A Full Cart

Sometime in the next two or three months, it will be obvious to everyone that we are expecting our fifth child. (Actually, our sixth; we lost one in utero to miscarriage last fall. It’s hard to know how to navigate that fact when skipping over our little one feels like an act of forgetting, but it’s an awkward thing to mention to strangers.)

Another baby is cause for great rejoicing, of course! We’ve always wanted five children (the number both Kerry and I had in mind before we even met each other), and God has blessed us with them in rapid succession. We’ve had a baby almost every year in our nearly-six-year marriage.

Which is why we will very likely be facing some awkward social encounters in the near future.

We’re already quite a sight when we go out in public. I walk IN to Costco with a cart full of little humans (ages 4, 3, 2, and 1), and spend the next 30 minutes figuring out how to cram groceries into the small and constantly shifting spaces left around the edges. Sometimes I let my 4- and 3-year-old sons walk next to the cart, which is helpful space-wise, but usually containment is more helpful. As a result of our not-normalness, people feel very free to talk to us. I can’t remember a grocery trip with less than two comments or conversations about all the kids in my cart.

Many of the comments are nice. We run into quite a few older mothers and fathers who fondly confide in us that they also had a handful close together. Theirs are such good friends now! Others congratulate us and tell us the kids are beautiful. (Which we believe, of course.)

And then there are all the predictable comments, which could mean anything: “Are they all yours??” “You know where they come from, right? Hyuck!” “You’ve got your hands full!” “Are they running a special on those?”

Occasionally, someone is openly hostile. Maybe they just see a giant carbon footprint stomping toward them. Or maybe they’re from Vulgaria and find children appalling. They are, perhaps, unaware that they once were children themselves. Who knows? Our most recent hostile encounter was during a walk around Green Lake in Seattle. Our double jogging stroller was burdened with three children, two of whom were crying. Another child was running along beside. A man, about sixty, stared at them with such a prolonged look of horror and disgust as he made a wide swath around us, that I felt compelled to reassure him: “They’re just kids!” As in, small humans. From our same planet.

I suspect the comments will increase with the increasing size of my belly. I mean, when I’m not obviously pregnant, people who are taken aback by our obvious flouting of the proper quota of children can still experience a sense of relief. At least maybe they’ve stopped having them. But the bloom of pregnancy is physical and raw. They’re still at it! They might never stop!

So I’m trying to increase my repertoire of responses, just to make life more interesting for everyone. Here are some possibilities…

“Are they all yours?”

I assume so… unless my husband’s been messing around with other women! Now that I think of it, I don’t remember giving birth to this one!

Well, we bought two of them from the neighbors, but we think of them as our own.

No, they belong to the Lord. But he has entrusted them to us for a time. Do you know the Lord?

Oh yes! My husband wants to raise up an army of conservative voters. He hates Obama!

I’m not sure… are any of them yours?

“You know where they come from, right?”

No! My husband won’t tell me! He calls it his little secret.

Yes. From God. Do you know God?

“You’ve got your hands full!”

Oh yes. But we feel it’s the least we can do to promote carbon sequestration and combat global warming. Of course, that’s assuming we can keep them off the grid. [look paranoid] We also plant a tree when each one is born.

Oh, you’re not kidding! You should have seen the diaper I dealt with yesterday! Talk about hands full! Oh… but that’s probably not what you meant, was it?

Yes! [bright smile] Full of JOY! Do you have a church home?

“Are they running a special on those?”

Ha ha ha! Yes! Buy three get two free! Aisle 14! (I’ve already said that more times than I can count, actually.)

In all seriousness, we love, love, love our kids. We can’t imagine regretting one of them. To which one would you say, “you were one too many”?? And, also serious, having four so young is hard, hard work some days. This has made answering the question “When are we done?” a little tricky. In our experience, it’s been much easier to trust God to open the womb than to close it. But he does both, and we’re called to trust him. And yet, we don’t believe human decision-making in that area is necessarily wrong. It depends on the heart behind it. So we’ll be praying about that as we excitedly look forward to meeting our new baby…

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11 comments

  1. Amanda · · Reply

    Hilarious! I loved the replies to the questions. 🙂

  2. You are such a creative writer. I love this. I am so excited you are having another one. We are going to have to come to Washington to see all of these little ones again, and meet the ones we haven’t met. Also, I know what you mean by hard work. Now that our 4 little ones have gone home to their parents I feel like my whole world has changed. I still have two, but the quiet and the peace is so dramatic from what we had just a month ago that I am wondering what planet I am on now. They do get easier as they get older. That is until they hit those “teen” years, so enjoy them while you can. Love you.

  3. Wow, Marsha, that’s a great post! I love your sense of humor. When I would go somewhere with my brand new (adopted) babies, people often made comments about my slim figure.I just had to pay attention to try to discern intent. I found that the people who weren’t just plain rude were fishing for information about adoption, or encouragement that I didn’t just miraculously drop baby weight. I think now I might just say, “Why would you ever think that was any of your business?”

    One time when our oldest was playing with a band at a place where we were on the guest list, the bouncer asked our names, and promptly said, “Oh YOU’RE John’s owners!” John had obviously coached him about what to say when we arrived. We were so extremely happy to know he was so comfortable with us and with the fact of adoption that he could make a joke like that. Your kids will enjoy the uniqueness of their family story, and will enjoy the telling of it. I hope that they are so close that if you cut one, they all bleed. You will know this is happening when they start covering for each other when they reach teens and college. It’s a beautiful thing, and it WILL happen. Glad you are enjoying the journey. Much love to you all!

  4. This is neat to read Marsha and great to catch up on your life! I didn’t know you had a blog. You can catch mine too (if you ever have a spare moment) – http://chrjoy.blogspot.com/ Looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    Joy G

  5. Kenneth Richards · · Reply

    God bless you Marsha. I enjoyed reading your artical. I can relate very well. I go shopping with 3 when I go. I really appreciate your answer to some of these questions. Now I can have a better response. However they look at me kind of funny when the kids call me dad .I have a doctor appointment tomarrow I have to take one with me and leave the other two with grandma. Seth came in one morning to get in bed with us he couldn’t find room the other two had already beat him there .Oh well enough for now. Grandpa

  6. Cristen · · Reply

    Cute! A friend with 4 added these;

    “Are they all yours?” “Yep, although we left the triplets at home”

    And “were they all planned?” “Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time”

  7. Angela Hurst · · Reply

    Congratulations Marsha and Kerry!

  8. Sue Johnston · · Reply

    Marsha, I’m so happy to hear you are having another baby!!! Congratulations!!
    I’m sure Jennifer can relate to some of your stories even though her children are not so close in age as yours. She gets alot of good responses from people too as well as those who look down their noses at a women with more than 3 children as a lowlife. Well we just have to ignore those people as they are the ones with the problem. I’ve had people ask me, which isle did I get those in, when I’ve had her kids with me in the store. I actually enjoy taking them all to the store at once. Your children are beautiful and they couldn’t have more loving and caring parents than you two. I’m sure their grampa Rusty will like to have as many grandbabies as you and Anna are willing to give him! Keep doing what your doing and keep the pictures coming on facebook. We enjoy seeing the pictures of your wonderful family and we love you very much! Can’t wait for you and Anna to come down here later this month! It’s going to be fun!

    Take Care and God Bless!!!

    aunt Sue

  9. Becky Hoffpauir · · Reply

    Beautiful….just beautiful….and laced with great humor!!

  10. Joyce Hawkinson · · Reply

    When I was blooming with my third, a woman asked “How can you be so happy about having a THIRD child?” I said, “I’m thrilled because I know it’s the next to last one.”

  11. Lewis Clark · · Reply

    Marsha! Stumbled into your blog, quite by accident. But, I’m so glad I did. Loved the response possibilities, especially… “I assume so… unless my husband’s been messing around with other women! Now that I think of it, I don’t remember giving birth to this one!” Reminds me of an incident many years ago on the Oregon coast, while vacationing with friends. My friends had two small boys with one (obviously) on the way. While we – the husband, wife, boys and I – were constructing sand castles a couple passing looked at me and commented that I had such good looking boys. I responded by saying, “This one is mine, this one is his and the one on the way is mine.” Of course the wife was mortified, but we all had a good laugh when the truth was revealed!

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