Q&A: Why So Large? How Will You Know You're Done?

After this post, I'll have finally worked through all the questions I was asked last summer! Thanks for your patience with me as I've taken a lot longer to answer them than I thought I would. There were many questions about our large family, and because these questions are so personal and important to me, I've saved them for the last.

From The Depews:
Did you always know you wanted such a large family?

From Katie:
How did you come about having a large family? Did you always know you'd have so many so close, or was it something that kind of happened?
Before I met my husband, I never really thought about how many kids I'd eventually have. I knew being a mother was something I wanted to do with my life, but I wasn't one of those girls that spends her days planning her future family, what they'll look like, what their names will be, etc. I didn't date a lot in high school, and to be truthful, I sometimes wondered if I'd even find the right man to marry -- I guess I figured I was old maid material! So most of my plans were in the academic field, though even there, beyond trying to earn as many scholarships I could, I didn't even know what I wanted to study!

I do remember as a very little girl, the fifth of six kids, telling my mother once that I wanted to have only two kids because I wanted to spoil them. I probably told her that right after she told me I couldn't have something I wanted.

When I met my husband my freshman year of college, it was exciting to find someone who was so wonderful and who liked me too! He was smart, determined, hard-working, and dedicated to our faith. He and I met because we were asked to teach a Sunday School class together in our student ward at BYU, and we got to know each other really well as we discussed gospel subjects.

We never really had a surface friendship or superficial conversations. He had returned home just a few months before from serving a mission to Brazil, and he wasn't one to waste time talking about the weather. In fact, on our first date (two weeks after we met and two weeks before he got rid of his other girlfriend), as we drove to a concert in Salt Lake, he turned to me and asked, "How do you feel about children?" (In case you're wondering, I was in favor of them, as was he.) It was the first of many great conversations where we found out we were very compatible.

(starry-eyed engaged couple in 1997. I was a lot cuter back then.)

As we dated more seriously and became engaged, we had lots of conversations about the home and family we wanted to have together. I don't remember ever discussing what number of kids we wanted to have, though, beyond deciding that we wanted "a lot." We both felt that such a decision at that point in our lives was a bit presumptuous and that we'd rather wait and see what the Lord had in store for us and our family. When asked, we'd say the same thing we tell people now, "We'll have as many as come."

A few weeks before my marriage, I was given a priesthood blessing. In our faith, we believe that we can seek special counsel or healing through the power of God through one who holds the priesthood. We don't seek blessings lightly, usually only when we feel a special need, such as when we are beginning a new phase in our lives or when we are dealing with a difficult trial or when we are sick.

During the blessing, I was told a little about the children who would come to our family, and I was promised that my body would be healthy and strong to bear the "many, many souls" who would come to our family. It was a powerful glimpse of the future for me, and afterwards, my husband and I simply stared at each other for a few moments. "Many, many?" one of us asked, "I wonder how many that will be?"

We still don't know, and I don't think we ever imagined our family would grow quite so quickly, but I know we're not there yet! It has been comforting to me over the years to seek God's help and inspiration in planning our family and in reassuring me that somehow, I can do this. It has not always been easy and many times it has taken me a great deal of faith to follow this path, but I have always felt the love of my Father in Heaven and the importance of the work I do in my home.

From The Depews:
Have you and your husband ever disagreed on "the right number?" If so, how did you work through it?
We really haven't ever disagreed on our plans for our family, though sometimes I've been more anxious about getting the next one here than he has been. Since we have usually simply allowed our children to come, it hasn't been much of a discussion. He's said a few times, "I hope it's a long time before the next one comes," and I'll ask if he thinks we need to do something to prevent it, but that has never felt right and that's been the end of the discussion.

It helped a lot that we had worked through our feelings and thoughts on this subject before we were married. We'd discussed a lot of important subjects, such as the decision to have me be at home raising our children. This, to me, was one thing I would not compromise on and if my husband had felt differently about the importance of a mother in the home, I would have broken it off. I was glad that we were both committed to it, because we had many lean years as my husband finished school and worked to support our family. We had five kids before he started his career, but we were always blessed with enough, and my children had the privilege of having a mother devoting her full efforts to raising them.

We have always prayed together about the major decisions in our lives and if we ever were to disagree about the number of children, then that's how we'd handle it.

From Allison:
I know you plan on more babies, but have you ever felt 'done'? What if you did? Do you have a magic number? I ask this because I felt very strongly that we were 'done' after Jake. My body had a very difficult time with the pregnancy, and my husband and I both felt pretty strongly that Jake was our caboose. Fast forward to Audrey. She was such a surprise to us! Now, though, we can't imagine our life without her! I feel very much like she was meant to join our family. Now, I still feel very much like our family is complete, but I worry that there are more babies meant to come to our family, KWIM? Once I am pregnant and even more so once they get here, they feel so RIGHT and I am trying to reconcile the fact that we are done, with the fact that I know any others that came would fill a void in our family that I didn't know we had......

from Katie:
I know you plan on more babies, but is there a certain magic number at which you'll say 'enough!'? How will you know when you're done?
These are both great questions, and the plain answer is, "I don't know!" We don't have a magic number, though I think we'll probably have more than ten before we're done and less than thirteen.

What I do have is a strong conviction that we have more children ready to come to our family. I don't know how it will feel to be done; I just know what it's like to know our family is still going to grow.

I do hope my children are all here before I'm 40 (I'm 32 right now), and I would really like them all here before my oldest leaves for college, but I don't know if that will happen or not. I certainly don't want to miss out on a baby who is meant to be in our family simply because of some arbitrary number or age cut-off I've decided on.

I really hope that at some point, we'll just know that our family is complete, but I've known a lot of people who have felt done only to be happily surprised by another, like Allison was. My sister, for one, was done for about seven years before little Rachel joined their family. A friend and her husband felt that three kids were just right for them, but a few years later, they are so grateful they changed their minds and had number four. And while I think we are often surprised by life's little twists, I don't think God ever is. I don't think He scrambles around, thinking, "Oh gee, the Smith family is pregnant again and I already sent them all the kids they were supposed to have. Where am I going to come up with another child for them?" I think He knows and loves us and our children and He blesses us according to our faith and desires. While my sister might not have known about little Rachel, God had a plan for her life and her family. The joy she has brought to that home is amazing to watch.

So I look forward to seeing what life holds. It would be really great if I could plan it all out right now, but that wouldn't be nearly as much fun! I used to want to know everything that was going to happen to me and when, but as I've matured, I've gotten better at being happy with knowing enough for now. I love the words of the song, "Lead Kindly Light" that say, in part, "Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene—one step enough for me."

How have you and your husband decided on the right number of children? If you are "done," how did YOU know it?


Rachel said…
I just wanted to say how much I love this post! I love your perspective on family and children. Thanks.
bjahlstrom said…
This was indeed a great post, and very thoughtful. I have a question for you about the kitties I see in some of your pictures. How did you decide to add pets to the picture? How did you decide on cats? How do you teach your children to treat the animals? How do you not traumatize the pets with excited little kiddies? Just curious. I've always wondered how adding pets to a family works out when the children are small. Those cats seem to adore the younger daughters!
Maryanne said…
I've so often wondered this for myself. I don't have a set number in mind, but am so overwhelmed right now and feeling like I'm not doing a good job with the ones I already have that I keep thinking I should feel done. But I don't. So I guess it's wait (with birth control on board) until I feel like it's time to have another, or I guess there's a possibility I will just feel done at some point even without having another. It's hard to not know! Your faith and strength in welcoming so many children is really inspiring to me.
Natalie said…
Love this post. We've taken the same position on children and like you, we've had children faster than I expected to, but it's an exciting adventure and I've been reassured that the Lord is very aware of us.
kacy faulconer said…
You are still cute.
That was so well written. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As for when you know you are done . . my sister told me it is when you know there is no way you can face being pregnant again. As for me, after my third miscarriage I knew I was done, but my heart still wanted more.

And about being surprised . . we have a lady in our ward who just turned 46 and has a newborn. BIG surprise! And a happy one.
John said…
I always wanted a large family. My husband would not have married anyone who said they wanted to limit their children for any reason. After we had our fifth child, my husband said something along the lines of that is how life is suppose to be. When things seem crazy or I feel like I can't handle the chaos, God always steps in and helps me figure out a way to handle whatever comes our way. So after almost 12 years of parenting and 7 children, I have no question whether I can handle more. I just know God will give me the ability to handle whatever he gives us. We do want more kids. We do not know when we will be done or how many kids there will be when we are done. But right now, my husband, myself and even our children know that our family is not yet complete.
Amber said…
You are such an inspiration in this world where having children is generally looked down on. It's nice to hear about a happy mom staying home with her kids and welcoming them all. It is not easy!!! Keep up the good work!!
You are wonderful at voicing your thoughts. Just right, not too wordy, but just right on getting your thoughts across. I always wanted 7 or 8 kids, Rusty only wanted 5, but we never disagreed, we always felt like we would know as we went along. When I got pregnant with Katie, we both thought we'd have at least 4 more, bringing our total to 7, but then when we found out about her special needs, Rusty knew he wanted at least one more, maybe two more, but no more than that, but I thought we were done because of how much work Katie is/will be.

But about 6 months ago, I started feeling that we were NOT done and needed to have another baby. This next baby will be a test of faith, because I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to do, I'm already stretched thin, but I know for a fact that we're supposed to have another one. This experience has been so different from my other three pregnancies. I already have a very strong feeling what we're going to have, and what the name will be, and when it will come.

So, we still aren't sure when we'll be done, but I'm taking a similar approach as you, and trying to stay close to the Spirit so that I will know when we're done.
Wendy said…
I think this is seriously one of the questions that a lot of couples face. I know my husband and I have been wondering about it for a while now. But I like how you went about answering it.

It really is in the hands of Heavenly Father. And I'm glad that you and your husband are the type of people that are capable of loving and taking care of so many of these special, sweet little angels from heaven, and invite them into your home. It really does take a GREAT woman to be able to do all the things necessary to bring that many children into your family.

You are such a great example to me. And someday I hope I can be as good as you are. (because your that way in more than one way/area)
Corri said…
I can't remember how I stumbled upon your blog, but I thoroughly enjoy it. Thank you for your wonderful insights. I am always excited to hear what you have to say.

I just had baby #3, and I'm feeling so overwhelmed. I basically grew up as an only child, and I think that I'm lacking in some of the basic large-family mothering skills that others seem to possess. I'm just not sure how many children I can successfully handle, but I have no idea what "done" will feel like.

I'm hoping to receive a really clear answer to that prayer!
Unknown said…
I just found your blog via Women in the Scriptures. I'm enjoying reading through your posts -- and, of course, I had to check out the answer to this question first. I appreciate your life which is so different from my own with just 3 little ones.

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