The topic of contraception and "how many children to have" came up again today in a conversation I had with a mom. I've never written about my problem with having these conversations before, but I say "again" because it inevitable happens whenever I speak to a non Catholic or nonpracticing Catholic mom. I really don't know why people have the need to talk about their family plans and means of sterilization with anyone and everyone, but they do and it bothers me. It's not just a mom thing either. My husband says all his coworkers who are in their baby making years talk about it a lot too. So both men and women who are nonpracticing Catholics apparently obsess over how many kids they are going to have and how to avoid having anymore.
I remember one particularly awkward discussion about "how many kids" at a small get together my husband and I were invited to. There we were in the middle of yet another discussion about "should we have another baby". One couple was undecided after having only one, the other couples said two is enough for them, some single people were silent and then there's us. My husband and I were trying to stay out of the conversation for the same reason: we hate this conversation because we never know what to say. I remember the stiffness in my entire body when someone asked us how many we were going to have- after being pregnant with our third. We laughed nervously. I'm usually the first to answer questions, but I wasn't going to say anything to his friends about this. My husband goes, "I don't know" and kisses me on the lips. Thankfully one person said, "I think that is so sweet." because I'm sure everyone else in the room was thinking were were from outer space. We left soon after.
The truth is we don't know how many kids we are having. We have as many as God wills, darn it. There's no burden when you are not the one making the decision. Of course it's up to my husband and I to discern God's will, but that conversation stays between my husband and God and I. The more I think about it, the more I see how it really is a burden to be the one making such a huge decision. It's not wonder they bring it up so often with everyone they see. They must be so torn that they are searching for answers anywhere they can find them. This is why I really wish I could be of more help when the topic comes up. I wish I could have told my friend today something really spectacular when she said they are not having any more kids (after two) and that her husband is getting fixed soon. My usual response is saying that my husband and I practice NFP. In this case, I was looking for something better to say, but after several failed attempts (in my head) I didn't end up saying anything and she moved on to another topic before I could get out my trusty old NFP line. Oh well, that line never gets me the type of response I hope it will. I've used that response in my old mom's group a few times after the "how many" topic arose. I envision many eager, open moms, wanting to learn more about NFP, and how they can be more open to life. No. No one ever asks me any questions when I use that line, they just start slowing backing away from me and start conversations elsewhere. That's when I come up with some lame excuse to leave.
I really wish this topic didn't bother me so much and that I could embrace such opposition to my beliefs as a chance to evangelize, but I have a hard time coming up with the right thing to say. Maybe I'm too immature in my faith, or lacking in my knowledge of Catholic teaching. I know I have read some really good things on this topic, but when the conversation arises, I'm always at a loss for words. I want to say something that shows I care about them and understand their situation. I try not to be judgemental because I know how foreign these concepts are to non Catholics. I don't blame them for not knowing any other way. It's just that I don't know how to even begin showing them another way- besides of course being a living example. Being a living example is all good, but I always feel like I should say something or it will look like I am silently agreeing with them. Being confrontational is a very easy way of ending any lines of communications or friendship. So what's a girl to do?
Dear reader, please leave me a comment and let me know what you say in these situations. Do you say something even when no one asks you? Or do you just do what I did and stay silent? What do you say and how do you speak without sounding condescending or judgemental?
For a much better post written on this topic, please read my NFP post I wrote last year.