Family Un-Planning: A Mother of Seven Reflects on Livin’ Large
Shortly after I gave birth to my seventh baby I turned the big 4-0. Unbelievable. Isn’t it amazing that during our younger years monumental ages like 40 seem so far off….like people who are 40 are so, well, old?! That is beside the point I am trying to make, however, yet still remarkable to think about.
I teeter between being a morning person and a night person. You would think I could make up my mind. I do prefer waking up to the quiet and starting my day slowly, but when I have decided to be a night person the night before I wake up a bit later than the wee hours of the morning to a bustle of activity. Shouting, fighting, yelling, running, music…any or all of the above quickly lift the veil of sleep from my eyes as I am thrust into the reality of being a mama to seven children.
Reality states that I could have chosen to not have this many children with where modern medicine has taken us. I am amazed at the numbers of times that I am asked if I am trying to keep up with the Duggars or if I am trying to have my own reality show. Both statements are equally naive, yet a reflection of the time and space in which I live. The truth is, I could have prevented having this many children, and yes, I do know “how you get them” as I am often asked in reference to my children. But the truth also is, that choosing not to prevent children is not the same as trying to keep up with the Duggars or trying to see how many children I can have as if raising children can be likened to some sort of game show.
I love getting up with babies during the night, I really do. I am never in a hurry for my kids to get through that phase, and I hate it when they do. I miss them. Weird, I know. Even more amazing is the fact that I have been getting up with babies for nearly 14 years. I also have two in diapers right now, for the third time during these 14 years. I rarely get to eat hot food, finish a cup of coffee, or go to the bathroom by myself, and several times a week I skip meals just because I don’t feel like eating after serving a bunch of people food for what ends up being nearly an hour even with help from my older kids.
There are times when I would love to not take a diaper bag somewhere with me for the day, when I would like to eat a meal without getting up a million times, and when I would love nothing more than being able to take a shower without wondering whether there will be a naked two year old standing in the shower with me at some point with his diaper left face down who knows where. However, these things really aren’t that big of a deal to me.
Right now I am covering both ends of the spectrum with teenage tantrums and toddler tantrums, kids who want to slobber me with kisses and those who are getting dangerously close to thinking that a kiss from mom is the most uncool thing on the planet. My hands are full. If I look at my calendar my head sometimes swirls, and my life is far from my own. I get it, I understand how the very opposite of my life is so appealing to most. Leisurely moments, reading books, showers every day, every day! There are days that these things seem like a dream to me. Truth be told, being a mother is s full-time job, and with kids who are homeschooled and therefore home, every day the days are loooooong. I could have chosen to be a couple of years away from being an empty nester like many of my friends, to get a full night of sleep most nights, and to have the luxury of thinking a thought through from start to finish.
But my issue with these ideas is the word “I.” All of these things would have been self centered choices with what God has placed on my heart, and I would have missed out on so many blessings. Countless blessings…blessings times 7. How many blessings would that be?! If I would have chosen to prevent these blessings, that is just it, it would have been my choice…and I am only a woman, a human not created for this world but thrust into this world of sin. I don’t see the big picture and I fall short, far short of being able to make Divine choices. And the safety, peace, and joy I feel in knowing that the choice regarding these children I have been given has been made by the One who is Divine is an unmatched gift.
But I am still human. I have human thoughts, human feelings, and human desires that are far from divine at times. And I do have to remind myself that these seven children are blessings at times when my humanness rears its oftentimes ugly head. But there are also moments when I look into the eyes of that baby who needs to be changed for the 13th time in one day, the toddler who colored all over the walls, and the teen who just can’t seem to remember right from wrong at times and realize that I am part of a divine plan. I am part of reaching a time and place I will never see, I am part of His overall plan for eternity, I am part of a miracle. A miracle that continues to unfold every day.
In those few precious moments right after I delivered my seventh I know I felt a glimpse into what heaven must be like. I was overcome with emotion, and the words that came to me were “humbly blessed.” I could not understand how God chose to bless me, little old me so abundantly. It felt like my heart, my entire being could not contain the amount of love I felt not just for that baby, but for all my children. I cry at every single ultrasound every.single.time. I love watching the gymnastics in my belly with every pregnancy. I love watching my children embrace a new one every time. I love how they fight over who gets to pick out the baby’s clothes, even when that baby is two. I love how they interact, all seven of them every day, which means even their fights bring me joy when I step out of the frustration of the moment and really choose to see. I love that they still ask when the next sibling is coming and how they can’t imagine that the trail of new ones coming into our family will ever end. I love that my oldest cried the day she realized that her youngest siblings would most likely not even remember her living with them since they will be just out of toddlerhood when she leaves the nest.
But there are few who understand, really understand this concept. Those who know how love multiplies rather than divides when there are more to spread love between with each new birth. Most think that we have a perfect number in our head, or they ask if we have enough now. But what they fail to understand is that my heart, maybe not their heart, but my heart cannot entertain the thought of choosing a perfect number and then being done, or just deciding to be done at some point because I have enough now. I cannot fathom letting God direct thus far and then saying, “Enough now, I got this.” I don’t know how to flip that switch from being part of a Divine plan to being part of a human plan. I cannot imagine missing my children, the ones who would never be born in that case, as I miss the ones I have miscarried through the years.
I realize that if I were to announce another pregnancy there would be many who would think that I would be spreading myself even thinner, and I dread the thought of the nay-sayers sharing their thoughts that are filtered through the lens of how they see children and family size. My lens is different from most, my calling is different from most, my mission is different from most, but isn’t that how we have those in the military, those who chose to remain single to advance the kingdom, and those who spend their days on the mission field in a third world country? Aren’t we all just called to answer the call that is placed on our hearts?
The way I see it, if it took until my seventh baby to feel as though my heart would truly burst with love, and my kids, who people are concerned about “getting what they need,” “doing without material things because there is less to go around,” and “must be lacking in love because my love is divided among so many” are hoping to hear the announcement of another one coming with baited breath, large family life can’t be all that bad in the minds of everyone who lives here. We must be doing something ok, and dare I say that we must be doing something right in answering His call to us and in investing in eternity.
Large family living is not for the weary, and it is not the life that the Divine One calls everyone to. But when my husband and I continue to remain open minded, open handed, and open hearted, it sure does seem to be the life He intends for us to live. And that is ok with me.