Back And Forth

891 891_ () 891 891 Latest column:

p.s. Is it cheating that I post these here? No? Good. The official newspaper website has a lag so I can’t really link in a timely fashion.

Some mornings around here are so beautiful. Everyone wakes up happy. Boys walk downstairs fully dressed and eager to do what needs to be done. Lunches are already made and loaded in the book bags, along with homework and P.E. clothes and any other thing that might need to go to school.

There’s something so special about these mornings. We enjoy each others company because everyone is enjoyable to be around. The pace seems so calm, so refreshing. It’s so easy!

And then there are mornings like today, with grumpy risers, slow movers, book bags not ready. Someone who would rather dribble a basketball in my dining room than put on his school shoes; another boy is using his belt as a lasso when he should be wearing it.

Not so easy.

When we were considering having another baby, these were the kinds of mornings that would make the decision so obvious. “Lord,” I’d say in prayer, “thanks for all the blessings you’ve given me. But that’ll do. I can barely handle the bounty already bestowed upon me, Amen.”

Of course, the next day would bring a wonderful, peaceful morning and I’d suddenly realize that maybe having another baby wasn’t totally out of the question. Because in that moment of happy sanity, I would remember that life isn’t always total chaos. There is also joy and peace and calm. But it’s hard to think about that when you just caught them throwing your leather-bound Lives of the Saints from a second-story bedroom window into a water-filled bucket on the ground below.

It’s very tricky, this Openness To Life.

As parents, we grapple with a balance between the good days and the bad. And we need to – it’s not merely a luxury to consider all this. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally saw the wisdom in not giving a resounding “Never again!” at the thought of another baby. Because when our fourth son was born and we brought him home to a house already filled with little boys, “No” was all I could consider.

I was very excited that the Church understood that I had limits, that she actually required me to remember them. Around here, Respect For Life meant keeping Mommy sane and happy with the life we already had.

And then little boys got bigger, and diapers disappeared. And people started sleeping through the night. Weeks turned into months turned into years, and those days of four-boys-five-and-under were gone. Next year, everyone will be in school and frustration and cold-sweats are (mostly) replaced with peaceful self-sufficiency.

Until we decided to finally take “the plunge” I would vacillate almost constantly. One minute the thought of a new baby would seem the most amazing addition; and then someone would empty an entire bottle of room spray into the bathtub, leaving two little boys smelling like an herbal oasis. “Who am I,” I’d marvel, “to think I could possibly be in charge of another human being?”

It is a lot of work using our intellect and reasoning while also trusting in God and His will. Add to that our free will, along with some grace and mercy and joy and peace and all that love and you realize – Openness To Life is not for wimps. It can be complicated.

Some of us might feel downright crazy at the thought of another child. And that’s okay. Maybe there is that sense of peace that says right now, it is enough.

Or not. Getting to the point of even grappling with these thoughts – perhaps that is the start of the tug. 891″> ?



  1. A great and beautifully written article! I, too, have had similar emotions with regards to having another child. With three boys 3 and under and one on the way, I struggle on some days. My dad always reminds me, though, I will one day miss this time. I try to remember that even when things get difficult. Thank you again for a wonderful article. I will add a link to it on my blog.

  2. Mom of boys says:

    I hope that you don’t mind, but rather than fill your comments box with my response to this, I just went ahead and put it on my own blog! Thank you so much for sharing this! It means so much to hear that others have the same struggles in our desire to be open to God’s will for our family!

  3. 4andcounting says:

    You said what I have been feeling perfectly. Thanks for being honest about the struggle.

  4. At what point do you say “Ok, I am taking the plunge?” and know that this is the right thing to do? I have a friend whom is struggling with the issue of having a large family, as in having as many babies as God sends their way and still keeping her sanity. I can’t give her much advice because, well, I am not married and in the thick of it all (but hopefully will be again one day). But, I would like to ask you happily married moms: Is there not a happy medium, one where there are times it is OK to say “no, not now”, or “this is as many as I can take”, or “I’m done” without feeling some sense of guilt that you are not following through with God’s plan or not being completely open to life? Don’t Humane Vitae and Familiaris Consortium also call us to a responsible parenthood? She comes from a family of 12, her husband from a family of 8 or 9. Those numbers are daunting. To think that one could actually effectively raise all these children well would seem to be as hard as trying to climb Mount Everest … Thanks for your honesty Rachel. 🙂

  5. 4andcounting says:

    I won’t ever say I’m done until the parts don’t work. I will, however, say that right now, 4 is good. I honestly believe that right now, that is all we are all called to have. But I am open to the knowledge that that may change. It is not about how many children we have. It is about our attitude and our hearts. Are we truly seeking God’s will for us? That is the struggle.

  6. Rachel Swenson Balducci says:


    I think the happy medium might be learning to avoid the guilt. I think we can be robbed of our joy just as easily by putting undue pressure on ourselves as by taking on too much (i.e. knowing now is not the time to have another baby but feeling guilty about it nonetheless).

    I’m the oldest of eight; Paul is the oldest of seven. So I understand that sense of larger numbers somehow being the ideal. For me, I never felt necessarily called to have 8 children, but also, for a while, wondered if that made me less of a Good Catholic Mother than a couple willing to have a baby-a-year.

    The beauty of it is that you are forced to deal with this on an intensely personal level. What is overwhelming for me may not be for another woman. And our husbands may have totally different jobs/schedules/charisms around the house. It’s all so personal.

    The bottome line, I think, is making sure you are in the center of God’s will and in close communication with Him. And also trusting your instincts about yourself and then being honest with yourself for your reasons. Sanity is a very good reason for postponing pregancy — maybe forever.

  7. Scotch Meg says:

    I guess my attitude is best expressed by my friend Michael Pakaluk:
    (sorry, don’t know how to link)
    I started out thinking I was the boss about my family size and timing (because there were more important things than being a mom), and ended up giving the planning over to God. Completely. And you know, the funny thing is, when my fourth child was diagnosed with a heart condition at nine months, God seemed to take pity on me and gave us a very long “break” — five years — from having more children. Long enough for me to long for another child. These days, I am more likely to feel upset at having only five than at managing those five.
    Rachel is right — the key is to be in touch with God’s will, bearing in mind all He has said about the generous nature of His love.

  8. Thanks ladies! You are all such a source of inspiration. I will pass along the insights and also keep them for future reference for self for when that good man comes my way.

    Scotch: I will check out the article also.

    Honesty with ourselves, trust in God, and always seeking His will in our lives. All equally challenging.


    p.s: Rachel, it’s actually fun to get the sneak peak of the article on the blog before reading them in the SC, he he. Of couse, it came in today, so not much of a delay. And, if you don’t mind me saying this, the titles on your blog are better!

  9. Ruth Anne Adams says:

    Wow, Rachel. We had 12 years of marriage and then we had three children within 15 months. I am the 4th of 4 and I yearned for a 4th. But my husband was ready for walkers and talkers and not enamored of the little baby time like me.

    I think at any given moment, one spouse’s veto should be an absolute bar. When both say “yes”, God can work with that [of course He can work any where and any way He wills]. I hesitate to use the word for fear it will be misconstrued, but if at all possible, I encourage obedience to one’s husband in these matters.