People are always asking me if we are going to have more children. The tiniest bit of smalltalk can tease this question out of a complete and utter stranger. We go from eye contact, to a silent head count of my six kids, to are all these yours and are you going to have more… We never even make it to the weather. We skip over it completely because apparently my family planning is even more of a mundane subject.
There are lots of short answers to this question. Sweet answers, funny answers, turn-it-back-around-and-see-how-you-like-it answers. The way I respond depends on the day and the way in which the original question is asked.
I have often wondered why people are so curious and think it is because when they ask, “Are you going to have more?” there is another true and underlying question that is never posed but always implied:
In this post, I would like to share my real-honest-to-God-heartfelt answer to this question. Because it is frustrating to only be able to give short answers to something so incredibly profound as the choice to bring a living soul into the world. And nobody in the cereal aisle really wants to stand there long enough for me to share my story.
But I would like to share it with you.
I never planned on being a mother. I didn’t plan on not being a mother. I didn’t think about it. I never planned on having a large family. I didn’t plan on having any family. I fell in love. Deep water. I wanted to be with this man for the rest of my life, which I naively imagined would be all about us and how we would add our creative mark on the world. At some point we knew we would one day probably have a family. And while I knew it would be sacred, I considered it secondary to my purpose in life.
And then we started having children. And slowly, the vision for my life started changing.
Because motherhood has changed me from the inside out.
I never set out to have a big family. I have wanted to run away from this quiet and gentle calling that I’ve felt on my life many times. I have wanted to be done. I don’t know how many times I have said, I can never do this again… But each time, I have felt a pull in my heart to open the door for one more child to walk through. And here we are, ten years into parenting, with six beautiful souls that live with us and are forever a part of us. I never had the faith to say I am going to have six children. But God didn’t require that of me. He gave me the faith to say yes to one more, six times.
Once I saw a woman with fourteen children. They were all ages and sizes, babies and beautiful girls and young women and women, and they all looked alike. The older girls were holding and caring for the younger ones. I cried. It moved me.
I once watched a performance of a family of twelve playing bluegrass music. Their harmonies were what only family harmonies can be. And I wept like a baby.
Childbirth is a road I have walked seven times in ten years. Down this path, I have encountered and faced the deepest and darkest fears of my life. I have wrestled with the fear of the unknown, the fear of pain, the fear of dying. I have begun to overcome fear with faith, one sacred birth at a time. I have experienced the greatest sorrow of my life on this road, watching helplessly as the little one we had all begun to picture as a part of our family began to slip away into the darkness. I have felt the bitter-cold gusts of grief blow right through me when I think of the little life I will always miss and carry in my heart. And my hope in heaven has grown stronger because of the treasure I have waiting there. Through childbirth, I have encountered the purest form of joy. The unspeakable kind. The kind that fills you up to overflowing. Going to the edge of the world, coming so close to the limits of what a human body can do, and coming back with a beautiful, pink-perfect baby and just sitting there, laughing, not believing it is over and you won the prize.
When I look back over these last ten years of having children, I think of how many times we have wrestled with the decision to let our family grow or keep it as it is… I remember times my husband said, “Let’s always have a baby in the house.” or “I feel richer having children than anything else I could have in life.” How we said we were overwhelmed and exhausted and didn’t think we could handle more. How we never had money and we didn’t know how we would provide for the children we had, much less any more that might be born in the future. How I went in for pre-op to have my tubes tied and could not go through with it because I had a vision of the inexplicable joy I would feel if I looked upon the face of the baby we almost didn’t have. A baby that has since been born. A baby with a face and fingers and a voice. A baby who brought peace and joy and life into our chaos. A baby who can calm anybody in this family down with one little look of her perfect chubby face. How close we came to never knowing this dear little soul. The profound mystery of it takes my breath away.
These little ones are not just babies. They are human souls that have eternal purpose in the world and in the world to come. I tremble when I think about it. They aren’t just children. They are learners and thinkers, they are musicians and artists, they are builders and dreamers, they are friends and influencers, they are writers and scholars, they are husbands and wives and fathers and mothers, they are soul and spirit. Their presence in this world changes it forever.
And we love them. And we like them. And we couldn’t imagine our lives without any one of them.
I consider being open to having another child part of God’s calling and purpose and blessing for my life in this season. How long will this season last? I don’t know. Do I have to know? No.
Because God is gracious to allow life to unfold before us. All of our imaginations of our future are short-sighted and based in a reality that will cease to exist. Life is incredibly complex. I don’t know my own future. I don’t know what will happen in the years to come to change my perspective. All I can do is seek God’s will for my life in this day and in this moment, trusting He will continue to show me the way. And that is what I’m trying to do.
So are we going to have more?
I don’t know.
But my heart is open.