It’s amazing how you can go from normal gal to alien life-form in a microsecond when you announce to others that you are pregnant after being married for a year or less. Some people go as far as to allude that you’re throwing your marriage away or signing your own social life’s death certificate before you have had a chance to ‘really live.’ This situation only dramatizes itself further if you’re in your twenties.
One thing is certain: having a baby changes everything. Whether this change is for better or for worse—that is the question.
During my newlywed year and throughout my pregnancy, I have had the opportunity to scour heaps of pregnancy ‘advice’ in books, online articles, and from friends. And what a wide range of opinions there are—from tips like “you should have a baby early because even the celebrities are doing it!” to “you don’t need kids—ever—to make you happy” to “your marriage will thrive if you wait exactly 5.25 years to have your first baby.” How confusing. And arbitrary. And silly.
There is no perfect, one-date-fits-all formula for that special conception day that changes your life from a party of two to a family of three. But while many so-called experts in our culture today are advocating long periods of DINKhood (double-income, no-kids), I think there is a preponderance of concrete and observable evidence pointing toward the opposite: that having children early in marriage is, well, great.
- What’s yours really is ours. In marriage, two people with strikingly unique pasts, personalities, families, hobbies, careers, and interests come together, learning to share themselves and everything they have with one another in the most intimate human relationship possible. A baby is inarguably the most bonding experience that these two individuals can share. A child is not more one spouse’s than the others; he is equally and uniquely theirs. The love between them becomes manifested in another person, deeply loved and cherished by them as a little human soul that they joined with God to create. Talk about two becoming one flesh…
- A statistically higher chance of marital success. Sociologists have shown that couples who have children within the first couple years of marriage have significantly lower rates of divorce. Sounds good to me.
- A school of virtue. Marriage certainly ignites a mission to grow in virtue. The more virtuous each spouse becomes, the stronger the marriage will be. Having a child early takes the fire of virtue and adds a forest full of wood to the flame. Now, it matters not just that a couple learn how to practice virtue, but also how to teach it. And often, the best way to learn is to teach. St. Thérèse of Lisieux came from one of the holiest families known to the Church. Her parents became more virtuous with each child, not less—their youngest, St. Therese, was canonized. It’s never too early to grow in virtue and start raising little saints. When St. Therese was two, she told her mother that she wished that she would die, because she loved her so much that she wanted her to be able to experience heaven. Can you imagine your little one crawling on your lap, expressing her excitement for your passing? That’s quite impressive—and hilarious—theology from a two-year-old!
- Smashing selfishness. It is easy to become wrapped up in money, time, and self when you don’t have a child draining your wallet, demanding your time, and requiring you to focus on him. It is never too early to learn the lessons of selflessness, and babies are just perfect for that. Better yet, when you give of your money and time and self to them, they have a way of paying you back in unimaginably priceless ways that only parents can truly appreciate: through squeeze hugs and little kisses, scribbled scrap-paper cards and the offering of a precious tiny hand to hold. To boot, marriages strengthen when each individual spouse is more selfless and self-sacrificing (which in turn serves as a great example for the child). It’s a win-win-win.
- Your social community matures. One thing my husband and I noticed immediately after we became pregnant was our desire to gravitate toward couples that were also starting to have or recently had kids. Our passion for sharing the joys and trials, the spiritual significance and everyday tips and tricks of helping a vulnerable tiny person blossom into a mature, faithful adult, skyrocketed. And it is more fun than we thought to talk about womb kicks and our stroller preferences. How times change.
- Bringing humor to your marriage. I wait in curious anticipation for the day my husband and I are able to laugh at the irony of being peed on for the forty-third time, after we thought we had mastered the art of diaper changing our little guy. Children help you realize that life can’t possibly be—and shouldn’t be—so serious.
- Marriage enrichment. Surprisingly, though most people tout that marital satisfaction goes out the window with the conception and birth of your first child (hence the push for delaying children), this idea has only strengthened my and my husband’s resolve to fortify our marriage for the changes to come. Couples who actually prepare for the changes children bring and learn how to love one another even more in times of sleep deprivation, the challenges of added chores, and noise clamoring through the house, do noticeably better in transitioning to parenthood than those who don’t. Children remind us that marriage is hard work, and we should never stop working at it, because it is worth every bit of that work.
- Growth in faith. “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’ words, not mine (see Matthew 18:3). If kids are our best teachers on how to get to heaven—which is the aim of our marriage and lives—then I’m on board for stocking up on those small tutors early. An early-expanding family also gives you years to build an authentic Christian culture in your home. During my pregnancy, I made a “Family Traditions Book,” that provides us with ways to celebrate various feast days throughout the year that are important to our Church and to our family. Doubt I would have done this before I discovered the baby soul forming in me.
- Be fruitful and multiply. God commanded it, didn’t He? Why wait to carry out God’s will? God’s will inevitably makes us happier than our own wills ever could. My husband and I experienced the joy of conceiving in God’s timing—not ours. After the wedding bells, why not commence the multiplying soon after? It’s the adventure of a lifetime.
- For the ladies only: You get to watch your husband be a father. My two favorite moments of pregnancy so far were seeing the face my husband made when we found out we were pregnant (his face defined for me the word joy) and watching the tear roll down his cheek at our 18-week ultrasound when we saw our baby smile at us, suck his thumb, and found out that he was a boy. A friend of mine who recently had her little girl said there is nothing more amazing, attractive, and inspiring than watching your husband hold your child’s little life in his arms. In just three months, I will get to watch my husband be a stellar dad. I just can’t wait.
These are only 10 of the many reasons why having kids early in marriage is fun, smart, and simply miraculous. I’m sure you could add many more.
I have always loved flowers. Blessed Mother Teresa once asked, “How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” I want my house to be filled with bouquets of flowers…now!
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