You might think this is a rather strange topic for someone with six kids to write about. But as it happens I seem to be coming across this terrible pain a lot recently. I personally know the horror and grief of miscarriage and how that messes with your head-and your soul. I am also coming to terms with the difficult fact that I really should not have another baby. Then I am coming across more and more women, open to life, who either cannot conceive, loose their babies to miscarriage or are having to postpone pregnancy indefinitely because of very difficult circumstances.
Those of us with more than the acceptable 1.7 children (and a dog) are well aware of the negative comments and just plain bewilderment from those around us. WHY are we having SO MANY children? Blah, blah, blah... but I have come across something among big families that I think is just as unattractive. I have seen a 'I'm better than you because I have lots of kids' kind of attitude. "If you are a good Catholic you would have more children," and "You must be contracepting" attitude. Bizarrely I had a woman who is infertile herself and has adopted her children tell me from her high and mighty Catholic position that she knew everyone at my parish contracepted. As it happened I know a lot of mothers in my parish who have small families because they have NO CHOICE. I know their stories and I know the pain they have suffered. This woman's judgemental and uncharitable view shocked me.
Christ and His Church calls us to be open to life. That does NOT mean having lots of children; it means having the children God gives us and being the very best, loving and responsible parents we can be.
Some of the holiest, saintliest Catholics I can think of had NO children at all; Alice and Deitrich von Hildebrand (although Deitrich had a son from his first marriage) and Frances and Gilbert K Chesterton.
I am so so grateful to God for all my children, especially my youngest who I came so close to loosing right on the day she was born. I have only had one straightforward healthy pregnancy so I am very blessed indeed to have managed to have six live children. I pray for all those I know who long for a child to hold- God bless you abundantly.
And I beg my fellow big family mums (dads don't seem to do this as much) don't be so proud-be grateful and never assume that others are not open to life. You don't know that.
Coincidentally I have been working through the story of Hannah and Samuel with my son. Hannah was married to a husband who loved her very much, but she had been unable to conceive. Her husband had another wife who had lots of children and like some of the mums of big families was a bit too full of herself about the fact-uncaring of Hannah's pain.
Hannah went to God and prayed and begged Him to hear her. Old Eli the priest gave her his blessing (after being assured she was not drunk) and God answered her prayer. She was the mother of the great prophet Samuel. She gave her son to God as she had promised and God rewarded her; she had other children.
Eli seems to have been a gentle man, but not a good father. His sons were wicked men-not a credit to Eli at all; and in the end through Samuel the gift to a desperate woman, God told Eli there was a price to pay for bad parenting.
Like Hannah we need to remember that our Twinkles from God's Eye belong to Him. Just as she gave Samuel back so we are called to ensure we can give our children back-ready for heaven.
Let us support one another in this endeavour whether we have one child, no children or many.