[A disclaimer: consider this post more as an encouragement to moms who are struggling with their first or second young child, rather than a chastisement of those who are making different decisions from what I might make.
My primary point is that parenting doesn't have to be a series of horrible experiences... horrible pregnancy, horrible labor, horrible time nursing, horrible time transitioning to table food, terrible twos, horrible threes, horrible time dealing with "spirited" elementary grade children, horrible time with schooling choices, horrible hormones as they move into puberty, etc... Parenting can actually be quite enjoyable... just keep at it. None of us will achieve perfection, but practice certainly makes better.]
PRACTICE MAKES... ?
In life we often hear (and say), "just keep at it, you'll get better." Walking, reading, talking, learning, studying, test-taking, a job skill, hobby, communication, marriage, riding a bike, sex, friendship, rollerskating, housekeeping, teaching, etc...
... but it seems that many people stop having kids, or stop working hard at parenting, before they even have a chance to get good at it. And they don't even see the disconnect.
There's a reason why modern moms seem to gripe and struggle through every phase... because, for the most part, they're just guinea-pigging their way through parenting.
Everything is ALWAYS new.
Especially if they have one of each gender. Potty training is different with each... tantrums are different... play is different... learning styles are often different... toys are different... clothes are different... hormones are different, etc.
Everything is at the maximum level of stress and newness. All of life is questions, and by the time they have figured out some of the answers, they don't need them anymore.
If everything is always new, of course it's stressful. It's like starting a new job at every stage, or moving to a different country every few years (ask me about that one; I've been there done that), :) with each child. It's constant adjustment, all the time, and only rare opportunities to actually use the skills you acquired in the last stage.
In "modern" cultures like ours, it is quite common to hear women gripe about pregnancy, gripe about nursing, gripe about 2 and 3 year olds, gripe about disobedient/difficult children, gripe through adolescence, and even make comments like "having more would do me in". And I would agree with that sentiment-- if they had to re-learn all the skills over again, with each child. But for the most part, that's not the way it works.
Once you nurse a baby or two, you generally know how it goes. You've dealt with most of the breastfeeding issues and problems that will arise. And if one crops up that you haven't seen before, you take it in stride because you've faced difficulties before.
By the time you have a few children, you've likely learned how to teach your child to sleep well, because it's a necessity for family life/sanity.
One you potty train a couple, you know to watch for the signs of readiness, you know how to help them, and you have your own method worked out.
If you've diligently dealt with tantrums with your first child, when your second or third child starts acting out and having tantrums, you know to handle it right away and nip it in the bud, to help them to move through that phase more easily.
After dealing with the stress of a few semi-major emergencies or sicknesses, a mom is better equipped to discern what merits a trip to the doctor, and what just needs some of mama's first aid or TLC.
Once a woman has taught a few kids the basics of math and reading, it no longer seems so monumental or daunting.
And once even one of your kids gets to 6-7, you begin to have real helpers in your home. It's no longer "all" only on you... they begin to exponentially grow in the area of being able to play independently, moderate their own attitudes, largely handle their own toileting and bathing... and in fact, they often help with little ones (in little ways--grabbing a diaper/wipes... and big ways-- helping you see things, "mom he's about to knock over that glass of water", and "no, no, baby we don't touch that. Come play blocks with me.").
A transition happens.
Things progress, you get better, and things get easier. Things that used to seem so horribly tough/time-consuming/effort-requiring become second nature. You get better.
Instead, it seems that many families today stop before they ever begin to reap the rewards of all the learning they've acquired through the ups & downs of those first few kiddos.
Just my opinion, but it's something I've observed and thought about for a long time.
I am certainly not saying that everything gets easier, or that having a large family doesn't have a different set of challenges at times, but I am saying that things that once seemed difficult become second nature. Things that used to overwhelm are done without a thought. Practice makes better.
[Another little disclaimer-- lest you think I'm advising or saying we or everyone else has to have 52 kids: the *heart* is where God is most concerned... but our heart is often revealed through our actions -- they reveal where our treasures are.
And currently, most American Christians (as a whole, more wealthy than perhaps any other Christians EVER in the history of Christiandom) are the first to use finances as a reason for limiting this particular gift from God. Generally speaking, we treasure money, success, time, health, "me-time", furthering our own education, fitness, jobs, being able to have "our own ministry", and probably other things too, MORE than we treasure these little people that He made our bodies to naturally and regularly produce once we opt for marriage and are regularly intimate with our spouse.
No, we're not to sit around judging others, and yet we do need to soberly peek into our own hearts and make a sober estimation of what we find there. If our hearts are seeking God's best, valuing His gifts as gifts, and yet legitimately and perhaps sadly feel that we have reason to prayerfully limit our end of things regarding how many children to have, then that is a very different beginning place and ending place than the classic reasons given, "I don't have the patience for more!" (Um, isn't that a fruit of the SPIRIT?), "They're too expensive", "Our marriage couldn't handle more than these two!" (Perhaps there is a need for godly input from a Titus 2 woman?), "I'm ready to have my life back!" (So it's all about you?"), "We have three boys and haven't had a girl; we're done!" (What if Jacob or Jesse had stopped with such logical and sensible reasoning?")
Certainly no one need answer to me, but we all need answer to God. We need to look NOT to culture but to His Word, His plans, His pattern for humanity... to find what our attitudes ought to be. Not that we will ever all BE all that we ought to be... but we all ought to be striving to be more and more like Jesus, more and more like the Father, more and more with His attitude, His love, His patience, His strength in weakness, His steadfast kindness, His welcoming of whoever will come.
That doesn't have to look like uber-fertility... but if we look to basic biology and His comments concerning family, it becomes pretty clear what the design was (and is). To adjust that design may be acceptable, but whether it ought to be normative, which is absolutely the expectation in today's church culture, is another issue entirely. ]