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How did I end up here?!

Posted by on January 29, 2016

How did I end up here?! By here I mean expecting our 7th child. It’s certainly not a place either my husband or I expected (or planned) to be. Our idea was simple, straight-forward. When we did our premarital counseling there was no arguing or even discussion; we both wanted 4 kids. Both of us came from families with 4 kids and thought it was a good number to have. His only request was that they all come soon enough to be out of the house by the time he was 60. Sounds perfectly reasonable right?
So what changed? It definitely wasn’t an overnight change. Although the real change in our minds came after we had our 4th child, looking back I can see the process started when we had our first. He was a surprise. It’s not anything unusual to have a surprise child. We know quite a few couples who have had a surprise child, although generally that child had come after all their ‘planned’ children.
We live in a day and age of contraception and family planning. As a Christian I was taught that God was ultimately in control of my family (including its size) and that an unplanned pregnancy was to be considered a blessing from God. And yet, there was also an underlying understanding that as a good Christian it was my responsibility to plan my family and that unplanned pregnancies were the result of carelessness. I don’t think this is an intentional part of our Christian worldview, but the pictures presented to us of unplanned pregnancies are usually of teen pregnancies and unwed mothers with poor life choices. Even among Christian circles, those couples with surprise pregnancies nearly always have an accompanying ‘we thought we were safe’ story.
So, starting our family with an unplanned pregnancy was a bit unsettling. Judging by some of the reactions we got to the announcement that we were expecting, I’ve no doubt there were those who wondered why we had chosen to have a child at that time in our lives. We were in the middle of raising support, had a limited income, and were living temporarily in someone else’s basement. It’s certainly what I would have been wondering, and I often wondered what God was thinking to give us a child at that time.
So, our first was a surprise, and our second was a surprise, and our third. Out of 7 pregnancies 6 have been surprises and even the one that wasn’t a surprise wasn’t planned by us. Yes, I can look back at some of them and see where our ‘carelessness’ resulted in pregnancy, but there are other times when I could swear we were extra careful and we still ended up pregnant. There are even times when we weren’t as careful as we could have been and I thought for sure I’d end up pregnant and didn’t. After a while we started to realize that despite the use of contraceptives we really didn’t have any control in the planning of our family, especially when we looked at the timing of each pregnancy.
Each of our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th children were conceived during the month of the previous child’s first birthday. (That’s how number 4 could be unplanned, but not a surprise.) Even with today’s modern family planning the odds of having 4 children each 21 months apart is pretty slim. It was obvious God had a plan for our family. Still, I have to confess we both found it frustrating to know that we didn’t have any control over this area of our lives. We still wanted 4 kids and the idea that God might have a different idea was difficult. As my husband often said 4 was good, 5 would be OK, but 6 was definitely out of the question.
God started working on our hearts after that 4th child though. At first when I didn’t get pregnant on the first birthday of child number 4 we thought just maybe God agreed with our plans. Yet holding that 4th baby in my arms, I really struggled with the idea that he could be the last one. Then shortly before that 4th child’s 2nd birthday, my husband was convicted, after listening to a radio program, to accept God’s control over the number of children we would have. I can’t say give control to God because it was already obvious that we didn’t have any control.
Imagine our lack of surprise when only a couple weeks later we discovered we were going to have child number 5. Ironically that discovery came at a time that much like our first was not when we would have planned to have a child. The future of our ministry was in question and our housing was once again temporary. Although at first I questioned His timing, when I realized I had once again gotten pregnant during the birthday month of the previous child it gave me comfort. He used that pregnancy as a constant reminder through that difficult time that He was in control.
I don’t know why He has chosen to teach me this and other lessons by giving me more children while others He has chosen to teach by withholding children. I can only hold firm to what He has shown me and continues to show me – that He alone is in control of all aspects of his creation and His thoughts and plans are far above my limited understanding.
Since then God has seen fit to bless us with two more surprises, although these last two haven’t followed the conception pattern the first ones did. Since number 5 I have been fine with the idea of each pregnancy being the last one, but God apparently isn’t done with our family yet. Having soon to be 7 kids can be a strain on the mind, body, and pocket book; but God continues to be sufficient in meeting our needs both physically and mentally. I know some would think we should look into permanent contraception and there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so if you believe that is God’s will for you. God gave minds and medicine and we should use them. Thus far neither of us has felt peace when discussing that option. As Christians we apply the same principle to other areas of our life: job changes, ministry opportunities, schooling options for our kids, etc. – what does God want me to do? Do I feel His peace in this decision? The size of our family is just one more area where I have learned to say “Ok God, you know best.”

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