Husband & Wife Articles

Our Ninth Child

A look at seven different reactions to our large family

By Tom Hoopes

When my wife, April, and I announced that she is pregnant with our ninth child, I was reminded that such an announcement can be very revealing — about the people who receive the news.

To announce your ninth child nowadays is a declaration of independence from the culture at large, where contraception and sentiments against large families are common, even among Catholics. Not everybody welcomes that kind of cultural independence. But some do.

This column will look at the seven categories of people who hear about your ninth child — and add April’s indispensable child-announcement advice at the end.

Tom Hoopes, after receiving his master's degree, celebrates with April, who is carrying their ninth child.

1. The hostile acquaintances. You know these folks. They think you’re nutty, or irresponsible, or just uncouth, and they’re not afraid to say so (in snide offhand remarks, anyway). Be especially kind and loving with this group as you share your good fortune with them. People are most hostile about the things which most disturb their consciences. Any meanness or nastiness on your part will only be used as evidence against you. Answer their comments with a smile and a wink, and leave it at that.

2. The hostile family. This group can be trickier. April and I have been blessed in that we do not have particularly hostile family members. Many of our friends are not so blessed.

Family members have more at stake in your announcement. Your large family impacts their name — and their family events. They don’t just think you’re wrong and reactionary — they fear they will look wrong and reactionary by association. Be sensitive to the fact that they aren’t where you are in their understanding and embrace of the Church’s teaching on openness to life, and offer up the difficulty of dealing with them — with a prayer for them.

3. Your older children. Your own older children are the most fun group to announce a new child to. They love the news and immediately become pregnant mom’s special helpers. It isn’t hard to announce the news to them because they have probably been asking — for months — when the next one is coming

4. Your younger children. It’s fun to watch how younger children in a large family react to the news of a new child. They are so used to having other kids around that none of the advice from the children’s books on the topic applies, at least not for us. Another one’s coming? They shrug their shoulders. The more the merrier, they figure.

5. Large-family friends. Here, there’s a definite difference between men and women. The mothers of large families are much more in tune with the sacrifice pregnancy entails, and are likely to send encouraging congratulatory notes. For the fathers of large families, your news immediately becomes a competition. “I know it’s not a race,” they say, “but we’re still beating you!”

6. Small-family friends. For those families who haven’t been as blessed with the ability to conceive, your announcement might actually be a source of trial. It’s good to keep them in mind. As this group is well aware, you have been blessed with a great gift in each child, a gift that will repay your sacrifices a hundredfold for your entire life. Think of those who can’t have children if you’re at all likely to take your blessing for granted — or regret it in any way.

7. The community group. The funniest group to make the ninth-child announcement to is any random community group that you happen to be a part of. April takes an exercise class and she and I have been part of a dance class here in town. When the dance instructor said, “I understand you have some news for us!” and we announced that we were expecting our ninth, people stood in dumbfounded silence. The subject of our family size had not come up, I guess. April had the same reaction in her exercise class, a reaction most mothers of large families will be familiar with: “You don’t look like you have that many children!” What were they expecting you to look like? Somehow backward and unattractive? It’s hard to know.

Which brings us to April’s indispensable large-family announcement advice: Always carry a picture of your children. When they see with their own eyes how incredibly cute your offspring are, and that they are real persons and not just a number 9, or a drain on the bank account, or a danger to the environment, most of the audiences above will say: "Aw, cute … Congratulations!"

Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, where he received his Master’s of Business Administration. He is an instructor in the Journalism and Mass Communications department.