Friday, November 8, 2013

Apparently, Baby Bunching Is a Thing

By Joy Pullmann

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.


  1. I love that speech. Hot dang. Nail on ze head.

  2. Ah, those WHO recommendations... sounds good, but *hardly* the only relevant factor in deciding what to do about "birth control" (which is such a dumb term for so many reasons and I propose to ban it from all rational discourse).

    Good post on that very topic:

  3. Joy, I totally appreciate your comments about receiving children as God gives them. Thanks for being open about such a personal topic... it's one more and more people really need to hear. That being said, I would strongly encourage you to think about how this works on the other end of things when you make comments about the annoyances of childbearing -- many women are single, infertile, or have struggled with miscarriages, stillbirths, etc., and would find it a very good trade to literally cut off an arm if it would mean having even one child before 30. Or 40. Or 50. And they have to come to terms with the inability to control childbearing and conception to suit what they would have desperately liked to have in a very different way than those whose living children are born a little closer together than their parents may have originally preferred. The same Author writes many different stories for everyone. He has decided to give you many babies in a quick time. He has also decided to withhold or take them from many other people -- it would be a great blessing to see that understanding reflected when commenting on the demands of pregnancy and motherhood, too. Just some food for thought here. I hope it's thought-provoking and encouraging. Thank you for writing (and living) bravely with a very counter-cultural understanding of Christian family!
    -abby hummel.

    1. Good point. Obviously my "trials" have been having lots of children fast, not wishing desperately to have children. So I can't speak about that experience, and if I tried this might have been a much more rambling post. How curious of God to mess with different people in different ways.

      At any rate, please consider a guest post. We'd be happy to publish it.

    2. That would be neat. We should talk! :) Raising children does have many trials and I don't want to make anyone think it's not okay to feel stressed or overwhelmed by that giant task. I'm sure you are a good mom and I know you love your kids very, very much, which is what they really need. All I'm saying is that the other side of the you-can't-control-babies coin is that sometimes you don't get what you want at all (or have to wait a LONG time), and that's worth bringing in to the conversation about the illusion of birth control, too. My husband and I often comment that it seems like God's whole goal in the lives of Christians is reminding them/us of how messed up we are on our own. Both sides are beautiful and hard in their own ways. Blessings to you and yours today, from someone who would LOVE to look like a fat toad! ;)

  4. That's a really interesting post, Rebekah. I have never heard all that about supposed nutritional deficits for second children. Those appear to have no relation to the large families I know (including my own), although I know that's not a representative sample. I think the key thing from that is nutrition, and we eat very well (although probably not quite as well as you!).

    But, at core, I like how the writer says it's up to God, ultimately, to decide the risks and benefits of having baby X at such and such a time. What hubris to think we know the optimal time for having a baby to prevent a multitude of diseases, or that diseases and troubles can be eliminated.


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