I had no idea there was a name for our inability to schedule conception, which has resulted in three babies in four years. But, apparently, there is. It's even trademarked, and there's a book coming. It's called "baby bunching."
According to other women I chat with, older women will often go deliberately for baby bunching because they have fewer good years of fertility left and they want to get kids in while they can. Some want to get the birthing years over with, which I am quite sympathetic to (I'm playing with the idea of "four by 30" but I hate pregnancy so much we'll see if we make it...or, which is more likely, if we continue to have children constantly despite my hoped-for 30-year cutoff). Other, less-organized people like me, keep having these kids during what are obviously highly fertile years, and we won't kill them, so we love them instead.
We happen to have three little ones primarily because God has decided to give them to us. Also, we don't use chemical birth control for health, environmental, and religious reasons, so I imagine that makes it easier for God to slip them in (although chemical birth control doesn't stop all babies, either). It's a crazy life, but a happy one.
Even though we're friendlier to children than many (I daresay most) in our culture, I still have those thoughts about families with twelve kids, or whatever, along the lines of: "Do the middle ones get any attention from their parents?" and "How the mother doesn't want to kill herself for being pregnant or nursing for 20 years, I have no idea." Of course, having twelve kids over how ever many years must still have a different dynamic from having two or three children more quickly than the all-knowing World Health Organization recommends. Cough.
But those thoughts conflict with the Christian teaching that God puts souls in humans. This is how I comfort myself during my repeated annoyance that we're pregnant again, and I have to be a big fat creaky toad for another year. Given those realities, deliberately manipulating conception seems to be attempting to play God with small human beings. At the same time, I don't know that it's deliberately manipulating conception if you try to get pregnant soon after your previous child since, again, you can't make the baby appear on your timetable. We can get rid of babies once God puts them on earth, but we can't make babies appear when we want.
All this chatter has gotten me to where I understand what's weird about calling close-in-age children "baby bunching," or anything else: It assumes that people can plan conception. Now, you can decide whether to have sex, but once you have, conception is a natural result that you really can't completely control. You may be able to guide it, and that seems generally unobjectionable. But attempting to guide fertility is different from attempting to control it. We just like to pretend we can arrange childbearing into whatever constellations suit our fancies.
I recently read a speech from a young lady who poignantly discusses this topic.
I think that we are pathologically terrified of risk and I think that we have this enslavement to our own ideas of respectability, our own ideas of our life plan, our commitments, our existing duties such that something as radically changing as a new life doesn’t fit in with those existing duties. To accept that life would be the irresponsible choice, and that’s the framework from which a lot of people are operating.Read the whole thing.
Image by John C. Abell.