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Why I Never Should Have Had Eight Children

September 16, AD2014 26 Comments

Long ago, I wrote a blog post explaining how to raise eight children without even trying. Today, I’m going to tell you why I never should have had eight children in the first place. Had I listened to the devil and modern conventional wisdom, that is.

When I was a happy mother of four, seriously considering and deeply desiring another child, an odd feeling overcame me. Over several days, my excitement at the idea of a new little soul became mixed with feelings of discouragement and fear. It began to dawn on me that I was barely good enough “mommy material” for the four treasures I already had, and that any further parenting would be irresponsible. It came to a head one evening: I remember standing in my kitchen, full of fear and anxiety, telling myself that I had no business — no business! — having another baby. Not now, not ever.

All my shortcomings and sins came to the forefront of my mind, and I stood there reeling from the truth of it:

I can’t cook.

I can’t grocery shop.

I can’t bring the kids out alone without help.

I have nooooo patience.

I am not crafty in the least.

I can’t sew.

I can’t throw a party.

I’m not athletic or outdoorsy.

I don’t know how to make a pretty home.

I don’t know how to make anything fun.

I am lazy and a procrastinator.

I’m used to being served, not serving.

I am sarcastic and cranky.

I am a complainer.

I like to be alone.

I hate to be interrupted or inconvenienced.

I am not particularly good with children.

In that moment, I knew all of these things. And I was discouraged. Any one of these reasons could be enough for a woman to convince herself that it’s imprudent to have another child. In fact, you might just be saying to yourself now, “My gosh, that Bubble woman shouldn’t have one child, much less eight!”

But see, there’s the thing: Moms of big families are told constantly by other women that “I couldn’t do what you do!” or “You must have so much patience!” or “You must have a real way with children!” They think we were given a special gift or have a mutant gene that they do not possess. But they have no idea how much we are just like them. In fact, most of the women who say those things to me are better suited to raise a large family than I.

As I stood there in the kitchen that night, a moment of grace overtook the moment of discouragement. How many times had I told others, “Discouragement is not from Christ, as Christ only encourages. Discouragement is from the devil!” I remembered it then, and my fears and anxieties were banished. Only the devil himself, the one who hates human beings to his rotten core, would taunt me with the notion that my lack of gourmet skills should preclude new life in my marriage. I saw the evil of it then, and I called him out. I still cussed a lot back then, and I am pretty sure I told the devil what he could do with his putrid flood of discouraging thoughts. Yeah, that was a good moment.

Since that day, five eternal souls have been created in our family, four of whom my husband and I have the privilege of raising on this earth. And, while I can’t claim to have conquered all the deficiencies and vices on my list (not even close! drat!), the existence of all my children has moved me along the path of holiness. Because that’s how it works: The souls in your life are gifts, each of whom is meant to sanctify you in a particular way. My little sanctifiers are the artisans who change and mold me in all the ways God knows I need, and they are their father’s and their siblings’ artisans, too.

That my family exists as it does is living proof that “with God, all things are possible” — even Leila Miller mothering eight great kids.

Deo gratias.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

Filed in: Marriage & Family

About the Author:

Leila Miller is a wife and mother of eight children who has a penchant for writing and a passion for teaching the Catholic Faith in simple ways. This summa cum laude Boston College graduate also enjoys debating secularists, and in her spare time she fancies herself a bit of a Catholic matchmaker. She manages two blogs that accommodate those hobbies well: Little Catholic Bubble, and the invite-only Catholic Moms Matchmaking.

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  • Bill Velek

    Hi. My wonderful, beautiful, saintly wife and I have eight children, too. We are Catholic and very much pro-life, and mostly … (except for some times when we succumbed to the temptation to use birth control) … used natural family planning. But we were very tempted during the delivery of child #5 or #6 (not certain), to have my wife’s tubes tied, but when we were faithful we experienced a very close moment with Christ. Pat had an extended labor, and although the doctor had broken her bag of water, something was inexplicably keeping the baby from entering the birth canal after repeated bouts of contractions. Time was getting late, so our OB/GYN explained that a ‘C-section’ was the only choice. We agreed, and he called another doctor to the hospital to assist him. It was middle of the night, so there would be some delay before the other doctor arrived; meanwhile, our OB/GYN explained the practicality of including a tubal-ligation (tube-tying) since they would already be ‘in there’ for the C-section. It made sense, and it was tempting, but we told him that we wanted to pray about it first. Later, when the other doctor arrived, we informed them that we had decided NOT to have the tubal. At that point the second doctor said that he wanted to check my wife again, and when he did he was able to feel a second bag of water, which our OB/GYN was not able to feel. Pat and I both believe that if we had just consented to the tubal, that there would NOT have been any further checking, and they would have immediately proceeded with surgery. But when the new doctor felt the second bag of water (perhaps from an undeveloped twin??), he broke it and Pat delivered — by natural birth — our baby within just a couple of minutes. We both sincerely believe that we were tested, and we passed, and that God rewarded us not only immediately, but also with the wonderful two or three children which we had afterwards. They are all wonderful children, and one of them has given us two tremendous grandchildren and is due to have another in February. We are so blessed. Praise the Lord God Almighty. And peace be with you.

    • Leila Miller

      Wonderful story of grace!

    • Elizabeth

      Beautiful story and way to be faithful to our ever loving Father!

  • Cinead

    From another angle, there are times when the devil uses the words of others to discourage.
    Some will take the list such as you made and simply tell you that should go to
    confession (good in itself, but not when being used by the devil as a
    weapon of discouragement) about those things and then imply that you
    should have just entered the religious life, or enter the religious life
    if single.

    “the existence of all my children has moved me along the path of
    holiness. Because that’s how it works: The souls in your life are gifts,
    each of whom is meant to sanctify you in a particular way. My little
    sanctifiers are the artisans who change and mold me in all the ways God
    knows I need”

    If you recognize this truth, the same people tell
    you that you are objectifying children for your own selfishness, and
    assume that the creation of your children is a
    result of selfishness. The same people appear to have no care about how
    you came to discern your vocation or how you came to discern that you
    are not called to the religious life.

    It has been said many times
    that you know you are on the path God wants you to be, when you start
    getting attacked by the devil. In my case, it seemed the moment I first
    began heading towards the vocation of marriage and family, Satan himself
    personally showed up (God forgive me for complaining). The more
    grumbling from people, the more hardships and temptations of
    discouragement, the more convicted I become of the vocation God is
    calling me to. Yes I am a sinner and have my own personal hardships, but
    everyone is and does. Parenthood doesn’t happen alone. You hopefully
    have your spouse, other family, God, and the Church, minus the
    naysayers.

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

  • Michael Lane

    Great article! I love the connection between sanctification and your vocation.

  • David Peters

    Leila what a great article! Thanks for sharing this. Even though Dads are different we too go through doubts about our ability to be good enough. Without God it surely does not work.

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  • Cindy

    I have learned just yesterday what you said. All discouragement is from the devil. Mine was about the existence of God though. I’ve been growing and in a good place. I was at adoration praying when I began thinking/doubting Gods existence. Why would he create humans? Flawed as we are. All the evil in the world. And I remembered we are created in his image. Why do we have children. Flawed tho we are. Because we love and want share that love. Our love wants to produce life to share love. If we are made in his image then he made us to share his love in so much higher level than we can understand. And besides that, what harm is there believing in God if we are wrong? None! So who is behind it? The devil. Am I making any sense? But the whole being a mom thing I didn’t understand until this moment. Reading your blog. A little late for me I think.

    • Bill S

      And besides that, what harm is there believing in God if we are wrong?

      It depends on what we do with our lives as a result of believing something that is presented as the ultimate “Truth”. Most of us do good things under that assumption. Muslims think that theirs is the one true religion and some believe that anyone who gives up that belief is an apostate and should be executed. It is easy for us to see how screwed up they are for what they believe. Who’s to say that we aren’t the same way with what we believe?

      I personally believe it is possible that “God” is just the name we give to the love that is behind all this. When you look at the universe it is beautiful and it would be a waste not to have someone who can observe that beauty and that is why we are here. We think of the love that made it all happen as some sort of Heavenly Father. There’s nothing wrong with that part of our faith. It is the judging other people that makes religion so undesirable.

    • Leila Miller

      God is Love. And remember, Christians are not to judge other people, Bill (we cannot judge souls). But we are certainly to judge actions. If not, then why do we raise or correct children to behave certain ways and not others, and why do we have courts and laws?

    • Cindy

      I was writing about a personal experience. My God is love. He sent His only begotten son to save us even while still sinners. My God says ‘thou shall not murder’. And that we should Love one another. This is the God I wrote about in my personal expereince.

    • Bill S

      I think what I was trying to say was that I don’t believe in your God except that when you say God is love, that does resonate with me. Your personal experiences are not something I should question or critique. I’m sorry if that is what I appeared to be doing.

    • Cindy

      I was heading in the wrong direction and God kept sending people into my life to lead me back to him. (he is still doing this) One of those people is our new Priest Fr. Muir at St Rose. Everything he does seems to be just what I need or confirmation of something I am learning. He started a ‘school of prayer’ Mass on Wednesday nights and wouldn’t you know it last night was about Love! So much like what I wrote about here and I NEVER do this. You sound like you may have been affected by ‘religion’ without Love. IDK but Fr. Muir spoke about what Jesus says when “you have not love” even when doing good things. I recommend you listen to his word from Sept 17 when they get posted here…http://stroseparishaz.org/audiogallery.php God will not let you get away from him Bill, he loves you!

    • Bill S

      Very good homily. I don’t accept religion but I can see where the concept of God being love would make sense.

    • Cindy

      I will be praying for you.

  • Bill S

    Someday you might realize about yourself what was portrayed in the Wizard of Oz. The scarecrow didn’t need the Wizard to give him a brain, nor the tin man a heart, nor the lion courage. These were untapped, innate abilities that kicked in when they were needed. Putting everything in God’s hands relieves the pressure and removes doubts and fears thereby allowing you to function better.

    • Leila Miller

      Bill, some readers might not realize you are an atheist, so I just want to be extra sure to say that my ability to do anything good is only there because of the One Who is Goodness. Without Him, I can do nothing. I promise you, He’s not simply a psychological crutch. I know you will find Him again someday.

    • Bill S

      Leila,

      We can both agree that your faith has given you the ability to raise eight children the way that you have. If you did not believe, things may very well have turned out differently. In your mind, God had a plan for your life that you placed your trust in and it has worked out well for you. I see it in a similar light except that I see it as the result of you trusting that things would work out ok and of you persevering until it did. That is the way I see faith working. We even allow for things not working out the way we expected as being also part of God’s plan for us that we might not understand at the time. Faith seems to be essential toward living a rewarding life. I find mine is not rewarding without it.

    • Leila Miller

      I hope you do find faith one day. I promise, it’s more than just wishful thinking or a psychological delusion.

    • Bill S

      I don’t like to admit being wrong, but I do know that deciding to limit the number of children to two and then having one gay son and another who won’t have anything to do with me and who might be too selfish to have children has left me with the prospect of having no grandchildren. I’m kind of ok with that, but not entirely. I wonder if a daughter wouldn’t be nice to have right now. That might be an argument against contraception. Naah!

    • Leila Miller

      Bill, you keep coming so close…. 😉

  • Guy McClung

    All of your “I can’ts” and “I don’t knows” were correct. Alone, you couldn’t and you didn’t know .My mistakes were of the “I do know” and “I sure can” – all by my proud lonesome self, because I was so able all by myself. After a “well-done” cycle in God’s “furnace of humiliation” as St Augustine call it, not only did I realize with God all things are possible, but without God nothing is possible. I say I didn’t raise my kids, they raised me; and truth is my wife has also been God’s instrument – sometimes a 2 by 4 – for leading me back to Him. Check out Bill Cosby’s Noah story – at the end Noah complains and whines about his neighbors making fun of him and “have you seen the mess down in the bottom of that ark? who’s gonna clean that up?”. Then there is thunder and lightning and Noah is quiet for a moment…and you hear Noah say “You and me Lord.” Out of the furnace now each day I say “You and me Lord.” With God all things are possible – even Leila Miller, mother of eight, writing and sharing God’s words with us. Thank you. Guy McClung

    • Bill S

      not only did I realize with God all things are possible, but without God nothing is possible.

      Guy,

      If what you are saying is true, then you are not talking about the God of the Old Testament because that God was not originally portrayed that way. It was Jesus who started saying things like not a sparrow falls from the sky, etc.

      We have gone from a God who is jeolous of other gods to one without whom nothing is possible. Is this a form of mission creep like we are getting into in Iraq?

    • Leila Miller

      Yikes, Bill, you need to read a bit more on exegesis of the Scriptures. And remember, I think it was in the Old Testament where God said that every hair on our head has been counted, and that even if our own mother forgets us, God will never forget us. He said in the OT that he knew us before he even knit us in our mother’s womb.

    • Bill, why not do something more constructive with your time instead of commenting on blogs obsessively? Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or with Habitat for Humanity, or some other worthy cause. Plan a nice surprise for your wife. At the very least get outside and get some fresh air and exercise.

    • Bill S

      Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or with Habitat for Humanity, or some other worthy cause.

      I actually have a business and get bored working out of the house. I read and blog sometimes while on an exercise bike. I know that some atheists are altruistic and volunteer but I’m not so inclined. I have consulted for Habitat for Humanity in Boston. I do environmental site assessments for them on properties that they want to buy and redevelop. Some need to be remediated and I oversee the cleanups. Thanks for your advice. Maybe I will take a walk while the weather is good.