Recently someone who knows me well asked me whether we'd be getting a nanny to help after the next baby is born. I said, “No,” and they said they would visit me in the hospital then. At first I thought they meant when I had the baby but realized after more conversation that they meant when I ended up having a nervous breakdown (or something of that sort). I was so shocked I couldn't really respond very well at the time but have since formulated how I feel about it.
Having many children, and having them close together (mine are all 16-18 months apart) is quite uncommon today. I get so many stares when I'm out in public and wish I had a nickel for everytime someone has said to me, “You sure have your hands full.” Thankfully, we're past the era where people seem to be overt in offering rude or hurtful comments. (I've never had one from a stranger.)
My husband and I didn't marry expecting that this is the way our family would be. A few months into the marriage we tried to get pregnant and couldn't. Those 13 months of infertility changed us immensely. First, we learned that you never know what's going on in a couples' life. Infertility is common, and many who want children aren't able to have any. We try to remember this and not say anything that could be hurtful, such as we heard during that year. Secondly, we learned that God really is in control of opening and closing wombs. It is His domain. Women do all kinds of things to prevent pregnancies and end up pregnant anyway. Others do all they can to get pregnant and can't. Someday, I will not be able to have any more children. It's simply the truth.
After our first precious little boy was born, my husband said, “Let's not ever mess with this again.” And I agreed wholeheartedly. Children are an absolute blessing from the Lord. We didn't come to a complete belief in allowing God to determine the size of our family until a couple of years later. He didn't change our hearts suddenly, but slowly we began to understand His will for us. Now, what I didn't expect is that with the type of breastfeeding I was doing (exclusively on demand day and night; taking my little babies with me everywhere until they're 6 months old; no supplements, bottles, pacifiers, etc.) I would be able to get pregnant again so soon. But it has been the same with all four babies. I just fall into a very small percentage for whom this is the case. But God has a purpose for it. And part of it is simply to grow me into a more mature person.
The first 3 babies were the hardest. I didn't grow up as one of those women focused on motherhood. I rarely babysat and knew very little about babies and parenting. So I read as much as I could on the subjects and even attended some classes. But the transition was a great struggle . I felt very alone, wondering if anyone else had three children under 3 like I did. But since then the Lord has brought many women into my life (mostly through the computer) who feel like I do and have been where I am. Just knowing I'm not alone has helped a lot. And I've received a great deal of encouragement from them.
But also, the Lord has changed my heart and grown me up in so many areas. I understand more now about being a servant, about sacrifice and about contentment. I don't long for my “own time” as much as I did before. I don't expect that when we go on vacation that I'll really be having a vacation. I never expect to get a full night's sleep. I know that my house will be messy and that I'll continue to struggle with low energy. But just changing my mindset on these things makes me so much happier!
Paul said he learned how to be content in every circumstance. I am learning how to do this, too. I've learned to change my outlook on life and lower my expectations. I've learned to follow a sleeping and eating schedule for my children. I've learned to discipline them early and consistently. I've learned to let my own projects go until my children are older. I've learned that I must start every day with a personal Quiet Time with the Lord
(includes praying, Bible reading and memorizing/meditating on Scripture) even though I give up some sleep to do this. I've learned that I must be a helper to my husband and not expect him to be a helper to me. I've learned that having little kids means I can't do very much every day–I have to have realistic goals. I've learned that I can't stay up late at night. I've learned that I must have a nap every day (even if I don't actually get to sleep.) I've learned that my relationship with God comes before anyone else and that my relationship with my husband comes before that with my children. I've learned that it takes me about 20-30 minutes to get out of the house by myself with the kids–so I start early. I've learned to make a few simple and quick meals so that we have dinner most evenings. I've learned that I have a load of laundry to do every day. I've learned that I must keep up with the dishes all day long or it just piles up! And I've learned that the other house cleaning can slide a bit as long as we have clean dishes and clothes. Finally, I've learned to train my children to do lots of things at an early age. Having baby #5 is not as hard as having baby #3, because now I have a 4 yo and 5 yo to help me out!
I have a ways to go, but, no, no one is going to have to visit me in the hospital–unless you come to see me when our next blessing is born!
Here are some verses which have really helped me:
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race maked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
John 13:14-15 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
Phillipians 4:4-7, 11-13 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. . . . I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . .I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Also see my post on hard work.