I enjoyed Andrew more than I had enjoyed any previous baby, but it was a bittersweet enjoyment. I was constantly thinking in terms of lasts. This was the last time I would get to take a newborn home from the hospital, the last time I would get to nurse an infant, the last time I would snuggle a baby of my own, the last time I would applaud my child’s first steps and first words. It was difficult to say goodbye to this stage of my life. So I was delighted when I found out that we were expecting baby number six, even though we hadn’t been trying to get pregnant.
Everyone in the family was hoping for a girl, except for me. I was a little intimidated by the thought of raising a girl and secretly hoped for another boy. For my husband and kids’ sakes, I would have been happy about a girl, but when the ultrasound doctor announced that it was a boy, I started laughing, tickled by the absurdity of six boys in one family, filled with joy at the prospect of having six young men growing up in my home, and a bit relieved that I wouldn’t have to overhaul all my parenting techniques with the coming of this little one. Throughout the rest of the pregnancy, any time I thought about the fact that we were going to have six boys, I would start to laugh again. I finally joked with my husband that we should name the baby Isaac, since it means “laughter.” He took me seriously and really liked my suggestion, so Isaac became the youngest member of our family.
Isaac lived up to his name from the very beginning. He hardly cried, except to communicate a need like hunger, and despite the fact that experts say newborns don’t have enough awareness to smile, on Isaac’s second day of life, he looked straight into his grandma’s eyes and smiled in response to her making eye contact and talking to him! He continued to be an unusually happy baby, smiling and laughing for almost no reason and extremely easy to soothe on the rare occasions when he got upset. Caring for him has always been equal parts joy and sweetness with hardly any room left for negative emotions. Even when I am tired, just taking him in my arms makes any frustration I’m feeling melt away. Some babies seem to suck away all your energy, but Isaac gives back more than he takes! Even my husband has benefitted from this dynamic, and before Isaac started to crawl, if I discovered that he wasn’t where I left him, I knew I was sure to find him with his dad, cradled in one arm while my husband studied at his desk or met with people in his office. In these cases, my husband wasn’t taking Isaac because the baby was fussy and needed soothing. It was the other way around: the parent’s heart was fussy, and the baby was providing the soothing.
Over the years since that difficult season after the birth of our third child, I have often reflected on what a tragedy it would have been if I had insisted we stop having kids because it was too hard. I never would have experienced the blessing of the last eight years, and I would have missed out on the sweetest days that were still ahead. It would have been like abandoning a grueling up-hill journey through a stone-studded wilderness right before the path began to descend through peaceful, shaded forests where beautiful waterfalls and springy moss provided places for rest and refreshment. Without the lessons I’ve learned from having more children, I would probably be an uptight mom, constantly overwhelmed and harshly critical—one of those individuals who seems to see the world through ash-colored glasses. But there is so much beauty and joy in the world, if we just have eyes to see it! Having lots of kids has taught me to be more childlike, to see the wonder all around me and delight in little things, like the way a shiny beetle pulls itself up the rough bark of a tree trunk or the hilarious antics of our dog after he’s gone for a walk or the simple enjoyment of a tasty meal. As a result, I am more at peace, more present, fully embracing this season of life with all its activity, challenges, and rich rewards.
I am so grateful for how having a large family changed my perspective, especially during these early years when the kids were all young. Our eldest is now 14, and our second just turned 13, so we have begun a new phase of our parenting journey. I am excited about what awaits us as our boys enter their teenage years, but at the same time, it was difficult to close the door on the baby phase. It was such an indescribably sweet time of life, one whose memory I will always cherish. But, as my husband has started to say, it’s possible that we could have grandbabies in a few more years!
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