Sunday, August 15, 2010

I am waiting with open arms

Writing this was inspired by reading this post by Mrs. P. It challenged me to face some issues which I sometimes wish I could just let go. 

 Being open to life and welcoming a baby were easy enough, emotionally, the first time around. I wanted a baby and prayed for a baby, and patted myself on the back for having such godly desires.

However, once I had a baby, things changed. New motherhood is always a challenge. Even though I knew what was right, even though I always believed Jewish couples should be open to children unless there are very serious circumstances that rule against it, I couldn't make my heart yield to it once more.

I know I risk sounding like a wimp, or someone of little faith, but I was terrified of becoming pregnant again after having my first baby. I was terrified even before my period returned – and it returned pretty soon, when Shira was only four months old, even though we gave her no bottles or pacifiers. Perhaps it had to do with early night weaning. But at any rate, after that happened, I realized I'm in "danger" of becoming pregnant again, and fretted anytime I wasn't actually having my period (which only happened two or three times before I became pregnant again, so you can imagine I fretted a lot).

"I need more time," I pleaded with God. "I need more time to recover, to be with my baby, to get used to being a Mom, to invest in the relationship with my husband." Yet in the meantime, fear was ruining both my marriage and my joy of motherhood. And like poisonous mushrooms, other, vain thoughts were springing in my mind: I need more time to do my thing. I don't want to endure the discomforts of another pregnancy (even though I'm blessed to have relatively easy pregnancies). I want to have the "perfectly" spaced children, so that I won't have to face "what people will say."  

Judaism does not forbid birth control. Yet there must be good reasons to use it. And to my shame, even as I bargained with God, I knew my "reasons" were not good enough to seek rabbinical counsel and ask for authorization to use birth control. I felt ashamed when I faced the thought of a wise old man seeing right through my vanity and worldliness. "I, uh, would really like to wait until my abdominal muscles look just the same as they had when I was a young bride."

And so I went on. Outwardly, I did the "right thing" – trusted God and never used artificial birth control. But my heart was hardened towards the possibility of another pregnancy. "I'm just not ready," I told Him. "Surely you won't give me another child until I'm ready? At least not until she is a year old. Yes, a year, I think I could cope with that." Every month that passed with me still not being pregnant, was like a little victory. 

When Shira was a year old, I still felt I'm not ready – and discovered I'm pregnant.

I wish I could say my entire attitude changed from that moment, but my heart was unyielding. At first, I refused to believe, and then I was unloving and bitter towards the new life that was being so carefully knitted together in my womb. I blamed God  for "getting in the way" of whatever personal comforts I might have to forgo, for morning sickness, and for repeated changes in the youthful figure I was so glad to have back. I did not acknowledge the blessing that was so generously bestowed upon me. More than that, as ridiculous as it sounds, I was angry with God for taking my prayers so literally. Yes, I asked for a year, but surely He could have been generous enough to give me a bit more time?  

But when I went in for my first ultrasound, a huge smile plastered itself on my face, and later I excitedly called my husband and told him our baby has a heartbeat. And a tad later, I started wondering how much damage I had done with my initial lack of love and acceptance.

As months passed I became fearful of punishment. I was anxious about my baby being taken away from me for being such an awfully ungrateful person. In the dark, I would cradle my belly and whisper, "I'm so sorry. I love you. I just want you to be born healthy and to hold you in my arms and be the mother you deserve."

When I was told my baby isn't growing as fast as it was expected, I shared this with some people I expected to support me, but instead I was chided for "spacing my pregnancies too closely". Someone else told me it's because I nursed Shira during my pregnancy, thus heaping even more guilt upon my shoulders. It was very hurtful to hear (especially as such opinions are completely unfounded), but it was even more hurtful to think that something may be wrong because of my wickedness which sent such negativity towards my tiny babe, right from the beginning.

I'm nearing the end of this pregnancy now, and I must admit, I'm more restless and anxious than last time around. I won't rest until the baby is safely born, healthy, and in my arms. All my petty thoughts and ridiculous calculations ("24 months apart is OK, 20 is too little") have shrunk away, and all I want right now is to hold my baby.

I took so much for granted. Each child is a blessing. Just because I was blessed with two pregnancies so soon, does not mean I will continue having baby after baby. There are many cases of couples who experienced unexpected fertility problems – explainable or not - after easily having one, two, three or more babies. We never know whether we'll have a dozen children, or a small family – because we never know God's plans for us, though surely they are good and right.   

I look at my older daughter's precious beautiful face, and wonder how I could ever not want another dear little one like her. I spend my days singing to her as I work, telling stories, kissing boo-boos, tying little pigtails, giving warm baths – and I feel there is nothing I'd rather do than the same with another little one. I miss nursing and dearly hope to get back to it soon. I miss the feeling of a sweet soft little babe in the crook of my arm. "Forgive me," I plead with God, "and bless us in the ways You see fit. Your judgment is, and ever was, so much better than mine."      

46 comments:

Campaka said...

Wow, I really appreciate your candor. I felt the exact same way after my first daughter was born. I was terrified of getting pregnant again, though, like you, I struggled to be open to God's plan for our family. My periods too returned very quickly. She was only three months old and I had been breastfeeding on demand - no bottles or pacifiers and no night-weaning either! However, though my periods have come like clockwork for the last 12 years and we have never used any form of birth control, I still have not conceived. I had always wanted a big family (with "reasonable" spacing... um... heehee :o)), but God had His plan. My brother and sister-law have seven children spaced on average about 20 months. Staying with their family, I got to experience what a wonderful blessing children truly are. What joy their home is filled with! And yet, as our life has become very nomadic while my husband and I are doing humanitarian work in a remote, rural, undeveloped area, I see that God's plan is perfect. Just gotta trust in Him! :o) Thanks again for your frank and heartfelt blog. I love your blog posts always! You are so inspirational and empowering. Thank God for ladies like you. <3

PH said...

Thank you so much for your post. I felt like you were speaking directly to me. After having my first child three months ago, I can totally relate to the feelings and reservations you have expressed. Being faithful and open to God's plan can be so hard at times, but is also very rewarding. Thanks again and congratulations on your new little one!

Leah Brand-Burks said...

This really is the most intimate, honest, timely, and beautiful post I've read from you. Brava, Anna. Your kindred heart just melted mine. You'll never know how timely this post was. Thank you.

Coffee Catholic said...

I felt exactly the same way. And when it happened I was totally thrilled ~ for about five seconds. Then it hit me upside the head that I was going to have to endure another horrific painful crippling pregnancy. It was awful! And now I'm living again with the same exact fear ~ "Will I get pregnant AGAIN?!"

I so wish that I could have normal pregnancies where I wasn't in so much pain. The pain is worse then labor and I have to endure it for 9 awful months ~ and for months afterwards. The twins are six months old and I'm still in terrible pain. I wish we were allowed to use birth control because I would get on it simply because I can't do another pregnancy right now. I'm *still* in pain and *still* crippled from the last two!

I love having three children! I feel so very blessed! But if I get pregnant again any time soon I'm going to end up depressed and sick.

Kelly said...

God bless you and your family Anna, for your candor. Not many women would admit what you did. As someone who always wanted more children but cannot have them I envy you. I admire women and men who trust God for the size of their family. Trust is hard even if it's trust in God. I think God is gracious and full of mercy, it sounds like you've learned a lesson and I'll bet that baby will be healthy and strong and once the little one is here you'll wonder why you worried so much.

Anonymous said...

I felt exactly the same way, too! Thank you for being honest. The Bible deals with normal human emotions, doesn't hide them, and neither must we. I'm sorry other people heaped condemnation on you. My boys are 2 years apart, and we never had a problem. People with children only 1 year apart also reported being able to cope with it (you're already in the swing of things). There is no perfection; there is "what is," not "what if." Wishing you a safe birth. Mary R.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Anna, your honesty and courage in sharing this is beautiful. May God bless you and your family.

Pearl

Anonymous said...

An incredible, wonderful post! Thank you for sharing your heart and God bless you and your family!

Sylvia said...

Anna,

I am so sorry you had to go through this.

My choices are not yours. I have used birth control, spaced my children, work outside the home. But I have also had judgement thrown at me for my choices. I had to work through a lot of guilt. I am not sure about the Jewish faith, but I have seen Bible verses twisted in America to mean God only likes skirts when I come from a culture where it is considered immodest to show legs and pants and a long top are our native attire. I translate that to wearing a long top and pants. I have also seen devout christians use guns and have some biblical base for it in America which has shocked me because I come from a culture where weapons are not used at all.
What I have learned is that people use culture, family circumstances etc to twist anything or judge. It is because they are insecure. What I know about you from reading your blog is that you are a good mother. You do not need others to tell you that. Just look at the face of your child. My children are healthy and happy and though the world may revile my choices, I have learned the only thing I can choose is my reaction to it. The only thing I can control or care about is being the best mother I can to my children. And the only person I need to answer other than God is my husband.

God bless you with an easy delivery and a healthy child,
Sylvia

Matushka Anna said...

Our first two children were about 19 months apart. When the second one was five months old I found out I was pregnant again. We were at seminary and I was so scared to see the look on my husband's face that I cried for most of the three hours before he got home. He took it rather hard - I don't mean that he got angry or anything, just depressed. He thought that he would have to drop out of seminary at that point. I had a young toddler and an infant already and was having to work full-time to support us while he was in school. Part of me was happy (just the way I'm made) but the rest of me was worried and then guilty about the tiny bit of happiness I had.

A few weeks later I woke up in mild pain but blew it off. My husband went to school (there was a festival that day) and I was home with the little ones until I had to go to work in the afternoon. The pain got worse and worse until I began to worry that the pregnancy was ectopic and would rupture. I was terrified that my husband would come home to find me dead and two babies crying. This sounds melodramatic, but I was seriously scared and hurting. I called the school to try to find him but had to leave a message with one of the monks. Then the pain was unbearable and I called 911. Fast-forward a bit to the point when I'm in the ER (an 80 year old neighbor watched the babies when the ambulance got there) and my husband comes dashing in. He was frantic but relieved to see I was "ok". I tried to explain what I thought was wrong and that it was possible I'd have to have surgery if the pregnancy was indeed ectopic and in danger of rupturing. After the doctor saw us (after a few tests) he diagnosed me with kidney stones. Suddenly we realized, I'm still pregnant! The baby is fine! I'm not going to lose this pregnancy and we're going to be ok! I'm sad to say that it took events this drastic to wake us up and make us realize what a blessing this child was. From that point on we dropped our depression and worries (mostly) and 8 months later were blessed with a lovely baby girl (although her birth was quite a story in and of itself and we almost lost her again).

We had two more children after that and I hope we'll be blessed with more.

Joie said...

Yes, thank your for your honesty. It is not easy to be vulnerable in this format. I must ask, though, why you would think God would punish a baby for your thoughts? And, as to your thoughts, I don't think it's trivial to worry about your abdomen or want your body to have more time to recover from pregnancy. Four years later and I have still not recovered! Also, don't beat yourself up for wanting more time. There is a very real thing called post-partum depression. There is also peri-natal depression.

Emily said...

Anna, I loved this post! I definitely know of the fears of getting pregnant so soon after the birth of the first child. My 2 sons are 14 months apart. I had all the same fears and thoughts when I found out I was pregnant so quickly. God definitely knew what He was doing.

At the time I wasn't thrilled and hard a hard time accepting the new little life within me. I am glad God didn't listen to my worries and fears.

Blessings!

Alycia said...

I could have written this post myself, Anna... except that I didn't ever really get happy about my second and third pregnancies. The second was the hardest - I got pregnant during my husband's mid-tour leave on a fifteen month deployment to Iraq, leaving me sick and exhausted with a one-year old, a thousand miles from family. It wasn't until I was holding my beautiful new baby that I fully accepted my circumstances.

Best wishes for your upcoming birth.

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I am also an Orthodox Jew, and going through a similar crisis of faith. Although my reasons for not wanting another child right now are different than those you describe in this post (and I intend on discussing them with my Rabbi) reading your post helped me to clarify a lot of my own thoughts on the current matter. While I find it ironic that your post helped me come to the opposite conclusion that you drew for yourself, I do appreciate your helping me to gain some peace of mind with what I believe is the right choice for my family at this time.

Sincerely,
CF

Deborah said...

Thank you for this post, Anna. My first child is only five and a half weeks old, and I'm having my first period now. (We're working on breastfeeding after some time in the NICU, which prevented early nursing, but apparently what nursing and pumping I've done wasn't enough to delay menstruation.) We have no religious qualms with birth control, but we had planned not to use artificial contraception between our first two children because we wanted them closely spaced, we had difficulty conceiving the first time, and we thought that nursing would provide what time we did want. I'm so exhausted and stressed with my one that we're rethinking that plan, especially now with my period returning so soon ... I just can't see myself managing well with a newborn and a one-year-old, if we were to conceive again immediately. We have until October before it will be an issue (my husband's job requires us to be apart until then), but we need to make a decision. It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Anonymous said...

Anna, my prayers and thoughts are with you. I'm sure many women have been reassured and calmed to know that their thoughts and feelings are shared by many women.

I know you said you didn't use artificial birth control, but do you practice NFP or a similar method?

~MT

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your willingness to do so. I have had many of the same thoughts & feelings that you described.

My husband and I feel led at this point not to use any birth control. We have 3 girls (5.5, 2.5, 3 months) and hope to have more children. I must admit my husband is more excited & hoping for it to happen sooner than I. It is hard being a Mom. Wonderful, but hard. I have been struggling with being nervous about getting pregnant "too" soon.

I understand why you might feel guilty, but I don't believe you need to be! God is loving and merciful! He understands our weakness & I think appreciates when we are honest with Him. I am sorry other people made you feel worse. :(

I look up to you as a good example. I am sure you are a wonderful mother to Shira & your new little one.

God bless you & your family!

Elle Bee said...

Thanks for sharing your heart on this. It is so hard to trust God sometimes, even when we know He's smarter than we are and His plans are better than ours. Why is that?

In my own situation, it's infertility and miscarriage I've struggled to understand, not high fertility...but the struggle is the same, isn't it? Do I trust myself and my own plans, or do I trust the Lord?

In the Proverbs, it says "In his heart, a man plans out his own way, but the LORD determines his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

It's so true, but sometimes I live like it's not! My heart is slowly changing, but it is a process. May God graciously forgive all those who recognize the evil of not trusting in Him, turn from it, and ask for His mercy and forgiveness.

Lady M said...

You are absolutely not alone on this one, Anna. For whatever reason, it was not an issue with my first 2 children, but after our 3 losses, pregnancy lost some of its joy and had anxiety added in. With my last pregnancy (I cannot believe Gideon will be 2 in a few weeks!!), I ended up on bedrest at 27 weeks for mild preeclampsia. After he finally got here safe and sound, we had some nursing issues (another new thing - I had had no issues with the first 2) and I was pumping all of his feedings for 2, almost 3 months or working with him on nursing with a supplementor system at the same time (still breastmilk, though).

You can imagine the anxiety that went with the prosepect of another potential preganancy. Yet, the wisdom of my mother and my MIL had said that with the age spacing that we had, had they both been able to do it again, having had 3rd child so far apart from the others, they would have had a 4th.

I really, really struggled with the spector of preeclampsia and the other issues with Gideon. And yet, God brought us through those situations safely. And then, one day last November or December, my oldest child, just then 11 told me she wanted a baby sister. I told her she would have to pray for that because it was absolutely beyond my control (keeping in mind, too, that I am 42!).

Apparently she kept track of how many times she prayed. We found out, much to our surprise (because we were NOT trying - in fact I was kind of trying to Avoid it!), at the end of January that we were indeed pregnant again. I was still breastfeeding the little guy at the time! There have been some trials along the way - 3 separate bleeding incidents (turns out from a sensitive spot on my cervix, but it still freaked me out - the only times I had bled before were because of miscarriage). Then, a little over 5 weeks ago (at 27 weeks), I was put on bedrest again - with mild preeclampsia. What a challenge with a not yet 2 yr old running around. I am thankful he has older siblings to chase him, lol! I am down to 5 weeks before my doctor plans to induce me. I continue to pray that he gets here safely and at 37/38 weeks.

Oh - and for what it is worth, with all 3 children, my periods returned around 5 mos - and I was nursing on demand, even at night. I get envious of my friends who got a year break (one who went 2 yrs!!) and there I was following all the breastfeeding rules...and 5 months. :P

Praying for a safe delivery for you!

Mrs. Anna T said...

MT,

NFP is largely incompatible with the Jewish laws of family purity, which require the union of husband and wife at a time when the woman tends to be most fertile (and how clear it is, from knowing this, how our Lord feels about children and fertility!)

Theoretically, NFP could be practiced but it would mean there is hardly any time at all for the husband and wife to be together.

Amanda said...

I loved reading such an honest post Anna. I am looking forward to the wonderful news of your new arrival.

Enjoy these last few days of your pregnancy...

Bless you!

Buffy said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. I am sure your concerns and doubts were normal. The point is you came round to embracing the new life. It is your guilt that is torturing you, God wouldn't do that. Look after yourself.

Amanda said...

I definitely felt the same when I discovered I was pregnant with my youngest. I struggled with depression and bitterness. I was miserable until someone told me to just have an abortion. The thought that anyone could even THINK about killing my child shocked me to my senses. Once those protective feelings came rushing in, the love and joy followed quickly. Now she's almost 4 and I simply cannot imagine our family without her! She's such a blessing (they all are of course)

blessings,
Amanda

Kate said...

Thank you for such an honest post. In hopes of giving you hope, my 2 month old (3rd child) was conceived when we were trying to NOT get pregnant. Then, my pregnancy was VERY difficult and extremely stressful. Hubby was sent away for his career training for months and months. At one point he was homeless. At other points he was living with a crazy drunk and then a drug addict. After lots of phone calls and begging I was able to place him with a Christian family until our son was born. I endured 2 weeks of severe food poisoning while caring for my son and daughter who also had food poisoning by myself, contracted bronchitis and strep throat, fell and hit my stomach pretty hard, and broke down in hard sobs I don't know how many times. I thought for sure I was going to give birth to a sickly, fussy child. He has been my easiest birth and easiest baby thus far and is such a joy.

Thankfully, our God is merciful and loving. While He may not approve of our attitudes, He created us and does understand them and rejoices when we turn to Him instead of to ourselves.

Happy pushing!

Kate said...

Oh, I just wanted to add, too that my second child was very much wanted because I had 2 miscarriages before her conception. The 2nd miscarriage almost took my life.

My 3rd child wasn't planned, but we were happy anyway. During the early half of the pregnancy, I did get resentful because I was so sick and things were so difficult. I resented the pregnancy itself, not the baby, though. I can't believe how much I love my new little man.

Almost immediately postpartum this time around I started looking forward to baby #4. People think I'm crazy, but I'm really looking forward to another pregnancy and baby. God did a work in me this last pregnancy.

S. Belle said...

I enjoyed your honesty and transparency in this post. Sometimes when women read popular blogs like yours we can start to feel like you have it all together and experience total bliss being a mother and never feel like the average mother.

It's good to know that you are normal, and not super woman! :) I can totally relate to your feelings. My son was 3 months old when I got pregnant with my daughter and I felt joy for a few fleeting moments, but suffered with being kind of depressed about being pregnant so soon after the news sunk in.

As time went on I felt joy, but sometimes I think mothers beat themselves up over feeling human about how challenging motherhood can be, and not being uber excited about the arrival of another one.

A commenter above noted that trust is hard, even trusting in God, and that is so true. But, each day is a new day to trust in God's goodness and have faith that His ways are best.

Analytical Adam said...

This whole idea you have is pagan by the way of some wise old man knowing everything about you and knowing all your thoughts and desires. This is not Judaism.

The Jewish people what matters to G-d are the people's behavior not the behavior of a few men. You have bragged about lying to male doctors. The Rabbi's are just men (and not elected by G-d in today's time) and to pretend they are perfect beings I'm sure does not make G-d happy as even Moses was not perfect and even he didn't judge every case and made rules. (See parsha Yitro).

This whole idea of going to a Rabbi for every question you have is not a proper system because this will lead to fraud with no general rules as these Rabbi's are just "men". In general your case isn't unique Mrs. Anna and it could be discussed in general. Not every women should run to some male Rabbi every time they have a problem and think the Rabbi is some sort of G-d which is just perverse Mrs. Anna. The torah itself does not promote this as Yitro criticizes Moses that this was not good and Moses listened to his father in law.
G-d is not happy when women who want to give so much power to a few men and turn them into G-d basically. Yes, many religions have done this but that is not because G-d asked them to but it is because they want to have a lot of power and control over others which I have to disagree. They are not G-d.

You're only act of being a coward Mrs. Anna is this kissing up to religious men I think to be part of a club that will help you when you have a problem and you put more faith in that club then G-d. At the end of the day G-d knows who you really fear.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Adam, I think you are missing the point here.

When people aren't sure, halachically, where they stand, they go to a rabbi who has studied halacha more extensively than them. It's not "putting men before God", it's simply asking advice when it is needed.

Karen said...

Oh Anna I know exactly how you feel!! Right after birth even I am tempted to run out and get my tubes tied (or at least was before I became Catholic as now that would be a mortal sin). But I just remind myself that I will get through the worst of it. God has been pretty easy on us in the child spacing department though I sometimes get comments to the contrary, and easy pregnancies too. But it's still emotionally a challenge at times.

It helps to make friends with people who have a positive outlook on pregnancy and birth and children. I know people who have gone through hard times with childbearing but still had a positive outlook and chose to see their babies as blessings.

Audrey said...

What a beautiful post. Oftentimes, since bloggers are selective about what they post, they can come across as perfect, and having all the answers. The honesty and transparency of this post is wonderful.

When my first was younger, my husband and I hoped for another child. We conceived, and we were thrilled. But we miscarried shortly after. We were devastated, and prayed God would NOT give us any more children, because we didn't want to go through that again. We conceived again immediately afterward. We were so scared (especially when I almost had another miscarriage.... but praise God, I didn't), but eventually warmed up to the idea. Now at 10 months old, our second daughter brightens all our days! But again, my fleshly desires are taking over again. I'm struggling with wanting to wait in between children. I have not ovulated yet (my daughter is still nursing very frequently, even through the night), but I know it will be very soon. "But I just got my body back!", "But I've got so many projects going on!", and so many more excuses as to why God should bless someone else with more children--but not me.

Linda said...

Your babies are very blessed to have such a loving,giving mother. May God bless you and your family.

Mrs. Parunak said...

What a beautiful, honest post, dear Mrs. Anna. I'll be praying for you as you complete this pregnancy until you can finally hold this precious new child in your arms.

mom_of_4 said...

lovely post...thanks for sharing your heart on such a sensitive topic

raising children can be hard, but as you've already seen, is so very worth it! blessings, mom_of_4

Rebecca Grider said...

Reading this really broke my heart. I know you claim to not agree with birth control, that you believe it is in opposition to your religious beliefs, but could it not be a way for God to intervene and allow you the ability to cherish the children you have, strengthen your relationship with your husband and not take on more than you can handle? If you felt this way after a second pregnancy how will you feel about a fourth or a fifth with three or four other children under the age of 5? I'm not trying to be the voice of doom; I'm sure you'll rise to the occasion. However, perhaps that particular life isn't really the right life for you? Anna, I truly believe that YOU are allowed to make decisions for your family and for yourself that are selfishly good for the entire of your family and yourself. If multiple, back-to-back pregnancies are not the right life for you, you do not have to do it. There are plenty of birth control methods - the Pill, condoms, shots, IUD's - that can easily prevent pregnancy until it's the right time for your family. Please do not do something you don't really want to do because you think God wants you to do it. You have all the autonomy in the world to make of your life what you dream. I know that I would not be a good mother; I don't like children, I don't relish the idea of pregnancy - so I'm not going to have anything. And you know what? It's really okay. I'm not defying God or anyone by not having children - in fact, I'm honoring the preciousness of children by not creating children I don't want. Please think about it. And, btw, I'm an athiest but there is no just God who would harm a baby to punish a mother. Any God that would do that is meaningless and worthless.

Anonymous said...

this is a wonderfully honest post. The Lord understands our hearts- he does not hold things against us- His grace is limitless - just as his love is- I pray blessings on you and your new little one! :)

Mrs. Anna T said...

Rebecca,

Do you really think you are enlightening me by listing all birth control options available? Trust me, I have access to information AND birth control. It's pushed by every health care provider.

Prevention of pregnancy without a serious reason (such as medical issues) IS against Jewish beliefs and against how our Almighty God feels about children.

I realize I'm religious and you're not, so our outlooks on life are very different. Quite simply, being a Jew is knowing there is more to our decisions than just what we think might be "best", or what we "want". Sometimes I might feel as though I "want" to go to a mixed beach to have a chance to dip in the water together with my husband (something we have never done). Or if the air conditioner isn't turned on and it's Shabbat, I sometimes feel like I "want" to turn it on. However, do I truly WANT to violate what God said must or must not be done? Certainly not. We make a difference between our short-term "wants" and the long-term prospect of doing His will, just as we make a difference between the whims of a two-year-old and the judgment of her parents.

Do we know what the future holds? Do we really know what would have been "best" for us? Do I think my children would do better with further spacing? I can't really know. Will I truly feel overwhelmed caring for another baby? Well, I can't know in advance, but at any rate the baby is coming and I wouldn't give it back for the world.

Oh and by the way, I was never the person to swoon over little babies and the idea of giving birth gave me the creeps. In fact I had no idea what one should do with a baby. From a secular point of view, perhaps I might have said "well, maybe I'm just not meant to be a parent." However fortunately, I know Lord's will for us is to be fruitful and multiply - and I trusted Him and can't imagine my life without my little girl now.

How empty and unstable my life would be if I followed my self-made notions and not His Holy Word.

Sarah said...

I mostly agree with what you've written here, but I think it should be mentioned that some poskim allow birth control in cases where a mother wants to space children for emotional reasons. Medical reasons are not the only reasons Judaism allows for birth control. If a mother is overwhelmed by the thought of having another baby so soon, halachah may take that into account. I believe Rabbi Henkin allows this for up to 12 months after birth (it's on the Nishmat website somewhere). It sounds like in your case, that wouldn't have made much of a difference--since you got pregnant almost a year after birth anyway.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Sarah,

I have yet to encounter a new mother that does *not* feel overwhelmed when she has her first baby. I have never heard anyone say "I hope we have another baby next year." I think "emotional reasons" (not postpartum depression, not severe stress, or other serious circumstances) get stretched so far these days that it became the norm for nearly everyone to be on birth control. And many don't even talk to a rabbi about it.

Sarah said...

My point was just that emotional reasons can be legitimate reasons for birth control. Of course, a rabbi would have to determine whether the emotional issue was severe enough to warrant such a serious response.

Rebecca Grider said...

I understand that our religious beliefs differ greatly and as such your views influence your decisions such as my lack of belief influences mine. However, I daresay that turning on the A/C during Shabbat is wholly different than continually having children if it's not right for your family and for your sanity and well-being. The A/C is a temporary situation, easily borne and of no long-term consequence. And while I'm not knowledgable about your faith, I do believe that in matters of life or death, life comes first, even if means not adhering to Biblical prinicples. For instance, if your child needed oxygen then the electrical usage to ensure that would override not using electricity on Shabbat. If I am wrong, forgive my ignorance. While I am not saying that additional children are equitable to death, I do think that if pregnancy and the resulting stresses harms the wellbeing of your existing family then it would supercede adherence. The bottom line is that although it's probably not meaningful to you considering our differences, there is an unknown person in the world who wishes only the best for you and your family and writes only to support that.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Oh, and if I might add something else, I believe that our birth control culture has to do with some women feeling like another child is more than they can handle - once birth control becomes a prevalent norm, having children spaced less than 2-3 years apart is suddenly viewed as "suboptimal", and a good reason to "regulate" our fertility. Also, I must say that one of my fears about being pregnant again was family reaction. And I was right! We didn't get as much as a "b'shaa tovah" from either side of the family once we announced. They were so thrilled about me being pregnant for the first time, and so obviously disappointed that we're having another baby "so soon" - I find this stark contrast simply insulting. One family member blatantly said, "you should have waited at least another year." I mean... I was already pregnant, what would you have me do now, give the baby back???

Hopefully, it's a matter of some days until they are all gathered around the new baby, and of course at that point they will be all excited. I will simply have to bite my tongue to refrain from saying, "a pity the baby is here so SOON, isn't it?"

Mrs. Anna T said...

Rebecca,

I only gave the air conditioner incident as an example that we don't always do whatever we "want". We don't even always do what seems "right" to our human reasoning.

Of course saving of life is more important than anything else, and overrides practically all rules of observance. A woman whose health would truly be endangered by a pregnancy would not only be allowed to use birth control, she would be *required* to do that, as our Law dictates she must first save her own life.

However in my case it wasn't a matter of life and death. It was not even a matter of health. It was a matter of trying to fit both cultural norms and our beliefs, and as they say, it's rather difficult to try and sit on two chairs at once.

I just want to make it clear that the *pregnancy* was not at fault when it came to me being stressed - the culprit was my own *fear*.

And just to say, if we all did only what we think we can "reasonably" do, Moses would never lead the Israelites out of Egypt. He felt inadequate. He even gave GOOD, reasonable reasons as to why he was inadequate! Yet God chose Moses for that task. I sometimes feel like an inadequate mother, when I'm not patient enough/not enlightened enough/not thankful enough. Yet God chose *me* to be the mother of my child. Now all I have to do is let Him guide me.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Anna T,

Thank you for this post. My husband and I are expecting our first in December. He is already talking about number two or three and I'm still trying to get through my first pregnancy! I was feeling overwhelmed and not very grateful, your post helped me realize I am not alone. God sends us strength and encouragement when we need it. You were mine.

Sometimes it is harder to actually accept His will and plan than it is to say we do. You are doing your best to live what you believe. It has been said before by others but I will say it again: DO NOT be too hard on yourself. Feel your feelings, it is okay. I do not believe God would punish your unborn child for your thoughts. He is way bigger than that.

I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

I respect your honesty, I haven't read all these comments and someone may have already mentioned this - but if you felt under pressure and concerned about how you would cope with another pregnancy and felt 'in danger' of conceiving again why didn't you and your husband remain chaste until you were both ready again? Your article seemed to speak as if you were going to 'fall' pregnant just by thinking about it. I found your story a bit confusing.
God Bless.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Anon,

Our religion instructs us not to deprive one another at times when husband and wife are permitted to be together. This may lead to frustration, impure thoughts, and counter-reproductive forms of intimacy which are forbidden.

Apart from that, an enforced extended period of abstinence would put an enormous strain on a marriage (obviously I don't mean situations such as deployment, when spouses are physically far from each other). This is unnatural and unhealthy.

angela said...

Hi Anna,
I haven't read the comments yet, but I'm sure you already got alot of what I'm gonna say...sorry!!! BUT, I can identify with EVERYTHING you said. It was like reading my own story!!! My 1st 2 children were 17months apart and I was angry and terrified... BUT, as with all other things about God's timing it was perfect!!! I figured out too late that everything would be ok and I didn't enjoy my pregnancy like I should have. I even turned my anger onto my firstborn for being so demanding when I needed time and energy to be pregnant. BUT, this is how we learn to die to ourselves. We have to face all this ugliness inside us. BUT, God is so faithful and I figured out that children really are a blessing and that I really could trust God for everything. And now I have four children and I wouldn't change anything that "trusting" God has brought me!!! Thank you for being open and honest!!! You are wonderful!!!