I had the opportunity to talk with my husband's uncle and aunt at a party recently. They have two beautiful daughters about 15 months apart who are now grown-up, successful adults (one is a doctor, but chooses to be home to mother her four children and the other is an attorney with her own practice). Craig's aunt mentioned that there had been times she had wished they might have tried for one more child. Through the discussion, I mentioned that when Craig and I have discussed our family, God's plan for how large it should be and such, one thing we've tried to keep in mind was that we would never regret having another child...but we might regret not being open to another child. Both his uncle and aunt nodded and said that was a wise way to look at it, based on their experience. These two people were/are very successful in their own careers and about to retire. They enjoy their four grandchildren as much as any grandparents ever did and I'm fairly certain that they don't have much to regret, but even if they did have a slight regret about their family size - it is just that - slight and most likely fleeting.
But as I think about our family and where we stand today, with four active children and number 5 kicking away at my ribs, I think about my chances to regret....and am surprised to find that I really don't regret much.
I do not regret my nervous discussion with Craig just about 11 years ago when I said I thought maybe we should try to have a baby. Having children wasn't really on our radar when we got married, and I was relieved that the most resistance I received from Craig was, "But...I thought we weren't gonna do that."
When Sarah came along, our lives changed dramatically. What was important before her took a back seat to what was important now. Particularly, Sarah's baptism into the Catholic faith was a major turning point for Craig and me to get down to business on knowing our faith so that we could pass it on to her. I am not sure I could ever convey to Sarah just how very important she has been to her parents. I'm quite certain that our acceptance of her was the catalyst to our acceptance to all the Grace and Blessings that could be bestowed on two people in the Sacrament of Marriage.
I could probably write a post per child explaining the non-regret I have for each of them. They have all brought something new and necessary to our family. Watching them grow up together brings me more joy than any earthly experience I could ever imagine.
I do not regret my nervous discussion with Craig just about 10 years ago when I broached the subject of learning Natural Family Planning (NFP), which opened the doors to learning the Church's unwavering teaching regarding marriage and sexuality. I do not regret tossing those pills, learning how to read my body's signals through its ongoing cycles, and giving a gift of my total self to my husband in our marriage. That decision has been a waterfall of love and grace pouring down on my life, blessing me in my husband's love and devotion, showering me in plentiful hugs and kisses from my babies, and gifting me beyond measure as my children grow up into people who continue to teach me. Without a doubt, the blessing of NFP in our marriage has been a savior of sorts...much like I cannot imagine where my life might have gone without Sarah entering into it, I cannot imagine what my life would be without NFP.
I do not regret putting our children in our parish's school. While every education choice and decision comes with its ups and downs, our school has been a place of spiritual growth and cultivation for our children. Our parish is a place I flee to when I need to confess and cling to when I need to pray. We are so blessed by everyone we encounter at Mass, social gatherings, meetings and school functions. There was a time in my life when if I had been asked if I would place my children in a Catholic school, I probably would have answered doubtfully. (Maybe someday I'll write about that. Maybe not.) Truth be told, it took a VERY special place to turn my heart around on the subject, and I thank the Lord every day, for our parish and school, providing a place for my children to grow in love of Christ, learn beyond perceived potential and a place where they can daily express the deepest desires of their heart to be close to our Lord and His Blessed Mother.
When we moved 5 months ago, I was going through a closet and found a piece of paper on which I had written goals over the next five years back in 2001. Of course, we're now 10 years past that, but it struck me funny how even in 2001, while I was expecting my first child and much of my worldview hadn't changed from before her conception...that the path I constructed with these goals still lined up with what had happened over those five years.
One of the goals was that we'd have three kids. That one made me smile...because apparently, as soon as I grasped the idea of a blessing of one child, I jumped immediately to three (but it was clear from the goals I wrote, that three was the max...in 2001, at least). One of the goals was to have completed my MBA. One of the goals was to have met a certain salary requirement.
Amazingly, even though I'd forgotten about this slip of paper with these 5-year-plan goals...I had met all of them. We had Dani in 2003 and Helen in 2006 (3 kids in 5 years). I graduated with my MBA in 2003. And I had attained the salary that I had set out to attain by the year 2004.
My only sort-of-sad observation was that none of these goals I had written had anything to do with my spiritual life or growing deeper in my faith.
Maybe what I should take from it is this: It was never up to me in the first place.
Even though I didn't set out at any one point in time to get closer to God, I was still pulled in that direction. And quite possibly the reason I don't regret anything I have written about here, is because I can see how it's all led to the one place I want to be more than anything...closer to being in union with God.