How we've made decisions about responsible parenthood...
Bill and I have been married for 8 years. When we were first married we were still in college. After we finished our undergraduate degrees and 6 months after we were married, we moved to Missouri for graduate school. We have practiced Natural Family Planning from the day we were married. We were in phase 3 for our honeymoon, so that avoided making decisions about children during the honeymoon! However, NFP forces couples to talk about children and the decision to postpone or achieve pregnancy.
Before we were married and right after, we had many conversations about children. We talked about when and how many children we would have. We talked about what God's plan for our family was and whether we were ready to have children. Early in our marriage we decided to postpone pregnancy. There were many reasons we made this decision. First, we were both still in school and needed to focus on finishing our degrees. Second, I wanted to stay home with our children and I couldn't do that if I was still in school. Lastly, we were graduate research assistants, so while we did have an income, it was very minimal. Although we had decided to postpone children, I still felt a strong desire and longing for a baby, so we often revisited the possibility of children.
When I was close to finishing my degree we started discussing children again in earnest, or at least I did! We talked about the fact that I would be done with my degree soon and the possibility of timing the birth with the completion of my degree. Bill was hesitant at first, because he would still be in school and he knew that I didn't want to go to work and use childcare. If we were to have a child now, we would be very poor. We talked about what is most important to us and whether children were more important than money and how much money we really needed to have a child. We also kept in mind that, God willing, when Bill finished his degree, our financial situation would change dramatically for the better. Although of course there are no guarantees and there is always a risk of not finding a job or losing a job. In the end we decided to try to achieve pregnancy and have our first child when I had finished my degree.
Of course things don't always go exactly as planned and I was able to conceive on the first cycle (we planned for about 3 months before I conceived)! Nevertheless we were delighted and very excited. In addition, my professor was away on sabbatical and I didn't defend my thesis when originally planned! I didn't officially finish my degree until our first child was one year old! Despite this, I did stay home with William after he was born and worked on my thesis from home. We were very thankful to God for how understanding and supportive my professor was.
Not everyone was as supportive and encouraging of our decision to have a child when we were still in school and were low income. It was difficult sometimes, explaining why we felt children were so important and such a blessing to our family. I also had physical problems after having a forceps delivery and William was a 'fussy' and 'high need' baby. Additionally, I found little support from friends at school who were not having children and because we were living far from family it took me awhile to find 'mommy' friends who could give me emotional support and understanding. My postpartum recovery took awhile and for about 18 months after William was born I could not imagine the possibility of having another child, I was so overwhelmed with caring for one child!
But eventually I did come to love being a stay at home mommy and again felt a longing for another child to love and a sibling for William to love. Bill was still finishing his PhD and we were still very poor, but we now knew how much love a child could bring into a family and the decision to have baby #2 was not so difficult. Andrew was born 2 years and 3 months after William and 6 months before Bill defended his dissertation. God blessed us with a much easier birth and a more laid back baby and an abundance of love! We were so thankful for our children and felt we had done as God desired for our family and had been wise to place our trust in God.
Many changes occurred shortly after Andrew was born. Bill was blessed to find a job in Canada and we moved to another country. After we moved to Canada, we did not try to postpone or achieve pregnancy and we let our charting slide. I expected to become pregnant, but when I did not and Andrew was about 18 months old, I started worrying and discovered that I was again eager to have another child. Bill shared my enthusiasm for growing our family and with a little fun effort, were again able to conceive. God has indeed blessed us.
Again many changes took pace right before Elizabeth was born. We found ourselves moving back to the states when I was 36 weeks pregnant. Bill was changing jobs and while we were glad to be moving back to the states, we were finding that we had to let go of some control and trust God. I didn't have a doctor to deliver my baby, we had to close on our house and move all of our stuff in, hopefully before I delivered, and we knew absolutely no one in this new town. It was very scary and exciting at the same time! God took care of us once again though, and everything worked out beautifully, and far better than we could have planned it.
Elizabeth was only a few months old, when Bill started talking about having baby #4. I was not really ready yet, although Elizabeth was sleeping through the night already and we were adjusting well to 3 children. As the months passed, Bill continued to ask for another child and I continued to ask for more time. I'm not really sure what changed my mind but I did and at 9 months postpartum, we conceived Rebekah and have found her to be a joy and a blessing.
One of the most amazing things about NFP is how it has changed our view of responsible parenthood. When we were first engaged and had discussions about children, while I wanted a big family, Bill was convinced that 2 children was plenty. Well, that has changed dramatically, and even today at 5 months postpartum we both talk eagerly about the possibility of baby #5, when we feel the time is right and God is calling us to expand our family once again!
Discover a natural way to postpone or achieve a pregnancy…the Art of Natural Family Planning® is based on an awareness of a woman’s fertility. It’s medically safe, 99% effective in postponing pregnancy, very low cost, often has a positive effect on the couple’s marriage, and is morally acceptable to all major religions.