Monday, June 28, 2010

Blessings, not burdens

I went to a baby shower for a neighbor last week. I know the mommy-to-be and the hostess; I’d met some of the other attendees, but the majority of the guests were new to me.

My friend, Amy, opened her lovely home and brand new patio (both of which could be featured in House Beautiful) to us and laid out an amazing spread of goodies. We sat at the backyard table to eat and chat. I took a bite just as a neighbor said, “Can you believe she’s having another baby? This will be her fifth.” Another woman answered, “Her oldest is only 12.” One more voice chimed in, “Don’t they know what causes that?” which was met with howls of laughter.

I almost choked on my lettuce wrap.

We were at a baby shower, and these women were not at all welcoming to a new baby. Sure, they were thrilled for the mom-of-honor – she was having her first. But to them, once you have more than three you’ve entered Crazy Town.

I wanted to tell them I was a resident of that city long before I had kids...

TLC’s shows featuring Kate and her eight and the Duggar’s busload of 19 notwithstanding, there’s a general lack of regard for large families. Two kids seem normal, three’s manageable, but you walk around with four or more and people look at you like you’ve never had a biology lesson. I don’t blame people for thinking like this; they’re simply repeating the party line that big families are a drain. They’re a drain on the mother, on the family finances, on the environment. They’re seen as a problem, not a blessing.

I know lots of families with four or more children. A few have five, one friend’s expecting her sixth, one recently had her seventh and another has eight. Contrary to my neighbors’ opinions, these ladies have not lost their minds. They are intelligent women who, with their husbands, have weighed the costs and found the positives far outweigh the negatives that come with their large families.

We originally thought we'd have two.  But after Amy was born I knew we weren't done.  About ten minutes after Rebecca was born, however, I knew I'd reached my limit.  I couldn't go through another nine months throwing up every day and feeling so awful that I couldn't care for the family I already had.  When I was pregnant with Rebecca, Michael and Amy would play, "Mom and Dad," a game that went something like this:

Michael:  Amy you lie on the couch and be Mom.  I'll be Dad.
Amy:  Okay.
Michael:  Hi honey, I'm home.  Can I bring you a trash can so you can throw up?
Amy:  No, I can make it to the kitchen sink.

The fact that the kids could eat in the same kitchen where I was throwing up into the sink and not be completely grossed out is not a testament to their iron stomachs.  It's a testament to how regular an occurrence it was.  They were so used to seeing me throw up they figured all mommies did it.  For me, morning sickness was a misnomer.  I threw up in the car (always had a bag under my seat), I threw up at stores (always had a bag in my purse), I threw up in the morning, I threw up in the evening.  I'd have thrown up all over this land if I'd felt well enough to travel.  So for our family, we decided to stop at three.

But that was our decision.  And other families get to make their decisions.  No need to mock them or think they've got a few screws loose just because they prefer to have more children.

As I listened to the women at the baby shower my heart broke for them. They don't understand that children are blessings, not burdens. The more you have the more work required, of course, but that doesn’t mean each child shouldn’t be welcomed into the world with open arms.

I’m glad we showered my friend with gifts for her first-born. And I hope she knows I’ll be just as excited about her second, third, fourth, or however many she and her husband wish to have.

Besides, when there are barely enough workers to cover the Boomers' and GenX's Social Security checks, I'm pretty sure the attitude towards big families will change, and fast.