Deciding How Many Children To Have

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Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
We currently have 3 children, but we're talking about if/when we would want to have another. We are up for natural or adoption, but we honestly aren't even sure if we plan on having more. Just talking about a plan now. Do you all have any wisdom?

I know there are many factors involved, but I would like to hear why you settled with the amount you did. It could be things like wanting more quality time with your kids, so you didn't have as many, etc.

Thanks so much!
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
We have six daughters between 5 and 15. Two biological, four adopted. Birth control has allowed us to adopt without having more biological children simultaneously. When you consider adoption, these children often come in with trauma related issues that most biological children don't have to deal with. I mention this because having more children through adoption brings another set of joys and strains. The straining portions, in particular, necessitate more time and energy as well as changing parenting styles to meet their particular needs.

As for the number, that all depends on what you are able to handle. Our youngest came to us at eighteen months old and has some particularly difficult issues. This (to some degree) has made it difficult to consider any more.

Bottom line: don't overthink it. If you want and can provide for more, have more. If you feel like three is a good number, stick with that. I am skeptical of the mentality that is against any form of birth control on the rationale that "God is in control" or "let God decide." We could apply the same rationale to seatbelts and a host of other things. Rather, treat this issue like you do most others-- consider your options, pray and make a decision within the freedoms God gives us. Of course, you could decide that three is enough and God can still give you another one when your best plans fail. But unlike the seatbelt analogy, the child is a blessing regardless of your plans.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Graduate
This does raise a question I've had for a while now. My wife and I currently reside in Presbyterian circles in which the general thought seems to be "just keep having children until your bodies stop producing." We have numerous families in our congregation that have 7+ children. I've even heard it argued, "Don't worry about being able to afford the children; just have them and God will handle the rest. He commanded man to multiply." Is there a place in this discussion for being able to care for children? My wife and I are about to celebrate our seventh anniversary, and we have no children. For the first four years of our marriage, we were essentially living paycheck to paycheck. The next two years we lived with my grandfather, a chain smoker. This last year, while building a house, we have been living in a camper. None of these situations seemed suitable to raise children in. Is this unbiblical thinking?
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
My beef is with people who go into marriage not open to having children. It’s almost like they don’t understand what marriage is for. But you have 3 kids already. Have more if you want, or don’t. It’s up to you!
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
I wrote a series of articles on this for Ref21 last year. Perhaps you'll find them helpful in sorting through some of the ideas and issues which have already been raised in this thread:

Ben Franks. “Three(ish) Views of Contraception.” (Part 1) Reformation 21 Blog. https://www.reformation21.org/blog/threeish-views-of-contraception (September 17, 2020).


Ben Franks. “A Paradigm for Procreation.” (Part 2) Reformation 21 Blog. https://www.reformation21.org/blog/a-paradigm-for-procreation (October 6, 2020).


Ben Franks. “Principles for Flourishing.” (Part 3) Reformation 21 Blog. https://www.reformation21.org/blog/principles-for-flourishing (October 22, 2020).
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
We stopped at three due to our life situation and consideration of my wife's health; our last was really rough on her.

Frankly, I'm kind of surprised the latter doesn't factor in more of the discussion I've seen among Christians re. birth control. I.e, having kids isn't exactly making cookies -- at least for some people. It can collect a massive health toll.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
My wife knew without knowing she knew that three was the right number for us. While we yet had only two, she yearned for more. As soon as we had the third, she was content and did not desire another.
To say that you will leave in God's hands the amount of children you have and do no planning of your own is like living on soda and twinkies, knowing that God has appointed the day and means of your death, so why bother about health?
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
We currently have 3 children, but we're talking about if/when we would want to have another. We are up for natural or adoption, but we honestly aren't even sure if we plan on having more. Just talking about a plan now. Do you all have any wisdom?

EDIT: This sounds a little like a rebuke to me, but I assure you it is not meant that way. I was just in a great rush because of other things I have to do. Please pardon any typos too.
Thanks.
Ed

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Find me one place in the Bible where anyone, saint or sinner, (other than Onan) limited the size of their family--or even thought in those terms. Consider.

Psalm 127:3-5
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD : And the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; So are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
The burden of proof is on discovering the possibility of a child that is not a blessing from the Lord.

The expression used throughout the Bible is that it is God's prerogative to open and close the womb.
Read through Genesis 29 & 30 about Jacob's wife and children. You will see that it is always God's prerogative to open and close the womb.

Notice particularly how God takes careful notice even of our thoughts about children, and He acts accordingly.

Genesis 29:31​
And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.​

And don't you think God sees all your thoughts as it pertains to children?
And besides, you have no idea how many children God will give you. 11% of couples have difficulty conceiving or are completely unable to have any at all. I am rusty on this stat, but as I recall, about 25% of couples can only have one or two children. It is up to the Lord.

AM I saying that I am against all birth control? Not exactly. The Bible teaches positive birth control. In other words, there is a president for having strong desire and for the use of means to increase fertility.

Consider the desire of Rachel, who I mentioned above. She became so desperate to have a child that she rashly said the following to Jacob.

Genesis 30:1​
And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

Now notice Jacob's response:

Genesis 30:2​
And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?
My advice, therefore, is to relax and enjoy each other passionately and give all your concern about the results to God. He even numbers your hair.

Sholom
 
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Ryan&Amber2013

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for all of your feedback so far. Our main concern with having another child is my wife having to carry for 9 months, and then us having responsibilities of a newborn for that first year. This is very physically demanding and time consuming, an amazing blessing, but at the same time very difficult when we already have three young children. We really want to be able to give them as much time and attention as we can.

For those of you who advocate just letting happen what will happen without much consideration, I feel like if we did that there would soon be a pregnancy. It seems like with that method it would almost be difficult to not get pregnant. We don't use birth control or anything like that, but there are intentional things that can be done to not get pregnant. Without going into detail, would you not advocate taking any precautions at all?
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Junior
God tells us to be wise as well. Sometimes it is not wise for a family to have 7+ children. Certain types of birth control (the pills) make it so a fertilized eggs cannot implant. So, it causes abortions. Avoid those.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
There isn’t a formula. God commands fruitfulness. Have an attitude of fruitfulness. That may mean 3, or it may mean 9. Or 26. My wife was ready for another before we left the hospital with each of our children! After #6 was born, she said, “I think I’m done.” It’s been three years and she hasn’t wavered. She said her body just felt like it couldn’t bear another.

Oral contraceptives can cause abortion, so those are out the window. But even with other forms, God is in control either way. It’s not as if a calendar or thin piece of latex will thwart His plans, but as far we have decision making and planning, it calls for wisdom and faith.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
If I'm not wrong, isn't there also potential environmental issues from the pill? I remember reading somewhere that all the hormones flooding into the water supply badly damages fish fertility (and possibly human?).

I realize this is a secondary concern, but it's not incidental either. We should be good stewards of all God's creatures.
 
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De Jager

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have been married for just under 2 years. We have one little one, born about 9.5 months after our wedding. We are now pregnant with another. Only God knows how many we will end up having, but as of right now we do not want to use any kind of unnatural birth control. When the time comes, perhaps we will decide to forego coming together in the days around ovulation. As of right now that's the only type of birth control we are considering. I would hesitate to dogmatically assert that this is the only "right" way of thinking but I would also not be comfortable in personally using artificial means to prevent a pregnancy. Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. And once the older ones get to a certain age you can enlist them as helpers. :p
 

Frosty

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't take be fruitful and multiply as have as many children as possible.

Some couples are wired and equipped to keep popping out and raising children where others need to know their limitations.

There are many factors at hand. Mental and physical health- of the father, mother, and current children- being #1. Financial and emotional ability to keep going. Bear in mind, the "cost to raise a child" often put in articles and news stories is way overdone for the average child, although health complications can raise it significantly.

We have been blessed with 4 sons. We do not plan on having any more natural children for some of the reasons I mentioned above, despite having more child-bearing years in front of us. And that could change. What we do plan on doing, if able, is to be involved in foster care and/or adoption if possible in the future.

Like a lot of what should we do questions, it comes down to do my motives honor God's commands and seek to glorify Him?
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
We had four children, two in our late twenties and then two in our late thirties. The last pregnancy was the hardest on my wife, so we knew we were done after that. She just turned 40 before our last was born. She still has lingering consequences from that pregnancy years later. Part of being a good steward is taking care of your wife's body. If she can't handle anymore, then it may be wisest to not have any more, and be grateful for what God has given you.
We knew a couple other families around the same age who had 9 and 11 kids, and the wives had no trouble at all. So just look at your situation and prayerfully consider what is the wisest thing to do for the good of your wife and household and leave the rest to God.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
I'm 47 and my wife is 35. We had our one and only child so far (pictured in my avatar <3 ) in late summer 2019.

I'm open to having another child or two, but I have to keep in mind that I am likely to die before my children are far out of college and possibly well before.

This weighs on me. I am glad I waited until I was in my mid-40s to have kids, because I was thoroughly worthless to anyone on Earth before then, but I also deeply regret the trajectory of my life up til then.

I wish I had had my 45 year old mind (and regenerate soul) in my 18 year old body. I'd have married a good Reformed Baptist girl and had 15 kids. :)

But I digress. This isn't my thread.
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Freshman
The point of parenthood is raising new adults, not perpetual children. My kids sure as heck better learn how to help out around the house and do work. And it’s our job to make sure it happens. My job is not to do all the work and let the kids play for 18 years.
 

Irenaeus

Puritan Board Freshman
This thread has been a helpful reminder of the need to attend to legitimate issue of provision, health, and sense of calling. One thing I have never been able to figure out: how does one, as a believer, reconcile the use of any birth control with a sound witness to the world on abortion and the value of life? While acknowledging wide variation in the reasons for individual abortions, I do observe some occasional overlap with the reasons given by believers for holding back from childbearing. Good points were made above that the command to be fruitful has to be taken in context, just as the command to lay down one's life does not mean everyone boarding the next flight to Saudi Arabia to hand out Bibles in plain view of government officials; but I still find myself wrestling with how to square family needs with my testimony to unbelievers around me.
 
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ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I'm 47 and my wife is 35. We had our one and only child so far (pictured in my avatar <3 ) in late summer 2019.

I'm open to having another child or two, but I have to keep in mind that I am likely to die before my children are far out of college and possibly well before.

This weighs on me. I am glad I waited until I was in my mid-40s to have kids, because I was thoroughly worthless to anyone on Earth before then, but I also deeply regret the trajectory of my life up til then.

I wish I had had my 45 year old mind (and regenerate soul) in my 18 year old body. I'd have married a good Reformed Baptist girl and had 15 kids. :)

But I digress. This isn't my thread.
So you wished you'd married your wife when she was six years old?! :)
 

Jake

Puritan Board Senior
Somewhat related: I found this sermon from John Piper helpful. I don't often recommend him but I think he hit the nail on the head here: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/marriage-is-meant-for-making-children-disciples-of-Jesus-part-1
 
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