Yesterday Cari was scheduled to be induced to give birth to her overdue sixth baby. Today, my friend Jess is at the hospital because her water broke last night. She will be giving birth to her second baby soon (hopefully!). Of course, I can't think of anything else than my two friends in labor and two beautiful new babes being brought into the world for all to see. It's truly miraculous.
Their lives are going to be forever changed, their hearts will expand to love one more person so unconditionally that it knows no bounds. Their current children will receive the gift of a sibling. Someone to love, someone to play with, someone to share and fight and tell secrets to and tattle-tale on. Someone to sympathize when Mom and Dad are being completely unreasonable, and grow up to appreciate their parent's wisdom and help take care of them in their old age. A partner in crime and a friend for life.
I remember bringing home the first baby. How much I loved him (still do!) and took complete care of him. Even waking in the night was special bonding time for us. He changed my life completely. He made me a mother, made my husband a father, and gave us a focus in life. We were responsible for getting this little boy to Heaven one day, and we were his whole world. We were his source of entertainment and his every wish was our command. He was a lot of work since we had only been used to taking care of ourselves, and now we had to think about him first.
Then baby two came along, and I realized that all my worrying about how I could never love another baby as much as the first was wasted energy. Somehow the heart just grows to love them the same. The second baby was quite frankly, double the work. The two were so little and dependent on us that we had our hands full. I remember the first time I had to tell John-Paul to wait when he wanted lunch because I had to feed the baby first. I almost cried just saying it to him. But you know what? He was fine. He learned that he had to take turns and Mom would tend to both their needs.
By the time the third baby came along, we were outnumbered. I think going from two to three kids was the hardest transition for us. Looking back, I realized it's because of three things: 1) the third baby had colic and screamed and vomited all day long, 2) the older boys were only 3 and 2 years old and still required a lot of hands-on attention, and 3) I was on the edge of post-partum depression, and life just seemed unbearable at times. We had no money, no help, and it seemed like we were stuck in a never ending cycle of debt and worry. And of course, I got pregnant again when the third baby was only 5 months old. It was just too much to handle at times. Only by God's grace and the generosity of certain family/friends did we make it through.
When we took home baby number four, it was like there was no change at all in the house. We were finally used to having multiple children, and the older ones began playing together and entertaining themselves. Having another baby was no big deal at all. She grew up so fast because she wasn't the center of our world (no matter how much she wished she was!). We had so much going on that it just flew by. Our financial and mental states improved as I worked part-time to ease the debt burden and after getting through the first year of her life, things got so much easier.
Adding the fifth baby to our family barely changed a thing! He was just one more lovie to add to the crew, and the older ones all help take care of him so much. They think he is the bomb-diggity. They can soothe him if he's fussy, help feed him, carry him down from his crib, interpret his every coo. His presence in our lives has been so positive and easy that it makes the thought of having more a pleasant one.
Although every family is unique and has their own story to tell, from what I've gathered from moms of large families (and from my own experience) is that it DOES get easier. When people tell me how they struggle with their two children, and just don't know how we handle five...I tell them that it IS hard having two, and having five is easier. They might look at me like I'm crazy, but I've been in their shoes with the one, two, or three children, and it's a lot of work. I think after three kids, the parents get more laid back, the children get older (and go to school), and there are more people around to love and help with the baby. So to all of you moms out there who are struggling in the trenches - there is hope! It does get easier, and just hang in there and trust in the Lord, for He provides.