A sweet friend of mine just had her first baby. Watching her walk through these first weeks has thrown me back into another time when Isaac was an infant and I was a new mother. I remember all of the uncertainty, the exhaustion, the joy and the frustration. It's fresh in my mind. It seems like a lifetime ago, yet just like yesterday. But now, the babe that I hold in my arms is my fifth and probably my last.
I say probably because Steve and I have not felt at a place to make things permanent. It just seems, well, permanent. There is something in both of our hearts that just really has a hard time with that. However, we do feel like our arms are full of blessings and neither of us desires any more children. At least, not at this time.
My last little baby, Mr. Nate, is walking now. And he no longer wants to just snuggle me. He's on the move. He nurses for just short periods of time. He wants to explore the house (i.e. my trash can and the toilets). He wants to eat all sorts of different types of food. He is growing and maturing. And even though he's my last, to him, everything is a first. The world is a vast open space and he wants in!
So the dichotomy to me has been huge. A dear friend on the cusp of motherhood and me, at the end of my childbearing. Once Nathan is weaned, I will truly be at the end. It's gotten me thinking a lot.
When Isaac was small, I was definitely overwhelmed with taking care of him. I was figuring things out, learning how I wanted to care for an infant, and learning to be a wife and mom at the same time. In that process, it was hard for me to see the beauty that comes in motherhood-how God uses love, sacrifice and long suffering to produce such great things in a mother's heart. Those seeds germinate in early motherhood as the sharpening starts. The sculpting is painful and often involves large areas being lopped off. But as time goes on, the etching gets less drastic and more refined, making the finished piece, more and more beautiful.
I certainly did not see all that God was doing in my life as I walked a baby, seemingly for miles, in the middle of the night. Or when I would answer those cries just one more time. I always thought that I was caring for my child. But what I didn't see was that my child was caring for me. In fact, every child of mine, through just being who they are, helped shape the soul that is deep inside of me. It's not perfect by any means. But I can tell you, being a mom has made that soul much more dependent on Christ rather than itself, than it ever was before. That has been through force and happenstance. And that in itself, is beautiful.
Another thing I have concluded is that the more children I've had, the happier I've become in raising them. I'm not trying to argue that those with smaller families are any less or that people who have their own convictions or reasons for having the amount of children that they do are wrong. I just know this- the more kids I've had, the happier I've become with the journey. We knew we wanted a larger family when we started. We just didn't know how large. And we didn't feel we were more holy because we wanted a large family. It was just a desire God gave us. And I couldn't be more blessed.
With the addition of each child, I have fallen more and more in love with the whole process. From the first days of Isaac to these busy days with Nathan and all the in between, I have loved this time. Some days I may have been frustrated or at the end of pregnancies, more tired than I ever thought possible, but as the years have worn on, I have grown to love and cherish what I do. I always thought it was meaningful. Now I know it is. Not just for my children, but mostly for me. I am the one who has changed the most during these years as I have carried my children, borne them and then nurtured them into person hood. I am better for it-for all of it. And these eight years of having my five children will forever be precious to me in my memories.
Are you in the thick of it? I know it's hard. But hard isn't always bad. It can be challenging yet life changing. Every day I fall into bed spent. But you know, we aren't around for long. I want to be spent. I want to be tired. That means that what I am doing counts for something...for my soul and the souls of my family.
I wait now with great expectations. I'm not very old but older. My young, robust childbearing years are slipping away. I am happy with them. I don't have regrets. But I am also hopeful for the future. If God has changed me this much just by having these precious little people, how much more will he change me as I raise them to adulthood?! I can only imagine.