When You Can’t Handle (Any More) Children

I’ve been using Mondays to get caught up answering the messages in my inbox. This week’s question was prompted by our new music video, Do You Wanna Have a Baby? What if the answer is no, because you’re afraid you can’t handle more children — or any?

Monday Mailbag - When You Can't Handle More Children

Question: What if I can’t handle having any (more) children?

Hi, Jennifer.

I wanted to ask you a question, I have been thinking about it for a while. I always wanted to have a large family, but now I think it will not be possible. I recently suffered from a major burn-out and have really seen that I am not as strong as I thought I was.

When I listen to your song “Do You Wanna Have a Baby?” (I LOVE that song), I feel guilty for not wanting many children anymore.

But I know we have to be very careful. We can’t enjoy sex without me worrying about a pregnancy, and we do need to use birth control until I am fully recovered.

It is hard, because I know all the great aspects of growing up in a large family. I know the bad effects of birth control. And I know how wonderful it must be to receive many children.

But we also have our responsibility for my health. What do you think about this?


Answer: A few considerations to take into account when making this decision

Dear Unsure,

It doesn’t really matter what I think, but since you ask, I will tell you what I tell my own children: Having a large family made perfect sense in my particular situation — I’ve always had smooth pregnancies, easy deliveries, healthy babies, a strong body, a stable marriage, an aversion to contraceptives, an intense desire for lots of children, and a loving, supportive husband with a good job that allows him to provide for all of us.

If any of those factors had not been the case, we might well have chosen to do things differently.

I understand that not every couple has been blessed with such ideal circumstances, and — depending on the extent or severity of the challenges they face — it may make better sense for them to limit family size by practicing some form of birth control. That is a decision that must be prayerfully made by each individual couple.

If you do opt to use birth control because you can’t handle more children, I’d only suggest that you…

  • Choose a method that is not abortifacient

    Hormonal contraceptives work by thinning the lining of the uterus so that it cannot sustain a developing embryo. IUDs make the uterus similarly hostile. These methods don’t necessarily prevent fertilization from occurring; rather, they prevent implantation. Additionally, hormonal contraceptives can cause serious health problems (for both mothers and children subsequently born to those mothers) you would do well to avoid.

    So if you’re going to use birth control, choose a method that is not potentially abortifacient. Some options are barrier methods (condoms, diaphragms, and the like) or Natural Family Planning (which calls for tracking your cycle an d abstaining during fertile times, though how “natural” it is to forgo sex during the time when most women’s libido is highest is debatable)

  • Avoid doing anything permanent

    Feelings vacillate. Circumstances often change, and so may your attitude toward having [more] children. So hold off getting a vasectomy or tubal ligation, just in case. Those surgeries carry health risks, too, and even though they’re sometimes advertised as being “reversible,” those reversals are expensive and often don’t work. Instead, leave some room for God to change your mind on the matter.

  • Make any decisions on family size BEFORE you get pregnant

    I’m fine with a woman’s choosing not to have a baby before she gets pregnant. But once that little one is conceived? I pray she’d be able to see it for what it is — a blessing being knit together in his mother’s womb and one for whom God has a special purpose — and narrow her choices to two: Shall I keep this baby and raise him myself or place him up for adoption?

  • Continue to nurture the physical aspect of your marriage

    Finally, I would warn you not to let your fear of getting pregnant cause you to push your husband away sexually. He still needs your closeness, and you his, so don’t neglect the physical part of your relationship just because you’ve chosen to limit your family size. 🙂

Love Your Husband, Love Yourself

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  1. I am in the exact same boat as the lady who wrote in. I’m in my 40’s with 7 children, and my body burned out on me after the 7th child. Sadly, it too me a long time to really understand what happened… The good news is that I now understand what is going on and am in the process of healing my hypothyroidism, adrenals, and hormonal issues that all worked together to create a crash. Before I get into my current thoughts on family planning, I just want to say that I truly think women need education on exactly what to have tested if they are not feeling well. Thyroid testing goes way beyond TSH, which often only shows a small piece of the puzzle. ( T3, T4 and a whole long list needs to be added to the test) Adrenals can get burned out in new moms and moms of busy families, BUT they can be supported and healed!

    I LOVE big families, (and I believe God wants me to be stay open to more children in the future) but I am currently having to make temporary birth control decisions due to my health. ( I agree with Jennifer’s comment on birth control decisions) For me, I see this as a temporary decision, as I truly believe that God wants to heal my body, and that He is the ultimate healer.

    I am not sure what the health issues are for the sweet lady who originally asked this question, but I want to encourage her with several thoughts: 1)God is your ultimate source of strength and healing. 2) You may find ( as I have) that now is a good time to do a lot of research on health. Find the root of your problem, and learn what you can do (humanly speaking) to promote good health. 3) Be willing to look outside the box for help. Naturopaths and functional health doctors are good at finding the root of things. 4) Lay your desires before the Lord and trust him to speak to you and give you wisdom for now and for the future. Keep trusting Him for today’s strength and for tomorrow’s plans!

  2. Fertility Care/ Natural Family Planning (NFP) is highly effective (98-99% with an instructor) and completely natural. You learn to read the signs of your body that tell you when you are fertile (4-6 days max) and infertile. It’s very empowering. You make intimacy decisions as a couple based on this information, while respecting the way your bodies are designed and not blocking any natural functions. That way you can give yourself to your spouse 100%, holding nothing back and putting up no barriers – physical or chemical. This means periodically abstaining if you are using the method to postpone pregnancy, which has its benefits too. The marital act/ the 1 flesh union is not taken for granted, no one feels used, women feel revered, respected, cherished. Communication is enhanced as you discuss the possibility of starting or continuing your family each cycle.

    1. I agree that NFP can be highly effective, Annie, and is far less risky with respect to a woman’s long term health than many of the other options available today; however, when you consider that NFP calls for abstaining during that precise time of month when a woman’s hormones would normally make her most interested in being physically intimate, it doesn’t seem completely “natural,” after all. Also, if a couple chooses to abstain during the wife’s menstrual cycle as well as during the time she is most fertile, that adds up to a lot of abstaining, which can put a different sort of strain on the marriage relationship.

      Couples wishing to prevent pregnancy might consider using a combination of NFP and some form of barrier method, which would allow for “protected” relations during times of peak fertility rather than complete abstinence, then “unprotected” relations for the remainder of the month. This approach also has its benefits: the one-flesh union is preserved and valued for reasons beyond its procreative purpose, no one feels neglected or marginalized, women get to enjoy intimacy at the time when their bodies are most primed to do so, husbands feel respected and understood, and communication is inevitable as you discuss during those fertile times whether preventing pregnancy is really worth the hassle of using condoms for those few days or not. 🙂

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