During our pre-Cana meeting with the priest (for those of you who don't know what I'm taking about it's the meeting(s) you have before you get married), the priest asked how many children we wanted. I understand what he meant by the question. He was trying to ascertain if we wanted children or not and why. But one can easily misunderstand the question especially if they are not well-trained in Catholic teaching.
You see couples alone do not determine the number of children (or spacing of them) that they have. In the Catholic faith, it's the couple AND God who make that determination. For God's part, he determines whether or not you can have children, when you will have children, and how many. The couple gets to ask.
This is altogether another mindset from contraception advocates. I get a little perturbed when people ask me how many children I want as though the decision is entirely mine. Even if you don't believe in God, you still must work out a number arrangement with your spouse. I don't suddenly create life.
Contraception takes the power of God away from God and gives it to us mortals who know very little the scope of God's being let alone his designs for us. Every conjugal act between married persons, according to Church teach, must be two fold: loving and giving, and open to life. That's where NFP (Natural Family Planning) comes into play.
Unfortunately, it's being played wrong. I've heard it referred to ask "Catholic birth control" "Catholic approved birth control" and "Catholic contraception." It's not to be used like that at all. It's not a form of birth control in society's sense of the word. Meaning, you can't use NFP and abstain from having children because you want to.
According to Church teaching, you must have "grave" reasons to not have children. Now what these reasons are exactly vary from couple to couple based on what seems to be God's decision. Some reasons for abstaining can be broken down into three categories.
1) If having another child places a financial burden on the family. Meaning if you can't feed, clothe, and shelter yourself or your current children, it's best to wait until your financial situation gets better or if it won't, then stop having children. For every couple that's different. For me, having to secure food stamps would be a financial burden since I'm relying on the state rather than myself to eat. But for some it may be that their family is going to "out-grow" their dwelling and can't afford a bigger lodging.
2) If having another child risks the health of the mother. This could be because of illness like diabetes or age (since the older you are the higher the risk for complications). I know a few women who still have made the decision to have children despite recommendations not to from doctors, but again it's up to the couple and God.
3) If having a child risk the well-being of the other children. I think I fall more into this category since after dealing with illness, I've learned that I cannot afford to have someone watch two children and don't have family who live close by. So I think after baby number two for my children's sake, I will wait on baby three. Although that may be indefinitely. One doesn't know. For families who have children who need special care, they may also decide to not have children as this could take away precious time from their special needs child.
I'm sure there are some other good reasons for a person to wait. But the idea that NFP is just another form of birth control is short-sighted. While it's touted that way, it's meant to be used by couples to maintain the health and well-being of the family. It's not meant to determine the number of children or the spacing of such children (although that's what the jargon says, but I think that statement is misleading). Only God should be given the power to decide the number and spacing of children each couple should have.