Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Death, Birth Control, Duggars and Mega Families (I have one)

Duggars announce #20 on the Today show
"Ah, the Duggars! Just the name stirs so many emotions! You won't encounter many people who don't have a strong opinion on this topic!"
So started my response to a post in an online grief forum this morning.  One of the recently bereaved moms had vented her anger that the Duggars will soon have 20 children and she can't even have one.  Her "Friends" on Facebook had chimed in their two cents (and many cheap shots).

When I was in fresh grief, the only people that I felt deserved babies were people who had lost babies. No one else had a right to procreate!
  • Unwed teens? NOPE! 
  • College party girls? NOPE! 
  • Childless couples? NOPE! 
  • Someone with a living kid or two? NOPE! 
  • Happily married high-school sweethearts? NOPE! 
  • Remarried blended families? NOPE! 
  • The Duggars? NOPE! 
Why should anyone else be blessed with a child when mine was taken away?

What I learned is that in judging them as unworthy, I was trying desperately to prove to myself that I WAS worthy and was wronged.

It is HARD to accept that our child is gone forever. Other people's pregnant bellies and newborn babies remind us, oh so painfully! Whether the occupant of that womb is #1 or #25 doesn't matter nearly so much as the fact that my arms were empty. My womb was empty. My heart was empty. If it's hard to be happy for a best friend or family member that is pregnant, it is virtually impossible to rejoice over a stranger's blessings.
Me, pregnant with #4 (of 5) in 2009.
Henna tattoo by Henna Tattoos Dallas
Photography by Studio One To One (I have the rights to this photo!)
I try to avoid reading the comments on main-stream media coverage of the Duggars.  There are a few "good for them" and "better them than me" type response, but the overwhelming conversation tends toward opinions that they are bad earth-citizens, contributing to over-population at best; soaking up the lime-light at worst.

What I find most ironic is that most of those who call for the Duggars to stop cranking out babies would consider themselves pro-choice.  They believe that a woman has the right to choose whether the time is right, the conditions are good, resources are plentiful, the impact on other family members, the finances are there, the support system is in place...  That's all good and fine logic - except... They've skipped the first question.  The first question is "is it a life?"

This is where the greatest conflict is (in my humble opinion).  If you look at the "choice" in absence of the first question, the other questions are valid, even noble.  In my mind, it's like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books:
(page 32) You are of child-bearing age.  If you choose to have sex and risk getting pregnant, turn to page 60.  If you choose to not have sex tun to page 53.
(page 53) your Choice has protected you from diseases and emotional damage.  As a bonus, you will not become pregnant.  When you are ready to become a parent, please turn to page 101. 
(page 54) begin agonizing "choices".
(page 60) You are pregnant.  Do you believe it is a life?  If Yes, tun to page 78, if No, turn to page 54.
(page 78) Do you want to keep your baby?  If Yes, turn to page 101, if No turn to page 86. 
(page 86) Begin finding adoption agencies.
(page 101) Begin planning for parenthood.
 The problem with all of this speculation has been solved in the Duggars simple faith and declaration that "God will decide the timing and spacing of their family".  Whether you agree or disagree with their logic and theology, you must agree that the CHOICE is very simple for them.

William and I have wrestled with this issue throughout our marriage.  When we first married, I wanted 7 children.  He thought 2 would be just fine, thank you very much.  It never crossed our minds that we might NOT be able to have children. It never crossed our minds to ask GOD what he thought!  In fact, I started on birth control right before we got married (it made me really sick, but it was the prudent thing to do - after all we didn't "plan" to have children until we'd been married 5-7 years)

I switched methods several times before we found one that didn't bother my system as much.  We had been married for less than 2 years when I felt God's prompting in my spirit to pray "open my womb".  William agreed and within 2 years we welcomed Calvin.  As soon as I stopped nursing, I went back on birth control pills.  I was working, didn't think that we could "afford" another baby.  God blessed me with a friend who had 7 children (hello?  SEVEN?  that was MY number!)  She began to sow into my life and pray for me.

William and I felt the same leading to have another child a short time later and welcomed Jordan.  I went back to work and birth control, but my heart had begun to turn toward home.  (Wow - this is turning into a book!  LOL)  Jordan was 18 months old when we made the decision that I would stay home.  She had chronic ear infections and ended up with pneumonia for a month.  Amazingly, when she was back at home, no troubles at all!

William was satisfied with 2 kids, I wasn't, but wanted to be submissive.  I went back on birth control, but it made me sick, increased my blood pressure and no variety was working.  The doctor suggested an IUD.  After research we found that the way it sometimes worked was to prevent implantation, not fertilization.  Now we had a moral dilemma.  If we believed that life began at conception, then preventing that tiny life from finding a safe place to grow was nothing more than an abortion.  As we began to research other pharmaceutical methods of birth control, we found that many of them worked in this way.

We resorted to latex condoms, only to find that I was allergic!  So we defaulted to natural condoms and other "methods".  We were even considering the "snip snip" for William, but he didn't want to commit (not that I blame him!)  After several years of this, OOPS - welcome baby Ian!

That was enough to prompt William to make an appointment to have the vasectomy, but his mom suggested we wait until Ian was a year old, just in case we changed our minds.  After Ian died, we were so glad we did!  We decided to "try" again.  I had an ectopic pregnancy.  We welcomed Gavin the next year and again, said we were "through".

I now say that "when we make plans, it makes God laugh."  Trust me, there are days that it feels that He's laughing at my expense!  Welcome baby Aaron!  Oh, by the way - he's extra special with Down's Syndrome (just in case I was getting a little cocky at having this whole "mothering" thing down).

So, now we have 5 children, putting us in good company with the Duggars and the other 4% of the US that has "mega families" (more than 4 children).  While researching this phenomena just before Aaron was born, I came across a quote that I hold dear:
(confession - I just spent half an hour looking for the actual quote and an attribution.  I couldn't find it - so you'll just have to trust me!) 
In the Bible, children are a blessing and debt is a curse.  We are a strange nation that seeks the curse and denies the blessing.
(confession number two - I wasn't satisfied with that and googled again - here's the actual quote (and attribution)"The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing; but in our culture, we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture." ~ Doug Phillips

People ask us all the time if we plan to have more, if we're "done", if we know what causes it...  We're not completely to the point of the Duggars, entrusting everything to "God's will and time".  We do believe that any form of birth control that ends a fertilized egg's life cycle is wrong.  We don't believe that seeking NOT to get pregnant is wrong.  Maybe one day we will, maybe not.  I'm thankful that God has taught us with grace so far - I'm trusting that He will continue our education.

And now I truly feel that I am NOT worthy of being a parent - it is a special gift and blessing bestowed on me.  I don't know why children die.  I don't know why babies die - sometimes even before they see the light of day.  I don't understand why child-abusers get to keep their kids, I don't understand how it could happen, I don't understand anything!  But I have learned that I don't have to understand in order to trust that God does have a plan.  That God is in charge.  That He allows me to be a part of that plan.  That He allows me to make choices in that plan.  That He gives me mercy when I screw up and grace to live another day.

Figuring it all out is HIS problem, not mine.  If HE thinks that the Duggars need #20 - who am I to complain?  Why that sweet little Duggar might find the cure for cancer, be the president, or marry one of my kids!  And if HE thinks that I need #7 - who am I to complain?  (OK - you know that I will a little!)  I will try my hardest to say "I believe, help my unbelief." and "may it be to your servant as you have said." ~*~*~*~
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