"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 21, 2014
No More Babies
by Emily S. Jorgensen

I always wondered how people knew when they were done having children. Of course, sometimes the decision is completely out of their hands. Some people want more, but their bodies won’t cooperate, or they find themselves suddenly single, or what have you.

But, more often than not, declaring your family complete is a choice.

As I was nearly 16 when my youngest sibling was born, I remember my mother struggling with this decision. Hers is not my story to tell, but I remember how long she wrestled with her choice, and how she looked for counsel from both her doctor and her bishop. She wanted to be absolutely certain she had brought to Earth every spirit she was supposed to.

I erroneously thought every faithful LDS mother went through such a struggle — that everyone treated this decision as monumental and looked to the Lord for guidance when making it.

Many people outside our faith assume we have such large families because birth control is against our religion. Indeed, I have heard many people in our faith profess this belief.

But this is not the doctrine. As found in the Handbook 2: Administering the Church, Selected Church Policies and Guidelines:

It is the privilege of married couples who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies of the spirit children of God, whom they are then responsible to nurture and rear. The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.

Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening the emotion and spiritual bonds between husband and wife. (21.4.4)

Rather, we have large families for two reasons I know about. First, we believe that the commandment to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” (Gen. 1:28) is still in force.

Second, we believe there are a finite number of spirits that are alive right now living with God, waiting for their chance for a body on Earth so they can experience mortal life for themselves, and it is our Christian obligation to provide these bodies for our fellow children of God.

Now, some members of the Church may very well feel inspired that birth control is not for them, and that their family plan should follow their natural biological rhythms. That’s just fine for them. But it wasn’t for me. I’ve made a lot of conscience choices regarding reproduction all along the way in this chapter of my life.

This is on my mind because I finally weaned my final baby last week. Indeed, she’s not a baby so much anymore, but a toddler. It is true — I nursed her for another month more than I had any of my other babies because she was the last one. It was hard to let go, to say goodbye to that chapter of my life.

I won’t be having any more babies. I will never have that tender quiet moment in a darkened nursery when I hold my tiny newborn close and listen to her soft little sucking sounds knowing I am the Mommy and somehow I got to experience this miracle.

I am now, for the remainder of my life here on Earth, relegated to only brief stolen moments holding other people’s babies to relive those nearly sacred memories in a glimpse.

It was a heart-wrenching decision to finalize the end of my childbearing years. I agonized over it for weeks before my husband and I took steps that would prevent us from ever having any more children.

My last pregnancy and birth were extremely difficult. I was on several medications; there were some close calls. Even without regarding a minor but pertinent medical condition I have, my age alone classified the pregnancy as “high risk.” Indeed, all my pregnancies had been so.

The birth was traumatic and much more painful than any of the others had been. My husband tells me that I told him every single day of that pregnancy (the emphasis is his) that I was never doing this again.

Still, when I held my fourth child in my arms and wondered at her tiny hands and all ten toes, I was struck with such devotion to her and such a testimony that she was worth it all and I was so blessed to have her that I wondered. I wondered if I could do it again. I wondered if she was really my last. I wondered if it was my fear and selfishness talking when I decided she was the last, or if it was wisdom and inspiration.

So, for many weeks I prayed and pondered. I tried to talk to my husband about it, many times. I felt it should be Our Decision, and not just My Decision. I saw it as one of the three biggest decisions we would ever make in our marriage — the other two being the decision to marry and the decision to start a family.

But, he frankly refused to discuss it. He had his reasons, and I won’t go into them here. The end result is that I was left to find my answer alone.

I asked many people I knew who had closed the book on that chapter of their lives already. I got several answers: “We wanted more but it was not to be,” “I felt I could not give my other children what they needed if I had any more because I am so miserable when I am pregnant,” “Three seemed like a good number,” “I’m just done. I can’t handle any more,” “I could handle more but my husband is maxed out,” “we just don’t have any more room,” “pregnancy is so dangerous for me, it scares my husband.”

I am sure all of these are good reasons, and the decision is deeply personal. However, I was surprised I never got the answer I thought I would, “We took it to the Lord, and felt inspired that our family was complete.”

I am sure at least some of the people I discussed this with did just that, and the experience was too personal or sacred to share. But still, I was surprised it never came up. Not once.

It gave me greater appreciation for how my mother came to her decision to finish childbearing. I know it has given her great peace in her life to know without a doubt that she fulfilled that part of her mission on the Earth. She has said several times that she knows she got all the spirits here that she was supposed to.

I wanted to know for sure that I had done what my Heavenly Father expected of me. I knew I had only had my last child because He made it so. After a miscarriage that had threatened my life, it was only through the power of a priesthood blessing that I was willing and able to try again.

However, if He helped me through this pregnancy, wouldn’t He help me again, if that was His will? So, I sought to find out the will of God.

As Latter-day Saints know, we do this through scripture study, prayer, pondering, listening to the Spirit. After many weeks of soul-searching inquiry, I received a peace and knowledge that my family was complete. There were to be no more babies.

It was a bittersweet answer. My last baby was just a few months old when I knew this was my truth. It made every joyous stage of her development that much sweeter, as I knew I had to savor it. It made every night full of teething-inducing screaming that much easier knowing it was the last time I had to endure that torture.

As I watch her grow and change at the same rapid-fire rate I have become accustomed to with my other children, I alternately thank heaven this is my last one and weep quietly because this will never come again to me.

But I have peace. I know I brought every spirit to Earth that the Lord wanted me to.

Sometimes people ask me if I’m really sure. After all, their sister/cousin/coworker/friend was so sure, and then ended up having another child.

But, I am. I am sure because my decision was not based on how big our house was or how much money we have or whether I wanted another baby.

My decision was based on personal revelation. That’s enough for me.

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About Emily S. Jorgensen

Emily Jorgensen received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from Brigham Young University. She earned her master's degree in elementary music education, also at BYU. She holds a Kodaly certificate in choral education, as well as permanent certification in piano from Music Teacher’s National Association.

She has taught piano, solfege, and children’s music classes for 17 years in her own studio. She has also taught group piano classes at BYU.

She is an active adjudicator throughout the Wasatch Front and has served in local, regional, and state positions Utah Music Teachers' Association, as well as the Inspirations arts contest chair at Freedom Academy.

She gets a lot of her inspiration for her column by parenting her own rambunctious four children, aged from “in diapers” to “into Harry Potter.” She is still married to her high school sweetheart and serves in her ward’s Primary.

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