When Sexy Corte and I were struggling with the decision of whether to have another child we asked many of our friends for advice. Some of the couples we asked were very sure of their decision to stop, but their surety wasn’t much help to us because it was often grounded in the specifics of their circumstances (age, health, time, etc.). The couples who hadn’t decided yet were often in the same boat as we were: agonizing indecision.

SC and I prayed a lot about our decision and it could have gone either way — there wasn’t any one determining factor that pushed us to stop. Our inertia was moving us towards having another child — years ago we had agreed on a number, and we were both happy with it. But when it came time to finally decide, we were both uneasy. We took several months to talk with each other, seek advice, and pray. In the end, we decided that either course could honor God and be good for our family, but it was best to stop. This was a very hard decision, but we’re still confident that we made the right choice.

So, how did we decide? This list of questions by Deepak Reju, a Christian counselor, was a great foundation for our discussion. It addresses many Biblical teachings on the topic of children, and then uses those Bible teachings to frame some practical questions. Here are the topics — and our answers — that ultimately led us to our decision.

  • Is your default position to stop or to have more children? Our default position was to have another child. We were struggling because we both felt that inertia was pushing us into a less-wise decision. Not unwise, just less wise.
  • What is your logistical, emotional, and spiritual capacity as parents? Our children are close in age, and we realized together that we were at capacity. If had been younger we would likely have spread our kids out a little farther and reduced the peak workload of young children, but that wasn’t an option. It’s the peak workload that limits your parenting capacity, not the average workload.
  • Are you being responsible to serve and disciple your spouse and children? We wanted to make sure that we’d always have time for each other, and for deep one-on-one relationships with each child. It was already a challenge to find one-on-one time with anyone, and we didn’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. Our marriage is the most important relationship in the family, and we believed that having another child would add a significantly increased burden. Additionally, each child needs special time alone with each parent, and we love providing that.

So those were the factors that led to our decision. As with many decisions, we believe that God could have been honored either way — He gave us wisdom and discernment for a reason. After we decided, we wrote an email to our future selves that we could look back on if we ever doubted our choice, but so far we’ve had it affirmed in numerous ways… usually during dinner or bath time. In a later post we’ll write about how we made the decision permanent.

How did you make this decision for your family? Are you pondering it right now?

Being sick enough to require antibiotics is bad enough, but then just as you’re feeling better there’s more bad news: antibiotics mess with your birth control. Using an “alternate method of birth control” while you’re on antibiotics generally means abstinence, oral sex, or condoms. Abstinence for 10 days is lame. Oral sex is awesome, but can leave you longing for more after a few days. And condoms are… well… sigh.

Lots of people use condoms all the time, and maybe they’re used to it. If you’re slutting around with tons of people it makes sense to use condoms. But as a married couple condoms just feel wrong — not morally of course, but physically. It’s almost like you’re not even having sex. As I wrote in Yes, You Should Swallow the sharing of bodily fluids is incredibly intimate, and the condom is there to prevent exactly that. It’s like wearing rubber gloves to hold hands!

rubber gloves

But is the worry about accidental pregnancy while on antibiotics overblown? Basically, there’s little evidence that any antibiotics other than rifampicin can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Rifampicin is generally prescribed for bacterial infections like tuberculosis and leprosy, so it isn’t very common. Nevertheless, the “better safe than sorry” mentality makes everyone paranoid.

A complex study published in May, 2011 involved about 18,000 women and 1330 episodes of contraceptive failure. Researchers looked at the data on women both during months of contraceptive success (i.e., not getting pregnant) versus contraceptive failure to see if taking antibiotics made any difference. The bottom line: contraceptive failures did occur, but it was no more likely to occur if a woman was taking oral antibiotics.

Now, it’s impossible with science to prove a negative. Even the best, largest studies can’t say with 100% certainty that a super-rare event can’t occur. It could be that in very rare cases, antibiotics could somehow affect the way oral contraceptives work. So if you want to be super-safe, using two contraceptives is never a mistake. But as far as could be determined by this large epidemiologic study, women on contraceptives (excluding rifampin) were no more likely to experience a contraceptive failure than women not taking antibiotics.

If you was to be “extra safe” go ahead and use an alternate method of birth control, but is isn’t necessary. As long as you take your birth control pills every single day as directed and avoid known drug interactions you almost certainly won’t get pregnant due to antibiotics.