Like lots of parents of large families, we often get comments when we’re out with all our kids, or even just a few of them. Some comments are kind or funny, some are smarmy, and some are downright rude. I don’t usually have a chance to converse with people about having a larger than average family, so I’d like to compile our pathway to five daughters here.
My husband and I knew we wanted children. We both like children. We think they are a blessing and gift from God. However, we didn’t start out to have lots of children, especially all girls. Like most things, we just started with one.
First, there was Isabel. She was the cutest, sweetest little bundle of joy we could imagine. Everything about her was perfect. Though she faced some health challenges early on, she was an easy baby. She slept through the night (about 10 pm to 5 am) around five weeks. She ate anywhere, slept anywhere, and laughed at everything.
Fourteen years later, a few things have changed. She’s still an unimaginable blessing to us, sleeps through the night and half the day, and laughs at everything. However, she has morphed in a true blue teenager. I’ll just leave it at that.
Since Isabel was such an easy baby and even toddler, we thought we kind of had this parenting thing down. So, we decided one more would be a breeze. Alyssa, was born a little more than three years after Isabel. She was the exact opposite. She slept okay, but she wouldn’t eat if she was distracted in any way. Daily meltdowns became part of our life. I talked to the pediatrician on a regular basis on what could possibly be wrong with her. He laughed and said welcome to the “normal” toddler. What? People have more than one kid like this??
Ok, so Alyssa, for all her challenges, was still a doll, and we loved her immensely. Eleven years later, Alyssa still has a few meltdowns. Welcome to the tween years. But she is an awesome young lady in every other way. She is fiercely loyal. She is a hard worker and loves to serve everyone. Alyssa loves to work with animals, is a talented artist, and has a great sense of humor.
Okay, so maybe two kids aren’t so bad. One more is doable. Why not? Olivia was born almost three years later. She was so similar to Isabel as a baby. She slept through the night early, ate well, and was a sweet little snuggle-bug. The toddler years were a different story. She was into everything all at the same time. No real tantrums, but if you diverted her from one thing, she just moved to something else she shouldn’t be doing.
Olivia, at 8, is still our lovey-dovey. She is soooo sweet and kind-hearted. She gets up every morning at 4:30 to give her dad a hug and kiss goodbye, then she crawls in bed with me, because I do not get up at 4:30. And that girl’s sense of humor is off the chart. She keeps us all laughing all the time.
We felt pretty good with three kids. This was not bad at all. Busy, but not bad. We still kind of liked babies. We were open to more, but after our normal three year gap, we figured we must be done. Then, I found myself pregnant at 43. Gulp, okay. Yep, Emma was born a month before my 44th birthday and almost four years after Olivia.
This pregnancy was not normal from the get-go. You might chalk it up to being pregnant in my 40s, but you’d be wrong. I experienced severe complications and went into cardiac failure two weeks after Emma was born. I was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy. Due to the complications of heart failure, Emma and I didn’t bond very well. She screamed if I held her, and I couldn’t hold her much because I couldn’t lift anything or even hold her tightly enough to keep from dropping her if she wiggled out of my arms. She did not sleep at all. She was one of those “cat nap” babies. My husband, who did night duty after working all day, was not thrilled to draw the short straw with the first baby we’d had who didn’t sleep all night. She was like Alyssa in many ways. Very high strung and needy, but cute as a button.
Emma eventually slept through the night at 18 months. She and I made up for lost time when I recovered several months after she was born, and we are best buddies now. She started kindergarten this year, and she is a very eager student. We call her the chicken wrangler because she herds all the chickens around the yard. All in all, she’s a great source of entertainment.
Yep, we figured four was a good round number. We weren’t going to take any round-the-world vacations or retire early, but we felt blessed. Then, at five months post-partum and three months recovered from cardiomyopathy, I was pregnant again. Double gulp! This could be disastrous, not just for someone who would be 45 when she had a baby, but for our whole family if I relapsed into heart failure. Yet, this is what God gave us, and we were determined to make the best of it. My high school friends were welcoming grandchildren, and I was having a baby. Awkward.
Amelia was determined to be different than her sisters from the start. She was positioned transverse (crossways) and after an attempt at moving her, I ended up having an emergency C-section when she moved enough for the umbilical cord to prolapse. Oh, but she was beautiful and perfectly snuggly. She was adored by all her met her and we marveled at the odds we had overcome to have her. God’s way was indeed perfect.
Truly, our family would not be complete without Amelia. She runs with the big girls but still curls up for a nap with her daddy. Why did we think we couldn’t possibly handle another one, when she fits in so perfectly? God always makes a way.
You will never know the untold joy a baby can bring unless you allow God to bless you. I know there are couples who long for a baby and can’t have one, yet there are thousands of babies killed every day by mothers who don’t want them, for one reason or another.
Our society has demeaned the privilege of having children and shamed large families, instead marketing an empty lifestyle of work, big (but virtually empty) houses, extensive (but mostly unworn) wardrobes, expensive cars, and luxury vacations.
I never thought I would want a big family, and now I can never imagine not having one.
Children are a delight, even on the bad days of tantrums, messes, and exhaustion.
Children are priceless, even after doctor appointments, braces, and outgrowing clothes before the tags come off.
Children are worthwhile, even when I don’t sleep by myself, rarely have adult conversations, and will never wear a bikini again.
Yes, I lost my figure, my freedom, and sometimes my sanity. But I’d never trade any of my children for one second of what I gave up, although I’d like to have a rational thought every now and then.
So, for all those people who think they have something smarmy or original to say to that big family, or just revel in cutting someone down for the sake of it, maybe they should reconsider the ageless adage, “walk a mile in my shoes”, or at the very least, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
What do you think about big families?