Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Do You Keep Having Kids!?

I received a question in my email box this week from a reader I'll call CS:
I have three kids ages 3, 18 months and a four month old. I love them and love being a mom. I feel like I want and need to have more kids but often feel judged especially since they are so close in age. Although it is hard work I like that and want all my kids to be close. Do you, with your kids, feel that way too and if so how do you put that past you?
I think this is a question most parents face, especially as they are trying to decide when to have children (and how many, eh?).

This answer is very personal. I don't think it's the same for every couple (or every woman) --and it shouldn't be! Each situation is unique. My answer will be long (although I've tried to summerize as much as possible).

When I was a teenager, I always knew I wanted to be a mother. There was no doubt in my mind I would have a large family, too. When Brandon and I started talking about marriage, one of the first things we discussed was children. How many, how soon, names, how to raise them, etc. It was important to us that we were on the same page, and honestly, it was a relief to know we agreed about kids.

Each time we have had a child, it has come from overwhelming promptings from the Holy Ghost. God has always been in our decisions --especially when it came to decide when to have another baby. And sometimes, we had no control (in fact, I learned rather quickly that we were not in control).

When we had been married for 6 months, I was convinced we were to have a baby (I was baby hungry, plain and simple). My husband and I received the answer that it was too soon. When we decided to start our family (and it felt right), we had been married for almost 18 months. Against all odds, we got pregnant right away.

When our oldest was a year old, we knew it was time to try again, and once again, first try! They are 22 months apart. Obviously, they are not super close, but we figured it was a very good spacing. Imagine our surprise, then, when we felt (overwhelmingly) that we were supposed to have another baby when daughter #2 was only 8 months old --and we got pregnant rather quickly (again). #2 and #3 are only 18 months apart.

People never judged our decisions (that we knew of) at that point. We had three kids. Two girls and a boy. I imagine, CS, that this is kind of like the situation in which you find yourself. Three kids is normal. Four? Pushing it. Five, six, seven, eight? Whoah, Nelly!

When we decided to try for our fourth (when #3 was a year old or so), we figured it would be the same as it had always been. Not so. It took months and months to get pregnant and then, at 10 weeks, I miscarried. It was pretty hard, I admit. Miscarriages are never easy. Especially when you've prayed about it, you know it's time to have a baby, and then...

We were blessed, however, to conceive #4 a month later. I'm still not sure why we were so lucky...

After we had our fourth child, I was done. I felt content. All those desires as a teenager, as an engaged couple, as an early married couple --the ones to have a lot of kids? --I ignored them for a little while. Four kids was easy! Two girls, two boys. Why mess with it? But it didn't take long for Brandon and I both to feel and realize that we were not done. In face, I was reminded of something that happened while I was pregnant with #3 -- I was told I would have more than four kids. I had been told; I had felt it deeply.

It took 8 months. #5 came 2 1/2 years after #4.

Someone asked me, while pregnant with my fifth, why I was having a fifth if I only wanted four. My answer was easy: "Because God told us to."

I will pause here and tell you that we both faced some very extreme and harsh judgement when we decided to have our fifth child. It hurt (a lot), but it didn't sway us. Brandon shrugged it off easier than I did, though. I'm kind of an emotional basket case (if you didn't notice while reading this here blog-fest). I found it interesting that the arrival of #5 was not as exciting to people as #1. Or #2. Or #3. It was as if his existence wasn't as important simply because he was one of many. I had a very hard time with it (still do, kind of). I knew that people close to me were concerned because of my history of Depression (and post partum depression). They were concerned because my husband tended to be gone a lot, too. They were worried for my other children, for me, for Brandon --but you know what? As much as their concern was/is real, it didn't help me (or us). If anything, it simply made our situation harder. We knew what we were doing, we felt Heavenly Father's guidance in what we were doing, and so I did my best to just push those judgements aside, to let them wash off my back as easily as Brandon could, and move on.

When we lived in California, we only had our 4 kids, but I was faced with the question "Are they all yours!?" every single day. I wrote a post about it here. I remember going to Brandon's MBA orientation while pregnant with #5 --I was, by far, the one with the most kids. (But ironically and surprisingly, those well-educated, religiously-diverse people were the most kind. I had never been met with such enthusiastic surprise when they found out it was our fifth! I loved Brandon's Wharton classmates from the beginning for that very reason.)

So. We had five kids. By the time #5 was a year old, I knew we were to have another. It took 7 months this time. And our beautiful boy arrived just under four months ago. (All of our boys are 2 1/2 years apart, almost to the day!)

Are we done? I honestly don't know. Brandon and I like to talk like we are finished --we don't necessarily feel there are more. We are also aware that we are getting older and my last pregnancy was really hard on my body. But! We have been infinitely blessed because we have listend to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and ignored the well-intentioned concerns of family/friends/society. This means that if we feel prompted --if we are told --then we probably would. Will. *shrug

Living in Utah amongst like-minded Mormons --a people, who, like us, believe in the workings of the Spirit in our lives --I don't feel judged. I have friends with 2 kids, 5 kids, 3 kids, 9 kids, 7 kids, 6 kids... it doesn't matter to us. To each other. I can go to Costco with all six and nobody bats an eye. Large families are coming back into style, now, I believe, and it makes the judgements fewer, too. But when I'm met with judgement, this is what I try to remember:
1. Families are eternal. What my husband and I have created together is more than just dirty diapers and tantrums. That will pass. Our children will grow up and have families of their own. They will be our greatest achievement, you know? Our family is what matters most.
2. People judge what they don't understand, or what they fear. And when they feel guilt, too. Some just simply feel they know more than others. As long as you and your husband and God are in agreement, how many children you have and how close they are together, it doesn't really matter what anyone else says.
3. Don't be in an rush to be rude back to anyone who is rude to you. Again, they are judging what they don't understand. If someone says, "why do you keep having your babies so close together?!" just say, "because we feel we're supposed to" and then shrug your shoulders. If they say "you know what causes that, right?" just smile.
4. Make sure your kids know you love them. If you have to answer to inquiries publicly in front of them, make sure they don't hear things like "oh, yeah, it's really hard, they drive me crazy" --make sure they hear "it's totally worth it, I love my kids, aren't kids awesome?"

Motherhood (and fatherhood) is not easy. It's not SUPPOSED to be easy! However, the hard work is worth it. I say this all the time: "Anything worth having in this life takes hard work. Anything." It doesn't matter if it's good grades, a musical or athletic skill, marriage, or getting a college degree. If you want joy, you have to put in some effort. Life is about opposites and these little children? You can't get more opposite than that! In fact, I could spend an entire post simply on that subject (I mean, my tagline in my header is about the opposites!). How else could poopy diapers, tantrums, screaming, broken items, and hospital visits for stitches be swept away as nothing just from a sweet hug and kiss and "I wuv you, mommy!" ??

So, CS, I hope that helped a little bit. I apologize for the length, but I've never been known for my brevity. ;)

If you, dear reader, have more to add, please do!


Lizzie said...

It's funny, because I feel I've been judged here in Utah for the exact opposite, not having a very large family. When asked when I was having a second, I'd get huge backlash when I responded that I didn't think we'd have more. She has special needs, and I was legitimately concerned at the time that she would need my full attention to help her succeed. Thankfully heavenly father took the decision out of my hands, and we've had two more and I couldn't be happier. But I also feel very strongly that our family is complete at this time (I say 'at this time' because I also feel very strongly that we will probably foster/adopt when our children are much much older). When I tell people I'm done, I get a response like "oh, do you not like kids?". I love kids, and in fact, I love spending time with my kids now that there's three more than ever before. But I also know that this is all we're supposed to have. A lot of people seem to think that not wanting or needing more children equals not enjoying the ones you already have.

Basically, it all makes me wonder why we feel the need to make judgements on anyone else's family situation at all. If there were a "right" sized family that everyone is supposed to have, big or small, I'm pretty sure we'd hear that one from the Prophet, right? :)

Cheryl said...

We have 5 and are finished. I can honestly say I had as many children as was physically possible for me. We knew #5 was it for us, but then my doctor told us it needed to be the end due to some major health concerns. I honestly would have loved to have 2 more, but I am at peace with our family.

How do you deal with people's judgements? I would just be very positive with the comments and about the children you have been blessed with. You have to make sure you are at peace with it yourself so you have the confidence to respond positively. I have answered the "Are they all yours?" question with, "Every single one of them and we had this many on purpose!" People often say, "You have your hands full" and I always respond, "Yes I do and it's better than having them empty!"

Nobody's family size is our business ever! I don't much care what other people choose to do in that department, I am only concerened that I followed God's plan for my family.

Cheryl said...

I love both of your comments. Thank you!