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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Coffee and flowers

1046. Stargazer lilies and an iced mocha from my love.

1047. A star-gazing trampoline date.

1048. A free-form quiche made with spinach, ham and asiago cheese.

1049. Genoa standing on my lap.

1050. How much Genoa loves watching Cedar.

1051. Joining Pinterest

1052. …and all the beauty I’m finding…and recipes…and ideas.

1053. Watching Cedar enjoy the finger paint I made for him.

1054. My husband’s yummy banana milkshakes.

1055. How much Aaron loves the food I make.

1056. A supper of quinoa chicken salad and skillet apples.

1057. Fresh tomatoes from our garden.

1058. An impromptu family hike.

1059. How much Cedar loves being read to.

1060. My first big shopping trip with my littles by myself going so well.

1061. Being told that I have my hands full…and knowing that they’re full of very good things.

1062. Writing a blog post about how love changes as your marriage grows and then editing two YLCF posts about the same thing…I think God is trying to teach me something!

1063. A weekend with my sisters and a friend.

1064. After much deliberation and price-comparing, finally ordering a quarter of grass-fed beef from Alderspring Ranch.

1065. Coming away from the library book sale with bags of books.

1066. A birthday dinner for my sister-in-law.

1067. Seeing how excited she was when her boyfriend surprised her by showing up in the middle of the meal.

1068. A late-night walk with “the girls”.

1069. Homemade English muffins for breakfast.

1070. Meeting another tandem-nursing mama at church.

1071. Playing Locale.

1072. How much Cedar loved playing in the lake.

1073. Fresh beets from the garden.

1074. Talking about parenting with Aaron.

1075. An iced hazelnut-cinnamon latte.

 

Seasons of love

It all started with re-reading old chats and e-mails from Aaron’s and my courtship and engagement.  A couple we know well is in that oftentimes tumultuous season and it made me want to “re-live” our’s.  We had a hard, but beautiful courtship and engagement and so one night, while Aaron was busy with something else, I spent an hour or so just reading the old chats and e-mails that we had exchanged.  It was fun and brought back many lovely memories.

But then, the next day…amongst the into-everything toddler and the fussy baby, and all the housework and the working-hard husband, I started to get discontent.  Why isn’t it like the way it used to be?  Back when we were so completely focused on each other and told each other “I love you” every ten minutes or so (really, if anyone else ever read our old chats…!!).  Now, what little time we have together in the evenings is spent taking care of our little ones, and cleaning up from supper, and catching up on anything that didn’t get done during the day.  It seems that we’re always tired, from a toddler who wakes up very early and a baby is having a hard time with teething.  I started over-thinking it all and wondered, what on earth had happened to our love?

And then, several nights later, we got home late from something, with two littles who should have gone to bed much earlier.  My husband and I worked together as team, getting them ready for bed, and  once they were asleep, we dropped exhausted into our own bed.  As we lay there, too tired to do anything more than hold each other, tears came to my eyes as I realized…this is itThis is what true love looks like in this season of my life.  What had happened to our love is that it had grown…and changed..and deepened.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis puts it so well:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing…It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling.  Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all…And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last.  If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were.  Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years?  What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships?  But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love.  Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling.  It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God…’Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.  It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” (emphasis mine)

“A deep unity”.  That is what love looks like now.  Unity as we learn how to raise our littles.  Unity as we learn how to juggle priorities in life.  Unity as we keep continuing to learn how to love each other.  This.  This is it.  And this is very good.

Gifts in marriage

1001. Unexpected, long kisses from my love.

1002. Being back in our own bed again.

1003. Cedar and Genoa both taking long, very-needed naps at the same time.

1004. Cedar pretending that part of his peanut butter and honey sandwich is a car.

1005. Dusty pink blooms on my windowsill.

1006. My kitchen filled with the scent of roses.

1007. Homemade burritos.

1008. Fresh cilantro.

1009. Finally getting my own copy of The Naturally Healthy Pregnancy by Shonda Parker (after trying to find a reasonably-priced one for a long time).

1010. Genoa sucking/chewing on her chubby little hand.

1011. Encouraging words from another mommy of littles.

1012. How much Cedar loves fresh blackberries.

1013. A quinoa-beet-brussel sprout-chicken “salad” that turned out super yummy despite its thrown-together-ness.

1014. Learning how to branch out and experiment more with salads…and having some pretty tasty results.

1015. Cedar telling me that I’m “pretty” (along with the sunset and Genoa).

1016. How much fun it is to watch Cedar learn how to talk.

1017. Reading Cooking Outside the Box.

1018. Half-asleep, four-in-the-morning cuddles.

1019. Reading old chats and e-mails from when Aaron and I were courting/engaged.

1020. Cedar moving his bed across the library floor with him in it, so that he can turn on the keyboard to bang on while he’s supposed to be napping.

1021. Young wives encouraging one another.

1022. BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s Great White pizza.

1023. Getting the first four Narnia Radio Theatre CDs for free.

1024. Finding $10 nursing camis.

1025. Learning (for what seems to be the millionth time) that God’s timing is always better than ours.

1026. A husband who helps me answer hard e-mails.

1027. Genoa watching me while she nurses (sometimes so intently that she forgets to nurse).

1028. How much extra sleep you get when your baby sleeps with you.

1029. How encouraging and calming Sons of Korah’s music is.

1030. Cedar’s current obsession with Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.

1031. How much Cedar loves butter.

1032. Replacing our dwindling supply of drinking glasses with a bunch of pint Mason jars.

1033. Making out with my husband on the living room couch.

1034. Cedar thinking it’s hilarious to put his bucket over his arm and then run round and round the island, laughing hysterically.

1035. Watching my love play Goaltimate.

1036. Discovering how well a certain one of my shirts works for nursing.

1037. Learning how to play Black Jack.

1038. Blackberry cobbler swimming in cream.

1039. Reading The Commonsense Kitchen.

1040. Getting new glasses (that I can see clearly through and that don’t make me look tired all the time!).

1041. Watching “Kung Fu Panda” with my husband and some friends.

1042. Adding a new bouquet to my dried roses collection.

1043. An unexpected rainstorm.

1044. The YLCF team expanding (and becoming the “post editor”).

1045. Learning that, at this season of my life, true love often looks like working as a team to get fussy babies to bed and then sleepily cuddling before drifting off into exhaustion.