controversial issue: family planning

One of the most popular and annoying comments we heard when we announced that our second child was to be a boy was: 
"perfect! now you have a boy and a girl! you're done."

To which I'd stare blankly, or smile and nod, or laugh, because frankly, we're not.
I find that hilarious that someone would decide when a family is done based on the number of X and Y chromosomes, especially when it's not their own! But the point is, everyone has an opinion of how many children is the perfect amount. 1.5 children, anyone? 

So how does one decide when to have kids and how many to have? 

Should there be a limit to how many children someone can have? Legally, there is. If a parent can't afford to provide for the number of children they have, the State steps in. In best cases, to provide support, in worst cases, to remove the children. It seems drastic, but each and every child deserves basic needs (and so much more, amen?), and if their parent can't meet them, something should be done. Preferably the former.

You've got families working like a loving well-oiled machine like the Duggars who have 19 children and counting, and who am I to say that that's wrong? All of the children are provided for and loved. They're all excelling and thriving (I've only seen the show once, but that's the consensus). Now, are they each getting the individual attention and building the one-on-one rapport with Mom and Dad that I'd think ideal? Maybe not. But is that necessary? Maybe not. 

There are a lot of factors that play into how many children people choose to have. 
I think they main ones are money and capacity
Keep in mind that not everyone believes they can afford more than one child, though they have a larger income than a family with multiple children, and that not everyone believes they have the capacity to have more than one child, though they could afford many children. 

Brad and I fall into a strange place. We don't have a ton of money, probably less than the average family of four, but we want four kids, making us a family of six, someday. The tipping point is capacity. We believe we're called to have a larger-than-most (at least in Montreal!) family and that we have the capacity to do it. We'll make it work financially, because we have the capacity and desire for four kids. 

Others may believe (and rightly so) that they don't have the capacity to have more than one or two children, so money won't come into play at all. Capacity is the deal breaker. And it's equally valid. While others still may dream about having umpteen kids, but realize that financially they can't provide a good life for that many children. I hope in this case that when money is a deciding factor, the parents make every effort to make their family plans (read: dreams) come true. I've been asked before how Brad and I could afford to have a second child and I laugh. We plan to have another and maybe another still! Babies don't have to be expensive, though they're perceived as such.

My belief on the matter is that capacity and money are important and valid reasons for family planning. But I also believe strongly in finding a way
If money is holding parents back from adding to their family, that may be legitimate. If they can't afford to feed or clothe that child, they're not doing their job as parents, at least not in part. But it also may be a smoke screen. Does the child need ballet classes and hockey league and Mandarin lessons, and the best clothing and gear? No. Do families need to go to Disney World every March to fulfill the perfect childhood dream? No. Does every meal have to be the finest cuts of meat and choice produce? No. Does a family with two kids need to drive a gas guzzling minivan? No. Does every child need their own bedroom? No. 

Same goes with capacity. Brad and I decided before Lily was even born to wait until we were out of the trenches before deciding when we'd try for our next baby. We also decided when we were pregnant with Oli and knew we wanted to adopt that we wouldn't start the adoption process until he was at least 6 months old. 

Why? Because of proper perspective of capacity.

The first weeks and months or parenting a newborn can be treacherous. For some the first years! If you asked me in the thick of it with Lily, I'd say "I'm done!". The early days are too hard to make an unbiased decision about adding to your family again. It's all too raw.  I've heard many people say they wanted 3-4 kids but after 2 they knew they were done, and that's fine. If parents believe they've reached the maximum capacity to rear children in a healthy way (talking about the parent's health here), then they should stop having children. But I would always suggest waiting until that decision can be made from a healthy, well-rested, unbiased place.

I've been asked many times how Brad and I decided to have our kids so close together, so quickly after we were married, which has fueled this post. For us, we waited until we'd been married for a year and then started trying to get pregnant - which we did the first month. When Lily was 5 months old, we started trying again, and quickly conceived Olivier. It was close, and money was tight at times, but we believed we could make it work financially by making sacrifices in essentially every area of our lives, and that we had the capacity to have two kids in 15 months.

We've also decided, after two difficult pregnancies, one resulting in bed rest for a month, that I don't have the capacity to be pregnant again with two babies in tow. We'd decided to adopt long before my pregnancy with Oli got difficult, so it's a happy coincidence that from now on we'll be adding to our family through adoption.

In all of this I want to make one thing clear: we are unapologeticly pro-life in our home. Though we are not planning to have more biological children, if we miraculously conceived, we would love that child and call him or her blessed. However, we're 100% on board with birth control and are hoping God agrees that this store is closed :)

So now I'd love to hear from you!

How did you decide when to start a family?
How will you decide if you haven't already?
What factors come into play when deciding how many kids to have?
What factors come into play when deciding how far apart to have your kids?


  1. Definitely pushes boundaries and I find this post interesting

  2. Omnia15.3.12

    This is a really interesting post Emily! The family planning question is a difficult one to tackle. Rayanne is approaching her first birthday and I still don't feel ready to get pregnant again. It is my hope that by her 2nd birthday I'll be willing to try again. Truth be told, I love Rayanne to pieces and would LOVE to add more babies to brood. Unfortunately for us, my husband is still a student, we've got a ton of student debt, and I need to work for at least a year until he's done, so that we have at least one steady income at all times. I don't believe that finance should be a factor that impedes having kids long term (like you mentioned, sacrifices can be made). But as a young couple, sometimes you need to sacrifice having kids right away until some sort of financial stability is reached (notice how I say stability and not financial success). Anyway, I think every couple is unique, every child is unique and every situation is unique. For me, I'd love 4-5 kids (biological if I can!). I think adoption is wonderful and would consider it if I couldn't have my own. I would definitely foster children though either way. I grew up with many foster siblings, loved each one, and learned a lot from the experience!

    1. Hey Omnia! I didn't know you read my blog. I really appreciate your input and can understand your situation isn't a simple one.

      Going back to work for a short time would also afford you another year of maternity leave - which is a big deal! When we got pregnant with Lily we were renters and still had some student debt, but not overwhelming debt, and it was paid off before she was born. I'm sure you'd find a way to make it work if you really felt called to add to your family, but it also seems like you're unsure just yet about being pregnant again (which is totally understandable!)

      I appreciate your distinction between stability and success. That was what we thought too, when we got pregnant with Lily with a bit of debt and when we weren't home owners. I don't think those should be impeding factors, though large debt that can be crippling isn't my idea of a wise environment to continually add kids.

      That's wonderful that you grew up with foster siblings, I didn't know that. Not everyone is cut out to be a foster family or an adoptive family (that's a whole other post!) but it's great you're open to it as well :)

      Take care,

  3. Anonymous15.3.12

    Great question! This is what we've been mulling over for about six months. How do we decide?!?! At this point, we're sure we are called to have kids, and as far as "how many"....I think you're right, capacity and finances are two huge factors. Other aspects we're thinking through are desire and calling. What's our heart's desire? (I want lots of kids!!) And how does that fit into the larger calling God has put on our life? If we move to India as missionaries, how does family size play into that? But mainly right now the question for us is regarding adoption. We've been struggling for a few months wit the question of whether to adopt first or to try for biological children first.

    In answer to all of your discussion starters, I think the bottom line is prayer. Pray, pray, pray that God will grant clarity and wisdom!

    Great thoughts!!!

  4. Anonymous15.3.12

    Joseph and I just had a talk about that this morning! I said that I thought it would be better to space out our kids with a few years inbetween. But Joseph said something which I think is good to take into consideration as well... he said that if we want to have a bigger family (which we both do- 4ish kids), after I turn 35 years old, the chances of having complications with the pregnancy, miscarriages and children with physical and mental disabilities goes but significantly. So...that basically gives us 5 years before those risks go up. I'm not saying that we'll stop when I turn 35- who knows what life will be like 5 years from now... plus I know a lot of great women that started having kids at that age and they have great kids, and they are great moms... I just agree with my husband... that this just might be the 5 year window that is the most ideal for us to have our house full of babies and toddlers.

    Also, I think it would be a lot more fun for the kids to grow up around the same age.

    Margie (Rennie) Becker

    1. I have to agree with Joseph, Marg.

      There's no question that you'd be a great mom at any age! None at all. But the health (mental, educational, physical, chromosomal) of a fetus is dramatically less optimistic after age 35, that's a true fact.

      You have 5 years and you're already pregnant with your first, so I think you're in good position to have a big family before that time. And then there's always adoption, as I know you're interested :D

  5. this is very interesting..and something I can for sure relate to. EVERYBODY seems interested in other people's family planning, and so many feel the need to tell you when to have kids, and how many to have. The truth is, not many people REALLY know anybody's financial ability to care for a child, since nobody but the couple has (or should have) all the details on their bank accounts and income.

    for me, I became pregnant because GOD wanted me to. Yet, everybody seems to think that Daniel and I weren't using birth control, or that I tricked Daniel...or many other untrue assumptions. Our situation may not be ideal, but God has worked it out amazingly for us and I know that this little girl will certainly be provided for with all the necessities, and far beyond.

    I have also had people say to me when I should try for a second. We have not planned when this will be because I simply don't know when I will feel ready again to have another baby, but we have heard countless times that we should wait 4 or 5-years to have another. That is not happening!!

    Anyway, it's a good topic and I agree with basically everything that you say.

  6. Anonymous15.3.12

    Hey Emily,

    I saw your post and thought I would comment. Thanks for broaching such interesting and difficult topics!

    You raise some really good points about how a couple makes decisions about how big a their family should be. I think my perspective now is that a couple can only plan as much as they know in their current situation. Jeremy and I have also talked about having a 3-4 kids in the past and I think we are still open to that possibility -- but we are learning to keep those plans with open hands because we realize that life doesn't always pan out the way we think. I have several friends who planned on having big families-- but are actually struggling through infertility with their first child or trying for their second child. It's been several years of trying and so now they are debating whether to put the money to trying to conceive or to adopt. It's a difficult decision. Plus, I think unexpected things can happen -- such as the loss of a job, a child with a disability, a struggle through depression or other physical ailments -- that can really change a couple's original plans. For us, I've found having one child more challenging than I expected. So now when people ask us how many kids we are having -- I say: "One at a time!":)...unless we are blessed with twins at some point ( and trust God for lots of grace!)

    So I think that every couple can plan with the goal of honoring God through their family, their kids and their finances -- but also trust that God's grace is enough when plans don't turn out the way they hoped. For some it may mean that they have less kids that they hoped and for others, it may mean having more kids than they planned.


    1. Hey Selene, I think we're on the same page, though I wasn't as specific. When I say "capacity" I'm allowing for post partum depression, a child with disabilities, infertility, etc. You're right I think you can't always know the future and an open hand is absolutely necessary.

      I do however wish that people who want large families and find they can't afford fertility treatments would consider adopting from within the foster care system in Canada. It's FREE and as long as parents are flexible, they can still have the family of their "dreams" despite infertility. Though I realize it's a packed issue...

  7. Anonymous15.3.12

    The most interesting thought I heard on this was from a friend who is a pastor. He said, "God gives us the grace to handle the situations we are facing. God doesn't need to give me the grace to manage 6 childen when I only have 3. Bu as I trust in His sovereign love and limitless grace, I trust that as my family increases, He will provide us the grace." He wasn't suggesting that you continue having children regardless of physical and financial means to support them, but he was observing that he isn't going to "fear" (for lack of a better word) any prospective number of children.

    By the way Emily, I am eager to follow your process of adopting. Looking forward to it.

    Tim Myers

  8. Anonymous16.3.12

    It's a tough issue Em...For some people it is not as easy as just deciding to have children - you are very lucky that you were able to conceive your children so quickly and have healthy pregnancies...We faced multiple pregnancy losses and 2 years of infertility. So while we would LOVE a larger family (ideally 3-4 children) we don't know that it is in the cards for us. Having been through pregnancy losses and the emotional issues that come with that, losing a child is more painful than I can convey to people and the heartache and stress that comes from it are huge. Then there was infertility and the costs, heartache, time and risks etc associated with that - and I think we had it fairly easy in comparison to the infertility journey's of others. Then a multiple pregnancy that ended in premature birth and thus development delays and health issues - this is something that we deal with on a daily basis and is again nothing in comparison to what others deal with.
    I am not sure that we will try again, I would love to but there are a lot of issues, both mental and physical to consider.

    We feel so blessed to have had our twins - God really gave us 2 beautiful gifts and we love them so much. We have considered adoption in the past but private/international adoption are VERY expensive. And though adopting through the foster care system is free there are other challenges that present themselves - children with disabilities, fetal alcohol syndrome or drug babies, children from abusive pasts. And I truly believe that all children deserve a chance and a home I think that you have to be truly prepared for the challenges that come with adoption - it isn't always an easy path or right for every person especially if they have children already to consider. And I think it is often tough for people who have kids of their own to understand it isn't easy for people who can't have biological children to just accept it and adopt. Yes they will be your children and you will love them no matter what, but there is steps to accepting it and moving onto adoption that come with that. My cousins adopted and I know it was not an easy decision to come to and I can understand that. Adoption isn't for everyone and to say that people who can't afford fertility treatments should just adopt from the system isn't a fair statement, people who struggle with infertility aren't just considering costs - there are many other factors too. I truly believe until you have been through it you have no idea what it is like. I am happy for you and Brad, that you have decided to embark on the journey of adoption and I wish you all the best.

    1. Hi Taylor,

      You're absolutely right.
      I hope I didn't hurt you by glossing over the trials of infertility in this post. It just wasn't in our story so I didn't write about it. It's absolutely a factor in how many children a family may have, and an emotionally painful experience, no doubt.
      I'm sad that you and Jay had to go through that on the road to Hudson and Carter, and I hope I didn't seem insensitive. I'm sorry if I did.

      Also, adoption is certainly not for every family. If you go through the comments, I wrote that in response to Omnia and I do believe it's a calling and not for everyone.

      You said in your comment, "to say that people who can't afford fertility treatments should just adopt from the system isn't a fair statement", and you're right! But I didn't actually say that. I said, if you check the comments again,

      "I do however wish that people who want large families and find they can't afford fertility treatments would consider adopting from within the foster care system in Canada."

      I don't think couples who struggle with infertility should "just adopt already!" by any means. I said "I wish they would consider it" because I've heard of many families who would never consider adoption for many reasons and I think it should always be an option among many, up for consideration.

      Hope that clears things up for you. I know everyone's story is different and that having to adopt because of infertility is very different from choosing to adopt because of a burden or interest. I'm just advocating for adoption to be a considered option for families :)

  9. What Ive realized is "family planning" has to be one of those open hand situations. We can have an ideal plan, but rest in the fact that God has the perfect plan for us. I always wanted a large family with kids less than 2 years apart, but with nursing I didnt get my period back until after a year and then we had to wait for an important wedding and then a miscarriage, so my ideal plan is no longer a possibility, but I rest in the fact that God has that perfect plan for our family, better than mine - I have to be okay with that.

    I totally agree with your points about capacity and money. I feel like having a family is difficult in today's society because we are told we need the best of everything for our kids, we need to have them involved in everything and go on those big trips for family memories, but I am grateful for my upbringing. My dad being a pastor on a lower income and my mom being stay at home mom with 4 kids at home, we never had a lot, but were never in need. We camped and did driving adventures (I realize now it was low-budget vacations, but I loved them and had so many more family memories than my "rich friends"). They taught me that you can make the most of what you have if you want to. Our kids will do likely do more school sports and activities because of costs, and we will likely do the low-budget vacations and never have the fancy tv, but we will have love and memories and God guiding our family and thats what means the most to me!

    And we will see what God's perfect plan is for our family!

    So excited to see as God continues to build your family as well!

    1. you're totally right Rach.

      When I was begging the question, I meant more along the lines of "how do you decide what you WANT/HOPE for", because as you've said a lot of things can come into play (nursing/periods, infertility, miscarriages, etc) to change those plans.

      I love hearing about families like yours growing up. It wasn't my childhood experience, but it will be my kid's, so it's so good for me to hear.

      I'm so sorry to hear about you and Matt experiencing a miscarriage. I didn't know that and my heart goes out to you so much.

    2. I just blogged about it recently, it didn't happen that long ago. We would of been due early October. I'm still physically getting over it and emotionally its been a journey, but a good one in trusting God and His perfect plan. I still dream of having a large family close together and when they are older all being really close and there for each other and so that is still the plan, but we will see how it works out maybe we have to wait and then we will have triplets or something when we could handle that more! Or maybe we can't have any more kids and someday we adopt a family of siblings... I dont know.

      I think in deciding what we want it was more capacity and if we were ready for it and not as much money stuff. I think because of my upbringing I knew how you could be raised well on little. We waited because Matt really wanted to commit to 2 years of marriage just us before trying, and we tried really hard to get our school debt paid off in that time, but if we couldn't I dont think it would stop me. Again going back to my upbrining my parents were first missionaries and had my sister on the mission field than my dad who was trained in radio felt a call to become a pastor, so he had to go to school, so they left the mission field and went to seminary with a baby and then had me while my dad was in school. The first few years especially of my life I know were very tight and Im sure stressful for my parents financially but I never suffered because of it and it all worked out!

  10. Thanks for tackling this topic with grace. I find it is not easy to discuss in the church, as many people seem to have an opinion on whether family planning is biblical or not, and are not always willing to extend grace to those who disagree...

    Also, it seems women especially are quick to judge others. Some of the commenters have mentioned being criticized for having a children "too young" or "too close together". I've found on the contrast that people have made hurtful comments about women having children "too late". I just got married at 31 and I had a few people make comments about how long my husband was taking to propose because we "weren't getting any younger." (Because a man would NEVER get freaked out when you tell them to propose immediately before your ovaries dry up....) Not only is it not anyone's business, but that could cause me to question God's timing and sovereignty. If I'm trying to weigh my options with the mind God gave me, that's great, but if I'm trying to have as many kids as I can before hitting a certain age, it could be that I don't trust God to give me the children HE has planned for me. Hope this makes sense. Christian women need to love each other more and judge each other less!

    1. Thank you Maggie. I hope I have.

      Thanks for pointing out that there are two sides to the coin - people can be judgmental about starting early AND late, having "too many" or "too few" kids!

  11. As I was reading this I just kept agreeing in my head. I agree with every statement, I especially like how you worded it at the end "Though we are not planning to have more biological children, if we miraculously conceived, we would love that child and call him or her blessed. However, we're 100% on board with birth control and are hoping God agrees that this store is closed :)"

    Previously I wanted to have 5 kids, now, I'm not so sure. I have one and while I would like more (just not sure how many more) if God decided for us that one was it I think I would be perfectly ok with it (not something I would have said a year ago).

    Thanks for your honesty!

    1. Thank you Chantel!
      wording is the tricky part... I often know where I stand with issues but when I get to blogging about them they're sometimes taken the wrong way because I didn't word them well. I've been trying to be VERY precise and think through these controversial issues a lot before I post, so I'm glad to get this feed back :)

  12. emily, i love this post, i love your openness, and i am so so happy i've found your blog!
    your post on lingo on danielle's blog was so great.
    we are obviously out of the norm, too. we loooove babies and big families, and want to have at least two more - biological and adopted.
    anyway, thanks for sharing your heart!

  13. We also have a boy, then a girl, and people said things to me like, "You have the perfect family"...would it not be "perfect" if we had had two boys?! Two boys would have also been awesome. Silliness. A boy and a girl does not a perfect family make.

    Chances are we will add to our family one way or the other, but the next "birth" will most likely be my Ph.D. thesis.

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