The Pope has said we don't need to "be like rabbits". That's a relief. I don't know if I have that much enthusiasm for rabbit-like activity. Not after having all these babies.
Well actually I only had two, which is modest for a Catholic Mum. But then I am a convert, so maybe I am a bit of a dodgy Catholic. My Husband is a convert too, which meant at our enormous Catholic wedding there were an awful lot of non-Catholics from both families who were somewhat surprised to hear us say, as part of our solemn vows, that we 'would accept children lovingly from God'. Yes, that is actually part of the deal, part of what you sign up for. So, as modern Catholics who had previously been happily co-habiting for months, once we were married we dispensed with contraception.
We had been told about Natural Family Planning at marriage preparation but it was all a bit disgusting, (its not just dates and calendars you know, there is a big emphasis on mucous, its grim) and frankly I don't see the point. You see the argument behind the whole no contraception thing is that you are supposed to let God decide when you have children: surely if you are taking your temperature, examining your, er, discharge (sorry) and looking in your diary before you get in on (if you still want to after all that) you are trying to circumvent the might of the great I Am anyway? So for us it had to be totally free-wheeling.
And, predictably enough, we were pregnant by the end of honeymoon. And then again, when I stopped breastfeeding my first baby. And it was all wonderful, and an adventure, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But of course it has been exhausting, financially ruinous and has physically devastating (on me, my husband seems reasonably intact).
So, enough was enough. We've shown willing, I said. We accepted them lovingly, that's all we promised we would do. The contraception came back and for a long time I squared it with my conscience on the basis I couldn't use it I simply wouldn't have sex, so I was not preventing any children actually being born. The horror at the thought of more babies over-rid all else. For a while. That's what we do, you see, we dodgy pick-and-mix religious types.
But now my youngest is due to start school soon and I am broody, that glimpse of freedom and the possibility of a bit of life to myself has me craving self-sabotage: my husband says its like getting out of prison and immediately going and nicking a telly. But, Pope Francis, I can't, I have to be responsible and the sad truth is I don't think I can afford to have more children. I gave up work to be a full-time mum and now I have nothing to go back to. We can't cram any more kids into out flat, and we can't get a bigger flat. Certainly not near our children's Catholic school, because all the efficient sensible non-Catholic parents who cleverly got their careers and mortgages sorted before they started to reproduce can pay a premium for houses close by. And of course all of this is fine, and its real life , and that's the way the world works...
But it bothers me a bit. Because, and here's the tricky bit, I genuinely don't quite believe I should decide when to have babies. There I have said it. I would prefer to hand that decision over to the great bearded patriarch in the sky, as I would all other decisions. I don't want my priorities to be of this world, of CVs, mortgages and opportunities. But this is all very non-twenty-first century isn't it? In a world where choice is everything, the choice to hand over decisions is frowned upon. Of course, I wouldn't want to thrust this on anyone else for a second; I am just sharing my thoughts because well, you don't hear that many actual Catholic women discussing these things do you? I suppose we are all too busy looking after our kids.