Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Since I've Been Having Babies

Through the pregnancies and births of all my babies,
My hips have widened
My skin has stretched, with permanent marks like tiger stripes strewn across my belly -
which once was flat and flawless
My feet have grown bigger and I imagine if I have a few more babies,
they'll be Flintstone feet for sure
My hair has fallen out and grown back, and is a lot straighter than it used to be
My body itself has evolved from a slender frame with bony edges to a rounder shape of squishy-ness
And I worry constantly about my appearance, where my youth has gone, where my little perky body went..where my mind and energy are

But then I think about how losing all of these paltry things has caused me to gain so much....

Through the pregnancies and births of all my babies,
I have grown wider in my knowledge and understanding of LOVE
My heart has stretched, with permanent marks of my children's lives etched into its center
My world has grown bigger, filled with the limitless possibilities of how life will play out
My fallen life has straightened out into something I never would have imagined
And my body, my mind and my energy are spent holding my children when they cry, unconditionally loving them even when they don't seem to love me and giving them every piece of me that they can possibly have.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

There, I've said it....

Over the years, the idea that one should not have more children than one can handle or one can afford, or really just more than one or two in general, has been thrown at me - sometimes very gently, sometimes very rudely, sometimes just in one of those obvious 'I'm grinning-but-behind-it-I-am-thinking-you-are-a-crazy-lunatic' sort of ways... I've had people who I don't even know ask me how many children I'm going to have after they find out I already have my "quota" of two. But it's not one of those curious questions just being asked out of curiosity (which is fine with me), but more like 'I have my own judgment about you and the idea already, and I'm just seeing if I'm right...' It's kind of annoying to me in a way because A)It's no body's business but mine and my husband's and B)It's just rude, no matter who you are, to ask such a personal question in such a condescending manner.

A while ago, someone at a party asked me (upon my telling her I was pregnant with my third), "how many kids DO you want ANYWAY? Major emphasis on the words 'do' and 'anyway.' And this was first preceded by eye rolling and one of those "you really are crazy" looks. Even people within our family have made comments and said things that really were out of line and just downright annoying. Most of the people who I come in contact with have some negative thought on the subject and I am unsure as to where exactly it comes from. Is it taught to them by their parents? Is it society's general view that a family should be made up of 4 people - 2 adults and 2 children (preferably a girl and a boy), filtering into people's minds without their knowledge? I mean, if you think about it, most vacation packages for families only include 2 adults and 2 children in the price.

I never planned on having a big family. When I was younger, I didn't even think in terms of numbers, just that I wanted some kids. I grew up in a family of 7 children and though there are many benefits to having such a large family, I am not sure I ever thought I'd have more than just a few. But this afternoon, as I was sitting at the dining room table, watching my 3 children eat snack, I imagined what it'll be like to have the 4th one - who is due in just a few months - sitting at the table with us. Four children is more than "just a few," especially by today's standards.

After I had my second child, I was unsure about having any more. And even after I had my third, a lot of difficulties I was experiencing brought that uncertainty to the forefront of my mind once again. But just like clock-work, I was pregnant again by the time my baby was 10 months old. The subject for me had kind of just been up in the air. My husband wasn't very positive about the idea of having more then the 3 we had, and we talked a lot about my health issues, his fears, my fears and what we could handle. And really, when it came down to it, nothing was as important as giving the whole thing to God and letting Him have the reigns. We had *sort of* done this already, but I don't think Joe was truly on board with the idea - mainly because he was just so fearful of so many things surrounding it.

I have gone back and forth over this within my own mind and heart over the past year or two. I am very overwhelmed at times, especially since the 3 that I have are age 4 and under and the days are often more than exhausting! I think back to a time when I couldn't really imagine myself being a good mother at all, let alone having more than 1 to care for. But then I look at how well I have adjusted to a different way of thinking, how I am finding things to be not as hard as I had anticipated, and how much meaning each of my children adds to my life. And, even though I fail in some areas, I believe I'm doing a pretty decent job of raising my children and I'm always open to becoming better, to changing and growing and learning for their sake. I also think about the fact that even my husband has come to a place where *more* is not scary to him, without my even really saying much.

We both want what God wants for our lives. We aren't going to be bullied by negative comments from other people, especially people who don't even know what it's like to give their lives to God. And this doesn't mean we're idiots or that we don't know what we're doing. And it doesn't mean we can't plan within the boundaries He has set for us. After our 4th child is born, I need to focus on the health issues I've been experiencing and get all that under control before we think about having a 5th. But the thing is that if God wants us to have a 5th, or even a 6th, if I'm okay and my husband and I are both on the same page, there is no reason not to. There, I've said it - I WILL have more children if I am healthy and God wants me to!

*Oh, and as a side note, my favorite people to get negative comments from are those who have never had children, have only had 1, don't know Jesus, or are so self-absorbed that the idea of having children and parenting them in a decent manner is beyond their comprehension. They're my favorite because it gives me more of a reason to pray for them!*

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts for Mom

Dear Mom,

As I lay here with my daughter asleep across my lap, I am wondering how many times you held me like this and felt what I feel at this perfect moment in time. It's late - the other children are sleeping in their beds, and my little princess is sound asleep in my arms, peaceful and quiet - completely opposite from what she was during the day. Her age and innocence and dependence upon me shows in the softness of her little face, her big blue eyes closed against the night. Her blond hair is slightly matted with salt from her tears, as she awoke in her bed just a bit ago, crying and reaching out for me as traces of whatever terrors haunted her dreams still lingered on the backs of her eyelids. Sleepily, she snuggled in my arms when I went to her and picked her up. Calmly, she rested against me and I soothed her into a more restful sleep with "shooshing" sounds and gentle pats on her slender back.

Momma, I wonder how many times you did this for me, loving me and protecting me from the demons of the night. Helping me back to sleep with your quiet nature and gentle hand. I look at my beautiful little girl and think back to the time I found out I was pregnant with her - a time when it wasn't supposed to be - and how I made you cry when I told you. Do all children disappoint their parents? Will I ache over my children the way you have ached over us through the years? How will I have the strength to be what they need me to be, despite being hurt or angry over things they have done or said?

I think about this little being asleep against me on the couch and I am flooded with the memory of five years ago when she was still inside of me - a tiny baby wrapped in the secret darkness of my womb, growing and changing each day, living and breathing as part of me. I think about how if it were possible, I'd keep all my babies within me for their entire lives, because that's the only way I could protect them completely. Did you feel that way, Momma and if so, how did you get over the painful reality that this is just not possible; that it isn't the way God made things to be?

I wonder about so much - How you felt as a new mom, and as an experienced one. How you captured perfect little moments like this one. How you breathed in our scent as you held us against you, but found the strength to let us go when it was time to anyway. I wonder how I got to be in this place in time, with three babies of my own and another one on the way - a mommy myself, and a wife - trying to make my way through uncharted territory in sometimes wild seas.

And I wonder, will this small and fragile sleeping child cradled in my lap grow up and have babies of her own, feeling and wondering the very same things?