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…