By Karee Santos
My sixth child, Elisa-Maria, gets special treatment. She is the first two-year-old I have ever parented without also parenting a newborn at the same time. I’m finding it to be a surprisingly enjoyable experience. Not being chronically sleep-deprived or prohibited from ingesting caffeine has definitely made Mama happy. Everything Elisa-Maria does just seems so cute.
“Why do you love her so much?” my other kids ask me suspiciously.
“I’ve seen the way you look at her,” my husband notes in an almost accusatory tone.
Of course, I’m not the only one head over heels in love with this baby. Every family member takes the opportunity to slip her chocolate at the slightest opportunity. No wonder she’s always smiling.
And she’s very helpful. She helps me unload the dishwasher, claps when my four-year-old goes peepee in the pot, washes her sisters’ hair in the bath, and drags fully-laden backpacks to their proper owners when we get ready for school in the morning. A chorus of “Awww”‘s seems to follow her around the house.
“Es allegre,” says my mother-in-law, which, in Spanish, means not just “she is happy,” or even “she is cheerful.” It means, “she is joyful.”
Another thing that makes Elisa-Maria special is that she was, shall we say, unexpected. The word unwanted is far too harsh, and the word unplanned makes no sense in our circumstances, since we never “planned” any of our children’s births.
The Catholic Church teaches that artificial contraception contravenes God’s law because it substitutes our will for his will. So my husband and I never used contraception.
After our fifth child was born, we did try Natural Family Planning (NFP), which required us to abstain from making love during my fertile times. The Church allows NFP, in part, because NFP works with the body’s natural rhythms instead of interfering with or suppressing them. NFP remains open to God’s will and open to life.
A common response to failed contraception is often abortion, said Blessed Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae.
A common response to a mistake in using NFP, on the other hand, is a baby. In our case, the result was a joyful baby named Elisa-Maria.
At the time, I did not accept my sixth pregnancy with complete happiness. My simmering anger and resentment started to cause rifts with my husband, who took my reaction quite personally. The first time I had to put back on my tent-like polka-dotted maternity t-shirt that I had worn through five other pregnancies, I cried bitter tears.
But God knew what he was doing when he gave me my bundle of joy.
Two years later, I can’t imagine life without my baby Elisa-Maria, my unexpected little gift from God.
Karee Santos is a stay-at-home mother of six children — five girls and one boy. In the small amount of free time she has, she’s writing a book based on Blessed Pope John Paul II’s teaching on marriage and the family. You’ll find her blog at Can We Cana?.
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