What does it mean to leave contraception out of ones life? Why would a woman choose to do so?
If your first reaction to those questions would be “It means an indiscriminately large family and no sane woman would choose that!”, I’d like to offer a different perspective.
I spent most of my childhood in religious communities where middling to large families were the norm, and where it wasn’t uncommon to be congratulating a mother on her 5th or 8th child. When I was about 14, it finally dawned on me that many people actually chose not to have children, or deliberately stopped at two. Given my background, that seemed strange to me. As I grew older, and developed my own belief system, it continued to seem strange. I was never able to whole-heartedly accept the idea that having a large family was incompatible with being a wise, responsible, intelligent woman.
So I kept my eyes peeled for a man for felt like I did, and I found one. We got married, and 9 months later our “honeymoon baby” was born. We rejoiced. A few family members gave off “I told you so” vibes, and worried about our sanity. After I refused offers of contraception from my OB/Gyn, she snidely said “Well then, we’ll see you next year, I guess.”
She didn’t. Our three sons were born two years apart (almost exactly), and this was entirely unplanned by us. Although we weren’t fitting the “baby every year” stereotype, people around us started wondering about our mental state. Three kids in four years! Three boys, at that! Surely they’re done. If not, surely they’ll try just once more for a girl and then be done. It was neither. We remained open to more children because we felt they were a blessing and a gift, not just in small numbers, but in whatever numbers they arrived. We looked at our three little boys and treasured them, and thought about the wonderful possibility of even more amazing, unique individuals being added to our family. We saw their personalities developing, and their characters taking shape. To others, it seemed irrational to consider having more. To us, it seemed unreasonable to stop.
As many young families do, we struggled at times. We had our financial worries. We lacked sleep. We wondered if we could survive these early years. Once in a while I felt a twinge of ambivalence at the thought of getting pregnant again. But our ultimate desire to be open to children won out over all those concerns. When our third child was around 15 months old, I started wondering when our next baby would be born. But instead we suffered two miscarriages that year. Then my husband had to go overseas. Where we stand now, there will be a 4 year gap between my youngest and the next child if we conceive when the next opportunity presents itself. But I no longer have that free and easy confidence in my body to carry a child to term. So I have not set my heart on having another child in the near future, or ever. It’s easier not to hope than to have hopes dashed by another miscarriage.
What I do have confidence in however, is that whether our family remains at it’s current size, or grows dramatically, it is just the right size. We have found no need for “family planning” in our own life. We have found joy in the existence of our living children, and opportunities to mature in the times when life didn’t go according to our expectations. As a woman I revel in the process of growing and birthing a baby, nursing him through infancy, and being his primary caregiver and educator. Both my husband and I are frequently set back on our heels by the depth and breadth of our enjoyment and love of our children. We could not say no to more. We certainly wouldn’t want fewer.
Life off the Pill? For us, it’s good.