When my husband and I were married over nine years ago, we received quite a bit of advice. A lot of that advice had to do with children - should we have them, when, and how many? We were told that it was best that we wait a few years before we had children so we could enjoy our lives, as children would most certainly put a strain on our marriage and cause us hardship. That seemed reasonable to us. Of course we should wait to have children until we could afford them. Until we had spent at least two years together as a couple. Until we were really ready. And then, those well-meaning loved ones (and strangers!) learned we were going to practice Natural Family Planning. Suddenly, we weren't so wise. Some people asked what it was. They had heard of the Rhythm Method (not the same at all!), but not NFP. We explained that we wanted to be obedient to God's will so we were not going to use any artificial means to prevent pregnancy. They laughed, shook their heads, and sagely predicted we would be pregnant immediately.
They were wrong.
One year and a half later, we decided to have a baby and got pregnant right away. The day I took the pregnancy test was the day after my godfather died. There was immense joy in my family as in the midst of mourning for one life we were able to celebrate the beginning of another. We welcomed our beautiful girl in November of that year. I was sleep-deprived and sad a lot of the time for those first few months, but I cherished every second with my sweet little girl. Two years passed and God blessed us with a son. That was when the comments began, such as:
"You have two - one of each? Oh, that is perfect. Now you can stop!"
It bothered me a little that strangers were commenting on how many children I should have, but the comments seemed positive and they were said with a smile, so I just smiled back. And then, I got pregnant with my third.
My husband and I were so happy to share our news, but we soon found that others weren't quite as happy.
Here are some of the comments we got:
"Are you crazy?" Evidently
"Don't you know what causes that?" No, please tell me.
Ohhh, deployment baby (wink, wink)? Excuse me?
"But you already have two!" Well, math never was my strong suit.
"Are you serious?! When are you going to stop?" When we get an ugly one.
"Oh, you poor little thing." Ummm, thanks?
"You just got thinner and now you are going to ruin your body again." Gee thanks, Grandma.
The only person in my family who was genuinely happy for us was my father. So we gave our new beautiful girl his name as her middle name.
After she was born, the comments only got worse. People gave me pitying looks in the supermarket. They would tell me, "You certainly have your hands full!" I was continuously asked if I was "done" and when my husband was going to get "snipped". I felt sad that most of the comments came from Christians. I had come to realize that one is never truly "ready" for children. That magical moment in which all stars align for the perfect time to have a child does not exist. I ran into older people who told me that, knowing what they know now, they wished they had had "just one more". I realized that people were afraid to trust God with their entire lives; I recognized that fear in myself. What would happen if I lived as though I truly believed God's Word? Could I trust God with Everything? I decided to put it all in His hands, and on December 16 of last year, I knew in my heart I had been blessed again. Our children rejoiced. They could not wait to hold their new sibling. We took a deep breath and told our families, though a part of me wanted to keep it a secret. My heart broke over the fact that this precious child's life may not be as celebrated as my first. But you know what? It was. God loved this child. We and our other children loved and wanted this child. That was all that mattered.
So even though I hear "Are they all yours?" (No, I just love taking other people's kids to Walmart at the busiest time of day.) and "You sure have your hands full." (and my heart, too!) whenever I leave the house...even though strangers often stare wide-eyed at us (like when we went to Vegas) and occasionally look at us in disgust (Just smile back sweetly at them, children.)...even though my doctor at our first prenatal visit asked if I wanted my tubes tied when he delivered the baby because he was going to "be there anyway" (Only one of the many things wrong with him. I fired his butt!)...even though I get asked "How do you do it?" on a daily basis (Lots of prayer and a little wine) and oftentimes am told "I couldn't do it" (Good thing it's not you, then, cupcake)...even though we have to hear "You're done, right?" (Only God knows.) over and over...even then, I adore my children. God has entrusted me with precious lives and I feel the weight of that in every decision I make. I know I am not so much raising them as allowing God to raise me through them. God gave me each one of them for a purpose: to make me more like Jesus. He is training my heart to not be full of fear, so that when my son looks around the table and says there are people missing because we have two empty chairs and only six people in our family and, therefore, we need two more babies...I can smile and tell him, "Pray about it, dear. Trust God with your heart." and not feel afraid of what God has in store for me.
And for that (and many other things), I am truly thankful.