When do you stop having babies?

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A close up of a baby holding a parent\'s finger.“Family planning” can be a controversial topic. The Church has battled over it for centuries. Nations and politicians have all had their say in one way or another. Manufacturers and advertisers certainly put in their two cents in order to make a buck off the deal. Everybody has an opinion it would seem.

I’ve walked in social circles that have had varying positions about how we are to walk out the childbearing years. Birth control? No birth control? Triple up on your birth control?

As I mentioned in my first post on the topic, there’s a lot we don’t control. And as we explore the topic I think we need to keep in mind that each child God grants us is a blessing.

I want to be humble in thinking about my family’s size because they are a gift from the Lord and the “plan” doesn’t always go the way I say it should. I never thought I would have such joy as I do being the mom of four sons and then two daughters.

But God Did

I never thought I would meet the man of my dreams, but God did.

Prissy old me would never have planned so many boys, but I am so very thankful that God did.

And in the midst of all that testosterone, I never thought I’d get to dress anyone in pink, but God did. What a joy this journey has been!

And, to be honest, I have no idea if our family is complete. I know. Jaws are dropping everywhere.

I just. don’t. know.

A baby boy wearing a Roman Centurion hat.A Question

In that first introductory post, Bethany posed some of the same questions I have for the moms who’ve gone before us. So I’m just going to present her query here:

I just wonder to those who have called it quits… (other than those with medical problems – I understand their reasons)

How did you know? Was it hard? Were you sad but just knew it was time? Or did you know it was time and feel happy or ready for the next season?

I am kind of wondering if I will have another baby and still feel like I don’t want to stop. I wonder if I will have to just make that decision against feelings. I wonder if I will have more miscarriages and the pain of that will bend my will to quit.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

(Related food for thought: Douglas Wilson, Birth Control – I have found this to be a great resource in thinking it through. No, it is not exhaustive. Yes, somebody will find something to argue with it. But, I have found it to be a reasonable, God-glorifying treatise on the topic.)

The conversation continues…. Part Four

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  1. I am so glad that I was able to follow this link and read these post from a few years back. It is definitely the spot we find ourselves in right now. We have two beatiful girls, 2.5 years and 15 months, and life is wonderful. We have had many conversations about adding to our family, from the day after our youngest was born. We always thought having two was the perfect number for us…now we both think about the future and how wonderful having more would be. We absolutely love being parents, the joyful times and the challenging times that we learn from.
    The issue that we are having is a financial one. I know many people state that money is not an issue, but we are not able to see how that is so. We have a little over $80,000 in debt not including our home. We have so many people telling us to over look that, but that does not seem the smart thing to do. How is that providing for our family? We are debt snowballing through everything and making great progress. There is just a struggle pulling between are heart and our wallet.

    1. @Kristy, you raise some great points. And while you don’t mention your age, I would say that it’s ok not to decide right now. My youngest brother is 14 years younger than me and 7 years younger than the last one before him. He is one of the biggest blessings in my life. The kids don’t have to be close together. 😉

  2. I came upon this series at the perfect time. My husband and I are currently deciding if we are done or not. We have three and I would love a fourth but there are so many reasons to believe that we are done. This is such a big topic to address. Thanks Jessica for your willingness to explore it.

  3. I don’t know how I missed this series! Oh, looking back, I can see I was adjusting to life with newborn #2 and getting very little computer time. 😉

    We are now expecting blessing #3 (due April ’11) and we really prayed about adding more to our family.

    I am one of 9 children. My parents are strict Catholics who practiced no birth control and accepted children as the Lord saw fit to bless them. While I never lacked for anything, it was very difficult to raise a large family on one income (supplemented with various odd jobs my mom could do from home, a very, very large garden, and we were blessed to raise animals on a hobby farm for meat). I love the close relationship I have with my siblings today, but the growing years were hard. We also didn’t have much time with either one of our parents, and many of us (especially the older and middle ones) feel the pain of that. Still, we always knew our parents loved us unconditionally, sacrificed for our benefit, and went above and beyond for us.

    A lot of that experience has shaped my views on having a family (sadly). I knew I wanted a family when I got married, but I knew I didn’t want as many kids as my parents had. Unbiblical, yes, but true. I really felt like our family was complete when we brought our second home from the hospital. We live on one income (which is a salesman’s income so it varies widely and is heavily commission-based, which can be bad), we have a small house, and we don’t currently live near any family members. When we were pregnant with #2, we were transferred to our current state and then my husband lost his job when they made significant cutbacks (6 weeks before our baby was due) and we are still recovering from that financially.

    However, God changed my heart and I began to see our family with 3 children instead of just two, and before I knew it, we were expecting again. I am thrilled about the thought of adding another to our family, and cannot wait to meet this newest addition. But I don’t know if we will have more. We continue to pray and seek God’s will for our family size. We are definitely not “quiver-full” in thinking, but lean on God for direction.

  4. I definitely think that we as Americans have become very self centered and focused on anything that might come in the way of the life style we feel we “deserve” to live. Birth control has helped in this issue. God says that children are a blessing, yet we act as if more than two children are just too many blessings to have. I think part of the reason we think parenting is so hard is that we have to sacrifice so much of our time and energy and put our wants on the back burner, and we get angry if our little blessing don’t cooperate so that we can have or do the things we want. I say this because I saw these attitudes, and still see these attitudes in myself with my children. We live in a “me centered” culture, and to be counterculture is definitely to have a large family where we sacrifice a lot of “me” time.
    I have four children, and would probably have more if it weren’t for pretty bad health issues, but my husband and I definitely “planned” our children. We waited 5 years to have our first so that we could finish school. Looking back, I don’t agree with the way we viewed children and the timing of them, but I think God gives us children in a sense to show us our weaknesses. 🙂 Hopefully, we can continue to grow through them and fully appreciate and enjoy our little blessings.
    This is easier said than done, and I cannot speak from experience because we didn’t have children with this mind set, but I wonder how much better and more smooth things would have gone if my hubby and I would have given up the birth control for God control.

  5. just found your blog. loved this post. my husband and I haven’t come to an agreement on this. I would love to have a dozen. He thinks our two are perfect. Thanks for tackling a difficult topic.

  6. These are so great Jessica thank you for doing this. This has been a really hard week for me an emotional one and yet this has been an encouraging post. I did really like the article your referenced too. It is helpful to hear other women’s stories…how they walked through the decision. My husband has agreed to one more if God allows. I am a little nervous since the last one was a miscarriage. It is such a hard thing for me. I don’t want to be like Rachel in the bible and not grateful for the blessings I do have and I am content if this is all God has for me it is just I still feel like there is another for us. Which is interesting because when I was pregnant with Adelee I thought she might be it until the moment she popped out. I knew I wanted more right away and her brush with death made that even more intense. I know that if we are blessed with another child my husband will probably for sure want to be done….I also know that he has agreed to one more so I probably shouldn’t worry about the process until it happens but I guess it helps to hear other women’s thoughts and steps as they finished. Your readers are great so sensitive and encouraging. Thanks for this post and thanks so much for the article you posted too. I appreciate the wisdom of women that have walked before me.

  7. I am probably the odd one here in that my husband and I don’t agree when enough is enough. He is done. I would like at least one more (or as many as I could get). We have two together. He has two sons from before me (ages 16 and 22).

    When we married, we both agreed on one, maybe two kids. But after I held my child in my hands, I was hooked and in love. I wanted more.

    I had one miscarriage between my girls and it made me anxious during my last pregnancy that it would happen again. It was such a deep loss to me, that I wasn’t sure I could handle conceiving again if I had lost our next child as well.

    My husband is firm about no more kids. I have packed up all things baby and am preparing to take them to the mission this week. So many people tell me that the ability to have children is in my hands, but I don’t know what they mean by that. Unless it’s trickery, which I wouldn’t do. But I have prayed for my husband’s change of heart. It is heartbreaking for me to close this door, because children are eternal, not temporary. And once this door is closed, it will probably stay closed. I’m 39.

    I will continue to pray for my husband’s change of heart, or if God has other plans for me, then grace to accept and be content in his choice.

    Jessica and the many other women who have shared so openly: thank you for your honesty.

  8. My husband & I are not done having children so I can't completely help her. But we have agreed that we would not do anything "permanent" until we both felt certain we were done.
    I won't turn my comment into adoption 101, but for MamaLibby, did you know the goverment gives an $11,000 tax credit after your adoption is complete? We spent about $24,000 adopting our son from Ethiopia using savings & a home equity loan. We got back $2,000 from his employer and next spring will receive the tax credit back. With some donations from family & our church it will end up being only $8,000 out of pocket for our sweet blessing!


  9. I have enjoyed reading the responses of the women here. Thank you ladies, and of course you Jessica, for sharing.

    For reasons that began as practical (my terrible experience with hormonal birth control), my DH and I have not used birth control during the nine years of our marriage. Our three beautiful boys (ages 5 and twins who are 3) were miracle babies, conceived through God’s grace, good health insurance and modern technology. We feel so incredibly blessed. My husband feels very content with our family size and loves that we have moved on to a new stage of life without any infants in our nest.

    For me, I have grieved not having a daughter in the mix. Part of that is letting go of what I envisioned for myself and part is some trouble I am having dealing with my mom aging and having no sisters. Even writing this I feel a catch in my throat…I go in and out of peace and trust that I will have what I need when I need it, and that if I am without daughters, God will provide the love I need as I age…from my sons, their wives, a friend or niece…who knows.

    And then I wonder if I am not able to close the door on another baby because it is God tapping at that door, asking me to keep my heart open for a while longer. For another miracle baby (I do know for sure that I am done with treatments, so it would have to happen on its own). Or maybe adoption, which feels so financially out of reach, or foster care, or something that only God can imagine. Will I be able to recognize what God is calling me to do? Ambiguity is something I struggle with, and yet I pray for the wisdom to see the path and to hear the call.

    Any thoughts or advice are very appreciated!


  10. Because I have never had a miscarriage (that I knew of) I can’t say how that would affect my decisions. I do know that it has to be heart-wrenching to lose a child like that.

    We will have #6 in 10 weeks. After #5 so many people told us that it was time to stop. I just didn’t feel peace about it. I truly desired another baby and so did my husband. We waited for 3 years before trying again and then it took about 9 months to concieve. Something I never had trouble with before.

    This time I feel peace about it being our last. I do have some medical problems that have prompted that but not that are truly life-threatening now, but could be down the road. I think as long as you are listening to God and not the outside influences then you will know for sure.

  11. Thanks for being willing to tackle this so openly, Jessica. It’s such a delicate subject and one that, I believe, needs to be guided by humility and grace as we dialogue with one another. We are at 3 (2 boys and our girl), and both feel wisdom is guiding us to not have any more. Of course, we know God is Sovereign and goes before us in this decision. Because of health complications that accompany my pregnancies and all three of my children’s births thus far, and b/c it appears (at least for now) that God simply has not given us the capacity for more children (and by capacity, I mean many things: competence, financial means, etc.), we believe we should be done having our own children.

    We are both very open to adopting, and in fact, it is a heart’s desire of mine that I pray God will one day grant. But, even this good thing I must hold with an open hand.

    I have found John Piper’s discussion on this topic to be very helpful to me personally and to others. A link for one of his articles on it is:


  12. Hi there, it’s very interesting that you are posting about this! It’s been on my mind a lot lately.
    I found your blog a few months ago via Money Saving Mom, I think.
    Anyway, I posted my husband and my convictions about this a few months ago, and then today read about someone’s conversion to being pro-life that really resonanted with me. I am not Catholic, but the I think the Catholic view of sex in marriage and contraception is a biblical one, and I agree with it.
    Here’s the link to my blog:
    and the link to the pro-life conversion story (with thoughts about sex in marriage and the contraception mentality):

  13. Because I have only had one miscarriage, I cannot imagine the pain of enduring multiple miscarriages. My heart goes out to you Bethany.

    In my experience, the pain of losing one made us realize that we really wanted another. The miscarriage was a surprise pregnancy (well, to be honest all of our pregnancies were a surprise..lol!) but nonetheless, we were so excited. That excitement only lasted a week. I have no idea how far along I was, but it was still devastating when it all happened…

    My husband and I hadn’t planned on having more than two. We were completely fine with just our two boys. So reluctantly, I went on birth control. I didn’t like being on hormonal birth control, but using a diaphragm started giving me horrible yeast infections (okay, sorry for all the details!)..I think I was allergic to the rubber in it. Anyway, as effective as yeast infections were as birth control, it was putting a serious crimp in our relations. So after much prayer and research we decided the Nuvaring was the best way to go. It had the lowest dosage so it was better for my body. We happily used it for three months and then we miscarried.

    It was devastating. And it made me realize how incomplete our family now felt that one was missing. There are some that would criticize and say that we had another to replace the one we lost. But it isn’t true. We don’t know who that baby was, but we have a feeling we have a daughter waiting for us to meet up with in heaven. We decided to have another. Three months after the miscarriage, we became pregnant with Miss Precious.

    She is not a replacement for the one that we lost. She is so special to us. Our family is complete at three here and one in heaven.

    Bethany, only you know how much pain your heart can bear. I remember being so scared throughout my entire pregnancy with Miss Precious. I was afraid of losing her too. The doctors were never able to tell me the reason that I miscarried, so that spectre hung over me my entire last pregnancy. I purposed to enjoy the journey of this pregnancy, despite what fears I may have. Don’t let the fears of the past destroy the joys of the present or the hope of the future.

    She was born completely healthy nine months later.

    We decided that she was to be our last, and I got my tubes tied. This was decided after much prayer and soul searching.

    For me, I didn’t feel sad that I wouldn’t bear children any longer. I looked forward to bringing up the ones I had already brought life to.

    You cannot erase the pain by having another. I didn’t even try to do this. There are still times I think about the one that came before Miss Precious, and I wonder what she would have been like. I look forward to the day when I finally get to meet my baby!

    Regardless of what others say, it is something you have to settle in your heart. No one can tell you when you are done. You will just know. And you will be at peace with your decision. If you aren’t at peace then don’t do it.

    Hope this lengthy comment helps you Bethany.

  14. That article by Douglas Wilson was excellent! It encapsulates a lot of my thoughts. His questions at the end are great! All important things to consider, in my opinion, and things I’ve thought a lot about.

    My favorite resources have been Birth Control for Christians: Making Wise Choices By Jenell Williams Paris and a message by Mark Driscoll (the title of which I can’t find at the moment). But he deals with a lot of the questions that the Wilson article raises.