Today’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It’s also the beginning of what’s become an annual caffeine withdrawal headache. The things I do for penance…
Fans of Stuff’s latest about having lots of kids might find these articles interesting.
It’s barely a blip on the nation’s demographic radar — 11 percent of U.S. births in 2004 were to women who already had three children, up from 10 percent in 1995. But there seems to be a growing openness to having more than two children, in some case more than four.
We decided to cut through the buzz and find out whether big families really are on the upswing, and — more important, if you’re one of the 50 percent of BabyCenter moms who want a big family — what life is like for multiple-kid moms. Here’s what the experts, both the academic and the real-mom kind, had to say:
Quiverfull beliefs are absolutist. Purists don’t permit even natural family-planning methods, such as tracking fertility cycles (the only form of birth control condoned by the Roman Catholic Church). Also taboo: any form of artificial fertility treatment. “The point is to have a welcoming heart,” says Mary Pride, a mother of nine whose 1985 book, “The Way Home,” celebrated a return to traditional gender roles. It has sold about 80,000 copies and has inspired many quiverfull families. “You shouldn’t be unnatural in going to a fertility clinic or in trying to avoid having children by regulating when to have sex with your husband,” says Pride.
Quiverfull parents try to have upwards of six children. They home-school their families, attend fundamentalist churches and follow biblical guidelines of male headship–“Father knows best”–and female submissiveness. They refuse any attempt to regulate pregnancy. Quiverfull began with the publication of Rick and Jan Hess’s 1989 book, A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ, which argues that God, as the “Great Physician” and sole “Birth Controller,” opens and closes the womb on a case-by-case basis. Women’s attempts to control their own bodies–the Lord’s temple–are a seizure of divine power.
Will I never learn? The other day, I attended a Saturday vigil Mass with five of my children and without my husband. Two of the children I brought along have a combined age under 5. I didn’t anticipate any problems. Was that a sign of cockiness or stupidity?
When Funky encouraged me to write a post about my desire for a large family and my friendships with people who already have large families, I could hardly believe my good fortune: this is my opportunity to fulfill my subversive plot to…..(cue B movie horror music)……change Ales Rarus into a MOMMY BLOG!!! (maniacal laughter echoing). It’s only my second post, but this time, it’s personal.
I am not one of those baby-crazy women whose biological clock ticks so loudly that her husband smacks her in the morning when the alarm goes off. In fact, I never really pictured myself as a mother at all when I was growing up – I shelved dolls in place of snuggly, cuddly stuffed animals and dreamed of being a veterinarian. In high school, my career choice shifted, but not my interest in children – I rarely babysat and wasn’t sure I’d ever really marry. After a relationship with a really bad-for-me boyfriend, I felt sure I’d either be a single missionary or a cloistered nun. Sometimes I thought I’d be a concert pianist. The only thing I was sure about was that I wanted to serve God. Of course, if, by some act of God, I ever did get married, I knew I would want to bear my husband’s children.
Enter Squat. The man who turned my world upside-down, taught me what love was and that yes, men were really capable of it, and eventually took me as his bride. We did NOT conceive on our honeymoon, contrary to popular belief. It was the week after we got home.
Now, I had always been pro-life, and supported the Church’s teachings against contraception and whatnot. But at this point, I was scared $#!%-less. I understand how women can be talked into abortions. I was in my 5th year of pharmacy school, freshly married, and dirt poor. And as the youngest of five children in a family that puts the FUN in dysfunctional, I wondered what God could possibly be thinking giving someone like me something so fragile and impressionable as a baby. To top it all off, I was turning my stomach inside out and scraping the contents on the pavement on a regular basis. More than once someone who “knew me when” has told me that if SHE had been as sick, she would have stopped after one.
So how does someone like me end up actually desiring a bunch of babies? How did I go from feeling sure I would turn into my mother and leave my children requiring lifetimes of therapy to trusting that my little ones will probably be OK? How did I go from wishing I were dead to accepting “morning” sickness willingly?
I have recently come to the (re)realization that bishops are the authoritative teaching body of the Church. As such, it is their responsibility to properly and effectively teach such sticky subjects as the regulation of births. However, those teachings must be in accord with the Bishop of Rome and magisterium of the Church, so I still think there is merit in exploring the relevant papal documents. Let us then continue by hearing the thoughts of Pope Pius XII.
I had thought that Pius XII had written an encyclical about contraception. As it turns out, the only statements he made about the subject were in in various allocutions (addresses) to associations of doctors and the like. These don't carry nearly the same weight as encyclicals and are certainly not infallible. An exploration of the doctrinal authority of papal allocutions can be found here, but I cannot vouch for its accuracy. Nevertheless, Paul VI quotes from these addresses extensively in Humane Vitae, thus lending some of theauthority of an encyclical. I searched for the texts of these addresses and only found the 1951 Address to Midwives on the Nature of Their Profession and the 1958 Address to Officers and Representatives of the Associations for Large Families-of Rome and of Italy. If anyone knows where I might find the rest of them, I'd be indebted. Anyhow, here's the address to midwives.
It’s time to get our hands dirty by digging into the writings of recent popes to find out what they had to say about contraceptive issues. Let’s start with Pius XI’s 1930 Casti Connubii, which was written in response to the Anglican Communion’s decision that year to permit artificial contraception within marriage (general acceptance came later).