Expecting our 6th child throws us solidly into weirdo territory, according to most people. Then when they find out not only do we have 2 special needs kids but we have added 4 kids to our family in four years, they are really shocked. We get lots of comments about birth control and other rude things. So, since people seem to feel the need to judge big families for their choices I figured I would enlighten you on how we got to this place and our position on all that.
Disclaimer: Yeah, I am about to talk about our birth control choices, TMI for some people I realize, but I feel like it needs to be talked about. Secondly, I am talking about what we believe and what works for us, this is not meant to be a blanket statement about everyone and their family choices. I don’t presume to know what’s best for everyone, I am just putting this subject on the table for discussion and to get people to think about a topic they don’t often think about. That’s all, so don’t assume I am judging anyone or saying you need to have 6 kids like us.
So, where to start? How did we get to the place of expecting our 6th kid? We got married 13 years ago and we discussed kids. We said we wanted two or three kids some biological and maybe to adopt one. We were looking to be the typical American family. Two years went by and we decided to start pursuing that first kid. Months went by and no baby. We were surprised, because at this point we were 21 and 22 years old, fertility should be a given, in our minds. At the nine month mark with no kid in sight we decided maybe it was time to consult a doctor. Just before we made an appointment we found out I was pregnant. We were relieved and joyful. That experience gave me a small appreciation of what infertility feels like. I don’t presume to understand what some couples go through, but I have a small idea of how it feels to want a child badly and not be able to conceive one. So, 9 months later we had a beautiful baby boy named Samuel. Motherhood came hard for me. I didn’t have younger siblings or cousins to practice on and had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Samuel had colic, which I didn’t realize at the time, I just thought I was a bad mom that my kid cried non stop. I went through some post-parteum depression and don’t really even remember the first three months of Samuel’s life. It got better as he learned to sit up and life was good with one kid. Glenn and I were living in a small house in the middle of a bad neighborhood and realized we needed to move. We didn’t feel safe there now that we had a son to consider. So, I went back to work to pay for a down payment on a house. I worked for a year and hated every second of it. I wanted to stay at home with Sam, but couldn’t afford it. In the fall of 2005 when Sam was 18 months old, I heard a sermon by our pastor about crossing the Jordan river. He spoke about sometimes in life you have to take a leap of faith and cross into unknown territory because God is calling you to do it. I felt God calling me to step out in faith and quit my job to stay home with Sam. We had just bought a new house, Glenn was working as a teacher making very little and was also in school at the time. We had no idea how we would afford this, but we felt called to do it. So, after Christmas was over I quit my job and stayed home full-time. One month later we found out we were expecting our second son, Jordan.
When I found out I was expecting I was completely in shock. How could this happen? We weren’t trying to get pregnant. I learned at that point that sometimes God has a plan for you that you don’t understand. Money was already tight, how would we afford this new baby? I wasn’t sure I was ready for this. We had talked about having another child somewhere down the road, but not right then. I learned a lot over the next couple of years about God’s provision. When God blesses you with a child, He provides. LIfe was good. We had two beautiful boys and Glenn had a stable job and had graduated from graduate school. We didn’t want any more kids, we had just what we could handle. God had other plans. When Jordan was a little over a year old I felt God calling us to be open to the idea of another child. We prayed about it and decided we would be open to it. One problem. Birth control. When we got married I went on the pill, that’s what everyone around me said I should do, so I did. It was then that I learned me and chemical birth control are not a good combination. I couldn’t handle the hormones, they made me sick and effected my heart condition. So, after Jordan was born we went another route, an IUD. Right after I got it I started having issues with it so I started to do research about it. I found out something that disturbed me. I found out that IUD’s, as well as birth control pills, could possibly work to abort an embryo. They don’t normally work this way, but it was a possibility. I have always been pro-life and believe that life begins as conception. So, the idea that my birth control could possibly cause an abortion unsettled me. So, when God asked us to be open to having another child I had the IUD taken out.
During the six months it took us to become pregnant I prayed for God to bless us with a little girl. Might as well ask, I figured. God told me that “I would get my girl, but it would be a while”. The next month I got pregnant. I was excited and convinced it was our daughter. 15 weeks into the pregnancy we went to a routine doctor’s visit and discovered the baby had died. We were devastated. I was angry and sad. What was God doing? How could He let this happen? He had called us to have this child just to take it away? I went into another period of depression. I finally got some counseling and started dealing with my grief. A year later we decided we were strong enough to try again, and the doctor’s assured us that the chances of another miscarriage were very slim. We found out we were expecting and 9 weeks later lost another baby. I had enough. I couldn’t bear the thought of another pregnancy. We decided we would pursue adoption as we had always talked about. However, the problem of birth control came up again. You cannot pursue adoption while pregnant, most of the time, so we had to do something to prevent pregnancy. Chemical birth control and IUD’s were out, I just couldn’t feel good about them knowing what I knew about how they worked. So, we tried Natural Family planning. We signed up with an adoption agency and nine months later were placed with a little baby boy who was 8 days old and had been born 11 weeks premature. We spent the next two months in the NICU with him and brought him home in May of 2010. In June 2010, we found out we were expecting. Again, shock! Natural family planning is not fool-proof. I was very upset about being pregnant. I was not sure how in the world I would take care of four kids ages 7, 4, 1 and newborn. And I was scared we would experience another miscarriage as we had before. Elijah was born 9 months later and our journey of having four very young boys began.
I learned a lot through what I refer to as the dark years. Those two years when we experienced our miscarriages. I learned I don’t have control over my life, I only think I do. I had great plans for my life and God had other ones. I have no control over what happens to my kids. Joshua having special needs has taught us about letting go as well. You have to trust God when your child is very sick in NICU and you aren’t sure he will make it. There is no one else to turn to. It was then that I began to think about our life. I started researching birth control methods more, since we weren’t thrilled with the idea of having any more kids with so many little ones. It was then that I started researching what some would consider “out there” beliefs about birth control. I researched what Catholics believed and also what some right-wing people who called themselves “quiverfull” believed. What they said made a lot of sense to me in theory, but in reality I had four very young boys. How could I allow God control over our family size knowing he would likely bless us with another child? I couldn’t handle another child. I decided I would just keep on with natural family planning and be as careful as possible.
When Elijah was 8 months God told me to start the adoption process to find our daughter. I was pretty sure He was crazy. I ignored him for a while and finally agreed to pray about it. After praying about it I still wasn’t convinced so I started to talk to Glenn about it. He prayed about it and we started the adoption process, knowing it would take a long time as we were pursuing international adoption. Almost two years later we brought home our daughter Elizabeth from Hong Kong. Life was hard. The adjustment was and still is difficult. It was only last December that she came home. Before she came home we had said we were done having kids. We had our four boys and now a girl, our family was complete. The night Glenn brought Elizabeth home on the airplane, I had a dream. In the dream we found out we were expecting shortly after she came home. I ignored the dream as a nightmare really and moved on. During that next week I had two more dreams about this new child. Finally I decided I should pray about it, even though I thought God was insane to suggest we should try to have another child at all, much less just after bringing home this daughter who had significant special needs and adjustments. I finally told God I would talk to Glenn about having another child knowing full well how he felt about the idea. So, on a Sunday morning I sat him down in the middle of the great rush to get ready for church and we discussed it. He was immediately on board. I was floored! We agreed to pray about it for a month. We prayed and God made it clear to both of us that although it seemed crazy to us at the time He wanted us to be open to another child. So, we agreed. And the next month found out we were expecting our son Luke, who is due to arrive in November.
That’s how we got here, to the land of almost 6 kids, but why? And what do we do next? That I will answer in the next post, since this one has gotten way too long as it is.