What do you do when you desperately want more children, but your husband says he’s done?
Every Monday I like to take a reader question and try to answer it, and today’s is a woman in pain over the loss of the dreams of future kids. She writes:
And I don’t really have an easy answer. So I’m just going to tell you my story, and I hope that it will help you.
Sometimes a story is all we have, so here’s mine.
I miscarried my first baby. I was a wreck for about a month. Then I got pregnant with Rebecca, who was born happy and healthy, though I worried about her through that whole pregnancy.
Christopher was born next. He was born with a severe heart defect and lived only 29 days.
Shortly after he passed away we got pregnant with Katie. If I was nervous with Rebecca, I was a wreck during Katie’s pregnancy. Plus, she was my third baby in two and a half years. My body was tired. Labour was awful, and she was huge, and I didn’t want to ever have to worry like that again, so afterwards Keith and I decided pretty adamantly, “no more.”
Katie didn’t sleep much, but she did love to be cuddled, which was exactly what I needed. Life was good. And we assumed that when the girls were around 7 and 5 we’d adopt two children. That was always the plan: to adopt a sibling group.
So when Katie was 2, Keith wanted to get a vasectomy. I didn’t have a logical reason to say no, because we were going to adopt and I really didn’t want to go through labour again. But I hesitated, and on the day of his appointment I asked him not to go.
Six months later he made another appointment. Again, I couldn’t come up with a reason to say no. He kept asking me, “But you don’t want any more children, right?” He went through with it. Our biological family was complete.
Four years later I changed my mind.
We had tried to adopt. I don’t want to go into too many details, but there was a sibling group we were interested in, and we realized it couldn’t work for us. It doesn’t matter why. It just no longer was part of the plan.
I had never intended to only have two children to raise. And by this time I felt I could handle another labour, and I could emotionally handle the thought that something might go wrong again. I really wanted a baby.
Keith, however, did not. He liked our life. The girls were awesome, we were having so much fun homeschooling, and we didn’t need another child.
For three years I battled in prayer about this. I remember journalling, “what haunts me is the fact that this will be the biggest regret of my life; that I will go to my grave wishing I had had more children.”
During this time I was also speaking more. I was starting to write; my first book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, was published. I was often gone on weekends giving women’s retreats, and I did love it. But I knew so many people with big families, and I wanted that for me.
One night, while speaking at a retreat, I heard something from God.
Basically it was about how I had wanted more kids, but God was going to give me an influence far beyond just one more child, and I shouldn’t mourn what I don’t have, but instead look at what He is doing now.
That was around ten years ago.
And you know what? I don’t mourn the kids I didn’t have anymore.
Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid 40s now and getting pregnant isn’t as easy or as healthy. Maybe it’s because I really do enjoy the life that I have, and I love speaking. Maybe it’s because my girls have both grown up well and I so enjoy them, and now I’m looking forward more to grandkids one day. I don’t know. But that pain in my heart, which was once so great, has really vanished.
God doesn’t only want big families
Part of what made my wrestling worse was that I had been reading all kinds of blogs and books from I guess what you would call the “quiverfull” movement that said that since all children were a blessing from God, we should try to have as many as possible.
I believed that. I believed that larger families were more in line with God’s desires than smaller ones. I would look at my friends who had 8 kids and think, “If they had the same views that Keith and I did, then those other younger kids wouldn’t even exist.” And I would mourn those children who weren’t here. I could almost see them.
But I don’t think anymore that God only wants big families. What I see is a God who loves variety; who uses all different expressions of His love in the world to show a different side of Himself. He prompts some to have large families and some to have smaller ones, and that’s okay. My girls are following God, and our family has been used by Him. There’s nothing wrong with it.
When I was caught up in that thinking, though, I was convinced that I knew God’s will but Keith was disobeying it.
That made me see Keith as somehow less spiritual than me and in need of changing his mind. It wasn’t just that we had a difference of opinion; I was obviously right and he was wrong.
That really was toxic. I wish I had gotten over it sooner. Keith grew up in a bigger family than I did; he had a different perspective. He wanted to be able to spend a ton of time with each child, individually. I grew up an only child, and loved the idea of a whole lot of people. We simply saw it differently.
God will use you in new ways
When you have babies and preschoolers and elementary school aged children, being a mom is your main identity. It consumes so much of your time. It’s natural to want that to continue.
But as the kids grow, it really is okay if your focus changes and your dreams change.
Having a baby takes a lot of time. If you offer that time to God, to use in a new way, He will fill it with something that is rewarding and worthwhile if you start living life intentionally like that. Our role here on earth is to be part of bringing the Kingdom of God here. We do that partly through our families, but not entirely. There are important things we can do beyond motherhood. And it’s not always ministry, either! Even in paid work we can expand the kingdom. We can work ethically. We can provide truly good service that helps others. We can create a product that solves a major problem. We can, in our daily interactions, bring peace and love to others. It does matter.
God will give you new dreams
God gave me new dreams, and replaced the ones that haunted me. I think He can do that with you, too. Yes, right now, you may feel huge disappointment that feels as if it will never go away. But that’s not necessarily true. So much depends on how you act from here on out. Are you going to focus on only one way of spreading the kingdom and finding meaning in life and serving? Or can you open your horizons to see that there may be other things that God will use you for?
Don’t get caught up in “But this must be God’s will…”
That doesn’t help anybody. And too often we think, “I’ve missed out on God’s best and now everything else will only be second best.” But did you miss out?
Your husband is here, right now. Don’t pull back from him for a baby who doesn’t actually exist right now, except in your dreams. Don’t pull back from the kids you have now, or lean on them too hard for emotional support, and miss out on the joy that God wants you to feel everyday for those that you do have.
And God does want you to love your husband. Can you trust that God still has a big life for you, even if it doesn’t look like what you wanted?
That’s my story. I’d love to hear some of yours! Did you struggle with disappointment over not having more children (or not having any children at all?) How did God help heal that disappointment (or are you still on the journey?) Let’s talk in the comments!