Room for One More? Surrendering Your Family Size to God
- Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Kneeling on the thin carpet of a hospital chapel, I thought, What a way to celebrate my birthday. This was the hospital where I had been born 34 years earlier. And now, with my husband Russ undergoing a vasectomy reversal in an operating room somewhere below the chapel, I was looking forward to another birthday - the time when Russ and I hoped God would bring our second child into the world.
We had chosen a vasectomy four years earlier after much thought, prayer and counsel. We'd been convinced that it was the responsible thing to do because we couldn't obtain adequate life insurance (due to Russ' minor kidney condition) and a second child might inherit the nerve deafness that forced Russ to wear two hearing aids from the time he was a boy. Not only that, but Russ said he was at peace with one child. Some friends and family members pointed out the benefits of being able to give all our attention to an only child. In the middle of a stressful season while Honor was two years old, the idea of conserving my time and energy appealed to me. So I'd surrendered my dreams for a larger family and swallowed my heartache, hoping that I'd find peace after we made what was meant to be a final decision on the matter.
Life buzzed on, and as it did I had to admit that it was easy to settle into a comfortable apathy about it all. It was good to be able to work my schedule as a writer and editor around just one child and a relief to avoid the stress of sibling rivalry. Knowing that we had just one college fund to invest in took financial pressure off us. Life felt safe and under control.
But it also felt stagnant and stale. It was as if the surgeon had cut off more than our fertility -- he had also cut hope and joy out of our lives. At only 29, I felt like an old woman already. Friends began having their second, third and even fourth babies, filling their homes with fresh joy. But I methodically gave away all of Honor's baby supplies, toys, and clothes. A kitchen devoid of a high chair and a bedroom without a crib were constant reminders that new life wouldn't come to our house again. The enthusiasm that Russ and I had shared whenever we'd discussed our dreams for the future faded away. What was the use of pursuing other dreams, I reasoned, when one of our greatest dreams - having the family we'd discussed before we married - was never going to come true?
Constant friction sat between Russ and I like an irritating, uninvited guest. Still, I reminded myself that we'd made the best stewardship decision we could in our circumstances. Maybe your head thinks so, my heart seemed to reply, but you haven't listened to me!
Was it possible, I wondered, that the vasectomy had been a terrible mistake? Or was my sin simply failing to be content with my current life? After all, I had a lot for which to be thankful. Russ and I had a wonderful daughter while some couples had no children at all. And Honor wasn't truly alone, surrounded by a large extended family and close friends she called "sisters in Christ." Yet the more I prayed, the more I became convinced that God had another child He wanted to send us.
Then my mom barely survived emergency open-heart surgery. I stood by her hospital bed alongside my sister, overwhelmed with a sense of life's brevity and an urgency to use my time well. At the end of my own life, I knew I didn't want to regret not welcoming a child God may have wanted our family to have.
But Russ didn't seem to share my grief -- until one night when we attended a living nativity presentation at a local church. "Oh, look!" Honor exclaimed. "They're not just using a doll for Baby Jesus. That's a real baby!" Russ gazed wistfully at the infant in thoughtful silence. Then he put his arms around me for the first time in a long while. Soon afterward, Russ agreed that we should try to reverse the vasectomy. He was willing to try, he said, so we could grow in our faith and our marriage.
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