My husband and I just shared the news publicly that we are expecting baby number eight. We’ve lost two so the ones who are left with us would be the five littles, age 9 and under, whom I chase around the house all day, and the one growing safely in my womb. Six kids! We shared the news sparingly in the beginning, with the bulk of our friends and family finding out just this past week. There are many reasons for being secretive but the list wasn’t topped this time even by our fear of miscarriage that usually rears its head when I find out I’m pregnant. It was topped by the fact that through the years, as we excitedly yet fearfully welcomed baby after amazing baby, we have been met with some not-so-positive comments. Unfortunately, these have come from not only strangers but friends and family members as well. Neither of us was really ready for all that yet.
The fact that I’m only just one of probably thousands of women who receive this type of response seems to beg the question — Why are people so negative about children?
I think this issue resides not only within stable family units, but especially throughout the line of women who do not have a husband or a stable family life, or even a stable life at all in which it would be the “ideal” situation to welcome and raise a child (and yes, I was that woman at one point). Different circumstances and varying degrees of awareness of the value of a child culminate to this one issue that comes up so much in today’s society. Children are seen as a burden and something to be cast off or avoided if “unwanted.” Yet it doesn’t seem to ever come to light why exactly this is.
I can remember after we had our second or third child, someone in our family offered to pay for a vasectomy. At another point we were told by someone else that we ‘need’ to stop having kids, put them in daycare and I should go to work so we can afford whatever we want. Well-meaning friends made comments about how overwhelming and difficult children are and asked if I’m sure I want more (me already pregnant at the time). I think one of the most memorable comments a friend made to me was simply, “Ew.” Strangers have stared at my swollen belly with four or [now] five children in tow, whispering to themselves just loud enough for me to hear, “Wow, look at all those kids. I can’t believe her.” I can remember being out in public during my last pregnancy. We were getting the kids ice cream and we walked in and passed by a table at which sat a lady and her two young children. She glared at me, eyeing me up and down, her lips moving as she counted each of my children. Later, as we were seated across the room from her, I noticed her children were pretty out of control. Mine sat, quietly eating their ice cream. As we got up to leave, I gave her a smile. Not a pious, ‘look at my MANY behaved children and look at your few crazy ones.’ But a warm, knowing smile. I’ve been there, too. It was a smile I’d give any mom, whether of one kid or ten, who looked like she could use some encouragement when her kids acted (gasp!) like kids.
Although this is about my personal experience with the negativity we have battled in regards to our openness to life, I think that it could be any one woman’s story, married or not, in the “perfect” situation or not. Because there is definitely something amiss in our culture when we take the value and beauty of children —the future of our human existence — and reduce them to nothing more than a choice. What I hope to create from my expression of this plight is a dialogue, an awareness, and an understanding. What is it about our loved ones (or even strangers) that gives them the mindset — and the courage to express — that it’s actually not okay to be open to life?
I often try to put myself in others’ shoes. I want to understand their thought process that leads them to such a negative outlook on children, not just so that their hurtful words or dirty looks have less sting, but because I think it’s important for the good of humanity. Are they broken in some way? Did they have a terrible childhood? Do they come from a large family who lived in poverty growing up? Are they not able to have their own children? What is important to them?Is it having a lot of money over having a bigger family? Why do they feel this way? Is it just a matter of being fearful? Is my situation with my many children a frightening concept they apply to their own life so they project that fear onto me? This last one, I think, is one of the main culprits I have come across in my dealings with people. The thing is, it’s not that I’m NOT fearful. I never thought I’d have a big family. Having children in general scared me! I mean, being responsible for another little soul, someone who would be dependent upon me for so much for so long is a daunting reality, and what about what I want to do with my life? I have been, and still am at times, fearful of the idea of more children. Heck, I am fearful of raising the ones I already have!
What I don’t understand is the idea that people get so offended, as if maybe I’m saying, “Well I have six so YOU should have six!” Never would I ever say that. Of course I’m all for encouraging others to have children if they want more and I’m excited when they announce another pregnancy. Perhaps I also secretly wish there would be more families that are as big as mine to commiserate with. However it’s not a personal thing against anyone if I decide to have six, seven, or ten babies. It’s not like I get pregnant just to spite people. (Ha-ha, that would be something!) I’m not trying to show off or make myself look stronger, more patient, more holy, more… anything… than anyone else. I think it says a lot about us as a society when we can’t just be happy for someone and their family when they allow another life to grace it.
The point is that children are a gift. There’s something about the innocence and wonder of a new little human being. Their dependence upon us (though often difficult) forces us to grow and change and stretch ourselves, not just physically for those 40 weeks of pregnancy, but mentally and emotionally too. It is not a decision that is easily come by, especially if one doesn’t already have a moral conviction to be open to life, or if one is in a less-than-ideal situation. It is, nonetheless, a decision that needs to be respected and such women need encouragement. All life is precious and valuable. Our children are the future of this world. If Suzy Smith” feels she wants to contribute to the future with two kids, great. I support her. I, however, want to contribute with as many as will come. Despite my fears, my failings, my misgivings, and my anxieties, I still understand the value of investing in the future of our world with these little persons, and that trumps anything negative anyone has said to me about being open to more.
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