We’ll have what we’re given

When people discover how many children we have, comments range from old chestnuts like, “Don’t you guys have a TV?” and “You haven’t discovered what causes it yet?” to the usual, “You must be Catholic.” After all, why would anyone actually want to have eight children?

As our Catholic marriage ceremony begins, we are asked three questions. The first two check whether we are freely consenting to the marriage and intend to remain faithful.

The third asks, “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?” This encapsulates our Church’s philosophy about being open to life. As Catholics, we believe that God has a plan for all of us – individually and as a couple.

Approaching our fertility positively seems to be a lost art in the west (unless we happen to be infertile) whereas historically, live, healthy children were always a blessing.

Being open to life is about far more than just the birth control question, of course, and this is where our understanding of why we believe what we believe is so important, as is communicating this to our children.

We believe that God loved the world so much that he allowed us a share of his divine gift of creating life. God is love. Our ultimate expression of love to our spouse is so powerful that it becomes something tangible – another small person who is a literal blending of us both, so that we are joined for a lifetime in that other person.

Wow! That blows me away – still! That a tiny part of both of us blends to become a fully formed human person inside my womb is the miracle of life. How could we ever reject this without rejecting our spouse and the Creator who made this possible?

People interpret the “open to life” philosophy in different ways. Some interpret it as meaning that if our contraception (or “snip”) fails, they will accept the resulting child. Others know how to use natural family planning effectively but choose to “take a chance” sometimes and recognise and accept that this may result in a child. Then there are families like ours where we know the rudiments of natural family planning – and have used it effectively for short periods – but really aren’t too bothered if we have more children. I call this the “we’ll have what we’re given” philosophy.

Some outsiders mistakenly think that because Catholics who practise natural family planning tend to have lot of kids, it doesn’t work. This doesn’t take into account the fact that many of us welcome children as a natural extension of our love for our spouse, as mentioned earlier. In our lucky country, why wouldn’t we?

And if we’re so open to life, why do we oppose IVF? Because IVF divorces the creation of life from the act of love-making, apart from the custom of creating excess embryos which become “problematic” when a family assisted in this way is complete.

I feel incredibly blessed to have so many good-looking, intelligent and nice children (yes, they’ll be reading this column!) but I am also careful to remember that, but for the grace of God, I could be in completely different circumstances. I have never really had morning sickness or any illness associated with pregnancy, we are not in difficult financial circumstances, and I am fortunate to be married to a man accepting of children.

I very much admire others who are open to life in much more adverse circumstances. Supporting organisations like Karinya House are ways we can show our support for the open to life philosophy, regardless of circumstances. After all, William the Conqueror and St Martin de Porres’ came from single parent families, and our Lady faced the possibility of being a young single mother. Every human being, however conceived, is part of the miracle of life and we welcome him/her as our brother or sister in God’s love.