May 25, 2007

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

The challenge of seeing children as a blessing

On the morning of April 26, my wife, Cindy, gave birth to our third son, Victor Thomas. He arrived less than an hour after we got to the hospital.

The birth happened so quickly that my father, who had come to take our two older sons to his home in Shelbyville, was still in Indianapolis when I called him on his cell phone to share the news.

When he told Michael and Raphael about their new baby brother, the former charmingly replied, “Oh shoot. I wanted a baby sister. Oh well, maybe next year.”

Now, contrast those words with the reactions I’ve received from some adults in just the three weeks since Victor’s birth.

“You know how those are made, don’t you?”

“Do you need another television?”

To be fair, I believe these comments were made in lighthearted jest.

But I think they betray a deeply rooted and pervasive attitude in our culture that says that children are, at least in part, a burden to be avoided at best or one to be carefully controlled at worst.

This perspective on children has been with us for at least a generation. It is starkly displayed in the abortion industry and in the way that various forms of artificial birth control and elective sterilization are taken for granted by society at large as a good thing.

Now, I don’t think that the folks who have made such comments to me see themselves as spokespeople for Planned Parenthood. I give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they love children, especially their own—if they have any.

But this attitude is so widespread that it has affected to one degree or another most everyone, even those who truly love children.

Now, in all honesty, raising children isn’t all rainbows and lollipops. Burdens—some small, some large—do indeed come every day with children.

But when my wife and I help each other with these burdens, we carry out the words of St. Paul to the Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

On the other hand, raising children isn’t just a cross to bear. If parents are open to them, children offer them wonderful blessings every day. Children are, indeed, wholly and entirely blessings from God.

Even when they present us with burdens and we bear them, we are following in the steps of Jesus all the way to heaven.

I can only imagine how difficult it might be for couples who desperately want to have a baby, but have not yet been blessed with one, to have people all around them see children as a burden.

Now, the fact that my wife and I see children as a blessing does not mean that we have mapped out a plan to have as many children as possible.

No, we prayerfully discern together from month to month and year to year if God is calling us to be open to the conception of a new life at a particular moment. We take to our prayer and Natural Family Planning our obligations to our current children and other serious matters.

Our son, Michael, who recently turned 5, is still too young to take such a nuanced perspective on prayerfully considering being open to new life.

But, all things considered, I think he is on the right track with his comments. †

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