Sherry Antonetti is a writer, a WSFT trainee, and a happily married mother of ten children.
No one knows what to do or where to look when I talk about birth control. It sounds crazy coming from a mom of ten children. I’ve heard the jokes, it’s obvious I don’t know about such modern medical inventions.
But I’ve used it so I know the arguments. I’ve made them. I’ve swallowed them.
When I married, the doctors told me I was high risk, that every pregnancy could result in a tracheotomy, and that the next one might be permanent. I had a “medical reason” (not a legitimate medical reason, as it later turned out). I thought “I’m good.”
For the next year and a half, I took the medication and wondered what had happened to me. Emotionally, I was angry all the time. Nothing felt happy. Everything felt stretched out of proportion. I told myself it was recovery from birth, from becoming a stay at home mom, adjust!
I kept telling myself things would be better, but the romantic passion I’d felt for my best friend, for my beloved had faded to a pale imitation of its former self. I’d tell you that it was just because we’d matured, but that would be a lie. We’d dated for six years and found each other alarmingly interesting, and three years of marriage had done nothing to dim that feeling, but everything had flatlined since. I loved my husband, but there was this gap between my feelings and my desire that honestly made no sense to me.
My reprieve came during a summer visit with my parents. My dad’s family owned a family beach house that had been my growing up summer place and I loved it. I was so excited to go, I packed hastily. I forgot the birth control pills.
My husband had to work, so he was not on this journey the first week I was there. He fed ex’d the birth control with a note: “The only reason I can send you this sad cargo, is I know one day, we won’t use it.” Reading that note was the “You had me at hello” moment. I threw the “sad cargo” in the trash and that was the beginning of what followed.
Nine children later, the fears of the doctors over my larynx proved to be more manageable as technology advanced. I would have lost out on at least six if not eight of the people who now share my Christmas and summers and evening dinners and outside capture the flag games.
I also discovered in the course of those nine additional children, a far more challenging and incredible life than I’d planned with all my dreams of a doctorate or being principal.
I won’t say it hasn’t been hard, that it isn’t hard, or that it won’t get harder. It is hard but I will say, it’s been beautiful and rich, it is beautiful and rich and continues to be a luminous growing experience. I have no regrets over having ten children and all the experiences those ten children bring to the every day. I do have regrets of the lost year and a half of full feeling.
What’s more, I heard from other women as I went through subsequent pregnancies about their hidden longings for a more natural life. “I wish I had…” “We agreed to only have…” “I’d have loved to have had…”
I came to understand when you have birth control in a marriage, and the subject of children finally is discussed, the smallest number is almost always the agreed upon one—and viewed as a semi-permanent contract, not subject to change of heart, growth, or desire.
I say all of this not because everyone has to have ten children, but because a lot of people say to me, “I could never afford…or I’m too old…or I can’t handle…” and I would say in response:
The solution the world offers to all problems is always less love. The solution faith always offers, is always, more love. Children are literally, the creation of the need and the source of more love in the world. Children will require you to love more deeply and to become more loving. They will also love you. They are the both-and that is love, requiring more love, giving more love.
The way of faith, the way of more love, of being open to having your lives’ script rewritten again and again and again, always works.
It may require sacrifice to raise all these people, but it is no sacrifice to be surrounded by people that love us.