Friday, March 25, 2016

Babies and gateway drugs

In junior high McGruff the Crime Dog warned us that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” Once you try that, it opens up a world filled with everything from LSD to cocaine. You figure marijuana isn’t so bad, so you try something harder, and it spirals out of control. Next thing you know youre stealing stereos out of parked cars at midnight to pay for some crack. You end up in rehab.


Babies are a bit like that. You have one, and then you get baby fever. You see a friend’s baby and your ovaries actually ache. You smell that baby smell, you see that soft head, the little pulsing fontanel, and you think, “Just one more. . . .” You forget some of the less lovely bits about new life: leg cramps at 3 a.m., aversions to food of any sort, vivid dreams that your baby has werewolf fangs.

People will tell you to be content with what you have—don’t forget you have two perfectly healthy children to raise. Maybe you’ve suffered a miscarriage and people say, “You can always try again!” but really they’re thinking, “Why would you want another one? You look exhausted now, with just the one.”

But unless you shut off that instinct, that God-given urge to keep going, you never get into the really heavy stuff, like teaching children to share with their siblings, or the wisdom of always looking out for the smallest one, or facilitating the lifelong relationship that brothers and sisters will have, even when you and your husband are gone. 

At Justice Antonin Scalias funeral, his son said this about his father during the homily
He loved us, and sought to show that love. And sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured. And he gave us one another, to have each other for support. That’s the greatest wealth parents can bestow, and right now we are particularly grateful for it.
Having more children is hard—there are days when rehab sounds pretty good. After all, it would be quiet. You might be able to read, and shower alone. But the desire for more children isn’t wrong. Baby fever is for our own benefit, and for the immense blessing siblings are to the children. 

Scalia left behind a legacy, but it was this that his children were most grateful for—his living of his faith in the matter of family. He and his wife Maureen had baby fever. It wasn’t his politics, his writing, or his prestigious position on the Supreme Court, but his willingness to dive headlong into the really hard stuff—the blessing of a child—nine times.  

So when you’re told, “Just be content with the one you have,” or when someone says, “I’m only having one so I can give them everything,” or laments the notion that your children will miss out on a paid-in-full college education à la parental handout, they are missing the point.

One child is easier than two, and two children are easier than three. On the bank account, on the vacation fund, on mom’s circadian rhythms. You keep going and you do spiral a bit out of control—of your body, your plans, and your time. It can be devastating to your social life, alarm your friends and family, and you might look at your bank account and consider what you can sell. You might trade in your fun car for a minivan, sell the guitar for a new washer and dryer. But that’s not wrong; that’s living for another, however many others come your way.

That first baby illuminates the heart, and it sparks a countercultural desire for the good, which is always encountered through embracing the less selfish path. Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan said about his large family:

Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seemed uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life . . . each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart. 
One of the long-reaching effects of abortion is just this: missing out on that gateway baby. The first time you hear your baby’s heartbeat, the first fluttering kick in your belly, then meet this crying little person who is placed on your chest—those moments are meant to start an absolute avalanche of self-giving and love, beyond anything you can comprehend when you don’t have children. And with each openness, conception, and birth, the joy is multiplied, the relationships grow exponentially within the family—if only we surrender to the baby fever.