Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In Response...

... to Danielle Bean's post today, I thought that today would be a good time to share the article I wrote for the Couple to Couple League's magazine: Family Foundation for their June 2007 issue. (To subscribe to CCL and receive this great publication click here.) Danielle apparently gets asked often if she always knew she wanted a large family, or how to discern if a family should be open to a new life... My article deals with both questions.

One at a Time...

As the mother of a large family, I am often faced with a barrage of questions when someone learns that by large we mean we have twelve children in our family. They range from;

’Did you birth them all”


“Did you always know you wanted a large family?”


“What is their age range?”

2 years up to 24.

“Any twins?”


And finally; “How DO you DO it?” to which I usually respond: “One at a time.” And that is the secret, one at a time. I am mother to twelve individual children, each with their own personality who each brings their own brand of blessings and challenges to our family. Just as I gave birth to each child, one at a time, I also minister to their needs one at a time. It is difficult and sometimes overwhelming, but it did not happen over night so there has been time to adjust to the increasing demands on one’s time and energy. I think this is what most people have a hard time wrapping their minds around, that while an even dozen children is a large number to parent, our family evolved over the years and did not erupt overnight into the large crew of children they see me with. As our family grew God blessed my husband and I with the insight, the energy and the resources to care for us all. It has not been all roses, but I would not change one iota of the past 24 years.

When my husband and I married we, like most newlyweds, dreamed of a family. We even had a few names already hand picked and waiting for the right child. Did we “plan” to have a large family from the start? I would have to say no. Initially when my husband and I talked about family size I naively dreamed of two baby girls followed by two baby brothers, close enough in age to be good playmates. Little did I know that God would bless us with that, times two with the added bonus of yet another four blessings. How did we determine if, or when, we should say no to being open to more life in our family?

Initially we simply felt called to be parents to as many children as God was willing to bless us with. My husband had a well paying job, we were both healthy and our children were all healthy, even if a few had rocky starts in life. Over time as we matured in our faith and began to study the teachings of the church regarding birth control, giving particular attention to Humane Vitae, we came to realize how instinctively aligned we had been with the teachings of the church and we felt encouraged to maintain our stance of being open to God’s will in our life. This, of course, was one pregnancy at a time. With the addition of each child we needed to review how we were meeting the needs of our family and if another child would take us to the breaking point spiritually, emotionally or financially. We are called, by the church, to responsible parenthood.

It was hard though sometimes when we saw how counter cultural being parents to a large family called us to be. It required my staying home as opposed to the popular concept that a woman must be fulfilled by being a career woman and only in doing so was she worthily contributing to society. It meant that instead of expensive cars, exotic vacations and up the minute fashions hung in our closets, we are content not with last year’s car model, but rather with models from the previous decade, camping vacations and Good Will often has lovely fashions that adorn the hangers in our closets.

Still, as difficult as it can be to be counter cultural in many ways, family size is not about what we want, but rather what is God’s plan for us. How open are we to His will? Some couples are given the cross of infertility and are lead down the path to parenthood through adoption or fostering, or even called to live a life without children. Others are called to have children and of a varying number. We can only know what the right size is for our own family by aligning ourselves with God’s will and honestly seeking to know God and what He is asking of us. Our mother church has offered us wonderful and clear guidelines to help us discern the family size God is calling us to. It is up to us to make use of these wonderful writings and teachings.

As well as becoming familiar with these teachings, I have had to become knowledgeable of my own abilities and limits. This self knowledge has helped me recognize how much I need God’s graces in order to parent the children He has blessed me with. Being the mother of such a large family is a very humbling experience that is filled with joy, challenges and much love.

(photo that accompanied the artcle, eldest child missing from photo)
(photo credit Paul Tomas, to see his work click here. )


Layla said...

This is really lovely and very encouraging. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU, for living and giving so tremendously. I'm teary and thankful!
--Mother of 5 little ones

faithemmanuel said...

Yes!!! This is what we say- "one at a time!" What a great article- right on!

Karen E. said...

I'm so glad you posted it online, and gave me an excuse to read it again.
:-) I'm following your and Margaret's lead this morning and doing likewise! God bless!

Beth said...

Great post, Christi. I linked to it on my blog :) I hope you guys are doing well!

Dan and Janet Brungardt said...

What a beautiful family and a wonderful prolife witness. We feel the same way, although marrying at 30, I don't think I will make it that far! We have 4 so far and I am 35, so it's a good start. But, it's all up to God!

So glad all of you are posting these. Great to read!


Lisa said...

Oh, wow. You have stated it perfectly! I hope you don't mind if I link this, as I couldn't possibly say it better myself! You have a beautiful family!

mum2twelve said...

Lisa - please do feel free to link to this post!


Soutenus said...

I was so inspired by your post that I gave it to my 7th graders as a reading assignment. We will be creating blog/webpages soon so I wanted them to practice using elements of blogspot. I asked for their comments (on my blog) -- I didn't want to clog up your comments area!
If you read their comments I would humbly ask you to keep 4 things in mind....
1) they are not edited by me in any way
2) these are "spell check" kids and there is no spell check on the comments :-)
3) more than a couple students are ESL
4) we had a limited time frame

So, please be lenient with their mistakes in grammer, spelling, etc.

I LOVED this post and the thought it helped to stimulate today!

God bless.

Meredith said...

What a great post, so inspiring. I have one third the family of you and they are all perfect bessings, hope we have more :)

Therese said...

Thank you thank you thank you for this wonderful post. I am going to share this post with my husband.

Lu said...

Wow, I never thought I'd say this, but we only have seven! :)