Friday, December 5, 2008

family planning

Darwin Catholic has an interesting post up about family planning. A couple of them, actually.

We have been unable to conceive, so we obviously enjoy complete control over the size of our family. But we still get the same questions as other people with more than two children.

Q: Are you having any more?
A: Maybe. Probably. Eventually.

Q: Oh, you want girls, right?
A: That would be great, but we wouldn't love boys any less. I'd feel like a eugenicist Nazi by "custom ordering" a girl and refusing to accept a boy. Adoption is not shopping - at least, it shouldn't be.

Q: Your boys have been through so much. Don't they deserve all of your time and attention?
A: Why do you assume they will be neglected if we adopt another? Are our hearts two sizes too small? (Yes, we're grinchy, but we still like babies.) Is our house too small? Would that be a good enough reason to shut God out of our love life, if we were fertile? If not, then how can it be a good enough reason to never adopt again?

Q: Okay, so you're basically amazingly generous freaks who wantsto save all the orphans. Bless your hearts. I know I could never do it. There's a special place in heaven for you, etc., etc., etc.
A: *BARF* Not really. We're not saints. We just wanted a family like everyone else.

These questions can be challenging because while we want to be real and honest about the challenges of parenthood, particularly adoptive parenthood, we feel that performance anxiety that Darwin referred to. If people see your kids climbing over the pews in church and bowling with frozen turkeys in the grocery store and destroying every room of your home, they won't exactly be drawn to consider a more generous and open union.

But for us, these questions are doubly painful because, while fertile people are insulted by the family planning questions, infertile people are both insulted and reminded of their infertility.

Ironic isn't it, that we have the control that the world wants? They take pills and patches and mutilate their bodies to avoid the gift of life. Meanwhile, we are supposed to be totally over it, right? How dare you secretly wish for a pregnancy! I know that for a fertile couple, discerning how many and how often is a challenge, and I'm not saying that we'd throw caution to the wind and have a dozen kids. But we'd like to have the option of being "out of control".

And I assure you that "freedom" is not all it's cracked up to be. Consequences are a big part of what makes the marital act so unifying and satisfying. That is a big challenge for infertile couples. It's something I'm still learning about after eight years of marriage. Early in our marriage, we were told that pregnancy was possible. So we watched, waited, got our hopes up... Hey, maybe that temperature drop was significant! We'd embrace, and then wait and hope. And invariably be disappointed. That hurts both spouses, but especially the wife. Without getting too graphic, it eventually occurred to me (common knowledge to most of you, yet sheer brilliance to me) that there is a reason why women are more receptive at certain times. I had actually developed a sort of "contraceptive mentality". I felt that because there is no danger or consequence to our marital act, there is no reason why I should be denied my marital right. We didn't have the deliberate barrier that contraception puts up. We were giving ourselves as fully as we could. But at the same time, that sensitivity and communication was lacking, especially on my part. I didn't understand what the big deal was. It wasn't her fault, after all. You're not a "failure", don't take it so personally. We'll have a family eventually. Why should I be frustrated and denied?

That is a dangerous path, and I can see how, taken to an extreme, a husband's selfishness and frustration, coupled with a woman's obsessive single-mindedness, leads to divorce. Sex without consequences is never good, especially if you have chosen to construct the barrier yourself.

1 comment:

nicole said...

Lots of food for thought, as usual. And I can definitely relate to the feeling that our kids must be held to a higher standard. We definitely feel this way sometimes.