I took my daughter in to have her ears pierced yesterday. It was a huge surprise since we had told her that she would have to wait another year. But, being the oldest girl in a larger-than-life family, she has been such an amazing help to me and I wanted to show her my gratitude for the love she pours out everyday.
The young woman helping us asked about my colossal belly and I told her it was baby number eleven (eviction notice posted for next month). I witnessed the usual jaw drop and waited for her to regain her composure. "I can't even imagine!!!" she stammered. I fully understood, because there was a time I couldn't ever have imagined. It wasn't before I had children either, because for as long as I can remember I've always wanted a dozen kids! I had the image of me gliding through the meadow followed by my short-statured posse, Von Trapp style - it may or may not have included singing and frolicking... if it did, I'm not quite ready to admit it.
And then I had my first baby. BAM! I held this tiny little guy in my hands after nine months of uncontainable enthusiasm and years of anticipation and, while I was filled with joy, I found myself several hours later crying uncontrollably in the shower. I was hit with the ENORMITY of what had just been placed in my arms. My life would never ever be the same, my life was no longer my own. I had this little being who was completely dependant on me and I was terrified, as I really started to unpack that reality! I felt so inadequate, I was sore and tired and overwhelmed by how foreign everything was: from nursing, to worrying about why he hadn't pooped yet, to tending to my own body. I kept thinking, "How could anyone have more than one!?!" I loved him with every fabric of being and yet, that fabric once woven with confidence and excitement now felt like a pathetic scrap of burlap, as this ONE tiny baby was turning my whole world upside down.
I kept thinking about this incredible woman from my church who had eleven children. She was (and is) one of the most joyful people I had ever known. Her love for children, her grace and genuine spirit of joy inspired me to be open to life. She had troubles, yes. She may have even had a couple of "black sheep" who tried and stretched her heart beyond imagining, but even the weight of her trials could not dispel the sparkle in her eyes, the genuine love for life.
Thinking about her made me cry harder. She had eleven. I couldn't even think of having to deal with more than one.
But then the next baby came, the next and the next (and I refuse to type "next" eleven times) and I now embody that same joy. I understand it. With each child, more lessons were imparted, more offerings and sacrifices helped rip my selfish tendencies from my grip (and I was holding onto them for dear life) and it meant that there was more room in my heart for all the graces God had intended for me. There are SO many things that I used to respond to by getting upset, anxious, bothered, angered and now, refined in the fire of "child-induced trials", I find myself smiling, shaking my head and saying, "Here we grow again!" The gratitude from knowing that God loves me enough to want to help make me holy, fills me with supernatural peace and joy.
I may be accused of wearing rose coloured glasses, still frolicking Von Trapp style in the meadow of my idealistic perspective, but believe me I'm not. I have to sort through my clean laundry today because one of my kids went to sleep with a bowl (in case of the need to vomit), made use of it, fell asleep snuggling said bowl, realized in the morning that all of the contents were no longer in the bowl but all over her bedding, stripped the bed and then spread the various sheets, blankets and pillow cases into various clothing bins because she wasn't sure which bins were filled with clean or dirty clothes (run on sentence of my life)! This all happened days ago without her telling me, so I will be smelling out aged vomit for the next few hours. I promise you, the grit and grind of it all does not allude me, but I'm in love and grow more in love with each new member that joins our family. Though I have so far to go in terms of virtue, I know they've brought me further than I would have been able to come on my own.
Yesterday, I left that poor young woman at the store in a state of shock - but not before seeing exactly how much further I could make her jaw drop, as I assured her that I feel much more at ease with eleven children than I did with just one... and that no, I may not even be "done" yet.