“Rabbits?” We’re never supposed to be like animals

There’s so many reasons NOT to get overly excited over every little thing that Pope Francis says. First of all, he’s just expressing his own opinion–not everything that any pope says is actually “infallible” unless explicitly spoken “ex cathedra” (more on that here). Secondly, the media is always misconstruing what’s being said! It’s useless going into a frenzy unless you take the time to really read the text and context of whatever the Pope says.

"like rabbits?" photo by Andre Mouraux via flickr

“like rabbits?”
photo by Andre Mouraux via flickr

In this case, was he saying we shouldn’t be open to large families? Was he saying that NFP should always be used to avoid? No, he said that the Church doesn’t require people to constantly have children. He was saying that we are human beings, called to exercise responsible parenting. In context: the Church doesn’t say the poor in the Philippines have to have children–then he adds that the poor in the Church often see children as their greatest treasure. It’s beautiful!

Once again, Simcha Fisher has provided great explanations and some of the full text to provide context.

About the Pope’s “don’t be like rabbits” remark

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Things you don’t say to couples with few or no kids

We’re often running across the articles and blogs that list rude questions and comments that people get when they’re expecting their third, fourth… sixth… eighth, or more. This one of “snappy answers” from Simcha Fisher is pretty funny. And a simple web search turns up many more like this one from Mindy Peltier or this one from The Stir. I enjoy these answers–and I’d love to have the opportunity to use them, but I receive a different kind of questioning and prodding.

There’s also lists of what not to say to single people. But what about the families with few children? Especially in Catholic circles, tongues wag when you don’t have a honeymoon baby or a new baby every 2 years or less.

Without further ado, here’s some things you may have said to a couple without thinking it through gleaned from my own experience and those of others. We know many of you don’t mean it the way it comes across, but here’s how your comments and questions come across to us.

To the newlyweds (a few months into their marriage):

cradle

Often, we are ready from our hearts to our nurseries, and still we are asked to wait. photo credit: Cory Marchand, flickr.com/photos/marchands

1. “We didn’t conceive our first month. I was crying, thinking I might not be fertile.”

A month?! One month?! Try month, after month, after month, year, after year, and test, after test, after surgery, after test…

2. “Don’t be afraid of having kids; be open to life!”

Okay, some people need to hear this, but for others, it breaks their heart…again. All some of us want to do is scream “We are OPEN! We are TRYING! We WANT children!” But instead, we smile and nod…and fight back a tear.

3. “So you’re waiting to have kids?”

We aren’t, but God seems to be. And also, is it really any of your business? If we had serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, we probably wouldn’t want to share it with you.

4. “So-and-so just got pregnant on their honeymoon, isn’t that great?”

Yes, it is. And I am happy for them, but be sensitive when you say it pointedly to someone who clearly didn’t get pregnant right away. Little do you know, but I already have crib bedding and maternity clothes ready to go!

5. “I bet your mom is ready to be a grandma!” Or: “Give me some grandkids!”

Yes, and I’m even more ready to be a mom. I want nothing more than to have your grandkids; I want them to know their grandparents and enjoy many years with them… What do I need to tell you? We’re trying!

6. “You’re not getting any younger, you know.”

Oh thanks, you think I don’t hear my biological clock ticking? Really?

7. “Just stop trying and it’ll happen”

Now, in this case, you know we’re open, but haven’t a clue what really having to try for years at a time is like. So, thanks, I never knew it was so easy… I guess I didn’t need all those tests, diets, shots, and surgeries…

 

The empty swing we wish could be filled. photo credit: Jenny Downing via flickr

The empty swing we wish could be filled.
photo credit: Jenny Downing via flickr

Think before saying these things to people with only a few children and those spaced far apart:

1. “So you’re an attachment parent? I hear that helps with child-spacing.”

Implied: “so you’re not doing birth control, but trying everything else you can to space them far apart.”

Well, yes, I may be an attachment parent, but it has nothing to do with wanting to space my children. Little do you know where I’m at with trying to conceive (desperately). I choose my parenting based on what works best for my family, and that doesn’t change the fact that I want a large family.

2. “Your baby is almost 2? Time for another one!”

Again, believe me, you’re not the only one who thinks so. I long for children close together and I long for my darling child to have a sibling. What should I do, show you my charts to let you know we’re doing everything we can?

3. “You’re not stopping because you have your boy and your girl, are you?”

Of course, this one is the converse of the question most people expecting their third or fourth are likely to hear a lot. It doesn’t make it less hurtful coming from the other side of the coin.

4. “Kids aren’t that expensive, have another one!”

Oh thanks, you’ve convinced me, I’ll try. (You know what is expensive? Fertility testing, charting consultations, etc., we’d much rather be having the kids!)

5. “Seven years between your kids? I like having mine closer in age.”

Implied: are you crazy? What kind of birth control were you on?

Little do you know, but that woman had three miscarriages in those seven years before finally one of the sweet babies made it to birth. On this front, especially, you need to be sensitive. Did you know that 10-25% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage? The odds are pretty good that any woman whom you speak to has experienced the loss of an unborn baby at some point.

6. “The Lord blesses people who are open to life by giving them children.”

Implied: What sins have you committed so that the Lord isn’t giving you a new baby every couple years?

This one is particularly hurtful, and more often than not, it isn’t said directly to the parents of one, two, or none, but is spread around the grapevine in even more uncharitable terms. You want to know the truth? Everyone has their own cross to bear, and being open to life but asked to bear the cross of infertility, subfertility, or secondary infertility? That is a huge sacrifice, and hopefully an opportunity to grow closer to God’s love, but we can still use the support and understanding of others.

In the end, we all need to remember not to judge, Family size does NOT equal birth control usage and the Catechism (CCC 2477-2478) reminds us:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.

Have your own rude questions you’ve heard or received? How do you respond? How do you keep from judging harshly in return?

MrsF3 and Family is on twitter: https://twitter.com/MrsF3andF and Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mrsf3