Sneaky Conceptions?

Family Matters

I feel called to have another baby, but my husband vehemently disagrees. We are longtime natural family planning users, and I'm inclined to stop checking my fertility signs without telling him. Would this be wrong? Aren't we called to be generous in the service of life?

We, too, are longtime natural family planning users (as well as certified teachers of the approach) and we've heard this scenario described more than once. A few thoughts:

It was hard for us to accept that every deep desire for a baby does not automatically translate into God's will for our family. Eleven years ago, we were newlyweds and desperately wanted to start having children. We prayed about it, however, and felt like God was asking us to wait. Tom had just started graduate school and Caroline was supporting us through the lucrative profession of Catholic high-school teaching in a high-rent town, far away from both our families. We did postpone pregnancy for a while but got tired of waiting and decided to jump in and start trying.

Nothing happened. After several months, we turned back to the Lord for more discernment and realized he was still calling us to wait. Our deep longing was a good and beautiful thing, but our timing was not the Lord's timing.

We can't determine God's will for your family size. That is between you, your spouse and the Lord. But we can say that it would be wrong to knowingly trick your husband into having a baby. It is contrary to the dignity of the person to use someone as a mere means to an end. Instead, pray hard that you can be of “one heart, one mind, one path” (Jeremiah 31). Ask for intercession from St. Joseph and the newly canonized married couple, Luigi and Maria Quattrocchi.

Prayerfully consider your husband's objections. The Church asks us to weigh physical, psychological, financial and social conditions when praying about family size. Perhaps your husband has legitimate concerns about your situation. On the other hand, you might be able to assuage unfounded fears. You can remind him that children really are “the supreme gift of marriage and contribute substantially to the welfare of the parents” (Vatican II).

Finally, until you can come to unity on this decision, you don't have to squelch your desires. There are many ways to be generous in the service of life. You might consider helping out a new young mother or volunteering at a crisis-pregnancy center. Or you can resolve to be more generous, loving and patient toward the children you do have (Caroline's new year's resolution).

We do not know your age or the age of your children, but perhaps God is preparing your heart for grandchildren. We do know God's plan for us is so much greater than anything we can devise for ourselves. We'll be praying that God's perfect will may be done in your family.

Tom and Caroline McDonald are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.

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Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.