The Chicken or the Egg
No, I’m not expecting another child again so soon; I wrote this post last year on my first blog. But various parts of this tend to come up in conversation. A lot. It was true in the days of pregnancy; it’s even more poignant now that baby number 5 is a couple months old. I thought I’d share it again.
Yes. I am pregnant.
Regularly, it seems.
(Though actually I had nearly five months when I was neither pregnant nor nursing this time. Previous record was about two months, and I had an early miscarriage in the middle of that. But that’s another story…)
So we are excited. I know I am very blessed. I am also sick, hormonal, and exhausted.
And in the midst of all the congratulations, I sometimes get the (not unexpected, yet often subliminal) question, “Why?!?”
The fifth child elicits that type of reaction naturally in our modern American culture. More so if they’re all six years old or less. More so if mom is only 5 feet tall and tries to avoid wearing obvious “mom jeans.” More so if folks know you only have a two bedroom house. Much more so if you have a toddler in a wheelchair.
I’m fairly used to the reaction by now. Sometimes I smile, a bit, and feel like I’m the bearer of a great secret. Those folks who look at me with consternation, amazement, or pity, they simply must not know the worth I find in these treasures.
For the record, I am aware, childbearing and raising, especially in quantities, is hard. It is expensive. It is tiring, frustrating, thankless, often demeaning; sometimes it seems flat out impossible. And that’s just before daylight hits. The gentleman in the grocery store commenting “You sure are busy!” isn’t telling me something I didn’t know. I’d like to answer, sometimes, “Oh, wow, I didn’t realize! I am busy, aren’t I! Thanks for pointing that out!”
But the question is understandable.
But part of the answer is simple chemistry. My husband and I seem to just think baby, and they appear on an ultrasound. We seem to be ridiculously fertile. We are young and healthy. We could try to shirk this, but we’re choosing to treat it as a blessing, the miracle of life. Because the Bible says it is. And there are plenty for whom childbearing isn’t such an easy option. I must consider it the good hand of God, as Mary did, when the angel told her she was having baby Jesus. She was young, unmarried, poor, and alone. It would cost her reputation, it would cause her husband a great deal of difficulty (and patience before his marriage was consummated), require a frantic flight at midnight to another country, and ultimately break her heart as she watched her Child be murdered. But at the news – she praised God.
Along with that, the method we use for birth control is – leaving God in control of birth. No hormones. No surgery. And, dare I say it, no random chance. At the risk of too much info, the plus side of having a “cycle,” is just that. A cycle. Fairly predictable. As Ecclesiastes notes, “there is a time for everything…” Much of the month, it is quite unlikely you will make a baby. You can get fairly familiar with the times you could. And if you hit that particular time, what’s the worst thing that will happen? Oops. The miracle of life.
Part of the answer is probably my pride. When baby number four was born with Spina Bifida, it became obvious that, while he would have some difficulty with his lower body for the rest of his life, and probably surgery from time to time, he wasn’t going to require ’round the clock care particularly more than any child. I didn’t want the simple fact that he can’t currently hike a mountain be the deciding factor to end our kid-having. And I don’t want him to think that his disability somehow disables us from giving him a younger sibling. He’s a regular kid; he just happens to not feel his feet or bladder. Plus we’d probably spoil him if he remained the youngest. He already gets away with crashing into people’s shins with his wheelchair more than he should…
Also, well, we have four boys. You can’t say yet that we’re not giving a girl a chance 🙂 But having a complete soccer team in the same genre would certainly be more convenient, cheaper with hand-me-downs, and I’m all for it – either way.
Finally, honestly, why will we have another baby? Because I was once that person in the grocery store who looked at the tired mom with her snotty brood in mismatched puddle boots and thought, “Why?”
Two or maybe three children, spaced comfortably years apart, sounded like a practical, workable way to ensure progeny.
But God had other plans than mine. (He often does, I’ve found.)
The first baby sunk me. I didn’t get what it would be like to go from working a full-time job, trying to finish my degree, and being a young, upwardly mobile couple, to being a stay-at-home mom budgeting on my husband’s income. I was lonely. The baby cried at odd hours, for no reasonable purpose that I could see. As he didn’t come with a manual, I read all the books I could get my hands on, and they often offered conflicting advice. Feed on demand; feed on strict schedule. Wear your baby always; always put them down in their own crib. Feed them cereal around 4 months; start them instead on finger foods when they’re closer to a year. Before kids, I might have thought parenting was just another notch on the growing up belt. I started to realize it wasn’t that easy.
Then baby number two surprised me with his unplanned (by me) existence.
If you asked me the age old question – which came first, the chicken or the egg? I’d probably say the eggs. When I saw each teeny little heart beating on grainy black and white screens, I cried. Yes, I loved them and knew I was honored to be made a mommy. But I turned into such a chicken at the thought of having a little one. Then two little ones within a year and a half. And then three within the next year and a half.
By the third baby, mamma chicken was starting to catch on.
God’s plans are better.
He used us not just to make new life exist, but He used all that new life to renew my own.
But I had more to learn.
Baby number four arrived with the aid of the doctor’s scalpel. He met the knife personally twice in his first two weeks of life, with his spine and his brain.
Chicken mommy was learning.
I am learning still that God loves to use these burpy, sticky creatures to refine mother herself.
I planned to go into nursing, acting as an angel of mercy for others during their brief stay in a hospital.
Instead, I am into nursing babies, acting as their very life sustenance during their year long stint as an infant.
I planned to space my children, so each would have at least a couple years of mom’s specific attention.
Instead, they came at year and a half intervals, so each had a close sibling to give them special companionship.
I planned to sleep, expecting to need the energy to pour into each day with zeal and excitement.
Instead, I spent many of the wee hours with a warm cuddly dependent life, learning to pour great zeal into prayer for energy to do what was truly essential to life and godliness each day.
I planned to invest and save healthy amounts for each child’s further education and interests.
Instead, in the moments when we didn’t know where the weekly grocery money would come from, I learned to invest in their daily life through the library, good friend groups, healthy food, prayer, discipline and cuddles, and trust that God would supply their needs even as He always had my own.
I planned to be sufficient for the job of parenting.
Instead, I was – I am – constantly humbled to realize what a weighty and precious work this is, raising each fragile life to know he is made in the image of his Creator. I realize how insufficient I am. But God loves to use the most unlikely of creatures to prove His own sufficiency.
He used a donkey once to speak to a man and save his life.
I guess He can use a chicken too.
A chicken with all day morning sickness. May my soul magnify the Lord. Bring it.