Family Life-planned or otherwise

Originally Appeared in : 9716-8/3/17

Our boy Henry turned 10 last week and I’m amazed. How can that be? Wasn’t Henry just three years old? 


Isn’t he still?


Henry came along after a five-and-a-half-year break from having babies. I hope that doesn’t sound negative but here’s our story: Henry has four older brothers who were all born within five years of each other, which means by the time our oldest was five we had four boys. 



For a few years, Paul and I added a baby boy to our mix every 21 months. It was awesome and a little exhausting.


After the fourth boy, we saw a trend developing (as Paul likes to say) and felt like four boys ages five and under was stretching us. I wasn’t drowning in life, but many days felt like maybe I had just the tip of one nostril keeping me above water. I spent some days living in three-minute increments (I can do anything for three minutes.), falling into bed each night worn out, but also very grateful.


So we waited five years (thank you, natural family planning.) and decided to have one last baby. And that baby was Henry. We had another boy and I felt like the queen of the universe. Five boys in a row.


What a gift.


As you now know, Isabel came along a few years later, a happy surprise at the end of our basketball team. Life sure is sweet with her in it.


But back to Henry, which incidentally means "Lord of the House." One thing I love about Henry is how he proved to me that just because you are in a hard season doesn’t mean it will last forever. Henry is proof that you will get through the tough parenting days of lots of little ones. 


After we had Augie, our fourth son, I could not imagine adding another child to the mix. I was at my “limit”  – and I’m grateful that God and church teaching and common sense allowed us to acknowledge that it was okay to say we needed to work very hard not to add another baby, right then.


But I also love and appreciate that our church allows for a change of heart. I won’t lie, if I had been given the option after baby number four to make sure we would never have another baby, I’m sad to say I would have taken that option.


But as Catholics we agree to be open to life by not making any final decisions. We use Natural Family Planning (NFP) to postpone (even indefinitely) having another baby, while not doing anything that would close that door completely.


When we decided to have another baby after a five year gap, it was exciting and sweet. I couldn’t believe that my heart had changed, and that my mental outlook had healed as well. It was good that I got the time to catch my breath, to focus on handling the four children we already had.


As I think back to that time in our life, 10 years ago when Henry came on the scene, I reflect on the beauty of each individual family. Every family is special in its own way, and it’s important for parents to consider their own physical and emotional resources when being open to life. I have friends with more children and friends with less. Family life, family size is not a competition. 


It’s okay to admit when you are barely treading water. That’s not a bad place to be, especially because those are the seasons when we learn to rely on God and place our trust in him. And that place looks differently for everyone. What one person can handle easily (four kids.) might be a great challenge for someone else (me.). 


At the end of each day, whether we have one child or 10, the joy comes from a heart of gratitude and trust, knowing we are in the center of God’s will and that he has his eye on each one of us, meeting our needs in the exact place we are.


Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at

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