"Are You Done Yet?" In Defense of Our 5th Child

This week my husband and I announced our big news: we’re expecting our 5th child in September.  “Really?”  is the most common reply.  Here are some of the other zingers we have heard:

“Do you hate money?”

“Are you done now?”

“Are you crazy?”

“Was this planned?”

“Don’t you know there are things you can do to prevent this?”

“Do they all have the same father?”

“You must be Catholic or Mormon.”

“Is the quiver full of arrows?”

Critics of large families mention the burden that our children will be on society and the Earth.  We hear about the health care costs our children will generate and the size of our family carbon footprint.  Others simply express concern for my husband and me, that we will be too tired, have financial stress, or not have enough time for each other.

Here’s my question: why can’t we look at children as future contributors to society, not burdens on society?  My children are the best gift I have for society.  Children bring hope for the future and model unconditional love.  Have we forgotten?  It is the sign of a dying society when we see our children as burdens rather than beacons of hope, future innovators.

The National Center for Health Statistics says the over all birth rate in 2011 is the lowest in this country since 1920. As a college-educated Caucasian female, I am predicted to have 1.6 children per 2011 statistics.  America’s overall fertility rate is 1.96, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1. The replacement rate refers to the number of children each woman needs to have to maintain current population levels, or zero population growth.

We do not have an overpopulation problem in the United States, we have a low-birth-rate problem.  Experts predict that global population is also slowing.  This trend is likely to continue as contraception becomes increasing availability in the developing world.  When birth rates fall below replacement rates societies suffer.  The average age of the population increases, creating a top-heavy society with heavy health-care and resource needs.   Children are the answer to this problem—our future workers, innovators, and supporters.  Children are our hope and future, not our burden.

But I’m not having kids to re-populate the earth, I’m having kids because I love them.  Yes, I will have a few more years of diapers and crying babies at night, but the rewards are many.  Here are my favorites:

  • Children keep me young and joyful.  I have to turn my anxiety off and play pretend with my 4-year-old, I rest every few hours and breastfeed my baby, and I share my six-year-old’s delight in drawing a dream-house with fifteen stories.  They get me to eat home-made snow cones and play in the rain.  I play outside almost every day.  Do you?
  • Younger kids bring joy out of my older kids, no matter how grumpy they get.  My son can have a terrible attitude, but when his baby sister wants to play with him, he always smiles and obliges her.  And then I smile, too.
  • Life is never boring!  Our kids are each so unique, so different from the others.  And they keep growing and changing.  We never know what to expect.
  • I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore.  I used to clean and polish away every nick in my wooden furniture and keep my bathroom spotless.  These days I figure a few marks in my furniture adds to their antique value.  I find fingerprints on my bathroom mirror endearing.
  • Parenthood makes me work hard.  Without kids, I’m sure I’d watch more TV, drink more wine, and become a more selfish individual.  With kids, I’m forced to think of others and avoid self-absorption.
  • Kids make me realize how ridiculous I can be.   One of my kids complains about dinner almost every night.  It’s really annoying.  Then I realize there are things I complain about too much, too.
  • There is nothing like parenthood to keep you humble.  Just when you think you have it all figured out, they throw you another curve ball.
  • I want less stuff.  I keep thinking, if we had fewer kids and more disposable income, what would I do with it?  Drive a fancier car, live in a bigger house?  I don’t want a fancier car and I Berchelmann-084certainly don’t want to clean or care for a bigger house. 

Some people worry that we won’t be able to give each of our kids the one-on-one attention that they need.  Because we homeschool , our kids get plenty of individual attention every day.

A new baby is perhaps the best gift you can give to your other children.  A 14 year-old from a family of five told me, “I can’t imagine not having siblings.  That would be my worst nightmare.  It would be lonely.”

My four year-old said it best, “Can we have as many kids as the Duggars?”

Umm… maybe not that many.


About Kathleen Berchelmann M.D.

Kathleen Berchelmann M.D.'s picture

Kathleen M. Berchelmann, M.D., is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. She is a 1998 graduate of Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts and a 2003 graduate of The University of Connecticut School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency in Pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis.

Prior to medical school, she attended divinity school at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Dr. Berchelmann is a board-certified pediatrician and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Berchelmann is a wife and mother of five.


If you love kids so much why don't you adopt?

The idea of having kids forcing humility, is ridiculous when a truly humble person could NOT have missed that point. The urge to have a huge family is fine, but why would you miss the opportunity to show true humility.
"My children are the best gift I have for society.".....not quite. To truly believe that is selfish, mindless, knee-jerk justification.

I've heard that question many times myself...frankly it's incredibly presumptuous to assume that adoption is as easy as snapping your fingers and instantly having a child. Please research the amount of time, money and legal fees it takes to actually adopt a child, in the U.S. and abroad, as well as the anguish many parents face when the adoption goes through. Perhaps I should ask you, did YOU adopt a baby? If not, why not?

Some people do not have the calling to adopt.

Some do not have the calling to adopt.

I am the second of five in my family. Big families are great. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently. God Bless you!

How amazing! congratulations!
I am also due for Baby #3 in Sept. I am only expecting my 3rd child and I already getting the comments you get.

Good for you! We are expecting baby #5 in August and are so excited. All of my other children are excited for the baby to come too. People have forgotten the reason God created the gift of intimacy; Not only to express love between husband and wife, but also to bring precious souls into our families. Children are what God gave us time for! The number of children we have should be a decision made together between husband and wife and God. Hope all goes well for your family and new baby!

Wonderful news! Some people just don't get it. Blessings to you and family.

Dr. Berchelmann, Great article. I'm number 5 out of 9 kids. Coming from a big family has been my greatest joy in life. Regarding your article, I hear it all the time from others about having big familes. When people are asked, "Are you done yet?" I tell them to respond, "None of your damn business." (in charity of course!) What's almost as bad is people telling others they are having a baby but it's the last one, "We're done after this one!" Way too much information. That's between you and your wife and God. Thanks for your article, Doctor, and your faithfulness and good example. God bless you. Fr. Coffey

Kathleen Berchelmann M.D.'s picture

Dear Fr. Coffey, 


Thanks for your kind comment andf or checking out our web site!  It was great to meet you on Saturday evening!  No baby yet, but we'll keep things posted here at CatholicPediatrics.org!



I understand that you love children but it is a proven fact that we will reach a population crisis by 2040. This means that as a planet we will not have enough arable land to feed the planet. This will probably lead to more wars in order for countries to feed their people. It won't matter if you can afford to feed your family because there will not be enough food period.

Facts are not proven until they happen. Also, can I see a citation for this "proven fact" please?

I would highly suggest checking out the scientists who have done really good research on the myth of over population.


I work for a John Deere dealer so we take a lot of classes and learn all aboutland and everything involved with John Deere, and we just took a class on the food crisis and there not being enough land in the future. I agree with you so much! IIt's scary to think that when I'm on my 50s there could not be enough to go around.

I'm 27 and I also have 5 children. I hear so many ugly comments, however; on rare occasion someone will tell me how blessed I am. Thanks for the support of big families.

We are blessed with 4- and I won't bore you with the gory medical details that most likely will keep us from having a 5th- we just were with cousins...my siblings have 8, 7, 3, and 2 so far...all open to more- beautiful!

Congratulations! I come from a family with 5 home schooled children. I really don't understand why people think it's a bad thing(nor do I understand why they think that 5 is a lot. I personally know people who have twice that many). Children are a blessing from God, and I feel truly blessed to have brothers and a sister that are there for me when I need them. Being a teen can be very difficult and even lonely at times. It's really great to have others who are there for you in times of trouble.

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
Genesis 9:7

I have 2 children & that's all I ever wanted if I had more I would have landed up in the looney bin. Having big families is not for everyone.

I have discovered my patience grows as needed. I am a much better person now than I was when I started my mothering career. My kids are helping me be that, just as I am helping them become good people.

Thank you for posting this. We just had number 4 and are hoping for number 5. Some of the comments we get are really frustrating. Who knew it was so countercultural to be open to life? It wasn't so long ago that this was normal! God bless you. Ignore the ignorance!

Wow. Some of you need to get out of the city. My land isn't going anywhere and I can grow/raise enough food to feed my (growing/large) family. Just wow. People can be so rude!

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