Just like many clichés I’ve faced as a mother of so many little girls, one replays repeatedly, especially around birthdays. Everyone wants to know if your family is complete.
“When will you have another one?”
For the first time, the answer is… “I don’t think I will.”
Depending on the crowd, this answer is met with either a sigh of relief (whether that’s for my own well-being or theirs, I’m not sure) or the quick quip of:
“But don’t you want to have a boy?”
In the weeks leading up to my birthday this year, I was transported back in my mind to our tiny, stuffy condo, where the most redeeming quality of the place, outside of the lack of exterior maintenance, were the delightful neighbors directly across from us. In a time that was otherwise quite lonely, Andrea and Bryan provided a beacon of light. She was a nurse, working part-time like me, and their daughter Janie was born just weeks after Laura Claire, our oldest daughter. Bryan was a resident, and often away for long hours, similar to The Engineer’s schedule as a PhD student. Andrea was my confidant, sounding board, encouragement, and friend.
On one of our walks around the neighborhood with our two little ladies in tow, we talked about how many children we should have. In the throws of first-time motherhood, having anyone else to care for seemed a little daunting, though on the days when things were good, and life wasn’t but so hectic, more children seemed remotely feasible. We both wanted big families, but not too big; this was the time when reality shows about huge families were starting to surface, and we both agreed we didn’t want to create anything that might warrant national attention, though the salary didn’t sound too shabby.
After countless discussions, we quipped the phrase “Four by 34”. It seemed logical and reasonable, at the time, or at least something that we thought we could handle. In the midst of the more challenging moments of motherhood, I would keep our phrase in the back of my mind, right next to “Just keep swimming” and “It’s 5:00 somewhere.”
And handle we did. I can picture the joy in my heart when Andrea sent me a picture of sweet Jackson, born just before her 35th birthday. I had just started my second trimester with Allie Jean, our youngest, so it looked like we both might make it. It still brings a smile to my face when I picture our much younger selves talking through our dreams for our families. And by God’s grace, our dreams came true.
So as I begin my next trip around the sun, I feel nothing but fulfilled. In the weeks leading up to Allie Jean’s first birthday, as I prepared to say goodbye to babyhood in our house, I kept waiting to feel sad, or ecstatic, or nostalgic, or something… but nothing. All I feel is peace.
I’m ready to bid farewell to all those signs of babies…the bottles, the purees, the breast pump, the nursing tops, the huge pile of burp cloths and swaddling blankets. So long to the bucket seat and the expectation of sleepless nights and spit up. Peace out two naps a day and Bumbo seats. I wish I could bid adieu to the stretch marks, grey hairs, and complete lack of abdominal muscles, but those seem to be here to stay. You know, just in case I forget one day that I brought four children into the world.
Don’t get me wrong, babies are great. They were snuggly and adorable and knew just how to smile at the exact right time so that I didn’t pass out from exhaustion. I have the best memories of getting to hold my girls and have them need no other person in the whole wide world except me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how incredibly fortunate I am. And mixed up in that same shadow is the conviction that this is the end of this chapter of my life.
And I really think that’s because my dreams became a reality. I’ll spend the rest of my days getting to be their mother, the mother of my four precious girls.
The follow up question is a little tougher to answer.
And the only answer I can come up with is this:
I value my children for the people that they are, not based on their gender, appearance, struggles, or strengths. They are precious children of God, and I was lucky enough to have been given the outstanding job of being their mother. I would have loved four boys just as much as I love my four girls, or any gender combination there in.
Their worthiness and my happiness lie not in anything that they can say or do, in nothing that they achieve and in no failure that defeats them. There is nothing that has happened yesterday, will happen tomorrow, or might happen another day until the end of time that will change how precious they are to me. And adding a brother to our mix certainly wouldn’t change that.
And I truly believe that their value and mine lie in the same place. Not as a mother or a daughter or a nurse or a soccer star or a teacher or a graceful ballerina or the best reader in the class or the sweetest friend or the only one who can figure out how to solve a problem or the one who gets everyone to laugh. Our value lies in being children of God, and nothing will ever change that.
So, on this day, when I look back at how far we’ve come since I was a new mother, dreaming big dreams with her good friend, I can say with conviction that closing this chapter brings me nothing but fulfillment and peace. Plus the excitement of opening my greatest gift for the rest of my life—getting to watch my girls grow.
And for that, I am truly grateful.