Sunday, April 13, 2008

Having Another One?

My wife and I have had five children. We have not formally practiced NFP, but have been opposed to the Birth Control Pill since we learned of its abortifacient properties part-way through our first year of marriage. We are richly blessed.

Over the last two or three pregnancies, I have noticed an odd phenomenon. People in our society, family, and particularly in our church, are strikingly comfortable asking us, "Are you going to have another one after this?" Rephrased, they ask "Are you going to be sterilized now, or at least religiously remain on the Pill until menopause?"

I think they mean this with innocent curiousity about whether my family has reached its intended size or not. But the curiousity can only come to being in a society where people are able to have strict control over the outcome of the coital act. Since the methods of obtaining such strict control are contrary to our conscience(s), the question puts us in an odd spot. I don't get preachy, but do usually say something like, "we'll see what God does".

I imagine an ideal world (or even just an ideal church) where people's consciences agree with ours, that sterilizing our fecundity, or using abortifacient methods of contraception, are contrary to the Will of God. In this ideal place, people don't ask "Are you going to have another one?", because they know the answer to that question ultimately lies in God's Will and not our own (which is not to say that God does not have us participate). In this ideal place, people feel more sympathy for the tired parents of several blessings. In reality, instead, people just wonder why we choose or will to keep doing this to ourselves. They are not sympathetic, because we have chosen or willed to do this to ourselves in every sense of choice or will. In the church, this does make me feel sad, and alone.

[I add, though it's not been my own experience, that in this ideal place, couples without children would receive more sympathy as well. Instead, we seem to presume that they have made the "choice" not to get pregnant. This is unfair to them on several levels.]

4 comments:

andrew said...

Thanks for posting on this matter. I am a single man and a recent convert to the Catholic Church (Byzantine Rite). Put those together, and I find that I have a new sensitivity about family matters together with a feeling that I can't really say anything when married people make similar off-handed comments. Which is frustrating.

Thos said...

Andrew,

I appreciated hearing from you on this. You made me think: why is a single man's views about child bearing, sterilization, the Pill and the like unwelcome? Like the Query I discussed in this post, I bet the answer is related to the Pill itself. I bet the parent feels entitled to discuss these things because he is the one making the decisions about whether to have kids. But in a world without contraception, you should be equally entitled to a seat at the discussion table. There's a beautiful conclusion here too: child rearing would become a community event. We, the People of God, would realize that each child is a Gift of God, breathed into existence only by the willful choice of the Father (not the child's biological parents). We would, then, appreciate the magnitude and marvel of this provision, and seek to live up to our obligations to see the children grow up in the light of Truth.

But, back to reality, I "chose" to have kids, so if it's hard on me, I was asking for it, so you don' feel any sense that you should help me. And if I "choose" to have lots, or have "chosen" to have none as a married man, you can't say anything to me because you haven't been faced with that "choice". Bagh.

Peace in Christ,
Thos.

Bob said...

As a single man, I don't mind talking about contraception or NFP. ;-)

I can say that out of self-interest because the Lambeth conference of 1930 and Griswold v. Connecticut have had a direct effect on me. I need only turn on the television to see the effects. It's even had an impact in my search for a possible wife.

Contraception decouples procreation from the sex act. Sex is reduced to pleasure, and all sorts of evils spring forth from that. From a personal view, it is a violation of the body (therefore a violation of the person).

But the rubber meets the road in marriage. There are all sorts of complexities involved when a husband and wife decide on a marital embrace which is open to life. I can't speak to that. I can only encourage the view that every child is a gift and an expression of love. They are a gift of love that expands beyond the initial embrace.

I've found a discussion of NFP versus contraception which I hope might be useful in your discernment.

Peace,
Bob

Thos said...

Bob,

Thanks for adding an interesting angle. Contraception has had such an effect on all of us.

Also, I hadn't thought before how my dating would have been different had I believed then what I do now (about contraception). It's something my wife I and I were led to over (not too long a) time. It would be odd to meet a nice Protestant girl and have the "you're not using the Pill if you marry me" conversation (or condom, or whatever). Or the "I will never be sterilized, so until menopause we could have a surprise!"

Further, I think growing up with non-contracepting parents would have been totally different. I grew up (as the youngest) knowing, form a young age, that there would be no more siblings springing forth from my mother. I was the end of the road. Even if there had in fact been no more, knowing that they contracepted (and sterilized) altered how I saw the marriage, and how I saw my place in life as a product of their marriage.

Anyway, I could go on, and on... but I'm tired from our newborn (i.e., blessing) and lack of sleep...

Peace in Christ,
Thos.