Well I stirred the pot yesterday with the topic of adoption (How is this even taboo? I still don’t get it) so today, cause I live my life one-quarter mile at a time, I think I’ll hit on super super fun fun large families.
And by large, I mean folks who intentionally or unintentionally have four or more children, because NO, PATRICIA, 3 kids is not even close to “a lot of kids”.
Let me begin by admitting this: I’ve actually only known one woman who had more than four kids. Heather was new-ish to our church. She was tall and strong and gentle and patient and super-pregnant, and she scared the ever-loving snot out of me. Not because she was scary (She was–is–lovely), but because she struck me as a mother flippin’ force of nature; so powerful, even in her moments of vulnerability during a bible study, or in the exhausted expression she sometimes wore–I sensed a calmness and a joy in her, as she mothered those 5 young kids like a boss, that I simply could not understand as I struggled to be peaceful with my tiny brood of three. I would watch her on Wednesday nights, in awe of how together and un-rattled she always seemed, and I would later make the comment to Caleb (more than once) “That will never be me; I’m not made for six. I can barely handle three.”
(I may or may not have also held onto a private superstition/unfounded fear that Heather’s six-kids-ed-ness would some how rub off on me somehow.) (AND IT DID!!!)
This mindset I clung to must have had God ROTFLing, because five years later here I am with numbers 6 & 7 on the way. I try to hold myself up like Heather and I set my jaw and get all determined in the eyebrows as my kids run circles around me; I can’t channel that sort of parenting-chi, and, truth be told, I’m still scared fresh ta death over the thought of being the mom with seven kids.
Seven. People talk. I understand. I get it. Four kids is a lot, especially knowing me and how frenzied and overwhelmed I so easily get. Iron-willed Arbor just about killed me; going for number five after that seemed crazy to everyone not in my immediate family. Well, it was also crazy to my immediate family and also to me, but, hey.
People talk about twins. Mia’s teacher informed her that twins rarely just “happen” and that I must have been on fertility medication. “No, no medication,” was Mia’s reply. “Well,” said the teacher, “That you know of.”
Seven kids is insane. It didn’t used to be, back in 1885, but now, it’s unheard of, and weird.
- No, I’m not trying to be the Duggars.
- No, I’m not uneducated or untraveled.
- Yes, I know what causes that.
- No, I haven’t had procedures or medicine.
- Yes, apparently I am quite fertile.
My body is not my own, and every few years or so, it be straight trippin’. Sometimes I have to stop and take stock and reflect on how I got here.
Here’s the breakdown of two decades’ worth of childbearing:
- 1996: Had my first baby out of wedlock at the tender age of 15 (almost 16). Teenage Toni was not a planner (or even a thinker) in the mid-nineties; this pregnancy was a certified life-ending disaster to my sophomore-self…but Adult Toni couldn’t imagine a day without her spunky Cheyenne.
- 2004: Talented Drunk College Toni gets knocked up on the pill (out of wedlock) (again). This pregnancy is glorious and I work full time and student full time and I walk everywhere and gain 60 pounds before giving birth to my sweet Mia.
- 2008: Caleb and I wish and hope and pray for our next child starting five minutes after Mia’s birth; with nary a birth control pill in sight, Drunk Sad Toni fails at conceiving a child for three entire years before God sends us Merrick, who rocks our world by being born with a skull deformity that requires major surgery at only four months old.
- 2014: The next six years are riddled with indecision and miscarriages as we try to navigate our way through adding to our family. Our hearts are full except for a little tug that tells us we’re not quite done yet; Cheyenne goes off to college and Arbor gets here after nine months of the worst freakin’ bleedy bedridden diabetic pregnancy known to man. She kicks my ass for the next…um…well…
- 2017: We fill out paperwork to foster/adopt. We put said paperwork aside until after the back-to-school/softball season, and take certain measures not to get ourselves pregnant before we make any final decisions. Caleb makes a joke in front of company and Little Lucy arrives in June.
- 2018: Lucy is so frickin’ presh, and Caleb would like to try one more time for a boy. I am up for it as long as we stick to a time frame, say…2 months? Plus I have just barely stopped breastfeeding and my hormones are jacked so pregnancy is probably not in the cards. I continue running and I plan for a half-marathon in November. Caleb makes a joke at our first ultrasound and we will be bringing home two more babies before Christmas.
I list these pregnancies individually because with each child, God has given me something beautiful and unexpected–even through my lost ones. I’ve tried to plan and I’ve failed; I’ve tried to prevent and I’ve failed. Each little soul I’ve been tasked with raising has been so extremely marvelous and unique that no matter the circumstances behind their conceptions, they were gifts, plain and simple, every single one. Not all of my children were meticulously planned, but I hope they have all felt cherished.
The world has great use for my blond spitfires, my brown-eyed sweethearts, and the strong son growing up smack dab in the middle of all of it. As for how I plan to handle this giant gaggle of kids? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, including living and thriving in a state of permanent frazzlement.