In a few short months I will be 36 and possibly announcing a 6th pregnancy with my wife. While it may be popular belief that Catholics "breed like rabbits" because they are mind-numbed robots brainwashed by the Catholic Church, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, being open to new life has helped us better understand and appreciate the vocation of marriage. Our children have enriched our lives beyond anything a few extra minutes or a few extra bucks in my pocket could ever do.
Having a few more than the average 2.1 children routinely produces both positive and negative reactions. After the birth of our 3rd child people often assumed that we were done having children - often citing how nice it was that we had them all early so we would have plenty of time to enjoy life after they grew up. After the birth of our 4th child most people's curiosity would get the better of them and they just had to know - Did we know where kids came from?! Yes many voiced their surprise with jokes, my favorite: "Don't be a fool, vulcanize your tool!" - from a coworker. But the jokes were never made in good fun, they were a segue to a pontiff-like chiding.
Much like abstaining from meat on Fridays, having "many" children peaks the curiosity of even those of casual acquaintance. I have had people say to me, "you must be Catholic" when I told them about how many children I had and that I was planning more. Another women recently said to me, "I hope your done!", citing the need to provide "nice things" for them as they grow up. She told me how her parents were "very Catholic" and that she had 9 other siblings. In her home was nothing to suggest she retained any sort of Christian faith. Yet she herself was very well off - a successful business owner for more than 30 years. Apparently her sisters had all received Ivy-League educations and chosen to ...shiver... marry and stay at home.
Fully embracing Catholic teaching is not easy. When I was younger I remember hearing something that was attributed to JPII along the lines of how only the most devout Catholics would be able to adhere to to Catholic teaching on contraception. I used to breathe a sigh of relief when I thought of that statement because I believed that most Catholics were not devout and that made it okay - sort of like an example to strive towards but nothing obligatory.
Before marriage I tried to maintain a chaste life. I read up on natural family planning "NFP" and became convinced that it could be utilized effectively to prevent pregnancy and my then fiance agreed. Yet the stereotypical "rhythm method" was often cited by my parents as doomed for failure. Of course they all waited with baited breath for each pregnancy to poke fun by asking how the "natural birth control" was working. Truthfully it was working great.. but we were not looking to avoid pregnancy so things took their natural course.
Our 4th child was conceived immediately after our 3rd you better believe things weren't quite so funny anymore. Family was concerned, heck I was concerned. I found myself asking God whether or not I was strong enough to uphold my faith as I was soon to have two children in diapers and my wife at 26 years old likely had many natural child bearing years ahead of her.
Our 4th ended up being our first boy and of course we got all the comments about how we finally got a boy... "and your not planning on having any more right?" You see 3 is a common mistake and 4 is borderline fanatic but understandable if you really want that boy, but more than 4!?!! You gotta be nuts! So when the question came up I started telling family and the rest that I was thinking about having at least 6 and wow you should've seen the looks on their faces!
Three years later we had our 5th child , completely expected but it was only after several years of struggle and regular prayer. After #4 we were overwhelmed. Our parents were no longer willing to watch 4 at a time and 2 toddlers were difficult in all circumstances. We were too tired and busy to keep track of NFP charts so we rationalized the use of condoms just in case.