In America today there is a paradox of choice regarding large families that is as far as I can tell totally ignored by people who have or defend large families. My experiences with large families (double-digit) are that I’m only one generation removed from women who couldn’t escape that size of family. It wasn’t just one option they were taking and could drop at any time. Yes, even extended abstinence is a major privilege that many of those women would have been pretty cheerful about having access to.
They had to agree to what he wanted when he wanted it, no matter if they were just a few weeks postpartum or had had a hard delivery and needed more recovery time. Formula being easy, cheap and reliable to use wasn’t the case and some of the double-digit kids didn’t make it on the various alternatives available. This informs a huge amount of my views on birth control. I don’t think birth control is something women should feel pressured into doing either for related and religious reasons, but let’s just be real and note that the medium-term consequence of that is fewer children you can handle if you do have a resource shortage in your household.
I just have to shake my head at women who have the totally free and unfettered choice to have zillions of kids acting like women abandoned that in droves in the last 50 years out of (@($*@#@(!@ “selfishness” or “hard hearts” or whatever self-righteous word of the month gets tossed out there. Being able to feed, clothe, house and provide for the medical needs of ten or fifteen children with relative ease and comfort no matter what your income level is should be acknowledged as the astonishing modern consumption good that it is.
Now certainly some of these women would argue with me on the ease point, but you know what, if you can welcome pregnancy after pregnancy with zero concern that the other children or the one(s) you’re carrying will be stunted or die from lack of food or medical care when sick or have to be shipped off to sometimes pretty distant relatives because you can’t feed them all once the next one appears, that’s relative ease of provision. This is not what the women I am speaking of could count on. I am talking about deaths under age 5 all the way into the 1960s, in America.
It was really bad in the richest country in the world before mass-economy made food and clothes so cheap. And anyway that’s where I’m coming from regarding large family rhetoric among conservative Christians. It didn’t matter whether you had joy in your heart or not, you were facing another pregnancy anywhere from a few days to several months after that delivery until your 30s, and sometimes into your 40s. A lot of those women knew however dimly about the sterilizations performed on many of them without their consent after World War I and many weren’t mad about it because it meant a break from the treadmill of fertility. They weren’t as stupid as people think and had some idea what was going on.