I guess I should start with the way my husband proposed to me…
First of all we started dating when I was 16 and he was 19. Yes, my parents were desperate to marry me off. I mean come on, I was the baby, the ninth child, and the fifth daughter. We dated for almost two years. I was ready to get married at age 18 but he decided that he needed a break…and I got the break…it was in my heart! A week after I decided I never wanted to see him again, he came by my house to visit. I looked shocked and he said, “I am going to marry you some day.” I looked at him and thought, I don’t even like you right now. Almost two years passed and we started to date again. After just a few months we went to Sugarloaf Mountain. Up on a very high peak, he proposed. I think he was as surprised as I was at his question. I looked at him in shock and he said, “Who else will give you 10 kids, a dog, and a white picket fence?” I thought for a moment and realized that was pretty accurate. In 1988 finding a guy who wanted to have kids at all was a bonus. So I said, “Kill the dog, make it 11,” and I said yes!
So, when I was engaged to my husband, Rob, we did what most Catholic engaged couples do when they are engaged. We took NFP classes with the diocese; I was shocked to learn how intricate and fascinating women’s bodies were. After the class I started charting and taking my temperature and being watchful of other ways my body would change during my cycle. I did this for about 3 months and learned my ovulating pattern.
One night I attended a pro life talk with a guest speaker named Joan Andrews (now known as Joan Andrews Bell). She spoke of the responsibility Catholic couples have to follow the will of God in their lives. This may be using the gift of the church, NFP, or letting God be in total control.
Since I had dreamed of being a mom since 2nd grade, was very healthy, and had a fiancé who also was willing to have a big family, I started to reconsider why we were even going to use NFP.
Rob too, after spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, felt as if God was asking us to be open to life. So after sharing our experiences with each other we decided to put away the thermometer and prepare for our life together being open to life.
It helped so much that we were surrounded by wonderful couples who mentored us in spiritual, as well as married life. Many of them used NFP and some just depended on God’s planning. One night at a prayer meeting, before our wedding, the women prayed over me. One of the women said, “I am having a vision of you being surrounded by children.” Ha, ha, she laughs even now seeing me with my 13 kids.
After about a year engagement, May 11, 1989, I got my period. We were to be married on May 20th and I knew right away that I would be ovulating on our honeymoon! Rob and I did get pregnant on our honeymoon. It was the best thing that ever happened to us. Then when my daughter Alex was about 4 ½ months old and nursing fulltime, I got pregnant with Joshua. He was about eight months old when I got pregnant with Francis Jude. I then miscarried at about 8 weeks. Then two months later I got pregnant again, thanks to Our Lady of Guadalupe’s intercession, with Caleb Michael. When he was about 10 months old I got pregnant with Elizabeth. When she was about 8 months old I got pregnant with Barbara Philomena. Then came Joseph, Robert, Dominic, Mary, Cecilia, Eric, and Kolbe. All about 18-22 months apart. I weaned Kolbe at one year so I could try to get pregnant again (I know I am crazy). Kolbe was almost 3 when I got pregnant with Hope Grace- I didn’t know I was pregnant. I was going to the doctor because I thought I was going through menopause as I kept spotting and thought I was having short periods. My doctor suggested that I go for a mammogram and sonogram to check if I was really going through menopause or not. The sonographer asked again why I was there and when I said to find out why I wasn’t able to get pregnant, she said I was 6 weeks pregnant! Shocked, excited and very scared because I had been spotting, I texted my husband a photo our new baby. A couple weeks later we found out Hope didn’t have a heartbeat and again my heart broke.
At this time I begged God for a baby (again). Little did I know God was hearing my prayer and in another state my little Ray was being conceived by an unwed mother. Later she would find herself at the Gabriel Network unwed mother’s home. I was called by an employee at the Gabriel Network asking if my family would be willing to take in a 12 week old baby while his mom tried to get situated. On April 12, 2013 Raven Gabriel came into our lives. When he was six months old, we got legal custody of Ray. To this day we are still praying to finalize his adoption.
Little did I know I was about five weeks pregnant with Steven Thomas when we got Ray. After lots of doctor appointments and tests we found out all was great and I was healthy enough to deliver this baby. At 17 weeks I was feeling fantastic and on top of my game. Unfortunately, my water broke out of nowhere and my world crashed down around me. I was given no hope of my baby's survival and was told I could terminate the pregnancy since it was impossible for Steven to survive. I was given better advice by my second opinion, which was to go home and wish for the best. After 2 weeks of bed rest, and asking people all over the world to pray for a miracle, Steven went back to his Father in heaven at about 20 weeks, to intercede for our family. This time more than my heart broke, it felt as if it was crushed and my thoughts of ever having a baby again were pretty unbearable.
I haven’t met many people who feel the same way as me about wanting babies ALL. THE. TIME. I can honestly say that in the 26 years of marriage every time my husband and I have made love I have been open to life. Even after my son Caleb was born 23 years ago when I had to get a MMR booster shot. I was told by the doctors and my midwife that getting pregnant would be dangerous to the baby. That my baby could be blind and get other birth defects. I was concerned of putting my baby at risk but knowing that the chance of getting pregnant while nursing a 2 month old and not having my period yet was pretty slim. I also knew that I promised to trust God and let HIS WILL BE DONE in my life. So far at age 47 it has worked out perfectly.
All of this may sound super strange to most people reading this but I have seen innumerable fruits from being open to life and letting God be in charge of my life and my fertility. Marriage is tough enough and having my husband and me not have to worry about if I am ovulating or not, and just let God direct our love and passion is so freeing. I can hear my kids saying, “Ew mom, you are so gross!” That’s when I say, “Isn’t it nice knowing not one of you were a mistake? All planned by the GOD of the universe?” Since my husband and I always pray before we make love, “Lord, bless this act of love and any baby you may give us.” It’s pretty awesome watching God give us so many blessings…I could write a book about all the miracles we have had by being open to life…the many people, gifts, and situations that God has directly took over for us is unbelievable.
Well, it’s about three years later and I am still mourning my fertility, but loving God, and being grateful for my 13 living children and my pretty remarkable granddaughter. I have been told by many people how they desire for another baby, but have NEVER been told by any living soul that they wish they DIDN’T have this or that child. I am so thankful that we were always open to life and chose to never use NFP to prevent children. I know it is a gift of the church for many families for very good reasons, so believe me no judgment here; but I am thankful that we didn’t need that gift and are enjoying the 16 precious gifts He did give us.
May God grant you wisdom and a spouse that shares your desires in all things holy.
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Thy Will Be Done!!! +JMJ+