Did You Always Want A Big Family?

I grew up with one brother and one sister.

My siblings are twins and are two years younger than me.  We had a lot of fun growing up, being so close in age.  I remember so many different games we came up with, and we would play with each other for hours.  We had pretty good relationships with each other, and I loved having both a brother and a sister.

I think when we are young (especially us girls), it's easy to think that you get to plan your whole life out.  When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to get married at 22 (my mom's marriage age), wait two or three years to have babies, then have three kids (because it seemed to work for my family of origin).  I even had names picked out (because of course my husband would love every name that I did).

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that none of that worked out like I thought it would!

So to answer a question from my blog buddy Natalie, I didn't always want a "big" family (unless you consider three kids "big", which I don't).

I continued on with my well-planned-out life, and when I was 19 years old and in dental hygiene college I read a book called "America Alone" by Mark Steyn.  I can say with certainty that this was the point when I started to think about family size a little differently.  

This book was not necessarily about family size, it was about international politics, but it did address the history and current state of birth rates in different countries.  In the book, Steyn presents evidence that countries or cultures that have higher birth rates tend to accomplish more in the world, and those that have anemic birth rates tend to go into decline.

This was a shifting point for me, because for the first time it occurred to me that maybe choosing how many children to have isn't a decision that should be merely based on personal preference or some arbitrary "ideal".  It introduced to me the idea that having children is a way to pass something on, and if there are more children in the family, there is more of a chance to pass it on to more people.  As a strong believer in Christ, that idea was interesting to me, because I want to pass on my faith to my children, and for them to pass it on to their children.  For the first time I thought about having four kids instead of just three.

I think the Lord used that unexpected book to get me thinking in a new direction, because a year later Derek and I got married, and a year later we went off birth control because of our pro-life convictions.  Still, I clung to the idea that I could control everything in my life, including the timing and size of my family.  This was my decision, and I didn't think about God's opinion about my family much at all.

But God wasn't finished working on my heart, and I was rudely awakened to the fact that maybe I wasn't in control of this.  Things weren't working quite right after I went off the pill, and for the first time it occurred to me that maybe getting pregnant isn't as simple as I thought.

We went through about eleven months of waiting for things to get back to normal, and I very quickly went from thinking we'd wait to try to get pregnant to being desperate to have a baby.  This was what God used to turn me toward what He wanted for our family, instead of just what I wanted.   This is what He used to change my view of children from something to check off my list, to viewing them as a true blessing that He was in charge of giving. 

Fast forward a few years later, and instead of the two or four Derek and I said we originally wanted, we are expecting our fifth baby.  Until about two years ago, the idea of five never even entered my head - but I credit this baby completely to God working in our hearts and family.  After we had Clarice there was just that nudge from the Holy Spirit to wait, to not do anything permanent quite yet, and we wouldn't have been listening at all if not for all those years of God slowly changing my attitude on children.  We would have cut things short long ago if God hadn't used our trouble getting pregnant to teach me to seek His will for our family, not just my own.  He used a stressful time in my life of dealing with sub-par fertility to actually bring me more babies than I would have otherwise!  Looking back now, I'm amazed at how gentle He was with me.  He gave me just the right resources and circumstances at the right times to change my heart.

So here we are, having a "big" family.  (I can probably say "big" without quotation marks now - it's just that the Duggars and Bates kind of redefined "big" for me.)  Derek and I never really planned this out, but looking at our five babies (even the one still in my belly), we really cannot imagine not having them here.  God has been really gracious to us, and He gave us what we didn't know we needed.  

So, to finish answering Natalie's question, my favorite part of having a big family...well, they are all running around, laughing as I type this, and the joy is pretty infectious!  (Of course, there are also times of everyone crying, but let's just skip over that.)  I think my favorite part of having a big family is those moments when they are all gathered around me for school or Bible time, and we are talking about something really important, and I know that this is it.  This is what God made me for, and these children are one of the only things I will do on this earth that will really last...and He trusted me with five of them.  

It's a powerful thought, and it's humbling, and it makes me want to cry for the responsibility and privilege of it.  He's been really good to me, and I see that nowhere more clearly than in these little faces that look back at me every day.

P.S.  If you asked Derek his version of the story, he'd have a very different one than mine...but I saw how he kept his heart open to what the Lord might have for us over the years too.  There is a reason God sent us each other, and these five kids are good proof!

P.P.S. If you have any "getting to know you" questions for me, now's the time!  It'll help me come up with material for the last two weeks of my 31 Day Writing Challenge!

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Gina babybluemom.com said...

I needed this. I often remember there chaos and forget the joy of hearing them laugh and play. You have a beautiful family

blessingsandlilacs said...

A lot of what you touched upon was said this morning at my young moms bible study. What God has entrusted to us is an amazing thing. I'll be sure to share with the other girls!

Elizabeth said...

God's will for our individual lives is so mysterious! What we think we could never handle is a privilege to live with daily. What we wish we had might not have made us happy. I wanted a big family, but didn't even get married until I was 29. And here I am living in an apartment in Russia. Not something I could have imagined. From a kid's perspective, I grew up in a big family (one of 5 and then 2 more were adopted), but it never felt big. Each sibling was just another part of the family and someone we couldn't imagine not being there. We were NOT one of those families with the freezer cooking and chore charts. But we were also 3 years apart, so that's a different dynamic. I think you are doing an amazing job and I love that you are documenting it for the years to come.

Rachel said...

Big family life feels "normal" to me as the oldest of seven. Mom always wanted a big family, she told my Dad at 19 that she wanted 10 kids and he said "Okay"...which is probably why she married him. :P They couldn't quite make it to 10, things got a little too life-threatening after #7, but there's always been so many other people's kids in our house and there's so many others that call her "mama" that I think they surpassed 10 quite some time ago. Some of my sisters are pretty similar--saying they want at least 8-10 kids. Me...I've never felt called to a goal number, I love big families but I've never felt like I could only be happy if I had a big family...and I think that's by grace. It's been a long and hard journey to our first tiny baby who didn't stay and still have a long way to go with this tiny one. I'm grateful for any babies God may grant us but I've learned a lot in the passing years about not placing my worth in my ability to have them.

Emily stone said...

Growing up, I had the exact same thoughts: married by 20 (like my parents), baby 2 years later (like my parents) and completely done with kids by the time I hit 30.... Then reality: 36, newly married, no kids and maybe something God doesn't will for us.. ? =/ I don't know, but seeking him is the only way to get through any uncertain time, young or "old". Can't wait to celebrate your fifth with you!

Natalie@She Builds Her Home said...

I love this story so much! Thanks for sharing!! Isn't it so cool to look back on that weary time of trying to get pregnant and see all that God did through that circumstance now? I think about that often for myself.
I knew you had a brother and sister, but I didn't know they are twins! That's fun!

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