Our first child came during our second year of our marriage. We made another addition in 2 years. Baby Three came about 3 years later. We were loopy in love with each little boy as he arrived, and that love spilled over into every aspect of our marriage, showing us daily where we needed to grow in virtue.
We practiced Natural Family Planning from our wedding day.
We had a sort of romantic idea of what NFP would mean for our marriage. Each baby was planned. God got the final say, of course, but we were clear with our invitations and He was kind to us. By our 3rdpregnancy, we were confident in our method of NFP. It wasn’t always easy or convenient, but it worked. And, we were—baby by baby—being formed to trust Him more with our lives—including our fertility. We had the happy sense that our family plan would include at least a few more.
We were sold hook, line, and sinker on the Big Catholic Family package!
Then, things changed. A heart-rending third pregnancy changed us—and our family plan.
After that experience, we were prayerfully certain that avoiding another pregnancy was the right and good choice for our marriage and our family. We had assumed that self-sacrifice, generosity and trusting God, for our family, meant saying yes to babies every 2-3 years. But, God wanted us to continue to learn those very same virtues in so many different and often humbling ways.
Strict adherence to NFP became our only real option—we knew it. The temptations and the struggles that inevitably come with trying to please the Lord were palpable like never before. We no longer had the pleasure and luxury of being less conservative with our practice, now Temperance and Prudence were our tutors.
And God started to get creative in his lessons.
Our family lifestyle changed. We began to view our priorities and time with our kids differently. For instance, we started to homeschool the boys—not because we had some big ideological conversion about education, but because we heard God saying He was giving us unprecedented time and resources to pour into our children. We continued to learn to trust Him, because we saw the beautiful thing He was doing in our family.
We started and led a Young Adult Ministry at our church that thrived and grew beyond our wildest dreams, precisely because we could invest in ways impossible for us with tiny babies in our family. We were given the kind of friends who, to this day, are like family. We learned to trust that His plan for our generosity wasn’t confined to the walls of our home.
We finally got some daughters! Family and friends entrusted us as Godparents to so many beautiful little souls (including girls!) who we pray for by name every single day as our own. Also, we became directors of our parish’s Confirmation preparation program and active chastity speakers for the youth. God definitely wasn’t letting us off the hook in terms of having more kids. We learned to trust that His ways aren’t always ours.
We became Natural Family Planning speakers and teachers. We were no longer naïve about the practice of NFP and so God chose this very time to call us to minister to other couples. He used our experience to communicate to others what trusting him with our fertility looks like—especially when circumstances are not ideal.
I cannot even list all the ways He kept sending us opportunities for self-sacrifice and dependence on Him which didn’t include all the new little Jaegers we had once imagined.
Then, God did something we never expected: He asked us to trust him and try again. We both heard him. Separately. Me first. His voice was soft, but true and straight to my heart.
When I would visit Jesus in Adoration, I would tug (literally, crawl on my knees to tug) at his altar cloth hem and beg him for a sign that the longing he was allowing to build in my heart was the healing I felt it was. Then, He spoke to my husband. This was the sign.
After so many years, our family plan changed again. Because of Natural Family Planning, we had no permanent hard stops, no heroic great leaps—just a steady education in trusting Him. We had 8 years to experience the formation of a loving God who honors our humanity (our worries and our hopes) and asks for our free cooperation.
Our newest addition—a boy, of course!—was less of a trust fall and more of a very long walk holding the hand of a trustworthy Father.
“The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223