So, Are Y'all Done? How Baby #5 Has Shaped a New Answer to This Ever Popular Question
We mothers with lots of chil'rens can be a bit sensy.
When we take our brood out, we often brace ourselves for the comments. We literally have an arsenal of come-backs that range from a curt smile to an expletive-laced rant. The reality though, is that most people don't even concern themselves with us. After baby five was born, I thought the haterade would come out in full force. But nope. If people do notice, it's usually just with a mild curiosity. The most popular question I get is by far:
"So, are y'all done?"
I've gotten asked this question so many times I've lost count. Everyone from friends to family members to even complete strangers are the inquiring minds who want to know. I don't take offense to it because so far no one is really being malicious. Just curious.
But man, this is the one question that makes me fumble all over my words. I usually stammer out some halfhearted response about "Um, God's will? Or something?" My weird half-answers are in stark contrast to my answers after we had baby four. After she was born, I was quick to proclaim from the rooftops that YES INDEED I WAS DONE. There would be ABSOLUTELY NO MORE OFFSPRING. We had our "perfect" family. Two boys. Two girls. We had successfully used Natural Family Planning for ten years and had perfectly spaced our children. Cue the choir of angels.
But of course, no sooner had I told a friend I would jump from the highest building if I got pregnant again, that I found out that I was indeed pregnant...again. Totally unexpected, absolutely unplanned. Baby five was a complete and utter surprise.
And so began my war with Natural Family Planning. It didn't matter to me that technically we were not practicing NFP. For years I had it all so figured out that I pretty much knew what to expect and when to expect it. We had gotten really lazy with it and still I was angry. Angry that MY plans for MY life had been interrupted all in the name of being "open to life."
It took a long time for my anger to subside. Even when it did, my fangirl years of NFP were over. I began looking at my fertility as a cross to bear. I didn't embrace it. In fact, I began to fear it. And the fear was all-consuming. What would a big family do to me? How would we make ends meet? How would I possibly meet all the demands? What about what I wanted? I struggled for months. Even more-so after baby five was born. The reality that I would have to pour out ever more of myself hit hard.
I don't know how things began to shift. It may have begun by simply getting to know baby five. He is not yet eight months old and he has absolutely stolen my heart. He is a gentle, loving spirit and I revel in the fact that I am his favorite person on the planet. Other things have also influenced a change. In late summer, I began praying one Hail Mary very intentionally first thing every morning. I specifically ask Mary to pray that I receive the grace needed to be a good mother. This has led to a peace in my days that I can only give the Blessed Mother credit for. This peace has allowed me the opportunity to really enjoy my children. All of them. It has hit me in the last several months that I have no good reason to want this portion of my life to fly by. Our life is as joyful as I could have ever dreamed it could be and it has everything to do with our family life. Is it exhausting? Oh dear God, yes. Am I stretched? Sometimes beyond reason. But when I remind myself that the time we have with all of our children in our home is so incredibly finite--my attitude towards the sacrifices changes significantly. The days when we can all lay around in our pajamas, watching movies and being silly together will be gone sooner than I could know. Baby one and baby five will most likely have just over eight years together to create bonds that we pray will last for years to come. I could very well be living the best years of my life now.
The honest truth is that baby five has only added to the joy--the deep abiding joy that is being family.
My feelings about natural family planning have shifted too. I realized that the entire reason we began practicing NFP was to allow God into our family life. To share in the building of our family with Him. I have realized that I took God right out of the equation once I had things the way I saw fit. And once I kicked God out of the picture, fear took over. Isn't that always the way?
All this isn't to say that I'm ready to have 42 children. Many factors have to be prayed about when deciding if God is calling us to have more children. I am however so grateful that my husband and I are returning to the days when we used natural family planning as a starting point when talking about where we are and where we think God wants us to be. So you see, to try to answer the question, "Are y'all done yet?" in one sentence is really difficult to do. I don't know if we are done. All I really and truly can say is that we are so thankful for what we have and we are ever more confident that if we cooperate with God in everything we do, blessings will abound.