Do you remember Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk from October 2011 General Conference? I do. It hit me hard and was actually kind of a thorn in my side for a little while. During October 2008, I was pregnant with our second child, and our first was about 18 months old. I always imagined that we would just have kids one after another, but when October 2011 rolled around, and our second daughter was two and a half I couldn’t help but feel like we had missed something somewhere.
I believe in having children. I believe that is is a personal decision, to be made between a husband, his wife, and the Lord, but I believe in having children – and I don’t believe in postponing childbearing or ending childbearing for selfish reasons. I believe in having faith in following the commandments of God, and one of those commandments I believe in is bearing children.
“THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”
Bearing children is not something we do because we worked hard enough and because we got a good enough job and we have a nice house and we’ll be able to give our children all of the worldly comforts of this life. Bearing children is something we do to raise children to the Lord. It’s not about raising geniuses, raising star football players, raising world class musicians, or anything of the sort. Bearing children is about teaching our spirit brothers and sisters how to believe, have faith, and act so that they can return to live with Heavenly Father some day. How we do that, how they do that is an extremely personal matter, and I believe our Father will help us in that monumental responsibility. Parenting – bearing and raising children – is a sacrifice we make. A sacrifice we covenanted to make. We sacrifice worldly things for the opportunity to bring souls back to Heavenly Father. I’ve written before about the Mission-Motherhood Parallel – just as our young adult brothers and sisters sacrifice up to two years of their lives to bring souls back to Heavenly Father, our job as parents is to do the same thing – the sacrifice is longer, the work is harder, but the payoff is the same – souls are brought to Heavenly Father.
Back to my General Conference thorn (Elder Andersen’s talk). During General Conference I write down directives – things that the General Authorities specifically instruct us to do, and more personally, things I feel prompted to do by the Spirit. After Conference I go through my notes and make a list of those “directives”. This year I put a star next to each directive for each time it appeared in my notes. After “go to the temple” (which had about 5 stars) and “read my patriarchal blessing” and “study the Daughters in My Kingdom manual”, the only other thing I felt multiple times was “have more babies”.
Prior to General Conference I had mentioned having more children (in passing) to my husband. He seemed uncomfortable with the thought – his words, “I feel like I would be ungrateful if I wanted to have more kids, since Heavenly Father has already blessed me with these two perfect children.”
After conference I wrote about Elder Andersen’s talk, and I mentioned that the choice to have babies is not just between husband and the Lord, or the wife and the Lord – it’s a three way decision. That means that just because I felt like we needed to have more babies did not mean that we would have more babies right away. My husband had to feel the same way.
I prayed about having more babies, and I felt an urgency that was hard to ignore. I was hesitant to discuss my feelings with my husband, so I kept the feelings to myself, praying fervently that my husband would eventually feel the urgency that I felt. Weeks passed. Months passed. I couldn’t shake that feeling that we needed to have babies, but every time I mentioned having more kids I got the same response from my husband. Finally, he said, “Well, let me think about it for a while.” (for him that means “let me pray about it” – though he won’t always admit it). More weeks went by, and finally, he told me he was ready – he felt like we should have more kids.
I was so excited. Finally!
But there was one problem. He was gone every few weeks for a week or two at a time, and his timing was impeccable (in the bad way). Those few months were really hard for me, as each opportunity passed for me to get pregnant, and there was no way. When he was home for a few weeks at one point I had an emotional breakdown. Sobbing into his arms I said, “All I want is a house full of children!” When we were dating and engaged and newlywed, my husband used to say we were going to have a hundred children (and he wasn’t exaggerating!). He and I both had plans to foster, adopt, and birth our own children – a hundred of them – as many as we had room for – and we feel like we have room for as many as need a home.
I am a fertile woman, and the past few years since my daughter was about one I have felt guilty for not having more children. This might sound strange, but it was really hard for me to be physically able to bear children and not actually be able to get pregnant for reasons other than physical ability (or even temporal preparedness).
Often, we have endless compassion for women who want to have children but struggle with infertility. We understand that it’s not their choice not to have children. But what about women who would have dozens of children but can’t for other reasons (whatever those reasons may be)? Do we have as much compassion for women like me, who are completely fertile and in a great (temporal) position to have children (healthy, husband has a good job, great health insurance, roomy home to fill with children) but can’t for reasons other than infertility? I’ll tell you – before I had this experience I wouldn’t have had as much compassion for someone like me.
Elder Anderson said,
“We go forward in faith—realizing the decision of how many children to have and when to have them is between a husband and wife and the Lord. We should not judge one another on this matter.” (emphasis added)
I’ve been learning that the experiences in my life have been teaching me how to have compassion for people who I would have judged. Maybe I’m not as compassionate as I thought I am.
And now, if you haven’t already figured it out, I’m writing this post because we’re expecting baby #3! That’s why I’ve been a little MIA lately – morning sickness and fatigue have overcome me, and because I have been wanting this for so long, so I waited a little longer than normal to tell anyone besides close family and friends (I’m one of those tell-everyone-as-soon-as-the-test-is-positive people). I felt like keeping it to myself for a little while this time, enjoying the blessing that it is, and spending lots of time in prayer and thanksgiving for the patience and compassion I was taught in waiting for this.
Have you had to wait for something that you desperately wanted, but was out of your control? Have you had to experience waiting for children – whether because of infertility or any other reason that was beyond your control? Have you found yourself judging others because of what you may have thought was their choice, but you later discovered was out of their control?