One of those Big Catholic Families

I don’t know when it was that my family became one of those Big Catholic Families. I only remember realizing that other women might be looking at me the way I looked at those other mothers of Big Catholic Families, and could they see what a fraud I was? I am simply not like those other women, who all seem so prayerful, content, proud of their lives, really devout models of motherhood for all of us, right?

Then I realized, maybe they aren’t like that either. They seem like models of perfected motherhood, but maybe their kids drive them crazy, or maybe they try not to regret that they can’t do more in that career that they loved, or they also are frightened each time they find themselves pregnant again.

Several babies ago I was done, as we hear so many moms say. I was dealing with postpartum depression, a houseful of toddlers, family difficulties, and a vision of the future as years of the same chaos. I thought I made it clear to God that I had done more than my share in His procreation thing. But when He brought the next pregnancies – and as many miscarriages as deliveries – I understood that I might have been done, but God wasn’t, and I let Him take over for me. He got me through those struggles, even turning the struggles into joys, or at least helping me see the joy after the struggle.

My husband and I aren’t the best example of a modern understanding of the Church’s teaching on natural family planning, if you consider NFP a way to prevent pregnancies. But if you consider that the purpose of God’s plan for your body and your marriage is to share in His plan, and that NFP helps in that sharing, it has been a gift for me and my husband. We don’t do very well with sympto-thermal stuff, it’s true, but we’ve been forced to cling to each other through the struggles, finding joy in what we didn’t plan but God gave us anyway.

So I’m not one of those holy mothers of Big Catholic Families, because the mother who is constantly and consistently holy – well, there was only one, and her only child was God. I find comfort in knowing that I’m not the only one who actually has to work to reach peace in my life. I’ve had to struggle to accept God’s will and I continue to struggle to become closer to Him, just like every other woman out there. If we as women can look at each other and remember that we each have different challenges and choices, that this isn’t easy for anyone, no matter how easy it looks for some, maybe we can help each other more in our journeys to Christ.

Submitted from Virginia

One thought on “One of those Big Catholic Families

  1. I really appreciate this post. Thank you for being honest. So often, I think that Catholic women are made to feel like we cannot be honest about the struggles of living the Faith handed down to us. Though I can’t prove this, I think that’s why many women either leave or don’t accept the Faith in its fullness, because they feel like in admitting that they are struggling or suffering that they are failures as Catholic women.

    It is important to keep in mind just how hard it has become to live the Faith. Asking women today to forego contraception is like asking them not to drive a car, have a credit card, or go to college: it’s asking them to step totally outside of what is considered normative when one has basic, middle class aspirations. And that is hard, and it is lonely, and one can sometimes question one’s sanity for doing it. And, as we all know, it’s not as if we can cling to one another as Catholics, since most Catholics are using contraception and think that Catholics who do not are weird, quirky, and backward.

    It is easy to see the tension here. On the one hand, we want more Catholic families to live the faith. On the other hand, we want Catholic women to know that they can be honest about the hardship and sacrifice that living the faith entails. Let us not sacrifice one for the other, but embrace the tension that lives at the heart of Christian life: that love is sacrifice, and there is joy in the cross.


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