Spacing children


#1

A quick one. Am I missing something, or is it a sin to space your children 'just because'? I thought as Catholics we were called to space children sensibly? I've been reading a lot about having "just cause" or "serious reason" for not trying to conceive!

In my mind, if you use NFP, what is the problem?


#2

I'm not sure what you mean by 'just because'. I'm sure anyone who chooses to space children does so in the belief that it is good for the children and the parents to do so. Pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing are difficult tasks and it's perfectly natural that many couples want to allow some recovery time before undertaking another round, as such.

Couples practicing NFP can use their judgement to space children, but are also open to God having another plan, so I don't see any problem.


#3

[quote="bumby, post:1, topic:234401"]
A quick one. Am I missing something, or is it a sin to space your children 'just because'? I thought as Catholics we were called to space children sensibly? I've been reading a lot about having "just cause" or "serious reason" for not trying to conceive!

In my mind, if you use NFP, what is the problem?

[/quote]

The church requires just/serious/grave reasons to regulate births, because in the regulation of births we are abstaining from the marital act, which is a good within marriage.

CCC 2368 A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of procreation. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood. Moreover, they should conform their behavior to the objective criteria of morality:

When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts, criteria that respect the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; this is possible only if the virtue of married chastity is practiced with sincerity of heart.156 

What does this mean in practice? I think this means that we can't just put an arbitrary number which we want our children spaced, such as 3 years etc. Of course there are many legitimate reasons to space children. Maybe pregnancies are difficult, mom need time to physically or emotionally recover, maybe finances become tight with the most recent child, etc.


#4

[quote="bumby, post:1, topic:234401"]
A quick one. Am I missing something, or is it a sin to space your children 'just because'? I thought as Catholics we were called to space children sensibly? I've been reading a lot about having "just cause" or "serious reason" for not trying to conceive!

In my mind, if you use NFP, what is the problem?

[/quote]

What does spacing children "sensibly" mean? My oldest two are 18 months apart, and I never regretted that spacing. No chance for jealousy to set in, they have always been close and excellent playmates from toddlerhood onward. Having kids close in age is probably easier than having them spaced too far, to the point where they have different interests.


#5

To put it a bit bluntly, in the Catholic Church, the presumption is that, if you’re married, kids are good and more kids is better for you, for them (obviously!), and for God. Childbearing is an expression of marital love, heroic generosity, and is a great intrinsic and extrinsic good. Thus the Church further presumes that good Catholic couples are trying to get preggers unless they have some kind of good reason not to.

There are lots of good reasons not to, and each couple has to decide for themselves whether their reasons are real and honest and just and good (as opposed to, “We just aren’t feeling that generous this year”). Tons of such reasons have been listed in this thread, and probably some of them apply to you.

But, to answer your question directly: no, “just because” is not enough reason to use NFP to regulate births under Catholic teaching. We really do think babies are super-awesome, and there has to be some reason to not be trying to have one. Even when we do think we have a good reason and decide to space our children, one of the reasons we use NFP is because it invites God to override our imperfect judgment with His perfect judgment if He thinks we’re wrong.


#6

Surely money is a huge factor? I cannot house more than two children right now, let alone ferry them about here, there and everywhere - we have no car. I feel pretty insulted that I am apparently expected to be getting pregnant every year. I'm 25 and on my second! I assumed the general idea was to be fruitful. If I don't use contraception, I don't see the problem. I promised to be open to receiving children from God. Nothing more.


#7

My second child, due in July, will be 20 months younger than my eldest. I am glad there’s a short-ish gap between them for the reasons you mentioned for your eldest two getting along so well. About the spacing, I presumed it meant to space far enough apart so you can not have too many kids in your childbearing life - too many so that it means you can’t care for them all adequately and foster their spiritual and emotional needs.


#8

My five children are already "spaced out". Especially when it's time to do school work or clean their rooms. :D

We intentionally let two or three years go by between each one. We believe that the Holy Spirit guided us in this decision and have no regrets. Now that we are in our 40s, we are not planning to have any more children, but we are still open to anything God sends us. He does, after all, have a great sense of humor. If you want to make Him laugh, just tell Him what your plans are!


#9

Compendium of the Catechism issued by Pope Benedict XVI

  1. When is it moral to regulate births?

2368-2369
2399

The regulation of births, which is an aspect of responsible fatherhood and motherhood, is objectively morally acceptable when it is pursued by the spouses without external pressure; when it is practiced not out of selfishness but for serious reasons; and with methods that conform to the objective criteria of morality, that is, periodic continence and use of the infertile periods.


#10

Good morning!

At the risk of changing topics, I would like to comment on your post because I observe this way of thinking a lot and would like to offer my life experience.

I am happy for you that your children are close in age and that they get along so very well! Praise God!

However I would like to comment that the months separating them may not have as much to do with them getting along as it does with the temperments that God gave them and also (in part) their gender. I know personally siblings close in age and although your children did not have a chance for “jealousy to set in” this was not the case in other families! Interests were not automatically the same and jealousy can and did set in at times.

I have a sibling that is over 12 years younger then me and our relationship was beautiful growing up! Growing as adults too we talked on the phone a lot and had a lot in common! The relationship was wonderful. I also have siblings that are closer to me, the relationships are nice but there are many differences in personalities and we just don’t enjoy the same things and were not as close.

Having children close together does not guarantee closeness any more then having them years apart guarantees a distant relationship. Diligence as parents and staying close to Christ while loving our children and respecting their dignity is what is called for.

I say this because I have heard of despair in couples when they worry their children are “TOO FAR” apart and there is no such thing. I do not beleive there is an ideal formula for having/spacing children…God sends children when he desires a new soul to be here and his timing is perfect.

Just my thoughts anyway…God bless


#11

Well, on the flip side my sister is 13 years older than me and growing up was terrible! We still don’t get along! I wish I had a sibling closer to me in age, but she was it. I have no relationship with her at all now…I’m the youngest of 7 and might as well be an only child!


#12

[quote="happymommy, post:11, topic:234401"]
Well, on the flip side my sister is 13 years older than me and growing up was terrible! We still don't get along! I wish I had a sibling closer to me in age, but she was it. I have no relationship with her at all now....I'm the youngest of 7 and might as well be an only child!

[/quote]

That's why I hoped for closeness too. My sister was eleven years older than me and it was pretty awful... It didn't last long, she moved out before I started kindergarden (to live with her mom)... I always pretty much thought of myself as an only child and desperately wanted a sibling...

To answer the OP, financial reasons are probably the most common "serious reason" that you see around here. As long as you prayerfully consider the reason and feel that it's serious and are using NFP, you should be good. Just keep in mind that by being open to life you're... well... being open to life... and there's a chance you will get pregnant while using NFP, just as there would be a chance if you were artificially contracepting. If that does happen keep in mind that, when it comes down to it, you can often make small spaces and limited income stretch (I know we're finding that having two pretty much costs us the same amount as having one... so far...).


#13

Happymommy & Redsoxwife, Thank you so much for sharing. What I was trying to offer was that having children close does not magically increase the odds of a close relationship and I think many people beleive that and so they try and space their children according to that way of thinking.

Sadly I know of many families where the children are very close in age, many where the siblings don’t hardly even speak. In fact the ones closest in age are often the ones that carry the most resentments, the ones with a few more years in between seem to get along a little better. I am offering that we shouldn’t count on spacing of children too much for harmony in our homes. I suppose we could have a contest and for every close sibling relationship we could find a similiar one that is filled with strife don’t you think?

To the OP: What I would like to offer you is that society, family, friends, other Catholics and everyone else all has an opinion on what is the ideal family, how many boys/girls ratio and how children should be spaced. The fact of the matter is every family is different and beautifully so according to God’s plan. Some people are only children and God has placed them there for their spiritual benefit. Some people grow up as twins and yet others are separated from their siblings by many years.

The main purpose of our families are to not to have someone to play with or a lifetime companion or a place to have Thanksgiving Dinner…the main purpose of our families is to give us opportunities to grow in holiness and to get to Heaven eventually.

This is why spacing of children should be done while regularly conversing with God in prayer and devotion. God bless.


#14

I think it deserves saying that very few couples *would *space/regulate the number of births “just because”. People typically have a reason. They may not have a good reason (and as you point out, there are many good reasons.) They may have reasons that are selfish or based on erroneous beliefs. But they have a reason.


#15

Whoa, no one said that you have to have a baby every year. Just that “just because” is not a good enough reason. However, finances can be a just/serious/grave reason, just like the health and emotional well being of yourself, your husband, your current children, and even to an extent your future children.


#16

[quote="bumby, post:6, topic:234401"]
I feel pretty insulted that I am apparently expected to be getting pregnant every year. I'm 25 and on my second!

[/quote]

Whoa, there! Hold on a mo', bumby! I think I've been misunderstood! The Church teaching is not "you must get pregnant every year unless you're so poor you can't afford potatoes." The Church teaching is: babies are good. Have them. But do have them sensibly. You go on to say:

Surely money is a huge factor? I cannot house more than two children right now, let alone ferry them about here, there and everywhere - we have no car.

and then:

[quote="bumby, post:7, topic:234401"]
About the spacing, I presumed it meant to space far enough apart so you can not have too many kids in your childbearing life - too many so that it means you can't care for them all adequately and foster their spiritual and emotional needs.

[/quote]

These are both excellent reasons to space your children. It's why I come from a family of three kids instead of twelve -- Mom felt she'd be a terrible mother of that many children, but, with God's grace, perhaps an okay mother of three. (She was quite good, in fact, if I do say so myself.) Both those reasons you've given are a long way away from spacing "just because." They're real, important, weighty, and serious reasons, and it is your responsibility as a married couple to decide whether it is a good idea to have another child at any given time.

I assumed the general idea was to be fruitful. If I don't use contraception, I don't see the problem. I promised to be open to receiving children from God. Nothing more.

That is the general idea. The concern is that there are couples who use NFP-based methods, not as a way of being fruitful (regulated in a natural, rational, economically and personally sensible way), but as a way of becoming barren for a very long period of time for entirely selfish reasons. The fact is, NFP-based methods make a damn good contraceptive (language intended) for those who choose to use them that way. And, according to the Church, that is not acceptable.

It's a subtle distinction, though, and you're twenty-five and already on your second baby. I think you're pretty obviously in good shape, and you obviously have weighty reasons to delay any more births for a long time to come (trusting in God's providence, of course), so I wouldn't worry about it too much. You're not on the wrong side of the Church teaching here. You're not even close. But it would still be wrong to prevent further births for no reason or "just because," which you are not doing, but that's the question you originally asked, so there's the answer.

I hope that was sufficiently disclaimed. I don't want to be thought some kind of Catholic baby-monger.


#17

That makes sense! Thanks for that.


#18

Well, my two are spaced by exactly One Minute. :eek: But they are fraternal.

Only one is a bit bigger than the other. And so people stare at them for a while. Listen to them talk, and then finally ask… how far apart are these two. You can just tell they think maybe 9 months??? And REALLY want to say something… Which usually end with. Wow, the big one must have been huge when he was born. And the answer is NOPE, he was the tiny one. His head not even the size of my fist… ASSUMPTIONS… they are non stop.

It seems people like to make lots of them. Let them. It will only annoy you to no end if you give it much thought. You know what your personal situation is. You know what you can handle, and such… make decisions accordingly.


#19

:pshaw: You’re fine, Bumby. Many are and have been in your shoes. Spacing is perfectly appropriate here, and is probably a good idea if you don’t have the physical space or the financial means to care for another without great stress on yourself and your husband.

Consider, also, those of us who do Ecological Breastfeeding as a form of spacing babies. I personally believe God gave this to us as a natural way of caring for the youngest without another coming right along. A small child is (as you well know) quite demanding of the mother’s attention, time, and even sleep. With EBF, I’ve not regained fertility until 18-20 months after childbirth. This allows for a space between 2 and 3 years, which has worked well for our family.

You’re right about adding up the pregnancies during your childbearing years. If you start when you’re 20 and go until you’re 40, you could have 20 babies! :smiley: Blessing though that would be, most of our bodies wouldn’t hold up to that. Those of us with medical conditions or who require C-sections (myself included) know that our total number is somewhat medically limited, therefore it makes sense not to have them all at once.

I’m on my fourth pregnancy and will be turning 30 this year. It’ll be my 3rd C-section, and my first child is severely disabled. We know all-too-well about the need for spacing! Hope this helps. :slight_smile:

mary


#20

:rotfl: My mom had twins and they were numbers 5 and 6. They were fraternal and a boy and girl and mom always dressed them in blue and pink. The story that she loved to retell, was the lady who asked her if they were identical. :rolleyes::stuck_out_tongue:


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