How many kids should we have? Many couples have asked this question. My husband and I discussed this when we were high school sweethearts, still a few years from marriage and a decade from having our first child. We asked the question again after each child was born. Did we want more? Could we handle more? Should we have more?
This is a typical conversation for couples in today’s society as parents consider the time, finances, physical energy and mental capacity it takes to rear a child. But, not every parent asks these questions or considers those factors. Some forgo the planning and control associated with those questions and instead leave their family size in the hands of God.
In the book “Three Decades of Fertility: Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life,” ten different women tell their journeys of giving their families to God and allowing Him to decide how many kids they will have. They stop using birth control and stop asking themselves how many kids they “want.” Instead, they open themselves up to the possibility of continual pregnancies until they reach menopause.
The book is a counter-cultural perspective on surrendering control and having complete faith that God will not give a mother more than she can handle. These women view their roles as mothers as their mission in life, to birth these souls into existence and set their feet on the right path. As Jeannette Paulson, mother of eight, said in her chapter “Tracing God’s Hand,” “Babies make us laugh, they make us forget ourselves and set us on a grand missions.”
While babies do in fact make us laugh and being a mother is indeed a mission, this concept of family planning by faith is not easy to understand, as is evidenced by the Q&A at the end of each chapter. After telling her own story, each mother then answers a series of questions on late-in-life pregnancy, miscarriage, strains on marriage, children of older parents, disapproval of large families and more. Clearly there are stress factors and trials of mothering a large family, though many of them may be from external forces.
As a mother of three, it is difficult to imagine tripling the size of my family. To do so would take a massive shift in perspective, but as Carmon Friedrich, mother of ten, said in the chapter “Progressive Revelation,” “It is not uncommon for people blessed with children to make the transition from control to chaos at some point, but it is uncommon, I’m afraid, for parents to realize that the latter state is preferable to the former. It is where the blessings are found.”
Chaos is preferable? Now that’s especially difficult to understand, but I don’t doubt that all of these women have definitely experienced blessings beyond what they could’ve ever imagined. Through each woman’s story, it was amazing to read how having so many kids seemed to offer a sense of freedom as each mother lived by faith instead of according to cultural norms. That freedom seems counter-intuitive to any mother who has felt the constraints of nursing on demand, nap-time schedules, tantruming toddlers and more, and yet each woman seemed to be content and satisfied in ways that typical parents are not.
While the stories were interesting, I couldn’t help but feel that many of them were too similar. After reading a few, I began to read more quickly, and skipped most of the Q&As at the end of each chapter. While each woman had her own perspective and responses to those same questions, it did become redundant after reading the first few. At the end were two bonus chapters “A Body Built for Baby Building” and “Nutrition for Three Decades of Fertility” which discussed physical and nutritional aspects of child bearing and fertility. While they did contain some interesting content, they seemed misplaced following these women’s stories.
In the end, the book was fascinating by making me look at fertility in a new, faith-based light. But, the disappointment to me was that each of these ten women decided to give their fertility to God and in return experienced large-sized families. Yet, I am sure there are women who have felt called to do the same and have experienced infertility or secondary infertility. The book at times almost felt like a promotion for large families, and I think it did a disservice by not exploring the possibility that giving your fertility over to God might still mean a small family. Even still, I did find these women’s stories interesting. It made me see family planning in a new light and gave me a greater appreciation for large families.
What do you think? Has faith been a factor in your family planning? What has helped you decide when to have kids and how many to have?
Please note: I did receive this book for free to review. This is not a sponsored post, though I do receive a portion of each purchase made via the Amazon associate links.