Having a child is surely the most beautifully irrational act that two people in love can commit.
-- W. Cosby
It's probably the question I hear the most, the question I hear from strangers, family, neighbors, friends, bloggers. I don't mind the question--I understand why people ask, actually. It can be asked a couple of different ways, but is essentially asking the same thing. It's just that it's a question that doesn't have an easy answer, a question that begs an explanation that spans a couple decades of experience and growth and faith and fear.
"Are you going to have any more? Are you done?"
The question is about our family size, are we going to have more than the eight we've been blessed with, are we done expanding the tribe. I recognize that in today's American culture we are far more the exception than the norm. I get why people are interested, why they allow curiosity to overcome what might be considered a personal question. It's a question I might be tempted to ask, were I in their shoes. It's a question I did ask, many years ago, when I became dear friends with an amazing woman who has seven children.
There is an assumption that Michael and I set out to build a large family, but this was not the case. Our plan included the development of his law and political career, which I would support through my burgeoning media opportunities. We would focus exclusively on our careers for about a decade, then take a three month sabbatical to the Greek Isles, whereupon I would ovulate on a timetable, we would conceive and presto, bingo, right on schedule, right when we had our careers headed for zenith, right when we had a certain amount of dollars in the bank, right when we had our dream home built and furnished, then there would be Baby.
Imagine the shock to the 10 year plan when 7 months into the marriage I took a pregnancy test that registered a positive result. Imagine M's shock when I went from full-out television career woman to a gestating soon-to-be mommy who in a blink decided to ditch my career to stay home with the spawn. Fifteen months into our marriage we welcomed 1 of 8, 105 months shy of the designated time we had set aside for her arrival.
I really thought she would be an only child. Tough delivery, tough financial times, tough strain on a young marriage. Incredible little girl, incredible bond, incredible growth. The balance of a baby in tow.
Now here comes the part with the strong disclaimer: the following assertions are only for the description of my journey into grand multipara motherhood. They are not intended as theology. They are not intended to say my conclusions are 'right' and all others are 'wrong'. They are not meant as a universal revelation leading to enlightenment, growth and maturity, although I do find that fruit through my experience. I'm just one woman, trying to listen to the leading.
Perhaps in the future I will post in more detail the arrivals of 2-8, but for the purposes of this post, I'll try to be brief. After 2's arrival, we thought we were done. After 3's arrival, we thought we were done. After 4's arrival, Michael really thought we were done...and I wasn't so sure. After 5's arrival, I begged for 6. After 6's arrival, I thought we were done. And then there were 7 & 8.
What I have found is this: it's all about faith. It's all about trust. It's all about listening. I don't know how many children people should have. I do know we should pray a whole lot more about it. I don't think that big families are somehow more 'spiritual'. I do know that the process of family building is holy ground, whether by biological or adoptive or foster or mentoring means. I don't have the answers to all things reproduction. I do think we need to quit thinking in terms of 'what can I handle' and think instead 'how can I be stretched.' We tend to make decisions in this arena based in fear, not in faith...and then that is no real decision based in the Lord at all.
We've had easy pregnancies, we've had hard ones. I've had some fast, smooth labors and I've had some zingers. We've had two miscarriages. We've had times we hoped to be pregnant and weren't. We have two girls with special needs. We have eight children who all come with their own individuals strengths and weaknesses. We are two people with strengths and weaknesses. We mess up. We get back up. We are blessed.
So in the end, the answer is this: we are standing on holy ground. To be invited by an infinitely creative Creator to participate in such an amazing way to make people is holy. To see those people enter our lives is miraculous. To look in each of the faces around our dinner table, to know that we thought we were probably done with the baby thing after 1, then after 2, then after 3...sometimes my heart is in my throat as I think, "What if I had called it quits? You wouldn't be here! I would have missed the amazing miracle of you..."...wow. That's heavy.
I don't have it all figured out. My cup feels very full. Therapy for two of my girls is sometimes overwhelming. Laundry for ten takes a lot of time. I have goals, dreams, things I would like to do. But in the end, I would have never grown into the person I am were it not for the cradle crucible of self-sacrifice, joy, heartache, physical pain, stretch marks, delight, laughter, exhaustion and adoration that these children have made me. Maybe it took this many kids to grow me up.
Are we done? Yes...no....maybe....I'm listening. This is holy ground.
So what about you? So how about your family? Are you done? Are you just beginning? What questions, fears, dreams have shaped the number of people in your family? How do you know if there may be someone else lining up for membership in your family club? How do you know when the club is complete?