Never say never, and other thoughts on having more kids

May 7, 2013 | 190 comments

Some folks have asked if my doctors are putting pressure on me not to have more children. I usually respond with a sound like hoooooo-ho-ho-hooooo (which is not supposed to be a sound like what Santa says, but rather a hearty laugh to indicate, YOU HAVE NO IDEA).

The doctors have said this before, when I was diagnosed with the clotting disorder after getting a deep vein thrombosis during my second pregnancy, but, luckily for my third, fourth, fifth, and sixth children, I knew that they weren’t that serious when they said, “You seriously can’t have any more children.”

But now they’re saying it with extra drama, and there’s nothing like lungs full of blood clots (for me) and lungs full of holes (for the baby) to make me think that they might actually mean it this time.

So what does that mean for me? When I converted to Catholicism, to my great surprise I came to agree whole-heartedly with what the Church teaches about contraception. I do Natural Family Planning (badly), and probably have about eight years of fertility left. Am I still going to stick with it? Am I resentful of these rules? Do I even want to have more kids? If the subject lines of my email inbox are any indication, a lot of folks are curious about this; hey, I would be too if I followed someone’s blog who found herself in this situation.

So let’s go ahead and crack open that can of worms, and I’ll give you my long answer to the question: Your doctors said you can’t have any more kids. What now?

Let’s talk about risk

First of all, let’s remember that when we speak about the dangers of pregnancy or any other undertaking, we’re talking about risk. This is not certainty. Nobody has a crystal ball. It’s all just educated guesses.

This sounds obvious, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget.

You hear a doctor say, “You shouldn’t do XYZ because it would put your health at risk, ” and it’s tempting to immediately declare, “‘Risk, ‘ you say? I SHALL NEVER DO XYZ AGAIN THEN!” But it’s critical to do the best we can to identify what level of risk we’re talking about.

In my own case, for example, I have a responsibility to my existing children not to take unnecessary risks with my life. The word to hone in on here is “unnecessary, ” though, because the reality is that we take risks with our lives all the time.

I’m thinking about taking a road trip this summer that would involve driving for hours down two-lane roads with 70-mile-per-hour speed limits and no barriers separating oncoming traffic. I would be driving on a weekend, when plenty of people are on the road after having beers at nearby lakes. There is no question that my life would be in danger if I went on that trip; in fact, the danger to my health in that situation is probably not even drastically lower than it would be with another pregnancy. Yet we perceive the pregnancy as being so much more fraught than the fun road trip.

For a variety of reasons, we’re always tempted to freak out and get all fearful when it comes to new life, much more so than in other areas of life. A mother setting out to climb a famous mountain as a personal self-fulfillment project would be congratulated and encouraged, whereas another mother being open to pregnancy despite concerning health conditions would be chided and discouraged, even if the risk to both women’s health from their respective activities were the same.

So, especially when it comes to the question of more children, we need to look very carefully at the question, “How big is the risk?” There are times when we’ll take a closer look and find that the risk is real and huge and deeply concerning; but other times we might just find that the risk isn’t all that much greater than it would be with plenty of other “normal” activities, and that the doom and gloom predictions about future pregnancy were fueled as much by our culture’s fear of life than as by a reasonable analysis of risk.

The hope factor

Every risk has a flipside, and this is another area that is too often forgotten about when we’re talking about pregnancy: the benefits of undertaking the risk.

We have this problem in our society of seeing new human lives as burdens. Instead of celebrating new people, too often we chalk them up to carbon footprints and mouths to feed. We deem others (always others, not people we know) to be “overpopulation.” And I’m not using “we” rhetorically: Seriously, I’m not immune to the mentality either.

The soundtrack to all of my pregnancies is the noise of my whining voice. I always forget about the life of the new son or daughter that I’m carrying, and talk about the huge burden that “the pregnancy” is placing on me. Maybe it’s all those years I spent immersed in secular culture, but I am naturally sympathetic to the frame of mind that wants to immediately shut down the pregnancy train as soon as the doctor says the word “risk.” Especially in the case of those of us who already have a lot of children, why not? After all, how many kids does one person need?

But children are more than a number in the family birth order, and each human life is infinitely valuable. Think of someone you love: When you consider the worth of his or her life, it makes you view the pregnancy that brought him or her into existence differently. It makes you willing to accept higher levels of risk to add a person like that to the world.

Imagine that you were diagnosed with a rare and fatal illness, and you discovered that there was a doctor who had developed a brand new way to treat it. Imagine that this doctor cured you. Imagine the waves of joy and relief that would sweep over you when you found out that he had defeated the disease that threatened to cut your life short. Now imagine that you found out that he was his mother’s seventh child, and that her pregnancy with him went against warnings from her doctors not to have any more children. Would his mother seem crazy for becoming pregnant anyway? Would she seem irresponsible for deciding that adding another soul to her family was worth the risk?

Unfortunately, sometimes we need to remind ourselves what other people can do for us in order to remember the value of their lives.

I’m not suggesting that there’s never a good reason to avoid pregnancy; even aside from health risks, there are plenty of other reasons couples might decide that it’s not a good time for another kid. I only suggest that when we make those decisions, it’s critical that we make them in light of the hope that every new baby brings. When you think of making sacrifices for a nameless, faceless “pregnancy, ” it doesn’t seem worth much effort. But the cost/benefit ratio changes drastically when you really think about the worth of one boy or girl’s life.

NFP is worth it

All that said, I do think there’s enough risk in my own situation that I should chill on the pregnancy front for now, maybe forever. In that case, then, wouldn’t contraception or sterilization make everything easier? To put it concisely:


First of all, Natural Family Planning can be an effective way to space children. (I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing and clean up the drink you just spilled on your keyboard.) No, seriously, if you’re willing to invest a little time to learn the ropes, it can work just as well as contraception. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy, and that the challenges that come with NFP are very real. However, it’s not like the alternatives offer problem-free solutions either. As the great Simcha Fisher once said, “When it comes to facing fertility, all God’s children got angst.”

I know a lot of other couples who have given up contraception to use NFP, and not a single one of them has ever returned to contraception use. I’m not saying it never happens, but, at least in my experience, it’s rare. That’s totally counter-intuitive since NFP is a sacrifice-based system, but I think what most couples find when they give up artificial birth control to space children naturally (especially when they involve God in the process), is that the high level of personal sacrifice involved is a feature, not a bug.

NFP is not just another form of birth control; it’s an entirely new lifestyle.

It makes you see yourself and your spouse and your children entirely differently. It makes you see the meaning of life differently. It even makes you see your relationship with God differently. And once you’ve spent a while living that kind of life, you don’t want to go back.

Intellectually, I don’t think that contraception is a good thing. I’ve come to believe that it takes away women’s reproductive freedom, and, on a societal level, fuels abortion culture. But, when I think of my own situation, I never even get that far in the analysis. Like so many other people who have made the switch to NFP, I simply couldn’t be okay with any form of sterilization anymore, whether temporary or permanent. I don’t know how to articulate it other than to say I just couldn’t do it. On a purely visceral level, in that place deep in the heart where the most important truths about our humanity reside, I know as surely as I know anything else that those Catholic teachings about human sexuality are true and good.

So what now?

As you can imagine, I’ve gotten some flack about all of this lately, especially in light of this disastrous pregnancy. Sometimes I catch myself reacting by saying:

“I didn’t know!”

I mean, yeah, I knew that I had a blood clotting disorder that’s exacerbated by pregnancy, and, okay, there was that one just slightly life-threatening DVT in my second pregnancy. BUT! I thought that it would be fine once I took preventative Lovenox. I didn’t know that it was possible to end up with bilateral pulmonary embolisms when you were on blood thinners — I thought that I was stabbing myself with needles every day to prevent that kind of thing! I didn’t know that a one-month supply of said blood thinners would set me back FOUR THOUSAND dollars. I didn’t know that I’d end up having to undergo medical procedures that were like something out of a bad episode of Fear Factor. I didn’t know that one of my veins would turn black from having over 10 blood draws in the same arm over a few hours. I certainly didn’t know that my baby would have his own, unrelated life-threatening lung issues that would put him in intensive care for two weeks. Sheesh, people, I didn’t know!

The implication there is that I would have done something differently if I had known that I was signing up for a pregnancy that was like something out of a homeric epic.

But would I?

I look down at my sweet baby boy, who is sleeping in my lap as I type, and I am overwhelmed with love and joy at his existence. I am filled with certainty that his life was meant to be. I can barely even remember all the pain I went through to bring him into the world, because that finite amount of suffering seems so utterly insignificant in comparison to the infinite value of his life.

Yet I am also sitting here saying that it would probably be best if I didn’t have more children. It leaves me in a place of strange tension: If this baby was so worth it, wouldn’t that be the case for another one? As a mother, I certainly have a duty to my precious children not to take risks with my health; but if I’d followed that train of thought more closely before, most of said precious children would not even exist.

It is when I ponder these truths that I realize: It’s so freaking complicated.

There are no more difficult, complicated, messy decisions in the human experience than the decisions we make about having kids. In no area of life is there more at stake, more opportunities for suffering and loss, and more opportunities for joy and love and connection that will last through eternity.

I don’t have all the answers; many days, I don’t feel like I have any. I have no idea if I’ll ever have another biological child. Today I’m thinking that I probably won’t…but will I feel that way tomorrow?

If I’ve learned anything so far this year, it’s that your whole world can be turned upside down in a matter of hours, leaving you with an entirely different perspective on life than you had the day before. Luckily, with NFP, you make these kinds of decisions on a month-to-month, rather than a long-term basis. I’ll have regular opportunities to re-evaluate my choices.

And so when people ask about whether I think I’ll have more children, I usually respond with a responsible-sounding answer about how I am aware of the risks and currently plan to take the prudent course and avoid pregnancy for the rest of my fertile years.

But then I’ll glance over at my little blond-haired son, and sometimes his tiny, ink-blue eyes will catch mine, and I can barely suppress a smile as I think: Never say never.


  1. Grace

    can you just come answer all of my (difficult!!) life’s questions for me just as eloquently?


    always so well said. (typed. whatever)

    • Marianne

      I second that!!

    • linred

      Jennifer, I am so glad to learn you and your baby are doing well, esp. after such an ordeal at the hospital. Your new little guy is a beauty!!! God Bless. You are fearless, praise God. I am wondering why you think you have only 8 childbearing years left. If I recall correctly, you have said in the past you are 37 or 38. My doctor told me the oldest age on record of a woman conceiving in the U.S. is 53. Seems to me you have at least 12 or 13 years left, even if you discount the early 50s. Just wondering how you figure it.

  2. Katie @NFP and ME

    1) Thank you for linking to iuseNFP! 🙂
    2) I absolutely love the way you approach this. It’s not an argument with God about taking on your fertility but instead a conversation (a long one, at that) about managing it and listening to His will. I think this is the perfect discernment process for deciding when to have children. (Not that I’m any authority in that!) your situation is so unique that it could never be found in the catechism, unless I missed the chapter on clotting disorders and pulmonary emboli in regards to fertility. 😉
    3) What a cutie! Love the caption!

  3. Leila

    Well said and bravely said. Life isn’t about what people think it is — something you only learn when you suffer… lots of love and a big hug!

  4. Dwija {House Unseen}

    Oh. His precious face. I wish I had something meaningful to say besides “yes to all of this” but I just don’t.

    And also…

    Look at his precious little face!

    • Kristine


  5. Tina

    I’m not sure if you remember me, I started reading you years ago. My husband and I used NFP for 6 years before getting pregnant (and unfortunately needing help in that department) I had somewhat of a dramatic pregnancy (quadruplets), followed by an extremely premature birth at 25 weeks, followed by the death of one of our babies. Each of the remaining triplets has issues. Then, using NFP we conceived 10 months after they were born. At her birth I opted for a tubal ligation. 4 children under 2. No one questioned our decision and most of the time I think it was the right thing to do–even 10 years later. There are moments of “what if we had another”, but then I realize just how difficult it is sometimes with all the kids and all their issues.
    But still, I think NFP is the best way to go. It’s chemical free, monetarily free and not all that difficult once you get the hang of it.

  6. Allison

    We have a 1:4 chance of cystic fibrosis with each pregnancy. We take it; two of our seven have it. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, CF or not. And the Church’s teachings on redemptive suffering and sacramental marriage Changed Our Lives!

    Love to you all,

    • Cindy

      Allison, I have friend with 4 kids, two with CF and they are pregnant with #5. They are the one of the most faith filled families I know.

      • Ashley

        I have a special needs child. I see her suffering everyday. As much as I love her and want the best for her. Is it not wrong to play those odds so closely? I think it is careless. I have lost my faith over these issues. I think Catholics are too careless in this way. Suffering sucks.

        • Patricia Prenosil

          Christ suffered and by His suffering the whole world was redeemed. Yeah, suffering sucks on the human/emotional level, but it also leads to redemption. I pray your faith is renewed

          • Jessica

            Ashley, I will pray for you and your daughter, and for God to strengthen your faith.

            Remember how much the Mother of God must have suffered over her Son. I pray that her love may help lead you back to Christ.

        • Ute

          This is maybe the worst suffering for a mother, to see one’s child suffer. I’m sorry you have to go through this. I’m sorry your daughter has to go through this. Every couple in this situation needs to make their own decision, and the right thing for one family is not the right thing for another. I’m praying for comfort and peace for you and your daughter.

      • Theresa

        My husband has CF. Double delta F508. He is 27 years old and still very healthy. Working fulltime supporting our family and we have adopted a sibling group of 3 from foster care. I’m sure you both know that kids with cystic fibrosis often grow up and live full lives as adults. But I just wanted to write about him because if I was a parent of a child with CF, I’d want to hear about successful adults with the condtion. I do think the limited lifespan gives us a different outlook on life and requires us to trust in God.

  7. Amber

    Well said!! And wow, what a cutie. Thanks for sharing the picture!

  8. Selina

    My husband and I were very surprised by our second pregnancy since he was in charge of the chart and was certain we followed the rules. After about 5 minutes of staring at the blue plus sign he was excited and joyful that God trusted us to have another baby. What I wasn’t expecting was to find out because of my diet and lifestyle (lack of exercise and eating out constantly) I was diagnosed a pre-diabetic at age 29. I had crossed into the obese stage on the BMI chart. I got my mind and heart in gear and took really good care of myself. I only gained 15 lbs in my second pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy 8lb baby girl about 8 months ago. I probably would have continued to gain weight and not change if I hadn’t gotten pregnant. My daughter, Lucia, has changed my mindset about health and wellness. Since January I have been in go mode to lose the excess weight and eat healthier (down 30 lbs, 10 more to go). Most of my close friends know I am losing weight because we are open to life and will get pregnant again. Of course we are doing our best to follow the “rules” of Creighton, but we know God is always in control. It saddened me when my family says “Just don’t get pregnant”. If God wants us to have another, then we are ready and willing to face the challenges of pregnancy, because children are our source of joy.

  9. MelanieB

    He is so beautiful! And everything you said is so right on. And well, I just can’t get over how beautiful he is. Congratulations again.

  10. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    used correctly to space children or avoid conception because of these serious reasons (me too- and I think red cardigan)…NFP has a 99% ‘success’ rate- I like to think of that 1% as space for God to put us on a different track if He so wills it

  11. Barbara

    YES and YES and AMEN!!
    Never say never. It is so complicated, but at the same time, not very complicated at all. If God wants something, you’ll do your best to give it to Him. Our 5th was something we felt God wanted for us, and we complied, and we got a baby with an extra chromosome. The whole miserable pregnancy I doubted our clarity on that call, but once I knew she had Down syndrome I just KNEW she was exactly who God had in mind for us. I never had an ounce of sadness that she was not who I expected, but quite the opposite. I’ve yet to meet one person in our shoes who had the same experience.

  12. Barb

    He’s beautiful.

  13. Elena

    Oral contraceptives and other hormonal contraception also include blood clots as part of their possible risks! So of course it makes the most sense to stick with NFP and knowing your own body. Good for you and your husband for going that route and eschewing invasive surgery as well! You’ll know if another baby will make your family complete or not. Trust in that!

    • Kim

      And, the World Health Organization has classified them as CLASS ONE CARCINOGENS! Scary stuff!

    • James

      You have a valid point, but no doctor would EVER put a woman in her 30s with a clotting disorder on hormonal contraception.

      Jennifer and her husband are choosing NFP over sterilization, not contraception.

      • Cheryl

        O yes they will! They simply switch to something they claim is less dangerous. They just can’t bear the thought of someone not being chemically regulated.

        • Angie

          This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. They will NOT prescribe your hormonal birth control if you have blood clots. They wouldn’t even let me take certain types of hormonal birth controls because I get migraines occasionally. Nice try.

          • Mary

            I agree with Angie – no doctor in his/her right mind would prescribe hormonal contraception to a woman in Jen’s situation, even she asked them to! When she says that her doctors are pressuring her to not have more children, she means they are pressuring her (or her husband) to get sterilized.

  14. James

    “With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.” Humanae Vitae 10

    In today’s anti-child society, we don’t think of having to give up having more biological children as a sacrifice. In the Catholic blogosphere, sometimes people react to this anti-child mentality by claiming the sacrifice is never necessary if one has enough faith.

    But the reality, and the Church’s consistent teaching on the subject, is that it IS a sacrifice and sometimes is IS necessary. This is the “virtuous continence” mentioned in Casti Connubii. Pope Pius XII mentioned that some situations might be so serious that a couple should not have relations until the end of fertility. He called this “heroic virtue”. (Talk about a sacrifice!)

    Fortunately, modern methods of NFP are far more reliable than the old rhythm method used in Pius’s day. (Marquette, FTW!) Nevertheless, when one gains an appreciation for new life that Jennifer has, children are the joy and avoiding pregnancy the cross. But sometimes the circumstances in our lives call us to carry the cross for the greater good.

    It’s not supposed to be easy. We’re not supposed to have all the answers. That is why we must seek God’s will through prayer and the sacraments.

    • Melissa

      Thank you for pointing this out! My husband and I were trying for #3 last fall, then came our son’s diagnosis with high-functioning autism, and the many appointments to help with this: OT, behavioral, speech…we decided that since my pregnancies are usually so difficult that we need to wait until things even out before we venture further into growing our family. Many factors of his autism would make a pregnancy at this time a lose-lose for all in our family: my son, my daughter, the new baby and myself. I’m hoping with a little more maturity that this will not be the case. It is one of the most painful sacrifices we have had to make. We would desperately love to have more children, and truly, we have no way of knowing if this will happen for us. We are happy with our two, but more would be a blessing. We’ll know someday, I guess. In the meantime, we offer up our sacrifice. It’s hard to be a couple who would love more children, but for some reason, our openness to life has never been fully reciprocated (for lack of a better term). It may just be that we’ll always have more children in heaven than on earth, and I have to be okay with that, if it is God’s plan for our family. Though, that doesn’t completely take away the ache. 🙂

      • Mary M

        I can understand your wanting to wait, we made this choice, too, when our daughter was 10 and diagnosed with high-functioning autism, and our 3 year old had speech problems (didn’t talk at all), however, I noticed our daughter grows so much with each sibling we had and our son did learn to talk (and now at 15 will talk everyone’s ears off), we were able to have two more after that waiting time, but sometimes I wish we had more and now it seems I am too old. Just keep praying and open to changing the decision if your heart tells you to risk it.

    • Ashley

      thank you for being rational!

    • Marie

      NFP Marquette model is Awesome!

  15. Anne

    Aw, man, I love that caption on his picture. What a great post sharing such openness and honesty. Beautiful witness, Jennifer!! I hope you are healing well, and sweet baby Joseph is settling in, too.

  16. Maia

    I really did read the whole post.

    And then I saw the photo.

    Two things: 1) amazingly perfect. 2) where did you get that shirt? (I am shallow.)

  17. Kris, in New England

    I admire your honesty and candor, truly. And the baby – well, he’s gorgeous and how can you not love that wee little face.

    The fact is that having another child is YOUR decision; you don’t owe anyone an explanation and yet, I am (to be candid myself) relieved that you are at least thinking about not having more. You got lucky with pregnancy #2 and with this one. God provides, I know that, but at some point you do have to weigh the risks against what you already have and consider that perhaps – God has already provided you with what you need.

    Again – it’s your decision and you owe us, your humble readers, no explanation at all. I love reading about your life and I am always humbled by your commitment to God. As a fellow Catholic convert (I turned 2 at this past Easter Vigil), I am still learning about my faith and learning to let go and allow God to handle it all. I find that I care about you in that 21st century way we come to care about people who we will likely never meet in person, yet still count as someone who has become part of the fabric of our lives. Speaking for myself, I’d like you to stay risk-free and just bask in the glow of watching that sweet baby grow up.

    • Elisa | blissfulE

      I understand your sentiment here and agree with your feelings toward Jen. At the same time, I don’t think “luck” had anything to do with surviving any of her pregnancies. We have to trust that God knows best – while it is for His greater purpose that Jen is alive (and writing!), He will ensure that, and when all His work for her is done, He will take her from this life into the next, pregnancy or not, road trip or not.

  18. Jess@Cathofeminism

    I don’t comment often, but thank you for this. I just had my third c-section and am facing many of the same questions from family and friends. I also just typed up a post with my two week old bundle of sweetness laying on my lap! Worth it is right. Congrats to you and God Bless.

  19. Allison

    Such a beautiful post. Congrats on your precious baby boy!

  20. Amy E Patton

    Yes, they are worth it. Thanks for being bold and sharing your beliefs. It is a difficult issue. Amy

  21. Leanne

    I don’t have children. And I’m surprised you’re sharing your decision here, except perhaps now the email will be shorter to wade through?

    First the serious: I’m not a mother and I turn to moosh at the sight of a baby and perhaps every mother dreams their child will grow up and become a doctor, but there are plenty of other risks beyond agreeing to conception before that would happen. A mind-boggling number of them, if you think about it. I mean, sometimes it’s plain amazing that we get through the day, if you look at the risks. I have to wonder: did God ask a bunch of young women before Mary or did God already know Mary would say yes?

    Ok, now the funny. I just watched the two Spocks Audi commercial before reading your post, so when I got to: “First of all, Natural Family Planning can be an effective way to space children. ” I had to re-read several times because I was thinking, it shoots kids into space??? It’s probably a good thing I don’t have children.

    Oh and here’s the link: the laugh-out-loud bit is toward the end:

  22. LeAnna

    Your son is gorgeous. And everything you’ve said in this post just rings true. The thing is, right now only God knows what His plans for growing, or not growing, your family are. And I guess that’s the beauty of the whole thing — you’re not committed to a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ right now. Just enjoy the moment, and the Holy Spirit can guide you for the rest.

  23. Kathy

    That was fantastic. God will take care of all of you.
    Your baby’s just beautiful.

  24. Jen

    thank you so much for this! i totally agree about never saying never…if God wants you to have another baby, it will happen! and i will have to save this post to refer people to if i’m ever given a hard time about having more kids 🙂

  25. Crystal Hoey

    Maybe it’s pregnancy hormones going over here, but I am in tears reading every beautiful word that led up to your ultimate and final stamp of truth in “Worth it.” You are blessed beyond words, as is your place and voice in this world. Congratulations and thank you for always inspiring the rest of us.

  26. Christy

    You’re going to be a saint one day, aren’t you. This is the sort of thing that people write and when they die they become saints. Because you understand something – or are really trying to – that so many (even really faithful) Catholics wrestle with all the time. This is an inspired post, and I love it because it’s just so clear about what the Church talks about when they talk about families.

    I have one son (10 mo), and my husband and I want more kids, but your post reminded me that as long as we’re open too to what God wants for us in terms of children, we’re good. It’s such a frightening thing, to not be in charge. But what a beautiful thing, to be so open.

    My little guy and I prayed every night for you and your little one, and we’re glad to read that you’re doing well. 🙂 Good luck and all the best!

  27. Patricia

    Wow… Sorry if you’ve already talked about this topic somewhere else. I couldn’t help but wander while reading your post if you have any priest helping you out with spiritual direction (?). Really extremely helpful, but you probably know this already.

  28. Lizzie

    What a sweet sweet treasure your boy is. And what a thoughtful article – thank you. So many congratulations on his safe arrival and his and your recoveries!

    I continue to pray for you although I don’t comment so often these days. You are such a witness to hope and what this royal road to holiness is all about. Thank you.

  29. Heather@ Women in the Scriptures

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t tell you how much your thoughts and testimony on the sanctity of life and NFP have meant to me. Like you said here:

    On a purely visceral level, in that place deep in the heart where the most important truths about our humanity reside,

    Once you understand you can never go back. It really does change the whole way you look at the world. Thank you so much for being brave to live and share what you know is true. It has touched and changed my life so much for the better– and there are two more little people here who probably wouldn’t be.

    Enjoy your babymoon!

  30. Patty

    YES YES and YES!!! Awesome points and explanations…love that precious picture at the end, what a cutie! 🙂

  31. Rosemary

    What a great post, and what a beautiful baby. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    • Mary Rue

      Ditto!! My thoughts precisely.

    • Jena


  32. Marisa

    I love this post; thank you so much for writing it. And a huge congratulations on your beautiful baby boy! You and I were pregnant right around the same time, and I gave birth to my daughter on April 6. (Oh, and since we now have our standard “boy and girl,” everyone assumes we are 100% done having children. This has led to some interesting conversations thus far).

  33. KJL

    One of your best posts ever. He is beautiful, and so are you. Thank you for this, Jennifer.

  34. Monica

    I think that as Catholics we are called to be open to life. To make decisions thoughtfully, and honor and respect life. I don’t think we’re necessarily all called to have lots and lots of pregnancies. I would love a big family…but I think 3-4 children is more a biological reality for us. It breaks my heart, to be honest. But I know that there is grace there, grace for when you would like to have more but it is not safe to have more. I think its okay to say, no, we are going to avoid pregnancy, because even though we would love to have another child, there is too much risk. We can pray about it, talk about it, think about it, and ultimately do what we feel is right. As our priest said to me “you’re the one who has to be able to sleep at night”. All of our children have been worth it. But it’s a little easier to say that with all of us alive.

  35. Lerin

    Thank you for this. I am humbled by your faith.

  36. L

    That was so beautifully, tactfully, and humorously written! I so often try to find these same words, and am often too overcome with my passion I the subject. We are expecting our 6th child right now, and feeling very discouraged at all the adversity we are about to face. Thank you for this heart warming encouragement and source of “back-up”! Blessing for health and happiness for you and your family!

  37. Kendra Tierney

    Jennifer, I think this is the most beautiful and profound thing you’ve ever written. I love it. Thank you!

  38. Amelia

    LOVE THIS!!! And, I have to say that it wasn’t until I had my 4th (which came at a time that most people would say was a “bad time”) that I really realized how much of a joy and blessing children are. This baby that came at a bad time, brings us so much joy and happiness, which is all the more needed during a “bad time.”

  39. Kendra Tierney

    Jennifer, I think this is the most beautiful and profound thing you’ve ever written. I love it. Thank you!

  40. Monica

    Difficult indeed. But you have articulated it very well; and I couldn’t agree more about the possibility of experiencing something that would turn your perspective 180 degrees in a matter of hours.

    God bless your openness to His will!! He is not outdone in generosity.

    Beautiful, beautiful baby! 🙂 Thanks for sharing his picture!

  41. Anonymous

    I feel like I’m ruining the flow of support and appreciation for this post, but there was one thing in particular that I thought was interesting and wanted to respond to.

    You link to a story about how contraception takes away women’s freedom, and the argument is essentially that it allows women to have sex despite not being ready for children, which leads them to get pregnant and the only way out is to have an abortion. But this leaves out an important point: Contraception prevents pregnancy, when used properly. (Unfortunately, many women don’t use it properly because they aren’t educated about it because of efforts to stifle education about contraception.)

    Here’s my point: I’m pro-life and pro-contraception. Essentially, the *easiest* way to prevent abortions is to make sure that when people have sex, and they don’t want kids, they won’t get pregnant. Seriously, proper use of contraception is the number one way to reduce abortions because it doesn’t involve having to convince secular people of a religious argument on contraception that they’re not going to agree with.

    So while I respect your opinion to not use contraception, I think that it’s extremely counterproductive for the pro-life movement to not support contraception.

    • Monica K

      That’s interesting that you thought that. My immediate thought was more on the relationship level, how if the man knows the woman is contracepting, he is less likely to view her with the awe and respect she deserves (since he ‘knows’ she won’t become pregnant), and the woman’s freedom to say no is somewhat diminished in the relationship for a similar reason. Obviously it’s not a universal, but it seems to me that contraceptives limit a woman’s freedom by making the relationship tend toward mutual use rather than mutual love and respect.

      Also, on the contraceptives preventing abortions, the Supreme Court actually argued that if contraceptives were legal and available, then abortion HAD to be legal people had the right to a reasonable ‘backup’ plan, should their contraceptives fail.

      • Megan


        Beyond the fact that oral contraception can be an early abortifacient (when it doesn’t prevent ovulation, but rather implantation of a fertilized egg – which does happen), when we promote the idea that one can enjoy sex without accepting the responsibility that comes with the act (i.e. it’s the way children are brought into the world), we transform a hugely significant (potentially life-changing, in fact) and intimate act into something casual and largely recreational. Then, in the event that a woman’s contraception fails, are we really surprised that she’s upset to find herself pregnant (after all, this was NOT something she signed up for) and often desperate for a way out of a difficult and unexpected situation? Whether you like it or not, contraception is but a precursor to abortion; after all, look at the societal progression of acceptance for both practices: in the early 1900’s ALL Protestant denominations condemned the use of contraception, but slowly, each deemed it “okay” for married couples, but only for serious reason. Do you think that the people endorsing this mentality ever dreamed that someday, 12 year-old girls would be taking contraception as part of a society that is so sexually promiscuous and decadent that its pre-teens are not exempt from the confusion? If it weren’t for the sexually-“liberating” implementation of contraception, than women would not consider it there “reproductive right” to have an abortion, if they deem it necessary.

      • victoria

        “My immediate thought was more on the relationship level, how if the man knows the woman is contracepting, he is less likely to view her with the awe and respect she deserves (since he ‘knows’ she won’t become pregnant), and the woman’s freedom to say no is somewhat diminished in the relationship for a similar reason.”

        I think that’s a valid concern for any particular couple deciding to use or not use contraception, but Anonymous is absolutely right on the implications for the pro-life movement as a whole.

        Not all sex is in the context of a relationship. Not all sex is consensual. Not all relationships, married or otherwise, are healthy. You can argue that sex in these circumstances is morally illicit, but the fact remains that people have sex in those circumstances all the time. Without some form of contraception many of those people will conceive children, and many of those women would choose to abort, especially if they don’t share the assumptions of religious pro-life adherents (that life begins at conception and that abortion is morally wrong).

    • Holly

      Something like 53-54% of abortions are performed on those who are using some sort of contraception that failed. So, contraception absolutely does not decrease the need for abortion. It also gives persons false security and inhibits them from choosing their partner’s wisely- encouraging them to “sleep around”. More sex= more pregnancies

    • linred

      Anonymous, Thank you for your comment above. In my opinion you are right on!!

  42. Katherine

    Very nice post and he is absolutely beautiful, but, honestly, when you said you had emails asking about future kids, my response was more along the lines of, “what business is it of theirs?” Congratulations again and God bless!

  43. Alison

    You have a husband and six beautiful children who need you. Please don’t do this. God is love, not legalism.

    • Leila

      Alison, you’re asking her to please don’t do what? Live her faith? Practice heroic virtue? She is not planning to get pregnant, but she is planning to stay faithful the the teachings of Christ’s Church, no matter the cost. That is to be commended and imitated!

  44. Julie

    This just about made me cry. It was so beautifully said — just right. Thank you for sharing this most personal of thought processes.

    • Kristen Bright

      I agree completely! Beautiful

  45. Apparent Tales

    First of all, could that little man get and cuter?! How can anyone even need to read this post after seeing his sweet little face!

    As always so beautifully said!!! I think about another of your posts talking about how much it hurts the rest of us when we hear others (especially Catholics) say they are “DONE”. I admire your bravery, your love for you family and most of all your faith. You’re so right, there are so many unknowns, didn’t knows and can’t knows.

    I teach NFP, so from my non-Catholic family who is convinced NFP doesn’t really work, I’m also getting the “no more” pressure and questions about whether I’ll stop NFP now that I really can’t have any more for at least X years. First of all, like you said, once you go NFP you really can’t go back. Morality aside, I just wouldn’t even consider any form of contraception or sterilization for lots of reasons.

    Also, I am NOT DONE! Even if it means another 8 painstaking weeks of bed rest I can’t wait for another addition (someday), so one of my friends just gave me the best one liner to hit ’em back with:

    “I’m a woman in love, anything is possible!”

  46. Lori

    This is a great post, Jennifer. I love the realness – the fact that we all have these issues in our lives that are, as you put it, “so freaking complicated.” There are times that I am overcome by the complicated that I don’t focus enough on the hope and the grace that comes from believing and staying connected to God, which is what you have so eloquently described here. Thank you so much for sharing, and enjoy snuggling that sweet baby!

  47. Elissa

    I am awaiting the birth of my third child and my children and I have been blessed with good health thus far. But I guess because I have now received children of both genders, I am starting to get the questions about “stopping”. I find it very unsettling to be asked such personal questions by people I really don’t know very well. I can not imagine receiving emails on the topic! I’m not saying I never wonder these things about other people, I just try to keep my questions to myself. You don’t owe an explanation to any of these people but you handled this question with such grace and beauty, and we your readers are the better for it. Thank you.

  48. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    Beautiful. I had chills several times reading this. And so timely for me, thank you!

  49. Sarah

    That was a lovely post, and you are very brave. Brava!

    A thought about your doctors (from the perspective of an MD/PhD student): keep in mind that there is an unavoidable tone of self-interest to their lectures. Patients with complications screw up their numbers, and you might sue them if things go wrong. They aren’t bad for urging you to make choices that they find totally reasonable, but they aren’t doing it solely out of brotherly love, either. They have to tell you this stuff and do it rather strenuously, or you could come back and sue them and say that it was not clear that another pregnancy was off the table. Even if you didn’t win, it would be a headache, especially if the hospital made them settle.

  50. boomama

    So beautiful, Jen.

  51. Kathy

    Blessings to your family and your beautiful boy.

    I have been married for 2 weeks and 2 days. Before the marriage I was so busy with marriage prep, going through RCIA with my fiance and learning NFP that I did not stop to think much about babies. It will only crossed my mind a couple of times and I dismissed it because I told myself “NFP will make us want babies”. I was left cold last week when our priest informed us that the Church’s teaching is that we have to have a “serious reason” to avoid pregnancy. Otherwise it is our duty to multiply. He did say something along the lines of “we have no right to plan our family”.

    I am very scared (husband and I) and right now we are just planning to use NFP until we are ready for the baby. I am praying that my heart softens to new life beyond the “whatever happens” mentality. We will definitely welcome a new life I am just not sure we will willingly pursue it more than a handful of times (about 2 or 3).

    The other issue I struggle with relates to my family. My parents and sibling live in a different country. I know that raising a family away from them will be extra-difficult. Also, having more than two children will definitely affect my capability to go visit them and that scares me even more…. My aunts and their families live in Germany and have not come visit my grandparents in 10+ years.

    I am hoping some of you can offer some advice to this newlywed couple who feel like the worse Catholics for not being ready to loose control and give up planning their family… we really want to make things right!

    • Cordelia

      Hi, Kathy – Your comment really touched me. If I could advise you like a sister (I’ve got four younger sisters myself, so it comes naturally), I’d say this…all the while praying that it didn’t come out too preachy. Ha!

      1) Remember that fear and anxiety like that come, very literally in my opinion, from the enemy. Reject them! I’m not saying your concerns aren’t worth deep consideration, just that the tension they cause isn’t from God. When we’re stressed, we can’t think clearly.

      2) When God wants us to consider an idea – a new step of obedience, say – it is my experience that He does so by inspiring us with a desire and an inquisitiveness and by requiring us to work out the right course with faith and reason…very much the way Jen has modelled in this excellent post.

      3) With that in mind, I would encourage you to cast aside all the feelings of anxious urgency – God is very patient – and simply embrace the quest to gradually understand more deeply what the Church teaches, and why, about the exercise of our procreativity. Pray and read, question and listen, think and rest.

      4) Also, don’t worry too much about the future. If two or three children sounds like all that you can face…well, fine. The decision about a third or fourth isn’t one you have to make right now – and it may never come at all. Be content to cross that bridge when you come to it…that’s part of trusting God.

      5) Also, also – hon, you’re only two weeks post-wedding! Your desire to search out and do the right thing is BEAUTIFUL…but right now, just recover from all the wedding-madness and give yourself time to adjust to married life. (Gosh, we were two months just learning how to *sleep* in the same bed as somebody else! Every time he rolled over, I’d wake up…)

      6) And, finally, I am going to respectfully disagree with the words of your priest: that we “have no right to plan our family.” We do. We have a *responsibility* to plan our families (the root subject of Jen’s post), and ordinarily, once we become practiced with NFP, there is actually no such option as the mythical “lose control and leave it in God’s hands.” We know too much! Maybe I’m lucky, but I recognize when my cycles are about to return after a baby; I know what ovulation feels like; I know when I’m fertile each month – by now, all without charts. And I can’t unlearn that! So my husband and I have to “plan our family” every single time we choose whether or not to make love on a particular day. There’s no such thing as *not deciding* – we either say “yes” or “no” – there’s just trusting God to man the over-ride if it’s needed!

      May God bless your marriage, Kathy.

      • Kathy

        Thank you very much for your kind words.

        I think I will continue to pray, slowly loose the anxiety and work on increasing my trust in God.

      • Cordelia

        That was a good post of yours, Lelia – I’m so glad you linked to it for Kathy.

        • Janet

          Good comments, both Leila and Cordelia. I’d add three things:

          1) The actual teaching of the Church is that the reasons for using NFP are “very broad”… then leaves it at that. A vague statement like that indicates that the Holy Spirit does NOT want to induce scruples of conscience in the faithful. (Think about it: how silly would it be to say you CAN skip sex because you’re tired today, but CAN’T skip sex because you think you might get pregnant and be exhausted for months on end?)

          2) The reason why marriage is a sacrament is that we need special, actual graces to navigate these issues, which are 100% specific to each family. With all due respect to your priest, he has NOT received these graces and CANNOT make specific decisions for your family. (He should not be tying up heavy burdens, too heavy to bear…) Trust in your marriage, trust in your husband, and most of all, trust in the Spirit to guide you in peace and love through whatever might come.

          3) You might also want to read St. Ignatius about discerning spirits. Fear, anxiety, impatience, anger, confusion, spiritual dryness… these are all signs of being under the influence of the “bad spirit”. His first rule was to never change a decision made under the influence of the good spirit, when you feel pressure from the bad spirit. Pray for relief, but keep going with your previous decision– when you feel consolation, refreshment, peace, patience, joy, etc. then you will have clear eyes to see.

        • Kathy

          Thank you!

          Leila your motto makes perfect sense after reading your post “I love clarity. I love logic. I love Truth.”

          I understand that I am on a journey and that 20+ years of a self-centered culture will not be easy to erase no matter how willing I am to do the right thing. Getting rid of anxiety, live the present and leave the future in the hands of God is something I need to do in all areas of my life.

          Thank you for understanding.

    • James

      I agree with Leila, such warnings are not helpful. Couples making ANY effort to live the Church’s teachings should be encouraged, not criticized.

      Here is some guidance from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

      “Serious reasons” is not a “checklist”, it is a matter of discernment. You do not have to “qualify” to use NFP to avoid pregnancy.

      “The spouses are to discern together first, what is God’s plan for their family here and now, then, their own physical and emotional resources for accepting another child, the needs of other family members, and lastly the good of the human society in which they live.”

      In this “instant” culture, we expect everybody to do everything perfectly right away. But that’s not a Catholic concept of moral development or how grace works. By using NFP, you are obeying the objective moral laws. You are doing NOTHING wrong.

      But as a couple in the vocation of marriage, you also have an obligation to be open to God’s call for how to live this vocation. You may be called to avoid pregnancy, you may be called to be more open to life. Using NFP HELPS you live out your marriage vocation. If you use NFP, keep your prayer life strong, have a good marriage relationship, and partake of the sacraments, you are going to be open to God’s call for what to do in your marriage.

      What that is? I can’t say. That is between you, your husband, and God.

      (My own opinion is that if you are overly worried about it, learning the method and learning the relational skills that go along with avoiding pregnancy are serious reasons in themselves to avoid for a short period of time. See also

      • Kathy

        James thank you very much for your thoughtful comment.

        I read the blog you recommended and it is truly insightful. I have been so worried about not being a good Catholic that I forget the good things living a chaste marriage brings to our lives. I am developing skills in self-control and that will definitely help my spiritual life.

        I think I will be discussing this with my Priest just because I think it is beyond procreation. I probably (most certainly) tend to worry in all areas of my life.

    • Ella

      Your priest is right. You have to have grave cause to use NFP. Anyone who tells you differently is wrong. It is not a ‘turn a blind eye, it’s none of our business’ prospect. It is grave matter. Holy Mother Church may sanction NFP, but she does not sanction it so that we can have our designated 2 or 3 children. We are called to be generous in the area of having children. The moment that you and your husband said, “I do.” you should have been ready for children. Someone in your marriage prep should have told you that.
      It is difficult to 5 or 8 or 11 children to be sure. But, first, Holy Scripture tells us that the man is blessed to have a quiver full of children and secondly there is no greater way to root out our sin and defects than to have children. They cause us to not be selfish and to die to that.
      This business of ‘we can’t judge’ is just modernist heresy. I can’t judge you if you choose to use NFP because I don’t know your interior life or your motives, but I can judge the outward action of using NFP to limit ones family size without grave cause as a moral evil just as I can say that using contraception is mortally sinful. The problem with that is the fact that 95% of American Catholics contracept. How many souls will be lost because of it? That is scary!
      We run the risk, of deciding what we want to obey or not obey of the Church’s teachings, of losing our souls. Some things are not optional. That may be a hard thing to hear, but it is truth. Obedience is hard, and oftentimes there is suffering as a result of it. But, suffering, too for us as Catholics, is something to embrace and not avoid. It brings fruit to our souls if we yield to it. St. John of the Cross said, “…and I saw a river over which every soul must pass to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, and the name of that river was ‘suffering’. And then I saw a boat which carries souls across the river and the name of that boat was ‘Love’.”
      I encourage you to be obedient to your priest and have lots of babies… or only a few if God only gives only a few to you… You never know. I only have 3 and there was no birth control. We must surrender every part of our lives to Him including how many babies He wills to send us.
      I will pray for you and your husband! 🙂
      May God bless you and Mary keep you,

      • Cordelia

        Oh, Ella… You’re making ME hyperventilate with stress just reading this! And I’m eight months pregnant with #6, so I know all about the suffering it takes to bring up children, okay? But we conceive them because we *want* them – a desire God has grown within us over the years – not because we’re scared of hellfire if we don’t stack ’em up like cordwood. Christians are never called to just go around rashly seeking out suffering…or babies. And we only have them one at a time, anyway, so there’s no reason to go freaking the poor girl out with talk of 11! “Surrendering every part of our lives to Him” does not *ever* mean checking our brains at the door. NFP is not some paritally-licit, barely-tolerated last resort – it’s cooperating with the way God made our bodies work. (I think James and Leila have done an excellent job laying things out.)

        • Valerie @ Momma in Progress

          I just want to thank you for writing this comment. I’ve refrained from commenting on the post in general or on anyone else’s reply, because I just . . . can’t. But yes, this needed to be said. Also, nearly choked on coffee at “cordwood.”

        • Kathy

          Thank you again!

          I volunteer to babysit your babies. That will for sure help me want some of my own 🙂

        • Ella

          Hi Cordelia!

          🙂 I would hardly consider letting God determine your family size “rashly seeking out suffering”…lol.
          I understand NFP and how it works. I understand that it cooperates how our bodies work. I get it. I also understand that somehow it has become the sacrosanct 11th commandment of the Church…”thou shalt use NFP”.
          My point is this: It is disingenuous to Kathy, and a sin against the spiritual work of mercy, to tell her “fine…you only want 2 babies… excellent…use NFP…it’s ALL ok… the Church approves it.” It is not ok. Holy Mother the Church has particular guidelines it sets forth for the use of NFP and that is that you must have grave cause to use it. Not wanting babies because you just got married or only wanting 2 or 3 is not grave cause. If someone uses it that way, it is mortally sinful and they risk losing their souls. If I did not care about Kathy’s soul I would tell her to go right ahead. I didn’t mean to scare her with tales of 11 children…and you are right…they come one at a time. I want to encourage her to listen to her priest and let him help her walk through all of her fears and anxiety knowing that Our Lord is there to help her overcome it. But, I also had to tell her the truth.
          My other point was, and it is why I shared it, that we often fear that if we let God take care of things we will have 25 children. I wanted to “stack them up like cordwood”, ;), and only got 3.
          May God bless you and Mary keep you,
          Congratulations on baby # 6! I rejoice with you and your family. I will remember your family and Kathy and her new husband at my rosary today.

    • Amy

      Hello Kathy! I really felt that I should offer you some encouragement here. First of all – the babies that come when you ‘aren’t ready’ have, in my experience, been the ones that come with so many blessings. Both of my children were concieved during times when the vast majority of people would have advised us to wait – and yet from a purely practical point of view, they have improved our lives to such an extent simply by their arrivals. And so, if you do find yourself pregnant before you and your husband are ‘ready’, take heart, babies have a remarkable way of rearranging everything – and it often all comes back together in a new and much better way.

      Secondly, If you are feeling stressed and anxious, overwhelmed and your mind is spinning in circles – then you will have a much harder time hearing the still small voice of the holy spirit. The beautiful thing about NFP is that every month you can choose again. Intense fear shouldn’t be a part of that choice – and if you’re feeling it, then speak to your spiritual advisor. He might not have realized how his comment rang out to you. If you are living in terror of going against church teaching because you and your husband are nervous about that first step into parenthood – I’m certain he will have better advice for you than “well, you have to, so get over it.” 🙂

  52. John

    Wow. So beautiful, so true, and SO challenging. We had a baby in September, which was a surprise because we’d always been told (even by good Catholic docs) that we would likely never have children at all. I’ll tell you, having a first baby at our age (I’m 43, my wife is 37) is HARD. We live in a tiny apartment in a very expensive part of the country (I’ve been looking for a new job elsewhere for over 2 years), I don’t make a lot. We don’t contracept and never will, and I totally agree with the Church’s teachings in this area (intellectually), but I admit that I’m terrified of having more children now that we know we can, and my wife often feels the same way (especially on the hard days, which are many). I don’t know how her husband does it in the midst of all the health problems Jen has had. I’d be a wreck. Everything Jen says is true, but I find it SO hard to surrender in this area.

  53. LSS2007

    Hi Jennifer! I too had a life-threatening clot and PEs while on preventive lovenox. At first the doctors kept saying NO MORE BABIES! But after seeing a specialist and doing more research- turns out that they can actually put you on “therapeutic lovenox” during pregnancy which reduces the risk of clotting even more. So that does mean twice the lovenox, twice the needles, and twice the price for the entire pregnancy… but it does relieve me to know that if God decides we need another baby, despite the NFP, there are treatment options! Not sure if your doctors have shared that with you.

    • Jeanette

      I had a DVT with my first pregnancy due to a clotting disorder, and thankfully, I too saw an excellent hematologist who recommended therapeutic Lovenox during subsequent pregnancies. Thank God, we now have 4 healthy children. It is a lot of injections, a lot of blood draws, but definitely worth it. I can’t imagine not having our other children! I have been faced with a lot of criticism from family members for being open to life after the difficult pregnancy with my first. I think I should direct all of them to Jen’s excellent post, she said it better than I ever could 🙂

  54. Marti B.

    Nicely put. It’s a painful and difficult decision to choose to try to keep from having any more children, but sometimes it may be necessary. My grandmother and mother both died in their thirties, leaving small children behind. When I calculate the risk to my family, I also have to calculate the cost to my other children if my gamble doesn’t pan out. Right now, the risk is too great. Maybe it will be different at another point. Maybe not. Never say never. 🙂

  55. sara mcd

    That photo and that caption are so perfect.

  56. Alexis

    This is one of the most honest and beautiful articles I have ever read. Well-said, well-said.

  57. Paula

    I love this so much that I am going to send the link to my college aged daughters to read. I came to adulthood in the eighties, and like many in my generation, thought that contraception was perfectly acceptable. I wish now that I had not gone down that path, and I want my daughters to be cautious. Thank you for your very eloquent post. May I just toss in that even if you never become pregnant again, never say never… my husband and I have adopted three more children after our bio three were all in their teens and twenties. 🙂

  58. Courtney F.

    Oh, my goodness. That picture just reaches out and squeezes my heart–and makes me very impatient to meet my own little boy (he’s due in September).

    God bless you and your family, Jen.

  59. Calah

    I wish I had your peace of mind and faith in God and at the same time I want to shake you and be like “b-b-b-b-bbut you can neeeeeeeever leaaaavveeee uuuuuuuuuus! (sob, sob, hiccup)”

    -Calah, selfish person

    • Laura

      Ha! Yes, exactly.

  60. Johanna Lamb

    Love this post and sharing it with several friends and family!

    One topic about NFP and being “open to life” that isn’t always discussed is that it also means saying no to many forms of fertility treatment. As a faithful Catholic who embraces the Church’s teachings on life, it is hard to long in your heart of hearts for a child and to see babies born from IVF and to know those options are not available for you. I am beyond blessed to have one son and I hope and pray EVERY DAY that God brings us another baby, but I have some friends who are still longing, like Hannah in the OT, for their Samuel. NFP is hard- even if you are not super fertile, but it still leads to amazing blessings and I agree- it’s worth it.

    • Naomi

      I know how you feel, Johanna. We also have trouble in conceiving and had a lot of deep thought on the fertility options open to us. We now realize that our original dream of having lots of kids probably won’t happen… But we do have two beautiful girls almost 5 years apart, and I believe it’s partly because of the kind prayers by this ministery:
      Shortly after trying for 3 years for daughter #2, I shot off an email to them, and now we have a little girl about to turn 1! 🙂 Just thought I’d share in case you were unaware!

  61. Sarah in MI

    Thank you for writing this.

  62. Bonnie

    I guess I should preface this by saying my questions are more rhetorical than anything else, because I honestly don’t know what I would do if faced with your situation. (Well, I hope I would continue on in faith and use NFP and if I got pregnant again, well, there I’d be again, but now with doctors angry as hornets and maybe not wanting to take my case… But who knows?) But anyway, what would be your thinking on all of this if there were no birth control methods besides NFP, which is about what the situation was prior to around 1960? I guess I am wondering how one deals with very high risk situations if you have no choice except abstinence? What do you think people did back then? Pope John Paul II’s mother was told not to have any more children after the oldest was born. She had a baby girl who died in 1914 shortly after birth, and she had JPII in 1920. She died in childbirth when JPII was about 8. So that shows what at least some faithful Catholic people actually did, given their options. I don’t know the answer to this whole issue. It’s one of those things that you wish God would resolve on His side, like it just happening that you never get pregnant again even just using NFP, but usually our lives aren’t so easy as that. I think I will say a prayer to JPII’s mom, Emilia Kaczorowski Wojtyla for you; that she will intercede for you and bring about a very good resolution to these challenges. (BTW, JPII’s second miracle has been verified and approved, and he may be a saint soon. Wow!)
    And one more thing; to look at that sweet baby’s peaceful, angelic face, and to have a sense of the harrowing gauntlet you ran for him to be here, well, I’d say he is one very special and lucky little boy, whose mom is one heck of a gal!

    • Kendra Bartlett

      I think you bring up a very good question here that goes to show you just how sacrificial the marital covenant truly is, but in today’s world with all of the modern medicine, procedures, contraception etc. that true sacrifice has been incredibly masked and even for some forgotten. You could even take it back even further and think about what it was like before penicillin or any modern medicine that we use today to fight infections, ect….each time a woman gave herself to her spouse, she was literally giving all of herself with a super high risk of an infection that could lead to death. To have our hearts centered in what Jesus truly created here in the marital act, can help us be reminded of how all of it is to be sacrificial and of entire surrender, before during and after (with regards to pregnancy and all that it entails, joy and sorrow). I think that is one of the beauties of NFP, that it calls us to be in tune with the “full giving of one-self” as God intended. 🙂

  63. elizabethe

    best. post. ever.

  64. Kelle

    I am in tears. Beautifully put! I have a medical issue (with much less risk than yours) and am currently pregnant with my 5th child. I have been tossing all these ideas around in my head for the last few months. Thank you for this post.

  65. Barbie

    This post is awesome-covered awesome with awesome inside! We’ve used NFP, breastfeeding, crazy schedules that make sleep more attractive than sex, and secondary (now corrected) infertility to space our three. They are 4 & 3 years apart and my third fellow is almost 3 (I’ve been cycling about 2 years and 4 months) and I’m not pregnant. We feel we have sufficient reasons to avoid at the moment, but NFP is the gift of “never say never,” which is what I say when people ask if we are planning to have more. On the days when I am completely overwhelmed with my guys’ care, I remember our fertility is a gift and a sign that things are as they should be in my body. Even though it is so not my business whether you have another child, I appreciate you explaining your thought process. I loved the Mount Everest / higher risk pregnancy comparison. That made me laugh!

  66. Barbie

    Oops…forgot to say – your little fella is just gorgeous!

  67. Elizabeth

    So beautiful and so inspiring. As a mom who had four mild-ish strokes in two pregnancies, I have found myself in a similar situation—practicing NFP badly too, and never ever saying never. Thank you for putting these thoughts into words so beautifully. God bless you, your beautiful family, and your gorgeous baby boy.

  68. Gail

    What a precious baby. What a blessed mother.

  69. Betsy

    Thank you. I get so scared to say anything at all. Thank you for living out here for all to see. Thank you for the encouragement and for the example of bravery. (My bravery consists of posting a link, which I have started to delete twice). I roll my eyes at myself. Anyhoo, thanks.

  70. Kendra Bartlett

    What a grace-filled message! And your sweet boy is BEAUTIFUL!!

  71. Jacqueie

    Overwhelmed at the truth and beauty of your writing. Amen.Amen!

  72. Jackie

    Well said. Besides, obedience to God comes before obedience to man. I know things aren’t that easy for you right now but your baby looks like an angel sent from heaven! How adorable!

  73. Victoria

    Oh Jen-
    “because that finite amount of suffering seems so utterly insignificant in comparison to the infinite value of his life.”
    truer mommy words were never spoken.
    I’m 41 and wondering, thinking, praying on this. I WANT more babies, and we will see what God’s plan is. All I know is Thank the Lord for Creighton Model and the priest who told me about Pope Paul VI Institute.
    Precious beautiful baby boy. So happy you both are well. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for us.

    • Christine

      I had a baby at 41 IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!!!!!

  74. Emily

    I married my husband almost a year ago and while we have been ‘avoiding’ until he finished school and starts working in a few more months, we did have a couple ‘scares’ that were really such deliciously hopeful moments where we realized God may have overridden us and would provide us with what we needed. Now I am unbelievably excited to start trying to achieve soon!

  75. Micaela

    I’m the 2nd oldest of 11. My parent consulted a priest after their 6th child was born. He said it would “technically” be okay for them to consider sterilization since they had been open to life. (Uh, yeah, no.) But he didn’t recommend it for them. I cannot imagine where my life would be without my other 5 siblings. Seriously. I’m so glad my parents never said never.

    May God bless you, whatever decisions you make for your family. And yes, that beautiful boy is so so SO worth it.

  76. Joy @ Caspara

    Wow, this is an amazing post, answering a question I had for you and inspiring so much in my heart. I do not have the health issues you experienced, but had crazy anxiety during the first trimester of my last (fourth) pregnancy. Every time I think about another baby, I just think about going through that again and wonder if I could handle it. (I know what you’re thinking: “Whiner.”) And then, now this is reaaalllllyyy whiny, my kids have had the stomach flu this past week, and we are in the middle of a military move, living in a hotel room indefinitely. Though I usually think I want more kids, this past week has had me so close to my wit’s end, I have been thinking, Well, maybe I am done!

    But reading this, and the many amazing comments following, has just refreshed and re-inspired me. Called me back to prayer and trusting — to my knees again, you could say. Thank you!

  77. Bobette

    You are beautiful. I am praying for you and your family!

  78. Abigail Benjamin

    Jen, I’ve been praying for months and months for you to have guidance on this specific issue. Looks like you’ve hit the ball out of the park. Peace be with you and your husband!

  79. Becki

    Beautifully said…

  80. Tina

    This may be my favorite pro NFP article of all time. That being said, it is always a good idea to talk to one’s diocesan ethicist regarding woman’s health and treatment. Many people don’t realize that we have wonderful Catholic priests who specialize in ethical issues.

  81. Renee

    Yes, NFP can be difficult at time but it does work. I used NFP to space my children and then for 13 yrs to avoid pregnancy (due to health/age reasons). I had to have a hysterectomy two months ago, I was sad realizing I was not going to have any more children (not that I would have tried at 48 yrs old)

  82. Patricia

    ABSOLUTELY worth it! God bless you & your precious family! May He shower you with every heavenly blessing & grace! May God’s mercy be upon us all as we place our hope in HIM! Blessings & peace! ICXC+NIKA

  83. Gail Finke

    I wouldn’t presume to give you any advice, but it does seem to me that you’ve hit on a major point in the difference between “really” endangering your life by a pregnancy and “maybe” endangering your life — a difference between something being quite probable and something being merely possible. Medical knowledge makes that easier to know but perhaps no easier to judge what to do about it. That said, surely there is a difference between a health woman trying to discern if she is “done” and a sick woman trying to discern the same thing.

    I was not a practicing Catholic when I had my two children, it is a great sorrow of my life that I didn’t know then what I know now, and that I didn’t begin earlier (I married at 23 but didn’t have children until I was 30) and have more children. If that’s now for you, it will be all right.

  84. Colleen Martin

    Oh Jen, I loved this article and thank you for writing it because I was one of your devoted readers wondering what the doctors were telling you for the future. Whenever my hubby and I discern we have serious reasons to postpone another pregnancy (no medical reasons like you though!) we usually approach it as we’ll do all we can using what we know about NFP and if God decides to give us a baby despite our best intentions, then His Will be done. I will recommend the Marquette Model of NFP if you haven’t already tried it. It’s the only method I feel confident enough where actually know what my body is doing!

  85. Catherine Boucher

    Beautiful! Thank you for your inspiring pro-life witness.

  86. James

    Jennifer, I don’t want to take anything away from your story, but I am impressed with Joe’s faith in all of this.

    It’s difficult to go through what you went through, but it’s also difficult having someone you love go through all of that. It’s hard to worry about possibly losing a spouse and having to raise children by yourself.

    I don’t know if I could do it. If doctors had told me that my wife had a clotting disorder that made pregnancy life threatening and she was as committed to not using contraception, I would be seriously tempted to “run off and limp home”. (Which is something I do NOT ever want to do.) I am amazed that Joe is sticking with this.

    • Denise

      That is an excellent point. Jen and Joe make these decisions together, and it would be very inspiring to read Joe’s perspective. (Hint, hint?)

    • Cordelia

      Yes… I’ve been thinking, too, that Joe is the unsung hero of this piece. Thank God for good men!

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Glad you pointed that out, James. He is really an amazing guy. 🙂

  87. Richard Wan

    Well said. It would, however, but “hotter than Scarlett Johansson” better explains your family size than “I do Natural Family Planning (badly)”

  88. Leah

    People always ask whether you want more children – in spite of its rudeness (everyone knows on some level that it is a personal question) or to be overly curious – they ask because they want to know how it lines up with their own choices. If it validates their decisions or the choices that were not theirs to make. People want peace with this. Children are wonderful but pregnancy is an immense undertaking – so many things can go sideways. Many will say that childbirth is a natural process and modern medicine should stay out of it. Before modern medicine 50% of women died from childbirth. Staggering. And after pregnancy the raising of children takes immense resources of time, energy, money, and a constant low level anxiety that something will happen to the most important thing in your life. It’s hard. Here’s the thing. I’m not the least bit religious. I don’t care that others are. Whatever brings people some peace and comfort. Personally there are too many horrendous things in this world for me to believe in a God. And the atrocities are not exclusive to nonbelievers. But if you are going to believe in a God then I would think you would subscribe to the theory that God allowed the medicine that saved your life in the same way that he allowed for birth control. 6 beautiful, healthy children is wonderful. If you suddenly disappear from their lives that would be devastating. As their Mom, you are exclusively their whole world and un-replaceable. My sister in law used NFP and it didn’t work. With the level of risk you are facing I would step it up a notch.

  89. Stephanie

    Beautifully said.

  90. Dubilly

    After doctors chided me for getting pregnant again after a difficult pregnancy and scary delivery with my second child, and again when I was pregnant with my fourth child, after months on bed rest and a month long stay in the hospital and a preterm delivery, I didn’t even hesitate to tell him “It was so worth it”. After pausing a moment, he said “They always are” (he has eight children himself).

  91. Kristina

    This was divine intervention in my eyes. A little bit of my history and then you will see why…… I have 3 boys ages 24, 13 &11. Oh let’s not forget i am a grandmother to a beautiful 8 month old boy named Jude named after St. Jude! I was divorced, rec’d my annulment. Remarried a wonderful man with no children. I am 40 years old (yes i was very young when i had my oldest) and left it open to God to conceive a child. Well I am 14 weeks pregnant with severe anxiety which I am taking no meds for & when it happened I felt like I didn’t want this baby. When I read this now I cant get over how I feel like the Holy Spirit led me to read this. My husband is already talking about more children…I have said no way. But after reading this how can I say never? I like to think I am a devout catholic but I will tell you, you have changed my life. God Bless you and Thank you!

    PS your precious angel is beautiful! Congratulations!

    • Cordelia

      Congratulations on your baby, Kristina! I have borne extreme depression during the first trimesters of several of my pregnancies…and sworn never *ever* to do this again…so your suffering really strikes a cord with me. I will pray for you. (By the way, I’m now on Baby #6 – speaking of never saying never – and this time I didn’t get depressed! Alleluia!)

    • Manda

      I had severe depression during my first two pregnancies and then my third (when my second was just 15 months old) I was perfectly fine and happy the whole pregnancy in spite of a move and everything! I can’t say what caused the difference except this last one was my first girl but it does give me hope that not every pregnancy has to lead to depression for me. So perhaps you will be blessed with no anxiety during future pregnancies. And there are medications that can be moderately safe to take for that, it got me through my second pregnancy. There are also some natural things you can do to at least ease it a bit. Hang in there, pregnancy is just plain hard no matter whether it’s your first or fourth but as Jen so eloquently said, the children are so worth it!

      Btw, I love your grandbaby’s name, so cute!

    • Elaine

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! I had a baby at 40 and it went very well. A few comments…first, I also suffer from ADD, depression, and anxiety and was on medication for it during that pregnancy and through 2 years of nursing. You CAN take certain medications. There is a wonderful service out of a university in Texas that you can call and ask questions about certain “C” medications in pregnancy: Buspar for anxiety was a huge beautiful change for me and I hate the thought that you may be suffering for nothing.

      Second, I am now OFF of all my old medications and doing really well…just from changing my diet. Look into the paleo diet, GAPS diet, SCD, etc…cutting grains and most dairy from your life can be a HUGE game changer. I did it for my husband as he has terrible IBS and arthritis and it cured him of the arthritis.

      Best wishes.

  92. cindy

    Thank you for that! My husband and I practice NFP and just currently had our 3rd baby. This baby was somewhat of a surprise although I knew from the very day of conception. Lately I’ve been having doubts about NFP, especially after baby it is hard to get back on track. But after reading this, I have a renewed sense of confidence that we can do it! We get a lot of negative feedback about NFP where we live. Although it is largely a Catholic community, many have given into contraception and sterilization. So, your words are quite a breath of fresh air!

  93. Mary

    WOW! This gave me shivers at the end.

    Thank you for such a beautiful witness to the unspeakable glory that is NEW LIFE! God will NOT be outdone in generosity to you and your family for your openness to His will.

    Think of the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation and her many, very real concerns. Then think of her fiat. In other words, just say yes to more Fulwiler babies!!

  94. jennyandcompany

    Love this! I had the whole “lungs full of blood clots” experience with my third pregnancy and was given the same spiel about not having more children. Since there was no clotting disorder to diagnose me with, I just wasn’t convinced of any greater future risk. I did lovenox anyway because I am not completely crazy, but number 4 was perfect and we are trying for number 5 despite my mother’s tendency to panic at the thought. It is so very worth it!

  95. Denise

    What an excellent and balanced look at “the elephant in the room”! 🙂

    It is all so dependent on one’s personal relationship with God, and His invitations to us, each of us, to fulfill His will.

  96. Gretchen R

    This is a very interesting post. I’m not a regular reader of yours, but I find myself happening on your blog from time to time, and feeling so uplifted with each visit. I’m not Catholic, but I’m a conservative Lutheran, who also practices NFP. I find that our training to take each month at a time, instead of making hard and fast decisions drive our family crazy. We have 5 children now. People ask if we will have more. Right now? Later? In the future? I don’t claim to know the future, or how I will feel in the future. We’ll see. It’s an answer that drives everyone crazy.

    My grandmother was Catholic. She died when my dad was 7 years old. She was only supposed to have no more than 2 children because of a heart issue, but ended up dying giving birth to her 8th. That sweet baby died 4 days later. I think about her a lot, and what my dad’s life would have been like had she lived. (His dad fell apart after she died, and my dad grew up in a very abusive home.) My dad was her 4th child. I think about her a lot, and about her faith. I only hear her story through the view of the children she left behind, and each has a different story to tell. They all said that the doctor told her she and the baby would not live to the end of the pregnancy, and that if she did not have an abortion, they would both die. Of course, the doctor had said that many times before, but this time he was serious. As my dad tells the story, the priest told her she would go to hell if she had an abortion. My grandpa told his kids that God killed their mom. It was a very sad situation.

    When I think about her, though, I don’t think she acted out of fear of hell. I think she couldn’t bring herself to have an abortion. I don’t think she could do it. I think she lived in hope that it would all work out right. I admire her faith, and her long term vision, not just for her life, but for the lives that would follow after her. I don’t think her decisions caused the abuse that followed. Alcohol is to blame for that, not her. I think the alcohol would have caused the abuse regardless.

    However, I’m here. My dad is here. My 5 children are here. Countless aunts and uncles and cousins are here…because of her. Because of her faith, and her belief that her sacrifice would mean something.

    I know that sounds counter woman’s movement. I don’t know what I would have done in her place, and I pray I am never put in that position. I know that if she had chosen to have an abortion to save at least one life, it would have been choosing life. 1 life over 2 deaths is at least life. I can’t seem to blame her for making a wrong decision, though. Because honestly I admire her. I admire her for dedicating herself to something that mattered, and laying down her life for her family.

    Thank you for this post.

    • Cordelia

      This is heartbreaking and beautiful, Gretchen. Thanks for sharing.

  97. Edi

    Not sure if you’ll get a chance to read all of these comments (with all the ample free time you currently have), but I just have to say ” Yes , yes , and yes” to all of it. I am currently pg with #6. I have type II diabetes, have had one “regular delivery” and 3 c-section and I am planning a VBA3C with this baby. On Monday, our sweet baby was diagnosed by fetal echocardiogram with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. A fairly rare and severe heart defect that will require 3 very serious surgeries and the first 3-6 months of life in the hospital. Added to this is the fact that we do not have health insurance and make slightly too much to qualify for state insurance. I’m not sure if they will even do the surgery if we are unable to pay. The first surgery alone never costs less than a million dollars. So, all that being said, I just pray that God clearly leads us each step of this journey. Please pray for us. The prayers of our friends and family are the first and best thing we can ask for at this time. Edi Wray

  98. Stefanie

    Great post, Jennifer! How blessed you are to have such a large family. I am 30 years old, never married, and I likely won’t be able to have as many children as you because I’m getting older and God has yet to send me a faithful man in my life. Nonetheless, I am glad he has bestowed such blessings upon you and your husband. 🙂

  99. Beth Turner

    Your post really hits the nail on the head! There are no easy answers, but there is something very compelling about the photo of your son’s face.

  100. Rebecca

    Thank you so much for this post – as others have said, it’s clearly thought out and articulated, but even more than that, it’s such a beautiful witness.

    One of my best friends is the 7th of 10 children, and it really bothered her when people told her parents that they shouldn’t have so many kids; they (hopefully) didn’t realize that they were really talking about her and her younger siblings, who are all well-educated, faithful Catholic who are gainfully employed and contributing members of society.

  101. Becky

    I found out many years ago that people’s approval/ disapproval of taking risks was wildly out of synch with the actual amount of risk, and had nothing to do with the possible benefits. This ranges from great things to small. I was told by various people that I should not allow my children to climb trees, or ride horses, or pet dogs, or go off the diving board because “something might happen”. These same people would allow their children to get in cars and eat hot dogs. Check out the major cause of death of children- car accidents. Worst choking hazard (as in choking to death): hot dogs.

    I was talking recently with a friend about the issue of casinos here in Maryland. He said he was not really attracted by gambling. He said he did know some people who like to gamble. I said that almost everybody I know likes to gamble. He looked surprised and I said “They get married, and they have children.”

    I could do my own long, long blog post about wackily non-thinking risk- benefit analyses. If you actually think that a person’s entire existence depends on you being willing to take a risk, that would seem to weigh pretty heavily, right? As your beautiful picture says “Worth it.”

  102. Skip

    Check out the Marquette method. It does work. It basically involves using a fertility monitor to monitor when your peak is a lot more accurately than a thermometer. The monitor costs $200 and the strips about $50 every 3 months. We have found you still need to pay attention to mucous signs but it is very effective and when prayerfully done, it is in conformity with Church teaching.

  103. Jane Hartman

    I feel so sorry that you have to defend yourself to doctors and others about such a personal thing. It’s really no one’s business and between your husband you and God. It’s really a type of suffering. My mom went through a type of bullying, kind of, and was asked all sorts of personal questions regarding having more kids. I found it a hurtful thing. You two are such saints for putting up with insensitive and nosey people. So sorry…..

  104. Whitney Hetzel @ 9 Kid Fitness

    As usual, beautifully said! To your point, “Imagine that you were diagnosed with a rare and fatal illness, and you discovered that there was a doctor who had developed a brand new way to treat it….”
    I would also add that even if said child made no advances in medicine, were not actually to add anything that the world would find significant, or if he or she were born with extreme disabilities, the value of that life is immeasurable in the eyes of God.
    As one who is on the other side of 45 (who is tired and a little worn out from nine children to say the least), I understand the “place of strange tension” to which you refer. But I too find it difficult to say never! God Bless!

  105. Andrea

    You are my hero Miss Fulwiler! Thank you for being so bold. You…just…rock.

  106. Chat

    Thank you for your post, I was teary-eyed the whole time because I was just thinking (before I read your blog) that there really is no experience quite like having a child. It will teach you so many things that only being a parent could make you realize. Yes it is not easy (whoever says that caring for a child is such a breeze is a liar or doesn’t realize how huge a responsibility is being in charge of another human being) but it has taught me the real meaning selflessness and sacrifice. I have given up my share of dreams but like you said… it is worth it. GOD knows what HE is doing whenever HE blesses us with child 🙂

  107. Donovan

    We pray for you, your kiddos and your husband everyday

  108. Nina

    I just had to leave a comment to say Thank You!
    When I met my boyfriend a year and a half ago I had no idea it would change my life so drastically. But he’s the eldest of 8 kids, a devoted catholic since birth and was even worked for a Catholic news service. And I a Greek Orthodox, who hadn’t been to church in maybe 15ish years- was a tough sell on some of the churches more counter-cultural teachings. Its been 5 months since my official entrance into the church and I have to say the year and a half of finally finding my faith has changed me beyond what I ever imagined- and all for the better.
    Letting children come as God wills them has been my biggest struggle. I know in my heart and even in my head that it is the only true honest way to do things but I struggle with what I knew for the 27.5 years before my conversion began. I’ve worked hard for my education and career and at first all I could focus on was all of that going out the window. I still struggle with this some- I grew up in a cozy family of only 2 children and don’t know what to do with a large number. I still desire to have a career and maybe even more education, I struggle with the idea of supporting them all, and what health risks there might be.
    But finding your blog soon after I started looking into my own faith and educating myself about some of the tougher decisions has been an immense help. Knowing its wrong and having someone tell you their personal story about how they came to know that and the choices they’ve made in their lives because of that belief are so different in allowing one to come to terms with what their life might be life by following what is true.
    So again Thank You. Because you didnt know it, but your story of conversion has been inspiration and education to me as I recently traveled a similar path.

  109. Dave

    I am going to be ‘that guy’ here…although I don’t know the details of any of your medical situations, I do know that many, probably most of the chronic illnesses and diseases most people have today are due to our modern diet and toxic load we carry from our environment. In most cases, modern medicine does not have cures for these conditions, but offers drugs to manage symptoms. There are many methods of natural healing available, and from the experience of my family, they work MUCH BETTER than the establishment medical profession, which has little to offer other than drug dispensation. Please consider reading resources like “Primal Body, Primal Mind” for just one comprehensive example, or check out the Weston A. Price Foundation.

    As far as our family, I had “rheumatoid arthritis” and took drugs for 10 years. After using functional medicine principles, healthier diet, and Nutritional Response Testing, that condition is now gone and I feel much better than I did either before or after I was on the drugs. My wife had panic attacks, hypothyroidism, general inability to cope with stress, and lots of other related problems. This is all gone – the true basis of her symptoms was severe adrenal fatigue. My son had severe allergies and was constantly sniffly, and had hives. Gone. Another daughter had sleep problems and mental issues (probably would be considered “borderline” and/or anorexic.) She started treatment six weeks ago, and though the problems are not yet gone, there is already significant improvement.

    Since we are discussing pregnancy, it is extremely important that the mother (and to a lesser extent, the father) be in optimum health in order to have healthy children. The principles and natural healing methods above can help a lot with that. (And yes, I know that there are probably some conditions that people here are dealing with which cannot be cured by natural treatments)

  110. JEDI Mom

    I love your blog and how open you are about your family. But you don’t owe anyone an explanation for the decisions you make. There are many ways to live with openness to life. Much peace to you in the next phase of your journey.

  111. Kevin Heldt

    “I look down at my sweet baby boy, who is sleeping in my lap as I type, and I am overwhelmed with love and joy at his existence. I am filled with certainty that his life was meant to be. I can barely even remember all the pain I went through to bring him into the world, because that finite amount of suffering seems so utterly insignificant in comparison to the infinite value of his life.”

    Beautiful. SO glad that God brought you guys through the intense difficulties of the last few months to these moments of overwhelming joy. Congratulations on your son.

  112. Geoffrey Brooke

    God Bless you and your family! You have been in my prayers. Your faithfulness, witness, and love are inspiring. I myself was a NICU baby, but now 25 years later am in seminary just trying to do God’s will. I just want to give my life back to him. He has filled me with great joy and happiness. He rewards all those who love, like you, with this same great joy, happiness, and peace to continue on being such faithful witnesses.

  113. Mary Jean

    I was told never to get pregnant again after my sixth second-trimester loss, mostly because my kind and caring OB knew how painful losing so many babies was and didn’t want me to have to go through it again. I already had two living children from my first two pregnancies.

    I agreed that I shouldn’t get pregnant again, and was using NFP. But – at age 41 – I got pregnant anyway. I refused to consider abortion. (Crazy to have an abortion to avoid the emotional pain of a miscarriage, no?) One of the OBs offered me a small chance to save the baby – do a very risky, very rarely attempted surgery. I agreed to try. He had done/participated in four of them during his career.

    It was a terrible pregnancy – first the surgery, then total bed rest, huge financial burdens, followed by pre-eclampsia, carpal tunnel syndrome, I don’t even remember what all. At 36 weeks, I had a beautiful healthy baby boy. I asked my OB how many of his four previous patients who had had the surgery had had a healthy baby. He said, “None of them.”

    Sometimes God really wants a baby to be born. I believed that then, and I believe it now, even though that baby, who was unbelievably healthy for 12 years, was, at age 12, diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor. He may not survive.

    Would I go through it all again, the horrible pregnancy, the suffering, just to give birth to a child who may well die of cancer before he even hits puberty? Absolutely. It was so worth it. He was/is so worth it.

  114. MamaTod

    Dear Jen,
    I’m a “tail-end” baby boomer, born in 1960, and grew up thinking that birth control was just something people did. I got married just before I turned 19 (34 years ago this month, whoo hoo!) and dutifully went on the pill. It was “the easiest” and “disrupted” those early months the least. It also made me sick. It took several months to figure it out, then we switched to foam. Nasty and no fun. What to do? Well, we decided a baby would be fun. Then, I didn’t get pregnant for 6 months. Well, that was a wake-up call. Didn’t unprotected intercourse guarantee a pregnancy?

    I was reading through the Bible that year and noticed how OFTEN Scripture says “the Lord closed” or “the Lord opened” the womb. Slowly it sunk in, The LORD is the one who opens and closes the womb (and EVERY opening is called a blessing in Scripture) and that when He opens the womb, He has a specific plan and purpose in mind for that particular new little person.

    So the first lesson was learned: God is the one who creates. He decides; the miracle is that He involves us in the creating.

    About that time I was attending a ladies’ Bible study on the names of God and how they reveal His attributes. I was challenged to apply what I learned to my life. If God is all-wise, all-loving, the Great Provider, etc. , what difference was that making in my life?

    Second lesson was really a question: if I say I trust God and then try to control my own reproduction, do I really trust God?

    And then there is Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” My womb is part of my body and God wants that offered to Him also.

    All this really hit the fan after our first child was born and the Dr. wanted me back on birth control (just because that was the way it “should” be done) and my husband wanted to have more children, “while we were young”. At that point, submitting to my husband became the issue.

    After pregnancy # 4, I had a miscarriage; at the same time, my sister-in-law gave birth to a little boy with severe defects who only lived 9 precious hours.

    Lesson learned: getting pregnant doesn’t guarantee a healthy baby.

    Baby # 5 was a difficult labor for me emotionally and physically, even though anyone else in the room would have considered it within normal parameters. That night, alone in my room, I argued with God. “I know I told you that you could plan our family, but it’s MY body that’s in pain here.” He let me rant and then quietly spoke to my spirit “I DIED so you could have eternal life, why aren’t you willing to sacrifice a little bit to give someone else life?”

    Sob, “ok, Father, not my will, but yours be done.”

    After baby #6, 5 years of no children. I thought I was done. Then, surprise! A tag-a-long darling. But I didn’t want a lonely tag-along so I asked God for another. Not in His plan.

    Four and a half years ago, when the tag-a-long was 11, He LITERALLY dropped two teenage orphans into our lives via adoption (another story, for another time). Guess what? They fit into those five empty years age-wise perfectly. God has a sense of humor. To be honest, this part of the family planning journey has been very, very difficult. It is also part of His grace in my life.

    Three years ago I needed a uterine ablation and to have an ovary removed because of years of severe problems. This was my last option. My Dr. wanted to tie the other tube as well, because pregnancy after ablation could be life threatening. I agonized over this; it felt so WRONG to my soul. After trusting God with my family planning for years, was I to NOT trust Him now? I did the research. The risk of pregnancy after ablation at my age is less than 1%; the risk of pregnancy after tubal ligation was also less than 1%. LOL I wasn’t reducing my risk, I was just making it easier for the Dr. if I had the tubal ligation. I didn’t, and once that decision was made, I had the peace that passes all understanding again.

    I’m sorry for writing a novel here. I just wanted to encourage you that 1) while there is no easy answer, God can be trusted 2) you and your husband only answer to Him, not to everyone else and 3) the consequences of disobeying a clear and direct call of God are far, far worse than the consequences of obeying Him. That truth has sustained me through some terrible, terrible days of adoptive parenting. But He is faithful and we are seeing progress.

    Blessings on you and your sweet little family.
    Dorothy, lover of Jesus, wife of one, mom to 9

  115. amanda

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I had a very difficult pregnancy and labor with my 10 month old that ended in a c-section and a long, difficult recovery for me. We recently found out that we have another one on the way due to arrive in November. I’ve had a difficult time getting excited about this pregnancy feeling like I just went through so much, but your post reminded me just how awesome this all is. Thank you. God bless.

  116. Amber V

    How true. I whole-heartedly agree. Deep down we know the truth and what IS right is our church’s teaching..It’s kind of like that feeling you got as a kid when you were doing something naughty and you knew if you got caught you would get in trouble for it but you did it anyway. Eeek. Awful feeling. Great post and beautiful little sleeping babe.

  117. Beth

    That was beautiful! I got tears in my eyes at the end, and what a beautiful baby!

  118. Anon.

    Think of someone you love: When you consider the worth of his or her life, it makes you view the pregnancy that brought him or her into existence differently. It makes you willing to accept higher levels of risk to add a person like that to the world.

    This struck me. Your whole post was beautiful and struck me! I understand the sacrifice of postponing. I had to reign in my desire for #3 while my husband and I got our act together and worked on our marriage and began counseling. I realized that my desire for more children without love for my husband was using him much in the same way as a contracepting couple can use each other for sex. After all, you’re cutting of the unitive just as the contracepting couple cuts off the procreative.

    Beautiful baby.

  119. Ute

    Jenn, I’m just curious: Does Joe share your perspective for the most part? I think you gave the perfect answer to your dilemma in this post. But I’m wondering if we are sometimes more willing to take risks with our own health or life (for a good cause like a child) than our spouses would. I suspect that my husband would be too afraid of losing me to risk another pregnancy ever again. And this is not meant to be judgmental, just a description of him and me.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      Good question. Yes, we’re very fortunate that we’re 100% on the same page on this issue. 🙂

  120. Mary Creger

    That child is beautiful and well worth it.

  121. Monica

    I enjoy your blog and I really respect the thought and faithfulness that has gone into your decisions. But reading through the comments I am struck by a certain type of pride regarding difficult reproductive decisions. Having more children seems to be a badge of true piety. Defying advice, even from family, other Catholics, doctors, is another badge of true piety. Is this a sin of pride? Is this God’s true will for our families, or is this a selfish desire to prove the world wrong, prove our faithfulness?

  122. Mary Borchers

    It is easy for me to say that you have a good enough reason to not have any more kids. But that is a decision between you, your husband, and God.
    The great thing about NFP is that you always leave a crack in the door for God to do His will. God is, ultimately, the One who creates a new life. Even if you are abstaining from sex during your fertile times, you are still being open to life and there is still a possibility of getting pregnant. Put the decision in God’s hands.
    It is such a relief for me to know that God has everything under control. If it is part of God’s plan that you have another child, you will conceive. Rest easy and know that He will take care of you.
    God Bless You, Jen!

  123. Jennifer Mull

    Excellent post! It is hard enough to answer the hard questions of this conviction to trust God with our fertility, and then to have a life-threatening condition on top of it, only compounds the issue… I always come back to a question that plagued me when I was young before I had children. When I was 8yo, my mom had a tubal ligation, she had explained what this was and what it meant (not having anymore children.) And, I can remember asking her and having this question come back to me many times, “How do you know that God doesn’t want you to have more children?” I am 47yo, have 8 living children and have had 5 m/c’s, and I still believe that only He knows how many He wants each family to have… I’ve known many women who have had more in spite of medical issues, and even some who have died for it, but ultimately, our responsibility is to trust God. It is not an easy road, but He knows what we do not. How do we know that a better treatment, for example, for the blood clotting disorder wouldn’t be discovered and developed even next year?!? Maybe there is a way to deal with it that you haven’t learned yet? Hard to say… maybe you truly will not have anymore biological children because He will not give anymore….. so many things can happen… I am thankful we do not have to go through this life without Him. He has the answers. 🙂

  124. Bonnie

    Happy Mother’s Day, Jen. So, so worth it!

  125. Jess

    Thank you for writing this, Jennifer! We don’t have the medical issues to contend with but we did just have twins a year ago and our oldest is just over 3 (and my chances of conceiving twins again are not exactly low). I constantly get the question of whether we are done or not. I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to tell a co-worker today that I wasn’t closed off to the idea of having more children and have her NOT act shocked or surprised. Reading this has helped me figure out a few ways to respond when the responses aren’t as open as hers was!

  126. katherine

    I know I am a bit late on this one, my computer hasn’t been working for weeks but I just wanted to say…
    I have a heart condition and had easy pregnancies for my first five pregnancies. My last one was a little different, my little one is about to turn 2 and I still look back on it with fear. I am tempted to say that he has to be the last. Common sense must dictate this, but on the other hand I also have to remember that God won’t take me until He deems the right time, His will will always trump mine, so I really don’t have to worry.

    Also, where would the world have been if St Theresa of the Little Flower’s mother had not had her. She was the youngest of 9, four of whom had already died, and her mother already knew that she had cancer. It would have been so easy to say in prudence, I shouldn’t have any more children and yet she is considered one of our greatest saints and a doctor of the Church.

  127. Elaine

    What a journey you had with this pregnancy! So many truths in this post, including the strange place we can find ourselves in when practicing NFP. I got pregnant soon after you quite unexpectedly, at age 42, but a baby didn’t develop and there was nothing but an empty sac on the ultrasound. It was painful, bloody, and full of hospital and “can you watch my four kids?” kind of excitement.

    So we decided to avoid and we really really tried to do a good job, but here I am again pregnant and hopefully expecting a baby for my 44th birthday. I say hopefully because I’m eight weeks along and I had a slightly odd ultrasound last week. There’s a baby this time, measuring dead on for dates (as we always know conception dates!), with a heartbeat…but the cavity was large compared to the size of the baby. Doc wants to see me back in a week; I think to make sure it’s still ticking along. I’m cramping and I’ve had some spotting, though, so overall I’m not hopeful. It’s so strange…to be rooting for a critter you were trying to avoid in the first place; to be waiting to find out if this is a new beginning or another bloody end.

    I don’t feel like announcing this pregnancy; family wouldn’t understand…so there are few to share all this with. Thank you for expressing so well the strange balance you find putting your fertility in His hands.

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  129. Christine Johnson

    Jen, I didn’t see this until today (and I was actually searching for a story you told about Christmas carols on the radio in the store your first year as a believer).

    I’m so glad for you that you have the spiritual strength to do things this way. I can tell you as someone who went another way that the pain and regret of closing that door forever hurts far worse than the temporary suffering endured during pregnancy (even a nightmare one). I tell my 14 year old (who read through my archives and found out exactly why we have no more than 2 children) that this has been the biggest regret I have in my life. There are days when the pain I’ve inflicted on myself is just about unbearable. But I hold tight to the revelation I had during Confession and remember that I’ve been forgiven. Some days that’s a thin thread, but it’s always there.

    Anyway, I’ve kept you in my prayers since you got pregnant this last time, and I’ll leave you there, so you & Joe have wisdom and guidance when you need it (no matter what you decide).

  130. Lynne

    The picture melts me. As a 44 yo mother of seven (ages 2-23), I find myself wondering if I’m done. During my last pregnancy, I it was comforting and useful(from a social standpoint) that Kelly Preston (Travolta) was pregnant at the same time…at age 48!! Because if it’s ok for a Hollywood star to be preggo at age 48, then who’s to tell me I’m strange to be pregnant at my age? Now, two years later, I wish I could say so glibly that I only have about eight more years of fertility remaining. The fact is, I don’t know what I’ve got left, and I certainly don’t know how I feel about it. I love having a two year old when all my other friends’ kids are going off to college. But could I do it again next year? It’s one of the saddest, most difficult things I have faced in my life–to do, or not to do. I mentioned Kristen Lavransdatter to you before. Kristen, more than any book I’ve ever read, captures the deep emotion of motherhood–including mourning her fading fertility. About the only progress I’ve made in life is finding peace about being open to life. While I might not want to seek out pregnancy now, or again, I’m at least not in fear of “what if”. If it happens, it happens. We won’t regret it, no matter how old. Babies have a way of making up for everything else–as your picture perfectly illustrates.

  131. Amy

    Wow, what a beautiful and true post! And the truely inspiring part? Look at all the wonderfully supportive people who have commented! I need more of this, the whole world needs more of this!
    I am currently expecting our sixth child and have had no medical problems with any pregnancy thus far but I am beginning to feel older and fragile and I try not to think about the (relatively small but real) risk that comes from childbirth. Women do still die in childbirth. It could happen to me. and while I do not fear death, I often think of what life would be like for my husband and children if I was to leave this world. Thank you all for inspiring me.

    • Michelle

      Yeah, women do die from child birth, but guess what? Its not your portion. No matter what you see now during pregnancy, its just a norm that happens considering your age and number of children you got.

      Be good and we will love to hear how it goes with you.


  132. Briana

    We do NFP badly too! Hence our 4th baby being born 8 months from now. We are not allowed to teach NFP to people wanting to avoid pregnancy. That’s how we got baby #3 too.

  133. Barbara

    I am the mother of 5 boys & 1 girl, all born about 18 months apart. Nursing seemed to be a natural ‘baby spacer’ since when the baby started more solids about 9 months old, I became pregnant again. We welcomed each one gladly and I am glad to see this site, since it seems to me that not very many women have the ‘maternal’ hormone anymore. Even when mine were young (30 yrs ago), I got looks & the rudest of questions!!
    So I would like to say, God Bless to all you young mothers out there who love & welcome all their many babies!!

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