Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Bonus Baby

My little Delilah turned one and a half recently (fun fact: she doesn't have an actual half birthday since she was born August 30; the kids find this endlessly fascinating...oh the possibilities! She could claim it was February 28! Or March 2 even! And on leap year---oh-ho-ho!!! Some kids have all the luck.) and my mind has been ruminating. I have always been particularly thoughtful in general regarding this child, because she was so planned. She was so deliberately and mindfully chosen by us and taken on board, to be a part of our family. And recently the integral part this little baby plays in our family has been on my mind.

For reasons I will never know on earth, our children came easily to Darron and me. We had no problems with fertility or carrying them or delivering them (aside from those enormous heads my backside would like to remind everyone) and when we decided we were ready for another, boom, there they were. So numbers one through four are little stair steps, basically two years apart, ducklings all in a row.

Hinckley, my first, was my hardest. Because he was the first. Mothering, or the thing I thought mothering was, was tricky and demanding and confusing and awesome and overwhelming. I was fairly good at some stuff, rather awful at others, and we kinda stumbled our way through the whole thing. The way I saw it, my job, my calling from God, because I truly believed with all my heart and soul that I'd been asked to do this by Him, was to take these little precious souls and teach them to be humans. But that turned out to be quite a lot of things! How to eat, take naps, how to sort shapes and count toes, how to behave at the grocery store, how to make and be friends, how to do really boring and repetitive homework without throwing a fit, how to learn about God and love Him, and all the other stuff. Seriously...endless amounts of things. And I wasn't particularly adept at most of them myself. I read books, not many but some, talked to other moms, not obsessively, but earnestly, prayed, found things that worked, got messed up and made some embarrassingly stupid mistakes, tried again. And again and again. The first few years of motherhood with those four little ones were rigorous. But slowly my confidence built. I grew up. I stopped being 25, thank goodness, that always helps. And then passed 29. Whew. And then 32. Each year of age made living life in general a little easier and a little more joyful.

But as we contemplated our family planning, the thought of another child was just petrifying. I didn't want to do it. I was busy. I was running at capacity, I always said. I could keep my head above water but only just. I was working really really hard at my job and just couldn't see how another one could possibly be fit in. So I decided to put the decision aside for a time. I've written about it before, but that break finally brought me the peace I sought. And then several years later, ever so imperceptibly, my heart began to turn back to the old question...should we have another? And it didn't send me into panic this time. What do ya know? I began to search out mothers who had had a "surprise" after several years and (surreptitiously) questioned them. Was it harder the second time around? Easier? Was it depressing to start over after moving beyond the up-all-night, diapers, baby food, carseat, life-revolves-around-naptime, car-trips-as-nightmare stages? Did they worry about not having their lives to "themselves" until much much later? Could they be two different kinds of moms? The adolescent and the infant? And my most urgent but unspoken question...would you do it if you were the one making the choice? Because it was looking like I would have to. I kinda hoped for a "surprise" so the decision could just be made for me end of story, there were no surprises with us, no easy out. God was making us make the decision. And do you know what these amazing, wonderful women unanimously said? I would do it again in a second. Not one of them had a regret. In fact they all kept talking about how much more joy and calm and appreciation there was as a seasoned mom. Wow. And you know what? My heart realized they were right. If I truly believed that God had given me the sacred calling of a mother, then I knew what I should choose. And all of a sudden we were thrilled! Another baby! It might be crazy but by gum there were six ready-made adoring fans all ready to coddle and cuddle and treasure the pants off this little one!

And what a treasure she has been. Pure joy and love from the moment she was conceived. And I say that considering a pretty lousy pregnancy, a fairly foggy first six months, and as I sit typing in solitude in my bedroom because I am taking a break from said treasure, who has been particularly whiny and clingy for the past week. Pure joy and love. Because this time around, we have five others who can give mom a break when she knows she needs one. Because I know I will go to sleep tonight and wake up to hear her shouting for "Mama" at 6:45 tomorrow morning and how can that not make me smile? This time around I realize that I didn't quite get it right the first time. Mothering isn't all teaching and training. It's loving. The baby, the teenager, the tween. I'm telling you, my view of each child is changing because of this little one. Maybe it would have anyway, who knows? But I see more clearly what I didn't fully comprehend before. My perspective on mothering has changed. Delilah's sweet way of calling everything she wants in her mouth "muk" will pass and I need to take notice and love it. Ava's absolute inability to run to her bedroom for something--anything--and not get distracted needs to be noticed and loved. Halle's desire to relate a ten-minute conversation she had with her teacher at school needs to be met and responded to and loved. Hinckley's myriad car drawings need to be really looked at and commented on and loved. Tommy's inexplicable collection of old credit cards needs to be smiled at, and not secretly thrown away-- even those pack-rat tendencies need to be loved. And it goes beyond that, because when I look around my church congregation and notice all the other children I have had the chance to "mother" and love through various callings my heart increases and my perspective continues to grow.

Don't freak out. I still yell at my kids. I still lose my cool. I still roll my eyes when a certain child says something exceptionally lame. I still make mistakes and turns out the consequences of those mistakes kind of multiply exponentially as kids get bigger. But I like to tell myself that the yelling, the freaking, the rookie-mom behavior is slowly being overcome. Because, and I feel weird even saying this after thirteen years of being a mom, I'm learning to just love them. And I give the credit of that to little number five, our bonus baby, sweet Delilah. Those are my thoughts, that's what's been rolling around in my head lately. I've been laid up recently due to a surgery (to repair afore-mentioned large baby head damage) and I felt the need to get them out.

Not being on facebook, while such such such a good thing for me, really makes me miss connections with old friends. I hope those of you who still find your way to my ever-neglected blog know that I still care about you. I hope you are finding joy and love in each of your parenting journeys.

I talk a lot about my beliefs of faith in this very personal post. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If anything I've written here doesn't make sense to you, this might help you see what my beliefs are regarding the sacred nature of the family and my divine role as a motherwhich I absolutely believe is the purpose of my creation by God Himself.

(And as a very important end note, I would like to say that this post is specific to me only in my personal situation. I am not advocating everyone to keep having children just because they can. I spent countless hours in thought and prayer considering physical, emotional, and mental well-being of myself, my family, and my marriage, and the choice was ultimately made between me, my husband, and my Father in Heaven, who you know, knows a lot more than some lady on a blog.)