Thursday, April 30, 2015

my family size. part of my story.

it is 5am. i have been awake for a while, thanks to that lovely pregnant momma insomnia
some of us lucky ones seem to get. and since i've had something on my mind
for days now, i thought now, while everyone sleeps, would be a good time to get 
it out of my head. and sometimes that only comes by way of this little corner of the interwebz.

i saw a comment the other day that said,
 "what's so bad about 3 or 4 kids? 5 and up is a little ridiculous..."

as a mom of 5 kids and up, it went all over me. however, i was nice and said that there 
is nothing wrong with six kids either. and i left a smiley face.

can i just share my story with you? in it's near entirety? i will understand if you get bored
reading it and move on.

i was married for almost two years (at the ripe age of 20) when i felt the need and
the urge to fill my womb with a child. my husband just got back from his first 
deployment and i was ready to try out this mothering gig. i always knew i wanted four kids, 
from the time i was in high school: boy, boy, twin girls. 
and when that mom calling kicked in, we decided to go with it and conceived the following
month. and i had my firstborn son just shy my 21st birthday. 
he was such a blessing. and sure, i had absolutely know idea what the crap i was doing.
i came from a family where all (and by all, i mean 6) of us cousins were less than 10 years
apart in age. so, as a teen, i was never around babies. i did not know what to do with 
my own baby when he was first born. i failed at exclusively breastfeeding, i did not change
his first diapers, even at home. i couldn't figure out when to shower and i know i probably
made a ton of mistakes.

but by the time he was six months old, my womb was asking for more babies. i felt confident by then
in who i was as a mother. i was still learning, of course, but i was ready for baby two.
i wanted them to be close in age and have a life long friend. my honey wasn't totally sold 
on the idea so soon, but i think that's the case for many dads. but a month later, i convinced him
how fun it would be to have two boys of similar age. and a month later (when baby 1 was 8 months)
we were pregnant again. i was so happy. 

both of my firsts pregnancies, though different, were easy on me. mostly, i liked to nap
and did so when i could. my second born son arrived less that 17 months after my first. 
and momming that small of a toddler plus a newborn presented it's challenges, but i was
way more capable of mothering a newborn the second go around. it was hard, yes. but i loved that 
they would be so close when the baby got bigger. (and they were).

when my second was about 18 months old, we found out we were pregnant for a third time.
 we hadn't really been trying, though i was ready. my honey just wasn't. 
i mean, we were still so young and still trying to navigate life as young military parents.
but, here we were, pregnant again. surprised and thrilled. i did, after all, want all the babies
i was going to have to be close in age. i wanted to get them all born and be done and then 
spend my older years with my honey and getting visits from my grandbabies. 
it was all perfectly planned in my head.

but at ten weeks along, i lost that baby. i was devastated, to say the least. especially after two perfect
pregnancies and deliveries and healthy babies. and this is where it gets dicey for me.
i was trying to grieve the loss of my child, whom i already loved and so much wanted. 
and some grieved with me. but others said things like, but you already have two! you're blessed!
sure i did, i had two. and they were my little blessings. but can i not mourn my third?
it hurt that i felt misunderstood and like i wasn't supposed to be sad that my child died in my
womb because i already had other kids. it stung when it felt like my loss was brushed off
simply because i had other kids.

one year later, i was pregnant again (my fourth pregnancy). and sadly, we lost that baby at 
nine weeks along. similar comments came in. and at times, i felt like some were insinuating
that we should just be happy with the two we have and move on. but again, that was the loss of my
child. a child i wanted and i also grieved and took it very hard.

eight months later, i thought i was pregnant again. i had positive and negative home tests.
(side note: this is the only time in my life i had a false positive). so i went to the clinic to have
my $3 blood test. i was not pregnant. and i was heartbroken. i remember so many nights just
crying over these three losses. even if i wasn't pregnant that third time, i was defeated and it 
felt like a loss. maybe i felt like i lost the ability to conceive and carry another baby? i don't know.
i just know it hurt.

four months later, though, i found myself pregnant again. and scared. i watched my underwear
for blood every single time i went to the bathroom. people were happy for us. and by this time,
my second born was almost four. and when i didn't lose this baby at nine weeks, 
or ten weeks, or twelve weeks, or twenty weeks, i felt hope that all would be well. 
it took time. but i eventually found myself excited and anxious to meet my little guy.
my kids were 5 and 4 1/2 when he was born. and that pregnancy was a little more rough 
on me physically that the previous two. and you guys, baby three proved to be a very 
hard baby. he was not easy going or laid back or a great sleeper. it was hard. 
but i knew i wanted another one, still. one to be close in age. i wasn't as ready to
have more so soon as i was with my firstborn, but i knew i still wanted another baby.

and when baby 3 was around 8 months old, both he and i got an ear infection at the same time.
and to avoid thrush, i nursed him only once a day during the time we were on antibiotics.
and then i got pregnant. i was mildly aware that antibiotics could lessen the effects
of birth control. (i had been a low dose, as a trial run). 

when i told people this time (baby 3 was 9 months old) there were way less words of 
congratulations. mostly, i was a look of shock and oh wow! and really?! and when
people said really it was in a tone was happy sounding and surprised at the same time,
know what i'm sayin'? at this point in having babies is when people start really asking me
if i was excited. before, with one, two, and three, it was assumed i was. now, they had to ask.
i had a few delayed reactions. i had a few i'm happy if you are's. it was sort of a confusing thing
for me. i just thought people would be happy for people expecting a baby no matter how many
babies there already were.

pregnancy four was really hard on my body. it's when my pelvic girdle pain really flared up.
and i hurt a lot physically. but i was excited. i knew it a girl this time, too. (it wasn't).
but i was excited. i was happy to bring another boy into the mix. i knew boys. i knew
how to care for boys. and he was born 18 months after the third baby. and guys,
let me just say as i have so many other times before: easiest.baby.ever. ever.
he was a very sleepy newborn right out of the gate. like, wouldn't even stay awake long enough
to nurse for any amount of time during our hospital stay. though, eventually, he did. 
he slept like a dream. at a month and a half, he was sleeping all night long, and not 
because of anything i did. he just liked his sleep. 
he was my longest napper (in age), always went down without any fuss. loved his own bed and
wouldn't sleep anywhere else. he was my only thumb sucker, but my easiest baby.
he was even easy to break the thumb habit (take away all tags and he quit sucking his thumb. bam.)
he was the happiest, bounciest boy in all the land. it took a lot to get that baby upset.

at this point, people asked me if we were going to have any more. like, okay... you people
have four boys, why don't you stop there. and some asked if we'd try for a girl. at this point, 
we just didn't know. and that was our answer... who knows. we'll see. maybe.

during his first year of life, we knew that we would be moving to another city. and just before 
the move, we talked and decided that we were done having kids. my heart wasn't quite
feeling it 100%, but as couple, we decided were going to stop. 
and i respect my husband and his thoughts and feelings on the matter
and we came to a mutual decision. so we sold all of our baby things
that were not currently in use. baby four was 11 months old.

one month later, we moved. two weeks after moving in, i had this weird feeling that i needed
to make sure i wasn't pregnant. but i was. and i had very few baby things. and though
we had decided to be done with birthing wee ones, we never felt it right to make it a permanent
decision. and at that point, we were no longer okay with taking the pill. we realized that
artificial hormones like that made me crazy. psycho. and taking them after baby three was trial run
to see if that's what made me so crazy after my second born. it was. 
so baby five was on the way. i knew it was going to be hard to tell people.
we kept it to ourselves for a few short weeks. i was afraid to tell people. i was 
afraid of the reactions. plus, we just moved. plus, my husband had a brand new job. but i am no good
at keeping things like that to myself. and again, we were met with some congratulations
that were less that heartfelt. i had expected that. it still hurt. a baby is a baby is a baby.
we were not "living off the system," although, let me say this: sometimes ministry is hard
and the pay isn't always big. and when we needed help, we did seek it. we had insurance for my 
pregnancies and our kids through the system because we could not afford it otherwise.

we loved our kids. we fed our kids. we clothed our kids. we had a home. a vehicle. we weren't
passing our kids off to other people. we weren't neglecting them. we weren't treating them as burdens.
yet, having another and telling people about it was so very hard to do. and i surely do not
want to know what people actually thought when we made our announcement. i suspect some raised
eyebrows, some head shakes.

and please don't misunderstand, there were people genuinely excited with us and for us. and 
i am ever so grateful for that. it's when people start seeing a baby as a negative thing
just because there are already so many kids in the family that it stings. it's a baby, you guys.
a tiny human life. being born into a family that wants it. even if it's the fifth baby. and baby
five was not the most pleasant of babies. he was even harder than baby three. so many 
sleepless nights. so much fussiness. just hard. and i struggled. but he was still my baby boy.

i felt my family was complete at this point. though not once did i feel like it should be permanent.
and after boy four and five, both, people started asking if we were done, and asking about
vasectomies and making it permanent. yes, after five, we felt done, but i always felt very unsettled
about making it permanent, so we didn't pursue it.

and then, almost eight months ago, in september, i knew something was off. and i took another 
home pregnancy test. and sure enough, to my utter shock, i was pregnant. we had be preventing
it through natural means (which no, i don't care to discuss further, other 
than to say that i made an error in my dates), yet, here i was pregnant
for an eighth time, with my sixth baby. 

and again, we were met with some less than sincere congratulations. 
but we were also met with a lot more happiness that wasn't there with four and five. it was strange.
i was not super duper excited right away. my body had such a hard go of it with baby five 
and i suffered prenatal depression the entire fifth pregnancy. my body felt broken so often during
the fifth time, that i was not mentally ready to go through another round of physically
exhausting baby growing. it took me time to come around to being absolutely okay with
carrying another child. i loved the baby. but i didn't want to go through the physical anguish
of pregnancy again. it was so draining. and i was homeschooling and i just couldn't keep up.

and then we found out what i knew to be true in my heart: it was a girl.
and we were done, whether boy or girl, we were done having kids. six was perfect. 
and after some time, i felt it right in my heart that it be permanent.
my oldest is almost twelve. and we are 34 and almost 33. we're done. 
i feel at complete peace when i think about not having more. complete peace, something
i had yet to feel with the others. i felt "done" but that is not the same as "peace."
and this pregnancy has been hard, too. prenatal depression crept back in. aches and pains daily.
simple tasks are hard to do and it takes me days to recover from things that require a lot of moving.

so i'm going to have six kids. is that so ridiculous? and why? remember that video of the mom of 
all boys (five boys, was it? or six?) was cutting into her cake to find out the sex of her baby and
it was girl and she went crazy? happy crazy? yeah, i did the dumb thing and read comments.
do you know how many people viewed her as "selfish" for having so many kids? it hurt my heart, 
because i know she probably read those same things. and it reminded me what strangers
must think of us when we walk in with our five boys and i'm waddling next to them 
largely pregnant with a sixth.

---------------------------

but you guys, what if i stopped after my losses and was just "happy i already had two healthy boys?" 
i would have missed out on my third, jonyn. the quirkiest, yet most serious boy. 
i would have missed out on his sweet laugh, the way he talked so staccato once he began 
talking at 2 1/2.the way he pronounced words. 
i would not have gotten a love note from him the other day with
smiley faces and hearts that said "i luf mom." my nurturing second born would have no one
in our house to nurture. 

and what if we stopped after baby three? we would have missed out on brennen, 
a boy with the best head of bouncy curls and the personality to go along with it. 
the most joy-filled kid i have ever met.
the dancing and the laughing and the sweetest blanket snuggling i ever did see. i would miss out
on a boy who needs hugs daily (more than my other kids) and who is so, so loud just because
he's so, so happy. and the sound of his voice, the way he talks, gosh. i can't imagine
not having that in my life.

and if we stopped there? what about greyson? sure, he is as destructive as they come. 
he's a boy, after all. and sure, he was the hardest baby of the bunch. but i would not trade him.
i would not have stopped having kids knowing he was going to be hard. now? he's so independent
and determined and stubborn. but he loves his momma. he sleeps in our bed nightly and 
snuggles right up against us, using our arms as pillows, to fall asleep. the way he says
"dad's home" every time he hears the door. the way he headbutts dad to show his affection.
and all the kisses he dishes out to me daily. oh my gosh, how sad to have missed out on that
just because others think two, three, four kids is enough.

and if we stopped at five boys? no. no, i just can't even go there. i am tearing up thinking about it.
and she's not even born yet. we're getting a girl. and it was my most prayed for thing year
after year. a daughter. a twirly, feminine, ribbons and bows, and all things girl, daughter.
it's crazy to imagine listening to everyone else subtly suggest we should be permanently done.
i just can't imagine, as hard as pregnancy is right now, not having this baby coming 
into our family.
(also: please don't misunderstand. no matter what order my kids were born in, no matter
when a girl would have come along, i still fully believe in my heart that would still be having
a sixth child).

we would have missed out on so much if we had settled into what most of american society says
is normal and acceptable. no thanks. gimme all my kids. all six. 
i'm raising my kids to be productive members of the world who know how to care for themselves:
hygiene, laundry, cooking, sweeping and mopping, dishes, trash, mowing the grass. 
they also know how to share. they do not act entitled. they do not act better than.
they respect authority and volunteer in the church.

and friends, i do not judge you for not having kids. or having one. or two. or five. or ten. or 19.
i do not even care if you have one barely walking and one in the womb. go for it! i did.
it's amazing! it's life! it's a precious soul!
i saw a mom with seven girls a few months back. my gut reaction? smile and whisper, awesome.
not shaming her in my head.

have as many babies as you want. one or more. i don't care. 
you are the parent, the adult, you decide. but let me decide what is okay for me
without putting me down and calling me ridiculous or selfish.
i am neither. i mean, maybe as a person i have ridiculous quirks (i do) or i say ridiculous things
(i do that, too) but i am not going to sit here and tell you that i think your choice
of family size is wrong. just like i don't care how long or if you breastfeed. or if you co-sleep or not.
or if you babywear or not. or if you use disposables or cloth. or if all of your kids get their own room
or all of them share one giant one. or you homeschool, private school, or public school.
all of which seem to be hot topics to argue over. i just. don't. care. 
i really have better things to do than worry and whisper about you.  and others should
stop wasting energy judging and shaming other moms/families for their choices.
do what you do. and don't let someone else's shaming get to your precious heart.

you're amazing. no matter what you choose is best for you and your loves.

 xoxo

1 comment:

  1. Ooh I hear ya, Brooke. That comment irked me to the highest. You have to remember that people like that are the selfish ones. I loved reading every word on this post. I love how you love your family of eight and wouldn't have it any other way. Lately, I've been feeling that tugging of my heart, or womb, for another one while hubs says a definite no. But I leave it in God's hands. Only He knows.
    Mama, you are doing a great job. You have the hardest job but know that you are equipped to handle it. :) Hope you get some rest.

    ReplyDelete

I am so happy you are here. Your words make my heart so happy.

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