoptive mom to our 2-yr old daughter, I am thankful for the range of perspectives that have been shared.

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  56. This is a very motivational article for people who are seeking more children, but it doesn't have enough evidence to support your advice. The only piece of data you supply are numbers for fertility rates, but you don't consider what is causing those rates and women's attitudes toward them. Is 2 children per woman a physical limitation, or are there socio-cultural factors in play? What are women's attitudes? Do a majority of them want more children or are they content with how many they have? And what affects those attitudes: circumstance, education, economics? Just because you meet some, or even many, women who want more children is not sufficient evidence to make a general statement that newlyweds should be more concerned about infertility than over-fertility.

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  57. Great post. As a 50-something mom, with a youngest at age 12 and an oldest at 24, I truly wish I had had more -- four total. I think four is large by most of the world's standards, but it's too small to have the benefits of a large family -- children better friends, children taking on more responsibilities at a younger age. Mine are pretty spread out, and I wish there were many more in between.

    Just yesterday at the grocery store I saw a young dad holding his baby, and as I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety lately, I wanted to hold that baby so badly. I thought if I could just put him up on my shoulder and tuck his knees against my belly, all would be well. Babies make us stop, focus on them, relax into their soft bodies. Babies are a blessing at any age. I look forward to grandparenting now, and passed this post on to my future daughter-in-law.

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  58. I read this several days ago and thought it was definitely deserving of a comment. Life being life I'm just getting around to it now. Anyway, this is so well written, and I absolutely agree with you. My mom got pregnant with me 4 months into marriage (NFP "fail"), and frankly when I got married I was scared of having the same thing happen to me. When my husband and I decided we were ready for children, we were shocked that it took 8 months for me to end up pregnant. So much emphasis is put on not getting pregnant until the right time that most people don't even stop to consider what happens if you can't. We have been fortunate, but my best friend endured miscarriages for 4 years when what she had always wanted most was to get married and have children. The more people I spoke with, the more I realized how common these situations are and that we should never take our fertility for granted. Raising children and adjusting to parenting is not easy, but I think it is so important to step back and really appreciate the gift that children are, not just to their parents, but to the world. Thank you for bringing light to this issue. As the comments indicate, this hit home for a lot of people.

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  59. I really loved this post and have thought of it every so often the past two weeks. Over the past few years I have been in the process of handing over my fertility to God. My second child was born with multiple disabilities and that has really given me a perspective that I might not have had otherwise. Anyway, wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed this!

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  60. At first, I felt very upset and defensive while reading this. I was raised Catholic, but those teachings about NFP...yeah, I didn't buy it...until now. After coming off birth control, I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. I am not moody. (Well, not as moody as I was on hormones.) My husband and I actually TALK about fertility and sex. I feel like he is taking more responsibility for OUR fertility and for the discussions around having children. Despite all of this, I am scared out of my mind to practice NFP, because, even though I am 29, married for 2 years to a wonderful man, and in a stable career with two wonderful and connected extended families, I am trying to work on convincing myself that getting pregnant would be a joy, a blessing, and a wonderful thing.

    I struggle with this so hard.

    Do we have enough money saved to provide for a child the way we want to? Can our families help us? Please pray for me! Thank you for having the courage to share what you believe, and for having the courage to live it.

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    1. I will pray for you Natalie. I was really worried about my first two pregnancies, since we weren't "ready" and they weren't "planned" but then, nine months later, I was more than ready and happy to have a baby. That's the nice thing about babies, they give you time to prepare your home and your heart for them.

      When you pray, you might just ask God to soften your heart. Ask him to help you trust. Whenever I think I probably ought to be doing something that I really don't want to do, that's always where I start, by praying that God would help me want to do it.

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  61. Thank YOU! You have no idea how much I needed this...Here I am writing depressing posts about not knowing what to do (residency vs baby vs all of the above)...and BOOM, there goes your article. THAAAAAANK YOUUUUU!!!!!

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    1. oh, I'm going to come back tomorrow when I have more time and read all the comments too! They seem very insightful at first glance!

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  62. I'm late to this post, but I just now now stumbled upon it. I love it and thank you so much for posting. For so, so, so many reasons that would be much too much to go into for a blog comment, I feel as though I have seen almost every side of the world of fertility and this is a topic I think I will one day be called to speak more publicly on, just not now. But society's modern view of reproduction and fertility/infertility is something very dear to my heart and something that I consider myself quite well educated on. My beliefs on our reproductive abilities have completely changed over the last decade and though it may may seem strange and counter-cultural, it my experiences with fertility/infertility/reproduction technology that have been the catalyst that's led me toward the Catholic church and her teachings.

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  63. yes. it is hard to get pregnant and stay pregnant. i wish i had known this early in my marriage.

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  64. First and foremost, let me say that I am not Catholic. Secondly, in my lifetime, I have used the pill (not for long) and I have used the diaphram. And, towards the end, I used nothing. I have seven children. I had five miscarriages. I live in an Old Order Mennonite community. They do not believe in birth control and I only know of one family that, due to problems, has 3 or 4 children. Everyone else has like 10, 12, or so. I have a daughter with three little boys. She has used birth control. I have a son who has a 3 yr. old, a 2 yr. old, a 1 yr. old, and a wife ready to have a baby any day. My other married or live together childre have no children because they use birth control, save one, who accidentally got pregnant, has one, and no uses a different form. All this to say, I don't think there are very many people not practicing birth control who have two kids.

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  65. I can only speak to my own experience . . . but of my sister, and my three sister-in-law I am the only one who did NOT experience fertility issues. In our 100% not-contracepting Catholic homeschool group, probably a quarter of the families have two or three kids, and all of them would have had more if they could have.

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  66. Amen, Amen, Amen! Thank you for re-sharing this since I am a new reader here! I dreamed of having so many children . . . and never went on birth control. And never got pregnant. Our family was created by adoption . . . and we pray and dream about giving our son a sibling or siblings every day! I am so sharing this article! God Bless you and your family xoxox <3

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  67. I hope we read many more of these types of posts/articles in the future. People truly worry about the wrong things, and then you can't go back in time. Regrets are a terrible thing.

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  68. Kendra,
    Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I just discovered your blog (better late than never...) and I have been reading it voraciously. My husband and I got married a year ago and we were supposed to have a baby already by now... ... I know that doesn't seem long enough to grow disheartened (especially compared to some of the comments I've read above), but we are struggling. Infertility is not a story that people want to share, and everywhere I look it seems to me that someone else I know is pregnant. Thank you again for sharing this message. I know now that I am not alone, and that gives me hope. If you have time to pray for Vera & James, we would be grateful.
    In Christ,
    -Vera

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