If you are in a relationship, who decides when it’s time to have a baby? Maybe it’s your first, or maybe you are deciding to grow your family even bigger. It’s great when you and your husband are on the same page, but what happens when you’re not? What if one of you wants to stop having kids, and one of you wants to continue having kids? Who decides?
The topic of having kids can be a sore spot for everyone, so please, before you walk into this post, leave your grumpy pants at the door. I can’t cover everything in one post. I’m talking about one experience that I personally had, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
When my husband and I started having kids, people would ask us, “How many are you guys gonna have?” Everyone expected an answer, like we had a cattle brand across both our brains that matched: seven kids, one kid, three kids. The fact is, neither of us ever had a number, and I never knew what to say when people asked that question. So I started asking, “How did you decide how many kids to have?” I legitimately wanted to know.
As it turned out, not many people had a solid answer, “I just knew when I was done,” was the answer I most often received. We both knew we weren’t done yet, but we didn’t know how many kids we wanted, and I still didn’t have an answer for people after kid #1, kid#2, and kid #3 were born. Then, the other questions started rolling in. If you’ve ever read my blog, you know what I am talking about. The really rude questions that basically mean quit having kids; you’re making me uncomfortable over here.
After baby #1, my response was always, “As many as God gives us.” I said it with a smile, and I meant it. I didn’t have a number, no concrete idea, and I loved my babies to the moon and back.
We tucked into a church that loved kids and where everyone was having babies. Embrace the family way, so to speak. Fast forward 8 years, and here we are.
Then it happened: one of us didn’t want to have kids anymore (in the end, we were both on the same page… it just took a little time). I started having those uncomfortable conversations with people again: “How did you decide when you were done? How do you know?” When I’m really struggling with something I read my Bible, pray, and talk to people. If you have good, solid people that you trust to help guide you, it’s better than making a rash decision all on your own. I wanted to be sure.
One day, I’m having one such conversation with a couple we used to go to church with. I say, “I think we’re done. I do. If God gives us another, I will love it the same as all my other kids, but I’m letting Him know that I don’t want anymore.”
Dead. Silence. You’d think I said I murdered a man outside the gas station late last night.
As we tried to recover the conversation and return to normal, I came to the realization that the man of the family thought perhaps we should have kids until we can no longer have them. Say, if I had cancer and had my uterus removed, or I went through menopause.
“My body feels terrible,” I said. “I had to see a chiropractor once a week with my last pregnancy, or I couldn’t walk I was in so much pain. My hip hurts all the time. My back is still messed up. My fingernails are a thin, sad shadow of their former selves. I haven’t slept in 9 years. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding for 9 years. I’ve been having problems with my heart; hopefully it’s nothing serious, but it’s scary. I need a break,” I said, assuming that giving more information on the situation would help him understand where I was coming from.
Then this gem came bursting from his mouth: “At what point does the man, the leader of the family, get to say,”No, you’re having another baby, whether you want to or not?”
This time, the silence was on my end.
“Children are a blessing,” he said. I just kept staring, because I didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, my husband is awesome and came to my rescue,
“What about every kid that lives on the streets, winds up in foster care, or has to live off the government because their parents can’t take care of them? Are those children not a blessing, too? I don’t know if that means their parents should keep having kids just because they are a blessing.”
“True,” he said, looking a bit confused, then he wandered off. That was the end of the conversation. His wife sat through the conversation saying nothing. I don’t know how she felt about all of it, but she wasn’t wildly protesting, either.
Here’s the thing: I don’t want you to take this as being sensational just to cause a ruckus. I can’t get this conversation out of my head, because I know I can’t possibly be the only one who has heard such nonsense. I really hate to think that there are more women out there who believe that their husband ultimately has to make those choices for her. If a woman is not physically or mentally able to care for another child, or simply cannot for some reason, a man should never force her to birth and care for another baby.
That being said, if we were to get pregnant again tomorrow, I would raise my child; I would find a way. If I couldn’t care for my baby for some reason, I would find a loving family to adopt it. There are choices to be made that aren’t against the commandments God has given us. I don’t believe that “be fruitful and multiply” means have babies until you go nuts and drown your kids.
Some of us are meant to be childless, and some of us can handle a few kids, some moms I know have 10 or more kids and are amazing ladies. It’s not something I can give you: your number, the perfect size for your family. However, a husband and wife are a team. A man can be a leader without enforcing things that would be harmful to their wife. A husband can lead in grace, prayer, and love without forcing things that they have no right to force.
Children are a blessing, and I remind myself of that every time one of my kids colors on the walls, dumps a whole box of cereal behind the deep freezer, or pukes on me. I love my kids with all my heart, but I’m not stacking them up like God’s currency: the more I have, the richer I am.
I am rich, but I would be no less rich if I only had one child because that’s what God gave my family.
No, it’s not ever right for a man to force something on his wife that she is completely against. Especially if that thing could harm her in some way. If you are in a relationship like that, please recognize that it is toxic. Get help. Reach out. Please.
As for me, I’m blessed, pleased, totally happy with my family, our decision to be done, and the road that led us away from a church where some of the ideas floating around are of the rather unhealthy type.
Note: Some of my readers know the church that I am referring to. I am in no way saying that everyone who attends that church feels that way. I am also not saying that is an idea taught as Scripture in that church. And no, I will not tell you who I had this conversation with. I love people, faults and all, and I know I’ve said some stupid things in my time as well.
**This post originally appeared on BlogHer July of 2015.**