Stewards of our family

I’ve noticed something recently.  The majority of the people (please read: not all) who are against any form of birth control, if you look at their families, their natural fertility spaces the children at least two years apart. There might be an eighteen month gap, but rarely is there anything less than that. But what if your natural fertility means that your kids could very easily end up being less than a year apart? That’s rarely ever addressed. And before anyone says that doesn’t happen…believe me, it does…I’m living proof (as are several of my friends).

Yes, for me, after both pregnancies, my cycle returned at seven weeks postpartum…seven weeks! (After Genoa was born, I had reason to suspect it was even earlier than that, but it was hard to know for sure since I was still bleeding from the birth.) Which means that, if I conceived then, the babies would be less than a year apart. Which means that my body would have less than two months to recover from giving birth before it had to start nurturing another new life. Which means that the first baby would have less than six months to receive any good amount of breastmilk before my supply dropped drastically due to pregnancy. It’s that last one that is the clincher for me.

One of the big points that the no-birth-control crowd tries to make is that children are a blessing. And supposedly, if you use birth control and try to “limit” how many children you have, that means that you don’t think they are a blessing. Now, I wholeheartedly agree that children are a blessing! I absolutely love the two that I have and I so hope that we have many more. But it’s because that I think my children are such blessings that I don’t want to deprive the ones I already have. And no, this isn’t a “kids need x, y and z so therefore I don’t want to have too many kids”.  Babies need at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding (and continuing to nurse a lot after you introduce solids) and if I get pregnant less than two months after their birth and therefore can’t give them that…that is not taking care of my children as I should.

Before I was married, I was very against birth control in any form.  In my legalistic years, I would get into heated debates with my peers about it, none of whom were married and most of whom had never even thought about it before.  As God matured me in that area I began to see that, first of all, it’s an issue that is between the couple and God.  That’s it.  It wasn’t my job to try to convince anyone to not use birth control.  However, it was still something I was pretty sure I would never use.

Enter reality.  Aaron and I talked about the issue several times during our courtship/engagement and we both were fine with and hoping to get pregnant right after getting married.  We did and I loved being pregnant, despite horrible morning sickness for the first several months and exhaustion for even longer.  Cedar was born two days before our nine-month anniversary. After dealing with all the stress of Cedar’s premature delivery and staying in the NICU, I was relieved to think that I would have at least six months before having to deal with my cycle again.  Wrong!  Seven weeks later, it returned and I cried.

I cried because I didn’t want to deal it for awhile, but I also cried because I didn’t know what we would do now.  For many different reasons, Aaron really didn’t want me to get pregnant so soon after having Cedar, and honestly, I wanted more than two non-pregnant months.  After much discussion and prayer, we decided to use a barrier form of birth control until Cedar was at least six months old.  We did, and when he was seven months old, Genoa was conceived.

Cedar had taken to solids very readily and  and so, for the first trimester, we supplemented my starting-to-dwindle milk supply with some solids.  However, by the time I reached the middle of my second trimester, my supply was pretty much gone, though Cedar continued to nurse several times a day for comfort.  Thankfully, by that time he was pretty well established eating real foods and it wasn’t much of an issue (though I was very glad to be able to continue to nurse him after Genoa was born and I had a supply again…but tandem-nursing is a whole other post!).  But I often wonder what we would have done if Cedar hadn’t started so early and easily on solids…I feel very strongly about babies exclusively breastfeeding at least six months (though hopefully longer), but what if you don’t make enough to do that because you’re pregnant again?  Is that really caring for your child the best that you can?

Granted, I completely believe that the Lord is the One Who is ultimately in charge of opening and closing the womb.  If He wants you to conceive, you will, no matter how many things you do to try and prevent it.  But both Aaron and I believe that we’re to be stewards of our family and of our fertility in the same way that we are to care for other good and perfect gifts that the Father has given us.  For our family this has meant doing what we can to try and not get pregnant until we think our baby would be able to handle the decrease in breastmilk.  And yes, if we did end up conceiving before then, we would rejoice and trust that the Lord cares for all our babies more than we ever could.  But we believe that we need to do our part too and be good stewards of our precious family.

As I mentioned earlier, with this whole issue, one thing that I’ve been convicted of is that, either way this is something that is just between the couple and God.  Other than the fact that children are a blessing, I don’t believe that the Bible states whether birth control is right or wrong.  Therefore it’s something that we each need to seek the Holy Spirit on and use wisdom as we follow His leading.  I just thought I’d show another perspective on the issue and share where our family has been led.  May we do all things for our Father’s glory.

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4 thoughts on “Stewards of our family

  1. I *really* like this post, because it says so well what I’ve strongly felt for awhile as I’ve observed others, hoping to glean wisdom to apply for my future. That word, “stewardship” really puts it all into perspective as we humans seeks to actively do what is best with the blessings the Lord has given us.

  2. So I’m really belated in commenting on this, but I loved this post! This is basically what we’ve arrived at too. Yes, children are a blessing, but God has granted us wisdom to be good stewards in this area; I just don’t see the no birth control formula as Biblically valid. I’m a type A person who *wants* to find exact rules on things like birth control, attire, schooling, etc., but God rarely gives precise across-the-board rules like that, because that’s really not Christianity. *sigh* (says the Pharisee in me)

    The problem is that most in our society think “good stewards” means 2.1 children, and I think that is a vast misapplication of the idea in most cases. We’d love to never “have to” use birth control, but we’re open to what the future holds. . . 28 months between our two children (including a miscarriage) so far without “preventing”, but that doesn’t mean Irish twins will never be in our future ;-). Adrian says that sometimes waiting to conceive (while always being open to “surprises” from God) could be in order to have MORE children, not fewer. Rebuilding the body between times could make a woman more able to bear children in the future :-). I think it’s important to be open to God’s leading and not over-use the stewardship argument to promote selfishness, but also not to shy away from it simply because it is oft-abused to promote a disdain for more than 2 kids.

    And certainly I think it’s important not to judge others who choose the sort of decision you had to make! I think it’s really neat to hear your own story and your thought process through it all. And I still can’t believe your cycle returned in less than 2 months both times, using co-sleeping/no-paci/cue-feeding, etc. Wow. Still no sign of fertility here, and Gretchen is almost 11 months.

  3. I’m not married and never had children so I have no “experience” on this topic but I couldn’t agree more with you.

    I know a dear lady with 12 beautiful blessings! Many of her children are 11 to 13 months apart. I’ve seen her health decline greatly and she even came close to losing her life due to pregnancy complications etc.
    I have ached for her. And I’ve also often wondered how her body would do if she were given more time to “rest” between pregnancies.

  4. I know this is an older post, but I was reading your blog (hopped over from YLCF) and wanted to let you know I appreciate you sharing this post. My first 2 babies were 14 months apart, and after that happened, I knew that my previous hard-core belief in the “evils” of birth control would have to be challenged! It’s all fine and dandy for the quiverfull families who naturally have babies 2+ years apart. But if I left it to nature, I’d likely be pregnant 3-4 months postpartum. Not only do I believe that deprives the newborn of optimum nourishment and health, it doesn’t give the mama a chance to recover her own health. (As you said.) And what good is a bunch of “blessings” (children) if a mama is too physically (and emotionally and mentally) drained to enjoy them and give them all she wants and needs to? Anyway, after our first 2 babies close in age, we decided to use a barrier method of birth control. And I think the hardest part is that our extended families and friends who are non-birth control folks kinda look down on us for not pumping out babies every year (after we proved that could happen for us). It’s a continual struggle for me to not mind what “they” are thinking, and be secure in following what I know is right for my family.

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