The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Emily: Welcome back to another episode of Risen Motherhood. I'm Emily Jensen here, with my sister-in-law Laura Wifler. Some of you guys might be new listeners, and we wanted to do a really quick shout out. We try not to do this very often but every once in awhile, we remind you guys that one of the best ways to get the word out about Risen Motherhood and everything that we talk about on the show, is to leave us a rating and review on iTunes. They have these complex algorithms that we don't totally understand, but it definitely helps other people find the show. Many of you have already done this and we are so grateful.
We're always blown away and completely humbled when we read them and are rejoicing about what God is doing through this podcast. So if you haven't done that yet, if you would consider taking five minutes because I think it takes just a few minutes to do that for us. There's also a tutorial on our website, risenmotherhood.com. We always get little questions about how to do it and Laura has already prepped that for you. That would be super awesome. Today, we are talking about another follow up question from "Ask Us Anything" show, although we've been mulling about doing this topic for a very long time.
Laura: Yes. We're excited today to talk a little bit about family planning. I think some of the questions from the "Ask Us Anything" show really revolved around, how you decided to have more children. “Did you guys start out with knowing what your family would look like or did you change as it went along?” There are so many questions when you're planning your family. It's a complicated topic and a complicated question to answer.
There are things like, “How long after getting married do we have kids? What kind of birth control do we use? Do we need to be out of debt? How long do we wait for spacing? What if your husband and you want different things? What about foster care? What about adoption? What if we're not able to have children? “ And that fear that can come with infertility and how that plays into things. I mean, whoa! Right?
It's a lot happening in our minds and in our hearts, and then in conversations with your husband. We’re not going to answer all of those questions today, but we're going to try to bring some Biblical principles into it, and offer you guys some solid questions to get you those conversations going in your homes.
Emily: So to get started, we're going to jump right in here today with some personal stories. To share where Laura and I are at, and what our journeys have been mainly because they've actually been pretty different. We both have experienced some unexpected things in our family planning journey that have caused us to change things and to think about things in different ways.
So, real quick: Our story is we got married and we thought that, “Oh yes! We’ll wait five years to have kids.”That was just kind of a default. I don't think we had any real reason why we picked that number. My husband maybe wanted to go to grad school, and he had all these career goals and that's what we were going to do.
We set out on that path. And not too long into marriage, I started having some negative side effects to the type of birth control we were using and so we got off of that. As we started to research, it opened up this whole box of information that we had not previously processed through at all. Things like, "What does the Bible say about this? What are some of the different implications of family planning styles?" As we were doing that, we felt like God really worked in our hearts and showed us, that for us, we really didn't have any good reasons to be avoiding children except for things that were rooted in cultural ideals or our own selfishness. We pretty quickly after that said, “Okay Lord. Well, we'll try to start a family.” We weren't really sure how that would all turn out but after we had our first son, we just loved being parents way more than we ever imagined.
In that process again, God just started working in our hearts and I have tons of details, if you ever get a chance to sit over coffee with me about this, about how it all happened, but in my husband's heart, in my heart, he was working individually to cause both of us to desire a larger than average family. Somehow, at some point, we became very unified in that. And around that time, when we were still like, “Should we commit to this or not?” we found out we're pregnant with twins. And so it went forward from there.
We said, “Okay. We're pretty committed to this. We feel like God is calling our family into this vision. We know it's weird and we know it's going to require an insane amount of sacrifice.” But much like what people think when they start going to medical school to become a doctor, they're like, “I'm so passionate about being a doctor that I'm willing to go through all this crazy sacrifice,” we have felt that way about having a large family from the beginning.
Laura: I remember one time talking to you about it. I was like, “How do you deal with all the pregnancies so fast?” and you totally said something along those lines: “I see the long-term goal. I see the long-term vision and so I'm willing to put the work in now.” And it actually was a revelation to me because I think that happens to a lot of people, honestly. These childbearing years are tough and so were like, “It's hard and I'm done having kids.” I have always admired that about you and my brother. That you guys have really pressed through because you see this beautiful vision of a huge dinner table of 18-year oldish kids. It’s fun.
Emily: That is exactly what - my husband - don't get him started about his vision. But we really encourage each other on hard days. I always say, “Honey, don't ask me about the next kid when I'm in the middle of this pregnancy. I’ll think about that later.” But yes, that's the road we've been on. I'm pregnant with our fifth child now. But we do, I just wanted to mention, take it one child at a time. People always ask us, “Well, how many kids are you going to have?” Maybe they observe that we have six barstools at our island. The reality is, we don't know. We have a child who's got some developmental things. There are always factors we consider every time we pray about it and make sure we're moving forward for the right reasons.
So that's where we're at. Laura your story is little different. I’m excited for you to share.
Laura: Yes. Different. My husband and I, when we were first married, were always in the "about three kids" camp. We wanted to wait the requisite five years. I don't know why that's such a popular number but it seems to be, before we had kids.
Over the course of the beginning of our marriage, God really grew in our hearts to adopt and desiring to add to our family in that way, even prior to having children. And so if you want to listen to the "Adoption and the Gospel" episode, you can find more of our story specific to that over there. Basically, I was on birth control and we went on a little trip to Europe. I got a little bit sick and ended up in the hospital in Prague and then I ended up back in the hospital in the US. I was on some antibiotics for about a month. Apparently, antibiotics null and void or at least, weaken the effects of birth control.
Emily: Oops! [laughter]
Laura: I didn’t know that. So anyway, we got pregnant and to be very honest, it was really hard for me. I cried when I first got pregnant. It wasn't in my “plan.” I am a planner. I felt like I wanted to continue working. I had some different dreams that I wanted to fulfill. I knew God had just kind of been like, “No! You’re starting your family. Here you are.” As we did that, we immediately moved ahead and had our daughter. It was again, part of our plan to have kids close together. I was like great; it's just a little early but we're doing it. At that time, right after my daughter was born, we started the adoption process. All of these things were according to plan, even though it was an early timeline.
Well, I ended up in December of last year…God started growing in my heart a desire for a third biological child. I didn't say a word to anyone until maybe 6-8 months later because I felt like I was insane. I was crazy. I finally brought it to my husband and said, “Can you tell me to stop? To let this go?” And he did. He was like, “No!” And I said, “But you have to take four weeks to pray about it first. Then I want your answer.”
Over time, it was amazing to see how God worked in his life and changed my husband's heart through some conversations, but just giving him time to think about it. Now, as you guys all know, I am pregnant with our third biological. And just like Emily, we’re taking it one day at time. We know adoption isn't a guarantee. We know pregnancy isn't a guarantee. I don't see our family as, “Okay this is done, this is our exact final plan,” but this is the course we're on until God changes it and we're trusting him with that.
Emily: As you heard those stories, I think a lot of these biblical principles we're going to talk about are going to come out. We've already kind of addressed them, but we're going to fly over some things. If you're just starting this journey, you're like, “Wow! I've never really thought that intentionally about this before. What does God even say about this? Does the Bible take a stance on families and family size and all those things?” We're going to fly through this really quick and talk about five principles.
God Loves Life
One is that we know God loves life. He is the creator of everything. He created people. He commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. We know that God brings forth spiritual life in Jesus from dead hearts and that he longs for us to live forever. He just loves life.
God's Glory is Displayed in the Family Relationship
The second thing is that God's glory is displayed in the family relationship. Because of the Trinity, we know God is a Father and so he obviously values parenthood. He values family relationships. We image him in motherhood, in parenthood and as we carry out our role.
God is Lord Over the Womb
The third thing we wanted to mention is that God is Lord over the womb. If you skim through the Old Testament or much of any of the Bible, it seems like almost everywhere that childbirth, or getting pregnant is mentioned.
It's also mentioned that God opened the womb, or allowed that to happen. You see that that is God's hand. That although we think we have control over our bodies and our pregnancies, really it's God who does that.
God Loves Children
Four is that God loves children. He always calls them a blessing. In scripture, you don't see them spoken of like it's burdensome to have more children, “Proceed with a major caution.” [laughter] You don't see those things. It's always there. They’re a heritage. They’re a reward. They're a good thing.
It was normative for a long time and even in Israelite culture, to receive as many children as the Lord gave, within whatever those bounds were. That's not to say that's prescriptive for all of us now, but that's just something to keep in mind that that was considered a good thing.
God Wants Us To Be A Picture Of The Gospel
And the fifth thing is that God wants us to be a picture of the gospel in our lives as we enter motherhood. We do that as we sacrifice and lay down our lives so that we can nurture and give life to our children. It's just a picture of the gospel and that is why God loves families; loves children. This is part of his plan. This is a good thing.
Laura: Yes. All of this, of course being someone in the adoptive process, applies towards however your family is made up; in adoption, through maybe foster care, blended family, multigenerational. Families look really different and that is God's grace to us that we can form families through relationship and not just through sharing the same D.N.A. Part of that is a mercy because of the fall, I suppose, getting into the creation for redemption piece here.
Unfortunately, the fall brought in sin, pain, death, complications. So when we are thinking about having children, we have to consider the way that the fall impacts this. Sometimes our fertility is compromised, or the safety of a birth experience is - really unsafe actually. What are some of those lasting health impacts that we have with children, both psychological, the emotional toll of it? Your age; certain risks can happen from that.
There are a lot of decisions to take into account, based off of some of the things that happen simply because the fall entered the world. But, with redemption there are so many different pieces.. One beautiful thing that we want to make really clear is that no family type should be idolized. That's because we are no longer under the law. There is no ability for you to earn holiness in front of the Lord because you have as many children as the Lord allows, or because you stopped at two and you were really wise with your financials.
However that may look to you or justify to you, it does not earn you favor in God's eyes because we are fully accepted by God only through the love of Jesus. We can’t have pride in whatever choice that we make, as long as we are clear in our conscience by seeking the Lord, as we form what our family looks like.
Emily: There is no perfect family size.
Laura: Yes! We want to make that so clear here today.
Emily: That is not in Scripture actually. Another thing we wanted to bring up, restoration. We live for Christ because of what he's done for us. Now, every decision that we make including family planning, comes under this umbrella of the great commission, which is that we're going to go and make disciples, and the great commandment which is that we need to love God and love others. While family is a huge portion of that obviously - we have an entire podcast on family. Family is a huge portion of fulfilling those two things. It's not the only thing or the ultimate thing, so we cannot put our family planning above every other component of fulfilling the great commission.
And then finally, we wanted to bring in a point that we are supposed to be loving children, loving our neighbor as ourselves, in a really big variety of ways. This is part of the diversity in God's family, in the unity. No matter what our family sizes, no matter how many biological children that we're given, our hearts are to be for children. That might look like your hearts are for your nieces and nephews, or the children in the church nursery and you love them and welcome them. Maybe it is orphans that you foster and you bring into your home through adoption. Maybe it's the neighborhood kids. I don't know what other kids are in your life, in addition maybe to your biological children. But that is a lifestyle that we want to live now, of welcoming and loving children and not viewing them as a burden.
Laura: Yes. I think just overall, we want to remember that God is sovereign as we talked about, over the womb. He often uses our plans to accomplish his will, but as we were chatting, Emily and I, we realized don't know one other mom that has really been like, "Yes it happened exactly the way my husband and I planned it from the beginning."
I know that we're always harping here at Risen Motherhood about figuring out what things look like to your unique family. There is no prescription from the gospel, from the Bible, that says this is exactly how you should space your children, when you should have them, how you should add them to your family.
What we want to dive into are some questions to ask for you and your husband. Actually Emily has a really full and robust document that when she shared it with me, I had no idea she had this but I was like, "Whoa! That is amazing. Where was that when my husband and I were going through our engagement classes, or talking about kids?"
It's really awesome. We're going to link to it in the show and you can print it out or share it with people. But I want to bring that up because we're not going to go through all the questions. We're going to highlight a few of the big ones, but she has this beautiful document that I just need to brag on for a second of her research. The girl is the queen of family planning, if you want to know anything about it.
Emily: We've apparently thought about it a couple times before, I think. [laughter]
Laura: I know. When this question came in the "Ask Us Anything" show, I was like, "I don't know. We kind of flew by the seat of our pants a little bit." And Emily was like, “Oh, here you go sister.” She just whipped it out.
Emily: So because of some high level, always going back to the heart, which is the main thing right? It's like two families can make the exact same family planning decisions and one family can do it for very selfish cultural reasons or any other one can do it for godly reasons.
The first one is why do you want more or less children? Is it because there are medical reasons? Is it so that you can have a bigger bank account or you can travel more? Is it to fit into a certain model of what you think the best family is either in a church environment or in the cultural environment? Is it because you want to spread the gospel more and you're in an environment, maybe or even in another country, that is just not safe or conducive for a lot of children? Is it because you don't want to have more children because we don't want to be the weird family? There are a lot of reasons, but we always have to look at our heart - why do we want to have more or why are we restricting from adding more children to our family?
Laura: Yes. I think another one is that all believers have a charge to care for the orphan and to look at those children to see if that fits into your family; if adoption or foster care does. It doesn't make you any holier if you choose to do it but just to look at, how are you supporting this? How are you valuing it? Is it because you're intentionally bringing children into your home through these routes or are you supporting other families that are doing it?
Then, of course, we're going back to what does your husband think? We will always come back to that. This is so huge. Pray that you and your husband have unity. As you heard my example, I asked my husband to pray for four weeks, for at least a month, before he gave me his final answer. Sometimes the wife wants different things. I think it actually happens a lot where you guys start out at different places and God moves your hearts together. Seek to understand where each of you are coming from. Make sure you ask God to give you guys a shared vision of what your family will look like, and also share timing in how that potentially comes about.
Emily: Yes. I love that point about seeking to understand. Because sometimes that's how you find out what some of the hidden heart motives are. What are some of the hidden fears? Then you can actually work to process through some of those things and say, are these wise? Are these valid, or are these rooted in something that's not Biblical?
Finally I wanted to say, what are we replacing as the highest priority in our lives as we're considering family planning? I think like Laura said, without even meaning to, sometimes we can walk forward in this journey and we're not really thinking intentionally about it. Without meaning to, we're putting in cultural prosperity and having a certain lifestyle, or having a fitting end to what's normal. We take that route by default.
Maybe there are some good things about that but at least consider, what is God calling our family to? How is he calling us to live out the gospel? Are we considering children as a blessing in that? And what is that looking like in our lives? In general in our Christian life, a certain type of lifestyle should never be more important than Christ himself.
Laura: Okay. So head over to our show notes. You guys, you're going to want to see some of the more full resources that we're linking to. Study this for yourself. See what the Bible talks about. Get in there and don't trust our word; trust God's word. Maybe talk to older couples who love the Lord and have raised their families well that you really respect. See what they really liked about what they did, and maybe what they would have done differently. Then of course as we said, talk to your husband and just pray about what God might want for your families.
We hope that you'll visit our show notes at risenmotherhood.com. Of course, find us on all of the social media channels. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, we're @ risenmotherhood on all of them. We hope you'll join us. We'll be talking about this topic in general throughout the week. So thanks for joining us.