Children – do we really look at them as a “gift of God,” or as a problem to avoid?

By Angela Johnson

My Mom, Mary Ann Kuharski, is traveling right now so I offered to write her column this month. I’m not sure what I was thinking since she often uses her 13 kids for content for her articles. In fact, I just met someone for the first time who told me, “I feel like I know you because I read your Mom’s column!” So, what can I tell you that you don’t already know? Well, if you haven’t heard, my husband and I are expecting our fifth baby this November.

Yup, that’s right. Five kids.

5kids-familyI was telling my Mom about all the startling comments we’ve received lately when sharing this news with people. She suggested I write about my thoughts… I’ll admit; they were more than thoughts. I was pretty fired up about it (I mean, I AM Mary Ann’s daughter, right?). Before I rant a little, I’d like to share a few of those comments with you:

  1. “So, this must’ve been a surprise then, right?” – Of course this is assumed since doing something this “crazy” couldn’t have been planned or thought through.
  2. “Wow, #5. So, I guess you must want all those kids then, huh?” – Hmmm… I’m clearly a few months pregnant so, yes, I do “want” this and I’m appalled they’d allude to other “options.”
  3. “Girl, you need to get fixed.” – Nothing makes you feel more like an animal than using the word “fixed.” Plus, this comment is all about convenience – the need to fix something she sees as a problem and telling me what she thinks I need. My husband received the same phrase posed differently, “You know how you can get that fixed, right?”
  4. “You must be trying for a boy, or to carry on the family name.” – Nope, our last name is “Johnson” so carrying on our very common name is not a concern. But, it’s true, we do have 4 girls so adding some variety to the mix would be fun. However, it’s as if this person was searching for a reason why someone would really want that many kids.
  5. “Well, better you than me!” – I get the feeling she’d rather be saying, “There’s no way I’d be that stupid.”
  6. “So, you must be done after this, right?” – This is always said more as a suggestion than a real question.
  7. “You know, you only need to have 2.3 kids to replace yourself and your spouse. The rest is adding to over population.” – Clearly we are being irresponsible and not abiding by “the rule of 2.3” even though we can feed, clothe and care for all of them, thank you very much!

Sometimes these comments are even said in front of my 4 kids. I wonder how their little ears must perceive all this – that people find the idea of their Mom expecting another baby as something odd or “crazy.” Or, how it must make them feel to think maybe they were “unwanted” since everyone is assuming this pregnancy is something we didn’t want or plan.

I sat in the park one day after receiving one of these comments from a fellow mom and saw someone walking four dogs along the path. It’s funny how that person probably never hears someone say, “Wow, are these ALL yours?”

I think most of these comments boil down to someone trying to grasp why we would actually want this many kids. I mean, isn’t having a baby an inconvenience on life, plans and a career? It’s shocking to me there’s no support shown to expecting parents. Instead, it’s about “fixing” it or assuming it’s a “surprise” or a mistake.

So, why is this happening? Why is a new, precious gift of life not seen as one? Not only is it not celebrated, but it’s clearly not supported, culturally accepted or welcomed! Why is it seen as an inconvenience instead of a blessing from God?

I’m guessing some of these negative comments are made because people just don’t know what else to say. Maybe the situation makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they wish they had more kids themselves but couldn’t or didn’t think they could have more. Or, maybe they truly don’t see the joy a brother/sister provides another sibling and how it brings the entire family closer together, not further apart. Or, maybe they don’t see that another child is also an investment to your family that could mean more than having a vacation, bigger house, or more toys and gadgets.

Whatever the reason, this experience has made me more sensitive to others – especially those women who are courageous enough to say “yes” to God when they don’t have anyone around them to support their decision. I’m so grateful I have a supportive family and church friends to turn to who made our announcement joyous and uplifting. It makes me sad to think that some women not only do not have support from their inner circle, but they also face negative comments and questioning concerns from a host of others they encounter every day, including some who are virtual strangers.

Now more than ever when I hear of someone who’s expecting, I offer encouragement, joy, congratulations and a big smile – to the mother and to the father – that they both said yes! I also pray for those couples who are desperately trying to have a baby or add to their family and are unable – my heart goes out to them.

And, to those who I encounter now who react to our news with raised eyebrows, bugged-out eyes, and a dropped mouth… First, I make sure not to avoid eye contact and look ashamed as I have in the past. Instead, I look directly at them and say, “I know! Aren’t we blessed to be so fortunate?” Or, “what better gift can I give my family, right?”

And when they assume this baby wasn’t planned, expected or wanted – I re-assure them that even if it wasn’t in our plans, “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

That’s all that matters.