Category Archives: babies

State of the Unionsuits

It’s been a while.  How are you?  I’ve missed writing to you.  It’s therapeutic.  Plus life often seems way more sensible in hindsight.  Time to catch up.

Summer is over.  The leaves are turning brilliant colors in my backyard; the air smells cool and spicy like every adult female for miles around is overdosing on pumpkin lattes.  Which they probably are.  Christmas shopping starts at the beginning of November (my husband runs a retail store; it’s true whether you admit it or not), so all the pumpkin must be pureed and consumed within the next month.

I currently have a 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 11 year old (the oldest does like to be odd, ha).  It’s strange not to have a baby on my hip when I have a two year old.  Honestly it’s been a rather pleasant break.  I love my babies, but after a decade of car seats and drool, diaper bags and nursing, I have loved the freedom to simply send the whole crew outside to the sand pile and not worry that the youngest will try to eat most of it.  Some, but not most.

 

I very much dislike hormonal birth control (flooding my body with synthetic doses of extra hormone daily seems to affect more than just fertility) but neither my husband nor I have been ready to commit to surgery to halt the whole process.  What’s the worst that can happen?  I have another baby?  Stranger things have happened.

 

Funny then, that I was in denial at the end of June.  It was hardly possible.  Hardly.  Just only barely.

But enough.

I guess I can confide to you now.

Baby number seven is on the way.

I can feel little kicks and punches.  Especially if I drink too much pumpkin latte.

Change is in the air.

I’ll keep you posted.

Midwife Crisis (A Birth Story)

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

That’s childbirth in a nutshell.

I had a baby recently.  Five days ago, in fact.  So the memory’s fresh.  It all went down like this…

I’m one of those lucky folks who can either say they’re in labor for six weeks – or six hours.  Pressure builds and Braxton Hicks contractions are regular company in the weeks leading up to my due date.  I waddle.  Nothing fits.  I have to choose between breathing and bending over.  I crave chocolate.  (Actually, that’s nothing new…)

My last hippo selfie
My last hippo selfie

The local hospital (where all my children have been born) frowns on natural birth after a mom has had a cesarean birth.  They’ll do it, but grudgingly – only if the mom’s doctor is with her every moment she’s there.  I’m enough of a crunchy mom to consider a home birth except for two factors.  My house is tiny.  And my husband isn’t into the idea.

It would have been nice to not have to treat childbirth so medically, to be pushed for every intervention, to have to lie down the whole time, to have to tell the next twenty strangers that I’m not in fact 16 or Catholic, I willingly chose to have six children, and explain my desires to delay clamping the cord, and not be told when to push, and wait to give the first injection.  I wished I could just be home in my own bed after having a baby rather than visited every hour by nurses just stopping in to push on my tender tummy and ask if I was getting any rest in the most infamously uncomfortable of contraptions – the hospital bed.

But such things were not to be, so I tried to prepare for the next viable option – waiting until I was white-knucked onto furniture in labor before rushing to the hospital, popping out a baby, and convincing them to let me get home as soon as possible.

The best laid plans of mice and men… My midwife retired last year, so I had the doctor whom she practiced under (and who had delivered my fourth baby by c-section.)  When I saw him on Friday for a check-up I was almost 4 centimeters dilated, so he offered to strip the membranes and get labor going.  Since he was required to be in the hospital while I was, a weekend labor would have been most convenient to avoid any scheduled surgeries or appointments he had during the week.  I agreed, and went home to wait for labor to kick in.

But aside from lots of cramps and waddling around grandma as she handled the daily bustle of my home, I didn’t go into labor.  I waited all day Friday.  My water broke mid-morning Saturday, so I called my husband to come home from work before the snowstorm.  But still we waited.  I concluded I am not a patient person.  I didn’t want to call the doc to tell him my water broke because I expected he’d make me come in and be induced.  I really wanted to wait for my own body to do its thing.

But I finally caved.  Indeed, he wanted me to go to the hospital to get checked out.  They confirmed several things.  Yes, my water had broken.  No, I wasn’t having strong contractions on my own. No, they wouldn’t let me leave to wait at home.  No, I couldn’t leave the bed.  Yes, the cafeteria was closed all night.

So I spent the rest of the night enveloped in a huge hospital johnny, strapped to machines reminding me that I wasn’t really in labor, and pouting.  My doc did let me wait… And wait… wishing I were home in bed waiting… until about 2 am.  Then they decided to induce contractions.  We couldn’t leave, couldn’t sleep, and I wasn’t allowed to move.  I agreed.

As they started pumping in the drugs, my hopes fell.  If we were going to do things their way, I decided we’d do it all the way.  I got an epidural for the first time in any of my non-surgical births.    It did make the relentless medicine easier to bear.  At 4:35 Sunday morning, all seven pounds and three ounces of little Ezra slipped into the snowy world.  He looks like his brothers and is, of course, perfect. 🙂

credit: Danielle Brady
credit: Danielle Brady

It wasn’t how I’d planned it (I wonder if it ever is).  But he has arrived.  I did get to go home before the next snowstorm about 36 hours later.  It snowed in our family of eight.  Eight!  I’m trying hard not to do too much more than snuggle my children, old and new, and occasionally clean pickle juice off the floor.

The day Ezra was born, I bumped into Genesis 41:52, the verse in which Joseph named his second son.  Ephraim.  “For God has called me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

I could pout about the way labor went, or I could breathe in the sweet smell of my newborn’s head as he nurses (I don’t get why I will smell like sour milk and sweat while he can smell so delicious) and choose to be thankful it was all for a purpose.

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Wouldn’t trade it.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on the sofa drooling in sore-backed exhaustion while the toddler paints himself with yogurt on the rug and the kids try to sneak M and M’s and video game time.

It’s a wonderful life.

credit: Danielle Brady
credit: Danielle Brady

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’m nesting.

Baby clothes are washed.  Everyone’s fingernails have been clipped.  Those cobwebs in the corner were finally vacuumed.  Groceries are stocked.  Grandma is standing by the phone.

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This pregnancy has nearly reached its magnum opus.  Soon I’ll get to hold the baby in my arms rather than waddling like a hippo-sized penguin with it balanced under my belly button.  The anticipation is growing, and I want everything to be ready.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those who make neat, tightly woven nests. I’m flighty, as bird-brained as they come – and that’s when I’m not even pregnant.  Add homeschooling, five little boys, and general homemaking in a little house, and life gets messy.  Really messy.

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It was about 7:00 yesterday evening that I had to admit the truth.  Grandma had graciously helped me with laundry all day, even changing the sheets on the top bunk beds (always an adventure, even when you’re not pregnant).  I had just pulled the toddler from the bath.  A second later, the little streaker raced into our bedroom, clambered onto the freshly laundered white sheets, snuggled down next to the pillows with a huge grin… And peed.

That was when I should have started humming, “Let it go… let it go…”  But I couldn’t.  It did bother me.  I stood there, diaper in hand, staring face to face with reality (and a happy naked baby on a wet mattress.)  Everything is not going to be ready for this new baby.  No matter how hard I’ve tried…

It would be nice to plan a birth like we do a wedding, every detail accounted for right down to the weather.  But every baby born in a snow storm is proof that God has other ideas.

You’d think I’d know this by my sixth child.  You can’t prepare for a miracle.  Not really, even though you know it’s coming.  There is a new soul coming into the world.  A new promise.  A new person.  Sure, you can buy diapers, make freezer meals, and practice deep breathing for labor, but you can’t be really be ready to carry the weight of a fragile new life in your arms.

I’ve thought of Jesus often recently.  He steadfastly set his face toward Jerusalem in the weeks before his death.  He prepared himself.  He prepared his friends.  But still, the night before his gruesome torture, he wrestled with control.  Jesus had complete control of his destiny.  And it was the one thing he had to give away.

My body will be held by others even as his was.

I will go through contractions much like he bore every lash of the whip.

Others will cover me in clothes I would rather not wear (those darn one-size-fits-none hospital jonnys) just as they clothed him in robes to mock his kingship.

I will bleed and cry in anguish for another even as he did.

Through pain, I will give life to someone helpless to live unless I do this. Just like Jesus.

After the marathon of birth, I will carry and sustain a new life that won’t say thank you or appreciate all I’ve done for it, similar to what Jesus bears in our salvation.

I will lose control of everything that is comfortable and predictable in my life for the joy set before me.  Just like he did – for me.

Can I be so bold as to associate my own life with the life of God himself?    I think we – as mothers – are given this singular chance to carry in our own bodies the death of Jesus so that his life will be revealed by it.  (2 Corinthians 4:10).

This amazing miracle can only happen as I give over control of every little detail of my own life.  Sweat, pain, tears and humiliation will birth a new, perfect, fearfully and wonderfully made masterpiece.  There is no other way.

And this little masterpiece will fill my heart with joy like nothing else on earth.  And then it will pee on my bed.

I give up.

This nesting thing is for the birds.

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Heard

My heart caught in my throat with every dusty step closer to Shiloh.  It had been fourteen hard miles of walking.  I hadn’t walked the familiar road in over three years.  But today, landmarks passed all too quickly.  The time had come.

My husband walked beside me, a child on his shoulders.  His child.  But not mine.  He had several children before I ever did.  Oh, I’d been at their births.  I sometimes held them in the night as infants.  I had cleaned them, cooked for them, cuddled them as toddlers.  But I am not their mother; they neither truly love nor respect me.

I was at my husband’s wedding too.  His.  But not mine.  We had already been married for years.  But they were childless years.  And, by tradition, he could break my heart without breaking his vows to me because I’d given him no children.  He took another wife.  Peninnah is younger than me, sensuous, voluptuous,  and apparently vitally fertile.  Almost as soon as she entered my house she was with his child.  I watched her grow.  I listened as she commiserated with all the neighboring mothers about pregnancy aches and cravings.  They grew silent when I went by, but they shouldn’t have bothered.  I’d never felt the twinge of a contraction, but I understood aches and cravings only too well.

What did God want from me anyway?  I tried to be a good woman.  I tried to be a big girl about everything, even though I felt like a too-small woman with too-big hips and a soul-breaking loneliness.  I tried not to imagine I could be a better mother than those who so thoughtlessly bore growing broods.  I tried to find a reason, physical or spiritual, why I was denied the good thing that I so wanted.  I tried not to think it was all unfair.

It was at the annual feast several years ago that I thought of another woman engraved forever in the history of my family.  Approximately five hundred years had passed between her heartache and mine, but the pain we shared was similar.  Jochebed had birthed a child with a death sentence on his little head.  Moses.  The only way for him to live was for her to give him away.  Because of her sacrifice, an entire nation was rescued from slavery and given a future.  Of course she didn’t know that when she handed him to another to raise him.  Maybe she would have preferred he grow up to be a nobody if it would have meant she could have kept him.  But she didn’t.  She couldn’t.  She gave him away.

Maybe that was what God was asking me.

The thought was at first too terrible.  How could I give up the only thing I really wanted?  Could God ask me to hand over my own child?  I had the sinking feeling that what God wanted from me was the one thing I felt too dear to give Him.  My marriage, my house, my very bedroom were not mine.  Must I give up my hope of a child too?

It seems to me God rules a backwards kingdom.  He uses the weak things to reveal His strength.  He makes us poor to prepare us to accept real wealth.  He kills first – then makes alive.  I had nothing, but it was everything He wanted from me.

Yes.  I finally answered Him, great sobs wracking my body as I bowed in the dust of the tabernacle.   Yes.  If You give me a child, I will give his life back to You.  Forever.

Immediately, I felt a hand on my back.  I looked up through a blur of tears.  The high priest himself was standing over me with a frown.  I knew I must look a sight.

“Are you drunk?”  He asked sternly.

The thought made me start to giggle.  I had never been more sober in my entire life!  “No, sir!”  I panted as I brushed at my wet cheeks.  “No, I’ve just poured out my broken heart to God.”  That’s all.  I blubbered piteously.

The grandfatherly man stared hard at my face, as if seeing right into my soul.  Then suddenly he patted my arm assuringly.  “Then go in peace.  And God give you what you asked.”

In that moment, suddenly, I just knew God had heard me.  He had.  The struggle was over.  I nearly skipped home.  I even smiled at Peninnah as we stepped on each other’s toes in the kitchen.  I laughed with my husband.  I enjoyed the kids’ antics as we packed up to go home after the feast.  I was at peace.

And wouldn’t you know it, the woman everyone said couldn’t have a baby – she got pregnant!  I got pregnant!  Within weeks, I was sick as a dog every morning and a hormonal mess of emotions every night.  It was wonderful.   Before the year was over, I, of all people, had a son.  Samuel.  Because God had heard me.

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Now, his dark hair fell in long ringlets across his forehead as I carried him the last mile to Shiloh.  We’d never cut it, never would.  It was a reminder to him – and me – that he was special to God.  Set apart.  Promised.

This special child, this promised child, a tired mess of three year old curiosity and dirt and noise and rebellion and laughter, this answer to prayer child – I brought him to the high priest, Eli,  in Shiloh.  I hadn’t seen the man since that momentous day about four years ago, tears streaking my desperate face.  But apparently he remembered me.  His grandfatherly smile of recognition faded into surprise as I haltingly explained my mission.  The words hurt.  “This is the child for whom I begged God.  This is His child.  But not mine…”

How I wanted that old man, Eli, the priest, to say no.  No, this can’t be right.  I’m too old to take the responsibility for raising a child.  He’s too young to be trained as a priest.  I couldn’t even train my own children to follow God. I can’t believe God would tell you to do this.  How awkward.  How difficult. How very backwards.

But he didn’t.  I’d known he wouldn’t.  God had prepared us both for this.  Eli stood for a long minute, silently staring at me.  Then, slowly, he bent down and looked as Samuel.  The boy with dark hair stared back at him with big curious eyes.  Eli reached out and gently took Samuel’s small grubby fingernails in his large, gnarled grip.   “Come, Samuel.”  He said simply.  “I need your help.”  Together the old man and the boy walked into the tabernacle.  And away from me.

I took a shaky step backwards.  My husband was there, silent through the whole exchange, but ready to catch me as I recoiled from my mission.  Two big tears rolled down my cheeks.  I had fully expected to lose it right there at the door of the tabernacle, for all of Israel to see.  I expected to feel like a horrible failure of a parent, even though I knew this was the path I must take.  But I didn’t.  Peace enveloped me.  Oh, I was sad.  Intensely sad.  I’d just given back the most precious treasure I’d ever been given.  I had just handed over everything I’d ever wanted.  And I had expected to feel empty.

But that’s the thing.  In this backwards kingdom, when you give God everything, you are left with more than you had before.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with awe that I had been entrusted to bear this most sacred of God’s treasures – the life of a child – simply in order to hand it back.  A loan.  All this child’s short life, I had known he was set apart.  He was special.

I suppose all children are special.  Miracles, really.  But over years of dirty diapers and tantrums and mud baths and whining and testing and expenses and homework and hormones, it is easier for the miracle to fade into hindsight.  With the short time I shared with Samuel, I never forgot he was a gift.  I felt so rich to have known the value.  Even for a little while.

I spent the rest of that week getting Samuel settled in with Eli and his wife. We all shed some tears, but we had been prepared for the transition as much as anyone can be.  Finally, I went home.  Samuel stayed.  He grew there.  I grew too.  In fact, I got pregnant five more times.  Every time, a miracle.  I knew that very well.  Over the next decade, I often got to bring a new brother or sister to meet Samuel when we went to Shiloh on feast days.  I’d always bring him a new coat too.  He grew fast.  He became a man, he got married, he had my first grandchildren.  He became the confidante of God Himself, a messenger to our people.  He crowned the first and second kings of Israel.  God calls him by name.

I am blessed among women.  I realize now that God not only wanted all of my son – He wanted all of me. Those memories of aching that led me to make that desperate vow – they still sting.  I’ve held the hands of many women since those dark days, women just as desperate and longing for a family.  It hurts to feel forsaken, even by God.  But I know now, I wasn’t forgotten.  I wasn’t alone in that dark, silent place.  I was wanted.  I was loved.  I was heard.

 

Boom Baby

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I had an ultrasound today.  The tech moved over my round belly, 20 weeks full of baby and decreasing muscle tone, and found what she was looking for.  I blinked.  Yup.  I’ve seen that before.

I had panicked, silently, at the thought of having a girl.  Would I have to invest in nail polish? I don’t have any.  Or a hairbrush.  Is there a video I could watch on how to fit a toddler into tights? I’d have to learn how to apply makeup! I’d have to actually watch Frozen! Could we still go frog catching for fun? Would mud pies be off the menu? Could I still get nerf guns for everyone for Christmas? I’d have to change our “Act like a man” mantra…

But no.

I’ve got baby boy number six growing inside me.

Here we go again.

blue frosting!
blue frosting!

I don’t have this parenting thing down.  Not by a long shot.  But after five boys in the last eight years, I’m fairly confident with parenting the whole camouflage and peeing-standing-up crew.  Practice makes – well, not perfect, but certainly better.  There was once a study that claimed that 10,000 hours of practice will make you an expert in that area.  True or not, if you claim only the 24 hours every day of every year that my oldest, the eight year old, has lived, that’s over 70,000 hours of my life that I’ve parented a boy.  Add the hours of each of my other boys’ lives to that, and I’m clocking over 210,000 hours as a mother of boys.  That’s a lot of miles of train tracks, a lot of energy, matchbox cars, aliens, robots, bugs and beef jerky.  I’ve got this.  Sorta.

For years, every time I’ve been pregnant, people have commented sympathetically, “I hope you have a girl this time!”  Or “You must still be trying till you get a girl!”  Sometimes I wondered, “Why? Does it really matter?”  Will the world tip over from too much concentrated testosterone if I have “too many boys”?  I suspect there are others who make up for the lack of hairspray and ovaries in my house.  Am I missing something that I need to make life complete?

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On the flip side, how could a girl after so many brothers not be messed up?  Would she end up ultra-sparkle, spoiled, petted, princess pink?  Or would she be such a tomboy that she could’t handle barrettes and compliments?  Would she be scarred for life?  When boys start climbing the walls in here, I just send them outside to run 5 or 6 laps around the house.  It’s almost always a cure for what ails them.  But girl drama?  What do you do with that?  Hug them?  Buy them new shoes?  Give them a time out in the lego corner?  Five times I have wondered, “What was God thinking?!?” as a fresh bundle of life was handed to me in the maternity ward.  Who am I to be given such a blessing – and such burden – to raise this particular life?  Today, I wonder it all over again.  I’m five feet tall, an introvert, who likes to bake chocolate things and read and drink tea.  And now I have six strapping boys who all take after their six-foot-something hockey player dad.  Does it make God chuckle to look at my family?

As I lay on the table in the dark room, it didn’t matter to me if I would emerge planning a tea party or another jersey for our homemade soccer team.  All that paled before the unknown of their health. Would the baby’s nerves or brain be growing outside its tiny body?  Would its heart function?  And on top of all that, I wondered if it would even live outside the bubble in my womb.   Wardrobe color paled in comparison.  Whatever is given, it is not by accident.  But I will never take a completely formed spine or four chambered heart for granted.

Here am I and the children God has given me.  There is no lack.

I am getting really good at homemade beef jerky and the different meanings of Tarzan yells.

I just need to buy that farm now.

And maybe a fresh set of ear plugs.

Because of course – it’s a boy 🙂

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sugar crash

Love and roast chicken

Grandma came last week.  She picked up my oldest son, my eight year old, for a date in her backyard.  It was a momentous occasion.

It was chicken killing day at Grandma’s.

They gathered the two month old birds that had grown so fat they could barely walk.  They flipped them upside down and quickly, with a sharp knife, ended the deep chickeny thoughts of every one.

My son watched the blood drain out.  And he helped Grandma and Grandpa and their friends move the fluffy bodies through the process, assembly line style, until they had been converted into neat little packages of thighs, breasts, and wings.  White, bloodless, and unrecognizable from their original state.

We ate fresh baked chicken for supper.

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I am 10 weeks pregnant.

Did you know that means I am at the perfect age for an abortion?

If you try much earlier, the risk is much higher that they will miss the little fetus as they scrape out the womb.  The baby is formed enough now that they can recognize all the parts as they pull them out piece by piece- ripped off arms and legs, mangled organs, crushed head, pulsing heart.

I know that is graphic.  I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir.  But I also know they never told me the process when they made it an option. In fact, they made it sound like a sterile, almost alluring choice when I was 21 weeks pregnant with a baby whose spine never completely formed.  And for a moment, I joined the millions of women who feel the panic rising in their throat and wish there was a way out.  And I am very glad I didn’t take it.  But recently I looked it up.  It bothers me.  Blood bothers me.  Death bothers me.

And it should.

The life of the flesh is in the blood… Leviticus 17:11

My son came face to face with death.  He told me the hardest part wasn’t watching the chickens stop breathing.  That was quick, almost painless.  It was pulling out the hearts afterward.  It was the blood.

I know the news has images of thousands murdered in the Middle East.  I know there are wars and rumors of atrocities in many places.  It is horrific.  Barbaric.  And we quickly condemn it from our side of the world, and turn off the screen and go back to our lattes (or laundry, etc.)  But here, in our “civilized” culture, thousands more are being fatally ripped to shreds.  Silently.  In California alone, where most news that hits the front of magazines originates, around 200,000 babies will be ripped from women’s bodies this year.  Hearts still pumping.  And it won’t make the news.  I wonder who shall be judged more harshly?

 

I know this isn’t a fun post.  But this weighs heavy on my heart.  I hate that my country empowers people to sin.  It empowers boys to think they can claim sex as a right, with no fear of personal consequence.  I have boys.  I want to raise men.  Men take responsibility.  That is why I let them see blood (in a controlled environment.)  That is why I go to the trouble to vote, though I don’t like hype and hate the mess of politics and it’s hard to cram so many little bodies around me in a voting cubicle.  If I don’t choose a government who will fight for life on my behalf, I do no better than standing on the sidelines watching the slaughter.   Our country would rather save the animals and kill their own people.  I would much rather eat the animals, and treat people worthy of life.  Jesus did.

He bled to save our life.  It cost him dearly.  But He considered your life worth it.  Babies the age of my newest one will die today.  Let’s not be chickens.  Life is precious and I will fight for it.

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End of rant 🙂

 

The Minor Profits

What are little boys made of?

Snips, snails, and puppy dog tails.  That’s what little boys are made of.

Slime, grime, and mud all the time.  That’s what little boys are made of.

Youth, truth, and a missing front tooth.  That’s what little boys are made of.

Truth.

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The test is small, the size of a pen.  I’ve used one many times before this.  But the result is always weighty.  I felt it on my shoulders this time.  Heavy.  And I felt the smallness of my house, the weakness of my own arms, the onrushing responsibility of soul-raising threatening to close over my head.

But I took a deep breath.  I tried to step out in faith, once again, and simply be amazed.  And… I stepped on a lego.  I stepped on a piece of cold spaghetti with a bare foot.  I stepped on a sticky lump of I-hope-that-was-just-week-old-banana, and started to cry.

Because, believe it or not, I was surprised by the result of that test.

That pregnancy test.

And while the miracle of life was not lost on me, neither was the gravity.

I didn’t feel the urge to scream my news from the rooftops.

Folks at church will look at us and think, “I wonder if they know the Bible doesn’t say you can’t use birth control?”  And folks at the grocery store will think, “She is to blame for global warming and those huge carts that clog the aisles.”  And the folks at the doctor’s office will think, “I wonder if their insurance is coming out of our taxes?” And folks at the family reunion will think, “That right there is why we can’t meet at a fancy restaurant.”  And folks at the playground will think, “We better keep our kids away from hers.  Their weirdness might rub off.”  And folks we call grandma will think, “Babysitting is getting more challenging…”

I was lost in my own thoughts as I pushed a sagging cart out of the grocery store that week.  A grandmotherly lady stopped us with a glowing smile.  “I love seeing you in here,” she patted the baby on his pudgy hand and counted the blonde sea of heads.  “I hope you’re not thinking of stopping!”  She grinned.  I took it as an excuse to sheepishly share the secret that burned in my throat (heartburn is rough in those early weeks of pregnancy.)  “Oh no.  Haha.  There’s actually another…”

However she responded, I will never remember.  Instead, I noticed a young hand suddenly grasp at my elbow.  My eight year old looked up with shining eyes.  He’d heard the secret.  “Really, Mom?”  He said as we pulled away from the smiling woman.  “Really, are you pregnant?”  I nodded, wondering how the oldest of now (gasp) 6 would feel at the news.  He let out a whoop.  “That. Is. Awesome!”

The other boys, engrossed in the challenge where you can only step on the sidewalk paint and not on the parking lot tar, were oblivious to his excitement.  “That is the best news!” he gushed.  “It’s like a present from God!”

I hugged him as bodies clambered into their seats around us.  “I am so glad that you are glad.”  I said sincerely.  I was tickled to know that one who would be affected so directly was so happy.  Of course, it didn’t change anything, but it was reassuring.

Sometimes it’s hard work not to be surprised by the cynicism and disapproval of others.  I’m not surprised anymore by attitudes that think I’m doing the other children a disservice by having more offspring than I have hands for.  But I was surprised when I realized that attitude was coming from myself!

I have been given the great honor of being called mother.  Again.  I will not dare to throw this gift back in the face of the Giver of life by being unthankful.  No.  Not for a moment.    A new awe is coming over me.  Again.  Now I am surprised – by joy.

Sometimes it takes the mouths of babes – and frank, lanky eight year olds – to remind me to thank God for doing great big things in humble little packages.

We have been blessed.  That’s the simple truth.

Rejoice with me!

 

burning marshmallows… I mean, making s'mores
burning marshmallows and making memories

 

The Chicken or the Egg

No, I’m not expecting another child again so soon; I wrote this post last year on my first blog.  But various parts of this tend to come up in conversation.  A lot.  It was true in the days of pregnancy; it’s even more poignant now that baby number 5 is a couple months old.  I thought I’d share it again.

This is where it was posted originally, back in January.  http://teenagemutantninjatoddlers.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-chicken-or-egg.html

The Chicken or the Egg

Yes.  I am pregnant.

It happens.

Regularly, it seems.

(Though actually I had nearly five months when I was neither pregnant nor nursing this time.  Previous record was about two months, and I had an early miscarriage in the middle of that.  But that’s another story…)

So we are excited.  I know I am very blessed.  I am also sick, hormonal, and exhausted.

And in the midst of all the congratulations, I sometimes get the (not unexpected, yet often subliminal) question, “Why?!?”

 

The fifth child elicits that type of reaction naturally in our modern American culture.  More so if they’re all six years old or less.  More so if mom is only 5 feet tall and tries to avoid wearing obvious “mom jeans.”  More so if folks know you only have a two bedroom house.  Much more so if you have a toddler in a wheelchair.

I’m fairly used to the reaction by now.  Sometimes I smile, a bit, and feel like I’m the bearer of a great secret.  Those folks who look at me with consternation, amazement, or pity, they simply must not know the worth I find in these treasures.

 

For the record, I am aware, childbearing and raising, especially in quantities, is hard.  It is expensive.  It is tiring, frustrating, thankless, often demeaning; sometimes it seems flat out impossible.  And that’s just before daylight hits.  The gentleman in the grocery store commenting “You sure are busy!” isn’t telling me something I didn’t know.  I’d like to answer, sometimes, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize!  I am busy, aren’t I!  Thanks for pointing that out!”

 

But the question is understandable.

“Why?”

 

But part of the answer is simple chemistry.  My husband and I seem to just think baby, and they appear on an ultrasound.  We seem to be ridiculously fertile.  We are young and healthy.  We could try to shirk this, but we’re choosing to treat it as a blessing, the miracle of life.  Because the Bible says it is.  And there are plenty for whom childbearing isn’t such an easy option.  I must consider it the good hand of God, as Mary did, when the angel told her she was having baby Jesus.  She was young, unmarried, poor, and alone.  It would cost her reputation, it would cause her husband a great deal of difficulty (and patience before his marriage was consummated), require a frantic flight at midnight to another country, and ultimately break her heart as she watched her Child be murdered.  But at the news – she praised God.

Along with that, the method we use for birth control is – leaving God in control of birth.  No hormones.  No surgery.  And, dare I say it, no random chance.  At the risk of too much info, the plus side of having a “cycle,” is just that.  A cycle.  Fairly predictable.  As Ecclesiastes notes, “there is a time for everything…”  Much of the month, it is quite unlikely you will make a baby.  You can get fairly familiar with the times you could.  And if you hit that particular time, what’s the worst thing that will happen?  Oops.  The miracle of life.

 

Part of the answer is probably my pride.  When baby number four was born with Spina Bifida, it became obvious that, while he would have some difficulty with his lower body for the rest of his life, and probably surgery from time to time, he wasn’t going to require ’round the clock care particularly more than any child.  I didn’t want the simple fact that he can’t currently hike a mountain be the deciding factor to end our kid-having.  And I don’t want him to think that his disability somehow disables us from giving him a younger sibling.  He’s a regular kid; he just happens to not feel his feet or bladder.  Plus we’d probably spoil him if he remained the youngest.  He already gets away with crashing into people’s shins with his wheelchair more than he should…

 

The fastest way to get spaghetti to your tummy should mean bypassing the mouth and esophagus completely.  The logic of a two year old.

Also, well, we have four boys.  You can’t say yet that we’re not giving a girl a chance 🙂  But having a complete soccer team in the same genre would certainly be more convenient, cheaper with hand-me-downs, and I’m all for it – either way.

 

Finally, honestly, why will we have another baby?  Because I was once that person in the grocery store who looked at the tired mom with her snotty brood in mismatched puddle boots and thought, “Why?”

Two or maybe three children, spaced comfortably years apart, sounded like a practical, workable way to ensure progeny.

But.

But God had other plans than mine.  (He often does, I’ve found.)

 

The first baby sunk me.  I didn’t get what it would be like to go from working a full-time job, trying to finish my degree, and being a young, upwardly mobile couple, to being a stay-at-home mom budgeting on my husband’s income.  I was lonely.  The baby cried at odd hours, for no reasonable purpose that I could see.  As he didn’t come with a manual, I read all the books I could get my hands on, and they often offered conflicting advice.  Feed on demand; feed on strict schedule.  Wear your baby always; always put them down in their own crib.  Feed them cereal around 4 months; start them instead on finger foods when they’re closer to a year.  Before kids, I might have thought parenting was just another notch on the growing up belt.  I started to realize it wasn’t that easy.

Then baby number two surprised me with his unplanned (by me) existence.

If you asked me the age old question – which came first, the chicken or the egg?  I’d probably say the eggs.  When I saw each teeny little heart beating on grainy black and white screens, I cried.  Yes, I loved them and knew I was honored to be made a mommy.  But I turned into such a chicken at the thought of having a little one.  Then two little ones within a year and a half.  And then three within the next year and a half.

By the third baby, mamma chicken was starting to catch on.

 

These parenting shoes are big ones, Momma.  Won’t you put them on?

 

God’s plans are better.

He used us not just to make new life exist, but He used all that new life to renew my own.

But I had more to learn.

Baby number four arrived with the aid of the doctor’s scalpel.  He met the knife personally twice in his first two weeks of life, with his spine and his brain.

Chicken mommy was learning.

I am learning still that God loves to use these burpy, sticky creatures to refine mother herself.

 

I planned to go into nursing, acting as an angel of mercy for others during their brief stay in a hospital.

Instead, I am into nursing babies, acting as their very life sustenance during their year long stint as an infant.

I planned to space my children, so each would have at least a couple years of mom’s specific attention.

Instead, they came at year and a half intervals, so each had a close sibling to give them special companionship.

I planned to sleep, expecting to need the energy to pour into each day with zeal and excitement.

Instead, I spent many of the wee hours with a warm cuddly dependent life, learning to pour great zeal into prayer for energy to do what was truly essential to life and godliness each day.

I planned to invest and save healthy amounts for each child’s further education and interests.

Instead, in the moments when we didn’t know where the weekly grocery money would come from, I learned to invest in their daily life through the library, good friend groups, healthy food, prayer, discipline and cuddles, and trust that God would supply their needs even as He always had my own.

I planned to be sufficient for the job of parenting.

Instead, I was – I am – constantly humbled to realize what a weighty and precious work this is, raising each fragile life to know he is made in the image of his Creator.  I realize how insufficient I am.  But God loves to use the most unlikely of creatures to prove His own sufficiency.

He used a donkey once to speak to a man and save his life.

I guess He can use a chicken too.

 

A chicken with all day morning sickness.  May my soul magnify the Lord.  Bring it.

 

Letter to My Unborn Son

Dear Child,

I haven’t met you.  I don’t know you (though your roundhouse kicks to my ribs hint at strength and stubbornness ahead).  But I love you already and can’t wait to meet you next month.

I want the best for you.  Unfortunately, I am completely inadequate to be your mother.  Even if I pour my life into parenting you, I will fall short.  Already I do.  (Sorry about those doughnuts.  They gave us both a sugar crash later.)  Just ask your brothers in a few years, when they’re teenagers and you learn how to talk, they’ll tell you.  I will fail you.

I will get mad when isn’t your fault.

I will be too busy when you really just need me to listen.

I will be too lenient when you’re testing rules that should be safe and solid.

I will be too harsh when discipline isn’t the best teacher.

I will say no when I should say yes.

I will be a bad mom sometimes.  I’m sorry in advance.  Is this how Mary felt as she considered being Jesus’ mommy?  We’ve been entrusted with the impossible job of parenting perfectly.  No pressure.  It’s harder than you might think.

For the record, sometimes you will think I’m being a bad mom when I’m actually trying to do what’s good for you.

I will say no when I shouldn’t say yes.  (More on that when you’re 2).

I will discipline you when you do wrong, belligerently disobey, or try to hurt someone.

I will set rules that must not be broken to protect your own safety and health.

I will teach you manners.

I will not give you candy before supper.

I will expect you to practice helping anyone who is smaller or weaker than you, and all girls, no matter how tough they are.

I will observe bedtime.

I will give you good food when you ask for junk, kick you outside to play when you want to watch too much t.v., and won’t move the car until you’re buckled.

Because even Mary had to set boundaries for Jesus when He was little.  Even Jesus couldn’t play in traffic.  Even Jesus had to take turns.  Even Jesus had to learn to read when he would rather have been in the sandbox.

So much to learn!  The joy of daddy's tool box.
So much to learn! The joy of daddy’s tool box.

Jesus didn’t come to earth because it was going to be easy.  He didn’t pick Mary for His mom because she was perfect, or beautiful, or rich.  He didn’t come to be comfortable.  Jesus didn’t come to earth to be happy.

He came to a hard world, a young, imperfect mother, and a very difficult, painful purpose.  It pleased God – His dad – to put Him here.  His Dad loved Him more than I even love you (because He could).  So because I love you, I must expect the same for you.  I want more for you than just happiness.

It’s a little late for you to back out of this.  In fact, I’m expecting you to jump in head first.  Literally.  But don’t worry, even Jesus laughed sometimes.  In fact, I’m pretty sure He had an infectious giggle.  Even when He grew up, kids loved being around Him, so He must have been a pretty fun guy.

He had lots of brothers, just like you.

He enjoyed food, just like you will. (He spent lots of time eating with friends).

He had lots of energy, just like you. (He worked hard and walked everywhere).

He had an awe of nature, knowing that His Dad had made it to be enjoyed and used by Him as well as you.

He had the power to fill and to break His mom’s heart, just like you.

And He knew His mom loved him.  Just like you.

There are mountains to climb out here.  There are books to read.  There is chocolate; there is steak.  There are pretty girls (we’ll discuss them later…)  There is hard work, sweat, and pain.  But there is laughter, deep joy, and times of rest.  There are big trucks.  There is darkness.  There is hope.  There are hugs and cuddles.  There is lonliness.  There are puppies.  There is dirt.  There is ice cream.  There is so much to discover.

I cannot promise you happiness.  But I will try to teach you joy.

I cannot promise you painlessness.   But I will be there to kiss your booboos and stick on band aids.

I cannot promise you comfort.  But I will try to buffer the hurts when I know they are coming.

I cannot promise you immediate gratification.  But I will try to help you accept the waiting.

I cannot promise you sunshine and warmth.  But I will dance with you in the rain.

I cannot promise you won’t get dirty.  But I will give you bubble baths.

I cannot promise you won’t get sick.  But I will soothe your pain.

I cannot promise you won’t be afraid.  But I will chase monsters with you in the dark and hold your hand when you feel small.

I cannot promise you won’t fail.  You will make mistakes; you will try your hardest and still lose.  Sometimes.  But I will help you get up and try again.  And again.  And again.

I cannot promise I won’t fail you.  In fact, I guarantee I will.  But I will teach you about Jesus’ Dad – the One who put you here in the first place – and I guarantee He will never fail you.  I can’t wait to introduce you to Him.

I’m looking forward to joining you on the grand adventure, baby.  See you soon!

Love, Mom

They're waiting for you...
They’re waiting for you…

P.S.  That first step of life is a doozy.  For both of us.  You can start practicing now being a good sleeper for mama, ok?  Thanks.