Monday, February 18, 2013

Spacing Babies

When Becky hosted a Women Connect linkup a few months ago, I wrote the post I didn't want to write about struggling financially.  The linkup prompted me to write about something that had been on my mind for a long time, but I had been too {scared, nervous, embarrassed, depressed} to share.  It was  such a relief to let it all out.  I received support and feedback from women (and a few men) who had been there or who were currently in a similar situation, and left feeling encouraged.  Becky's hosting another link up and once again I'm writing that post, the one I've half written and erased a dozen times in the last few weeks, the elephant in the room.

For Valentine's Day, my parents bought my 14 month old, Lucia, her first baby doll.  She's a natural little mama, feeding her baby a bottle and patting her to sleep.  Watching my baby love mother her baby doll brings me to tears.  She would be an amazing big sister.

I once read that the best gifts you can give your child are siblings.  Companions.  Life long friends.  Shoulders to cry on.  Partners in crime.  Others who know where you've come from and really, truly understand because they've been there too.  I totally believe that - my little brother, my only sibling, means the world to me - and I'm so ready to give Lucia a little brother or sister.

My body has had ample time to recover from childbirth.  While there will always be new challenges, I feel like I've got this motherhood thing down and I have so much extra love to share with another little one.  I know this isn't exactly a common feeling, but I was ready to get pregnant again when Lulu was five minutes old. 

Lucia just started walking.  We're only nursing a few times a day now.  She's so independent.  Much more toddler than baby.  I love holding my little girl's hand and going for a walk with her.  I love watching her touch her toes as she listens to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" for the millionth time.  I love scooping her up and hugging and kissing her when she falls.  I thought I wouldn't love any stage as much as the baby stage, but I have loved each one just as much!  I don't wish Lucia was still a baby, but I feel my heart and home is ready for a baby again.

My husband feels the same way.  We've always wanted a large family.  Since we first started dating, our "ideal" number of children has been stuck at five, but sometimes I think I want even moreWhen I became a mother, it felt like the most natural thing in the world to me.  I was finally the person God created me to be.  I've wanted to be a mother since I held my first baby doll and it has been everything I thought it would be.

Are there hard days?  Absolutely!  Are there times when I feel like the worst mother that has ever or will ever live? Yep.  But those moments are fleeting for me.  I recently read an article that said parents report happiness at lower levels than non-parents and I just did. not. get. that. at. all.  The joy I have as a mother cannot even compare to my life before baby.

So if we are going to have a large family, it makes sense that we would start trying to conceive soon.  We are mentally and physically ready to grow our family.  But financially, we just aren't there.  David is working part-time while he continues to look for a job in his field.  I work part-time as a teacher.  And we live with my parents.

I'm not one to think they you have to have an established career, a house, and a large savings account in order to have a baby.  We had Lucia when we were living on David's grad school stipend and it was the best thing we've ever done.  {Yes, she was planned.}  Money was tight, but we were super thrifty (against popular belief, babies have very little material needs, especially in those early months, and nearly everything can be found secondhand).  We made it work.  

Technically, we could make it work with another little one right now.  With Lucia's hand-me-downs, I can't think of a single thing we would need for the next baby.  While my parents think we should be more financially stable before growing our family, they would be thrilled to have another grandchild.  They abhor the thought of us moving out and not spending time with Lucia every day, so they would actually LOVE having the next grandchild in their home.  Without having to pay rent, we are able to make it financially and can even save a little.  David has great health insurance (and the price doesn't increase with additional children).

Yet despite the fact that we could get by, we know that we just aren't in the right place.  And that hurts.  Although my parents would love to have us here forever, we are ready to have a place of our own, even if it's just a small apartment.  While we are making ends meet, we are still carrying around quite a bit of financial stress, which would only be exacerbated by the responsibility of providing for another little one.  If my husband gets a job soon, that may mean yet another out of state move and I'm not sure how I would handle a baby and a toddler in a new place without a support system.

That's where we are now, anyway.  We use Natural Family Planning, so we evaluate monthly whether we have serious reasons to continue to avoid pregnancy or whether we can be less strict about abstaining on fertile days.  Maybe next month will bring a job for David or just a change of heart.

Two years apart seems like the perfect spacing for siblings, but I'm making my peace with the fact that that might not be God's plan for our first two babies.  Who can plan that perfectly anyway?  Even with charting my cycles and knowing exactly when I ovulate, it took us four months to conceive Lucia.   Making babies isn't an exact science, it's an act of faith, hope, and love. 


  1. It's good to hear someone mention that NFP should be used for grave reasons. Our current Catholic culture does need to learn to put more trust in God's providence. My fiance and I have decided not to even learn about NFP at this point in our lives. We wouldn't be getting married if we didn't think we were going to begin a family right away and we figure if a grave issue does come up someday for some reason, we can learn it at that time. Otherwise it could be tempting to justify using it for reasons that might not be so grave. God willing, we totally want a big family too (we're shooting for a baker's dozen :) ). God wants big, happy Catholic families. So we trust that He will provide as we work towards doing His will. And if we don't have the ability to have many ourselves for some reason, our hearts are completely open to adoption. God thirsts for souls. And we thirst to give them to Him :)

  2. I think every age gap is the "perfect" solution for each family! But I struggle with wanting another child, like right now, and knowing it's best to wait even if just for a few months. God will bless your faithfulness for seeking his will in every area of your life. Praying your hubby finds a job very soon-(not just for babymaking purposes!)!

  3. I'm stopping by from the link-up, and I'm now your newest follower. Thank you for sharing so much of your family's journey. You have inspired me in more ways than you know :)

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  5. Thanks so much, Amy! I love that perspective (every age gap is the 'perfect' solution for each family)!

  6. How wise amongst your year I love that last sentence "making babies isn't an exact science it's a matter if faith hope and love." Amazing just amazing! You should read my post today it is based on faith hope and love! I also believe everything is in GOD's timing, his plan and also I believe that no one will ever be as financially stable as they want to be when it comes to having children. I will pray for you and hope that it all works out to where you can have your bundle of joy sooner than later but get three or four years apart isn't bad either! Thanks for pouring your heart out! Summer

  7. Waiting can be hard, but it is just one more way of loving your little girl and her siblings who will come along a little further down the road. I am a licensed attorney who is still struggling to find permanent employment a year and a half after graduating, so I know how vicious the market is right now. I recommend Derek Prince's message on the Power of Proclamation in your life. I started adhering to his principles and within a week, I had been contacted for the first real interview since graduating! Email me at, and I can send you the link to his message. It is amazing to see what happens when you release God's power into your life! God bless and best wishes for the future!

  8. Maggie @ From the HeartFebruary 18, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    This is a subject that has been weighing on my mind so often lately. Ryan and I would like 4-5 children, and I'd like them fairly close together (around 2 years)... but with me going back to school and our finances, it looks like our next child will be a little later than planned. I know it shouldn't bother me as much as it does... but..well... I can't help it! I'm devising ways to save money so we can still live on our own!

    Thank you for sharing your struggles. It's nice to know I'm not alone! :-)

  9. Thank you for your thoughtful and open sharing. I believe that helps. When we got married in January 2012 we to were SO ready to start a family. We had no real reason not to (owned a house, had jobs in our careers, older ages - 28 and 32, nearly debt free, ect.) as well as emotionally ready. We always followed NFP (I did it even before I met him, charting knowing where my cycle was) and it still took up almost 11 months to conceive. I was getting very frustrated. But once I vented those frustrations (online via facebook) I got an out pouring of love and support, realizing I wasn't alone. Then just a few weeks later we conceived. Turns out, God gave us the real perfect timing, when I thought I had a good idea for timing. It does seem like you can do it again right now, even though you acknowledge that it would be hard. But I like that you are listening to God and despite everything you seem to know there is some reason for you to wait right now. As hard as it can be to hear, trust that. p.s. I also love that line about the greatest gift you can give to kids is siblings :)

  10. Mandi,
    I found you through the share on frommrstomama. I totally understand where you are coming from. My husband and I just had our first baby in December. My brothers and I are all 2 years apart and I loved being so close in age. I was in the middle and always had a brother in HS with me. I've always thought we'd have our children 2 years apart, but after looking at how much daycare costs with our little one. I don't see how we'll be able to afford 2 kids until our older is in preschool. It's just so hard. It's too bad you can't make those decisions based solely on your heart, but you always have to consider your wallet. Although I do believe if it were to happen, God would provide and there are ways to make any situation work. Good luck!
    Liz @

  11. andi, I have written and erased this same post multiple times too. I hate not being a mother. I hate having to wait. It breaks my heart every cycle and I always feel so silly when I think about all the people struggling with infertility. Thank you for sharing this so eloquently. Ill be praying for you.

  12. Here is to living your life and following God one day at a time! I think that a lot of young devout Catholics are inclined to make absolute plans for how they will live their lives (family size being just one small part) but then life happens and we realize that sometimes holiness looks nothing like we imagined. It sometimes feels beyond absurd when you are wanting a(nother) child so very much and people are talking about how people need grave reasons to delay pregnancy... so kudos to you for being willing to put this out there! Hopefully this time will not only be full of spiritual fruit, but also be over quickly! :-)

  13. Actually, "grave reasons" is a mistranslation of the Latin. The Vatican has a newer translation of Humanae Vitae online:

    "With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social
    conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently
    and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for
    serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to
    have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of
    time." Humanae Vitae 10

    The catechism says couples may avoid pregnancy for "just reasons" and not out of selfishness. The Catholic Church does NOT encourage providentialism (although there is nothing wrong with that) but encourages couples to learn NFP and use the knowledge as part of the discernment process about whether to have more children or not.

    If you are engaged, it's a good idea to learn NFP before the wedding. Even if you don't use it, it is easier to learn when you don't need it than when a serious issue does come up. Additionally, while there is nothing wrong with a honeymoon baby, practicing NFP for a few months after the wedding will get you two used to charting and developing marital chastity skills during the abstinence period. These will serve you well during your marriage and as future parents.

  14. Erika@stethoscopes,style,graceFebruary 18, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    This is such a beautiful, honest post. It truly helped me to read this as my husband and I have had our own struggle recently. My heart wants so badly to be a mother but after a couple months of being open (and sadly realizing it was not God's plan right now) we also have discerned that we are not in the right place (due in part to the demands of my training in medicine right now and other personal reasons) and it hurts too.. At the same time, I have become more open through prayer to accepting God's will each month and for our future, and I believe that practicing NFP really facilitates this. It was very encouraging for me to read your post because I think that some couples practicing NFP do not understand that there are grave reasons in certain cases to delay or space out childbearing...and at the same time, I have learned/am learning that it is so important to trust that when God does grace us with a child, He will support us 100%. I love how you talk about making peace with God's plan, and that making babies isn't an exact science but an act of faith, hope, and love. Thank you, thank you for this post.

  15. Erika@stethoscopes,style,graceFebruary 18, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Oh, and many prayers for your family and your husband's job. We prayed a novena to St. Joseph the Worker when my husband was trying to find a job near me shortly before we got married (otherwise we would have had to live apart for the first year of marriage) and God blessed us at the last minute. We will keep you in our prayers. And your little girl is beautiful :)

  16. Thanks, Amy! I have found so much comfort by sharing!

  17. Thank you, Rae! You are so right about thinking holy looks like a large family!

  18. We've said many, many novenas since he graduated last year, including one to St. Joseph, but it might be time to start another one. Thank you!

  19. You're welcome, Erika! I'm so glad I shared. We really struggled with deciding to have get pregnant the firs time and I had so hoped that we wouldn't have to struggle as much again (at least not for financial reasons) but I guess that is just our cross right now. I'll be praying for you too.

  20. Katie, I feel that way too (about feeling so down when there are women suffering from infertility). Even though we are trying to avoid, I still get sad every time my period starts.

  21. Liz, I'm so sorry you feel like you're in a similar situation! I definitely agree with you that if I did get pregnant, we would be fine and God would provide, but I don't think it's wise right now to purposely seek pregnancy.

  22. Thanks, Andrea! I'm glad my post connected with you!

  23. new follower here. found you thru the link up. great post. i know exactly how you feel. hubs and I have been together for almost 12 years and we waited basically 10yrs to start having kids because things just didnt seem to line up, even tho we both have always wanted kids

  24. I feel for ya, Mandi. It's hard to wait when you are ready for a baby. Praying that everything will work out and the Lord will make His perfect timing clear to you!

  25. I would say grave and serious are pretty interchangeable.

    Also, desiring a large Catholic family is not the same as providentialism. What happened to the Catholic Church being known for its large families? Something happened within the culture that affected the catechesis within the church and now the mormons, muslims, and even some protestant sects carry the title of large family more than Catholics. There is something fishy in that.

    The teachings of the Catholic Church do not encourage couples to learn NFP (although members within the church have pushed it heavily). The teachings state that with serious reason, a couple may resort to NFP. It is not part of the essential building blocks for a happy, Catholic marriage.

    And again, you one shouldn't even "practice" NFP for practice sake right after the wedding without a serious reason. Again, the stressor of serious often seems to get lost in the shuffle.

    NFP isn't a hard concept to learn and it could easily be learned if and when the serious situation arrived.

  26. The catechism uses "just reasons". Other sections of HV use "acceptable reasons" and "well-grounded reasons". I think you are stressing "serious" far more than the Church herself does.

    And yes, the Church does teach that NFP is an important marital skill. Once again, from Humanae Vitae on learning biology and self-control:

    "With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an
    awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions. In the procreative
    faculty the human mind discerns biological laws that apply to the human person.

    With regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood
    means that man's reason and will must exert control over them."

    Learning about biology and especially self-control are good for a marriage.

    The reason Catholic families are smaller is not because of NFP, but because so many Catholics are using contraception. In fact, one of the problems NFP promoters have is that they tend to
    plan such large families that couples don't believe the method works!

    Priests did not preach Humanae Vitae when it was issued, but dissented from it. Many Catholics don't know about the teaching or the reasons behind it.

  27. "Just," "acceptable," and "well-grounded" can all be interpreted more or less seriously. Historically this was interpreted quite seriously indeed. See, for instance, Pius XII's address to midwives. NFP was meant to be used only in an emergency situation.

    What changed this is the sexual revolution and the Pill, and the contemporaneous relaxation of much in the faith after Vatican II, due to what our Holy Father recently called the "virtual council" and the "council of the media." In response to the frightening influence of the culture of contraception even on Catholics, there was within the Church a rush to market NFP to Catholic couples as an alternative to the immorality of artificial birth control. Unfortunately it has today become far too sacred to many Catholics, to the point that it is considered a necessary part of a good Catholic marriage — never mind that it is recent enough that few Catholic marriages, historically speaking, used it. It is considered necessary and even beneficial by nature, regardless of the reasons it is practiced. Rather than being, as was intended, a band-aid to be applied in certain situations until circumstances no longer required it, it has become a psuedo-spiritual "part of this complete marriage."

    But it is not necessary. My parents have a wonderful marriage without it. Nine kids, no money — tons and tons of love. They had what many would consider "grave" or "serious" reasons, but they trusted God and welcomed each of their nine children with equal love.

    To me, that is beautiful.

    I think there is a tendency to think that those who do not use NFP have no self control. But it could simply mean that they want to give themselves fully to God's plan, and be open to giving life and love without setting limits on God or forcing Him to operate within a boundary that they set. I believe that more self control is required to be this open than to practice periodic abstinence. Yes, this is trust in providence, and that is why it is hard. It is not, however, inordinate trust, i.e. making God do all the work, because if there is a truly grave reason, NFP may be used. It is simply a view that does not see non-emergency hardship as a grave enough reason to put barriers to God's gifts.

    This seems to me to be in keeping with the spirit of Humane Vitae. Paul VI writes, "From this it follows that they [the couple] are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out." Earlier he states that deciding to delay children is permissible "for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts." Reading this, and keeping in mind the constant teaching of the Church (including teachings which pre-date the sexual revolution and its corresponding idea, which has seeped everywhere into our culture, that planning and limiting children is "responsible"), it seems to me that practicing NFP simply to learn it, as for instance during a honeymoon and for some time thereafter, is not a serious reason and would be quite problematic. I think, instead, that I will try to start my marriage with full openness to God's plan, in as generous a way as I can, and hope that it sets a tone, so to speak, for generosity in all aspects of my marriage for as long as I live.

  28. This link should work:

    I read that article and was quite saddened and overwhelmed by your plight, especially your fathers' comments about birth control. It is so difficult to even practice NFP when the culture that surrounds us thinks it is stupid and irresponsible not to use contraception. And as you have seen, our clergy are not catechizing us about using NFP only for serious reasons. If it is mentioned, it is quickly glossed over. We have lost the fullness of the uniquely Catholic idea of marriage and family, and we borrow too much, far too much, from the surrounding culture which tells us that limiting our family is "responsible." I have great respect for how you handled the difficult decisions you talked about in that article and in later ones, and I hope God will reward you with many children and the means to support them in the very near future.

  29. While there is nothing wrong with providentialism, there is nothing that says that providentialism is more holy than using NFP. Unfortunately, many providentialists take a judgmental "holier than thou" attitude toward NFP users, which is always inappropriate.

    There was a fantastic article on why couples should wait a few months before pursuing pregnancy, written by a faithful priest, but unfortunately, I cannot find it. As a practical matter, those who have not practiced it before having children generally have a much harder time learning it when they need it. Harder in both learning the method and adapting periodic continence into their marriage.

  30. One can use "holier than thou" in almost any disagreement, but in this case it obscures the fact that the teaching of the Church is that NFP ought not to be practiced without serious reason. It isn't a part of marriage, but something extraordinary to be practiced only in extraordinary circumstances.

  31. This shouldn't be a discussion of providentialism vs. NFP. It's about the proper role of NFP within the Church, which as Anth said, is in extraordinary circumstances.

    Text doesn't really provide tone. So know that when Anthony and I are discussing NFP, we are discussing the idea and catechesis within the Church as a whole and we are not passing judgment on individual cases.

  32. Thanks, Ali! Sorry you're in the same situation!

  33. Maggie, boy do I get you on the living on your own thing! I'm so ready to just have our own place, no matter how small...just something that is all ours!

  34. One of the reasons that I try to avoid the topic is because of this argument that always seems to be brought up. Those Catholic couples that are devout enough to use NFP are wanting to follow God's word and they aren't devising lame excuses to not have children. It seems like this conversation always leads to judgment - "Well, that couple could have more children if we had more with less money than they have", etc, etc, etc, but the truth is that each individual couple may come to different conclusions with God's help.

  35. Andrea, I do have to disagree with one thing you said: "NFP isn't a hard
    concept to learn and it could easily be learned if and when the serious
    situation arrived." NFP can be easy for some and may be extremely
    difficult for others, depending on their particular cycles, and is much
    easier to learn when you don't need to than when it is necessary for a
    serious reason.

    I personally think that all women should learn to chart
    their cycles (preferably before marriage) if for no other reason than
    because it can reveal medical issues. For example, if a woman has a
    short luteal phase (the time between conception and the start of the
    next period), fertilized eggs don't have the time to implant in the cell
    wall, which means that achieving a viable pregnancy is difficult and
    fertilized eggs (which are living humans) are constantly not provided
    with the opportunity for life. Not saying that a woman needs to
    continuously chart while married, but to chart a couple cycles once in a
    while is a matter of health, not just preventing pregnancy (you may
    need to use it to get pregnant someday too).

  36. I don't think there is anything wrong with a good discussion as long as people keep it in perspective and respectful :)

    We as Catholics shouldn't be afraid of discussion controversial topics, because in the end truth is truth and nothing anyone can say will change that.

    As long as people are discussing with a open heart and with the intention of finding out what is true and in line with the Church's teaching, I would say it is healthy to bring up these topics.

    Discussing these topics has been harder in recent years due to the lack of clarity in interpretation from the Church. This isn't the laity's fault. It just makes it harder for us to find our way.

  37. P.S. And I'll stress that there is no ill will or judgment towards other couples when Anth and I comment on this. Honest! :) It's a topic we find intriguing and that has been presented with confusing catechesis in the past and of late.

  38. NFP will definitely come up as an option if we someday struggle with infertility. Until then, I feel comfortable with not knowing everything. I was a biology major for my undergrad, so I feel good with the info I do know. Thanks for the info on short luteal phases. I'll definitely keep that in mind.

  39. Amy @ This Cross I EmbraceMarch 6, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Hi, I'm visiting from the New Evangelists monthly share - and I love this post :) You might be interested in some similar thoughts (from a very different perspective) at my post here:

    I think it's beautiful that you have recognized that God is an equal contributor to your family plan :) Bravo, because many couples are not quite as open to life (i.e. open to the life God has planned for them).

    I enjoy your writing and look forward to reading more!


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