This is the thing you didn’t know: that motherhood is not all joy; that birth leaves scars forever; that often you will feel no love, only desperation.
This is the thing you didn’t know: That pregnancy could fill you with that much dread, that you would weep from misery and they would call it postpartum depression, that motherhood sometimes completes you and sometimes tears you apart.
Because this is the thing they did not tell you: that you would love your children but hate your life; that when they leave for a day, you won’t want them back; that when the pregnancy test turns blue with a positive result, you’ll cry and you won’t know why, because you’re terrified to tell anyone, most of all yourself, how desperately you don’t want another child.
The guilt will rip you apart.
It is a grave sin for a man to spill seed, one punishable by death according to our rabbis. But women face similar restrictions. Birth control obstructs sperm and prevents new souls from being born. A wife who takes it is a dangerous sinner, a damaged vessel. Such a Jew does not have a place in paradise.
The world out there is barren and gray, we were told, filled with lonely gentiles leading lonely, empty lives. Only our world is filled with joy and laughter. Only here live happy men and happy women, walking down the streets with many happy children.
I knew many such families of 10 and 12; I knew the hustle and bustle of their lives. I myself came from a family of just six. When my best friend’s mother brought home a seventh child, I demanded from my mother that she have more, too. But she just laughed and said that it was all up to God, and I wondered if God liked my family less than He did the others.