Love makes room

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My heart started beating faster and my face flushed when I glanced at the messages popping up in text bubbles on my phone one early morning last March.

“Are you at work?” one asked.

“Can you let me know when you are there?” another said.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Someone died.”

Stepping away from a conversation with a colleague, I closed the door to my office and called Treasa — bracing for bad news.

The voice at the other end of the phone lacked urgency, however, and even had a carefree quality. My wife said she wanted to text me a photo and “get my opinion on something.”

In the next instant, I was staring at a pregnancy test that showed two telltale vertical lines.

“You think it’s positive?” Treasa asked.

“Yes,” I said.

Treasa continued chatting about this life-changing development in a relaxed way that would arouse no suspicion among our five kids. Despite the hushed tone of her voice, however, I could tell she was ecstatic.

My heart was still beating furiously. I, too, was overjoyed. Yet, part of me was thinking back to earlier conversations my wife and I had about growing our family. We have always been unconditionally open to life, but questions lingered in my mind.

Was I too old at 50 to be the father of a sixth child? How would we pay for the countless expenses that would go into raising an even larger family? Would we need a new van to fit two adults and six kids? Having lost our first-born son six weeks before his due date, what would we do if we had that experience again, or if the baby was born with health challenges — and how would that impact our children, who ranged in age from 4 to 9?

People’s reactions

When we started sharing the news with family and friends, most were supportive. But a few weren’t exactly encouraging.

“You need to find another hobby,” one person told me.

Another’s jaw literally dropped, and someone else asked if I thought I was a Hollywood movie star — Al Pacino or George Clooney — still having kids later in life.

“Reeeeally?” said one, rolling his eyes.

I knew they were teasing … mostly.

Yet, I could tell in some of the reactions that the path we walked was perceived as weird, naive and maybe even foolish by some.

An important lesson

Treasa had a different outlook.

Welcoming a new baby would teach our children to be more generous, she said. Our little ones would give and receive love in a new way. They would learn to make sacrifices and bond more strongly. Their support system would grow.

We brought the newest Matysek child home from the hospital in December, an early Christmas gift. The reaction of the children squashed any earlier concerns I had. One by one, each held his or her baby brother, beaming proudly. In these first few weeks, they’ve showered him with love, doting on him and offering to help with everything from getting his binky to reading him stories and voluntarily (!) cleaning up around the house.

During his epic 1979 visit to Washington, D.C., Pope St. John Paul II noted that decisions about the number of children in a family “must not be taken only with a view to adding to comfort and preserving a peaceful existence.”

Parents, he said, “will remind themselves that it is certainly less serious to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.”

He and Treasa are right. Love makes room.

George P. Matysek Jr.

George P. Matysek Jr. is managing editor of the Catholic Review, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.