Right from the start, Jackson and I knew that we wanted kids. There was no question about it, we were both crazy about children and knew we wanted to start a family, sooner rather than later. About four months after we got married we felt like I was supposed to stop hormonal birth control and use "natural" family planning methods. Let me be very clear that I do not think that the birth control issue is black and white. Our decision to stop using the pill was something we felt was right for us to do and that the Lord had laid on our hearts. I do not think this applies to all couples in all seasons of life. Right now, I'm still nursing and fully devoted to a 7 month old who keeps me busy, so I'm back on the pill because it would not be our choice to conceive again right now. Nursing also makes "natural" family planning very difficult, if not impossible.
During our first year of marriage, we would talk fairly regularly about having a baby. We both wanted to, but we knew we needed to a wait a while. We were both finishing our senior year of college and knew that we would need to find a job and things like that. We were thinking that we would start trying around graduation time. During this time we prayed that the Lord would show us His perfect timing and that we would cooperate with whatever He had in mind for our family. Around February, three months before our "plan", Jackson came up to me after church and said, "It's time. We are supposed to have a baby." I was pretty suprised. I was like "Are you sure? Do you feel like this is from the Lord?" He said he felt like the Holy Spirit was nudging him and that we were supposed to have a baby. We both prayed about and after about a day I had a peace about it and felt really excited that the Lord was leading our family through my husband.
The rest is history :) We found out I was pregnant mid-March and we were ecstatic. We had been married 10 months. That same month Jackson had his first fundraiser for his ministry position and it was clear that God was going to provide for our needs. We were so happy. Parks was born nine months later and we could not be crazier about him. We are also certain that it was God's plan for him to be born when he was and that we were following His leading.
In terms of future children, we definitely want more. People ask me how many children I want and I tell them 3-5. I'll just have to see how we do after each one. In terms of when...we're not sure. We're not in a financial position to have more at this moment (you'll read more on my thoughts about this below). I also am really enjoying Parks as a baby and I don't want to miss out on his babyhood by being preoccupied or stressed about another baby on the way. So if I had to guess, I'd say baby #2 might be on it's way sometime in 2010, putting them about 2-2.5 years apart. But who knows? God is totally in control and he could suprise us tomorrow! But those are our plans right now and we will prayerfully submit them to the Lord.
That is our story. If I had to give advice to couples on this issue, these are my thoughts:
- God is in control of everything all the time, despite what we plan. This includes family planning. I think it is important to maintain a submissive spirit to the Lord's sovereignty in this area. It is easy to think that we are the ones in control thanks to contraceptives but really, God is in control. This doesn't mean you have to have a "quiver full" mentality. But it does mean we need to humbly submit our plans to Him, knowing that He is the one who determines our path and it may be different than what we think is best.
- Examine your reasons for wanting to have children or not wanting to have children. I think this is helpful to get you and your spouse on the same page. Are you having children because they are cute or because you want to enhance your life? Are you having children because you want to teach little people about Jesus? Are you having children because you want to selflessly pour yourself into another human being? It's just good to think about and discuss with your spouse. If you don't desire children, try to figure out why. It may be a prudent decision based on your current situation, or it may be a selfishness that may need to be examined between you and God.
- Evaluate your financial situation. I hear all the time, "We'll have a baby when we can afford it." Meanwhile, the couple is living in a very comfortable house/condo/apt spending money on dinners out, concerts, etc. If you can go out to eat and spend money on new clothes, concerts, and starbucks...you can afford a baby. You do not have to have the child's college trust fully funded before they are born! Now, I'm not saying babies aren't expensive, they are. But to some extent they are as expensive as you make them. You will likely need roughly $1,500 for a hospital bill (this was close to what we paid, but it will vary depending on your insurance/hospital, etc) and then about $50/month for diapers if you do disposables. If you formula feed, this monthly cost will go up significantly. Most people are blessed with baby showers that help them with a lot of the basic needs for a baby. Also, consignment stores are a huge help! I've bought toys for Parks that are in great condition that would have cost me 3x as much at Target if I had bought them new. The bottom line is: if you have a safe place to live, if you can afford food, gas and the essentials in life and have about $75/month to spend on the baby, you can afford a baby. Now, if you cannot afford food, you don't have a place to live and you really do not have an extra $75 a month....you should probably wait to have a baby. I firmly believe in being a good steward of what God has blessed you with and if you are really struggling financially it would probably not be prudent to further strain your resources with a baby. However, God always provides for his children and if you unexpectedly get pregnant and are in a bad financial situation, I believe God will provide and help get you through.
- Pray. This is the most important thing I could tell anyone to do. You have to pray and ask the Lord to reveal his perfect will to your family. Tell him that you want to honor him in growing your family and you want to be in accordance with his plan. He will gladly answer this prayer! I would pray together as a couple and separately and then see if you both are getting any sort of answer from the Lord. It may be "yes, it's time" or it may be "wait". Either way, the feeling of walking in obedience to God's plan, even if it doesn't make sense to you or if it isn't what your parents or friends think is best, is the best way to live. If you follow him, he will never let you down.