While I was sitting vacantly before the keyboard this afternoon a happy little reddish-blonde head bounced up from underneath my chair, and two bright blue eyes crinkled with delight over having located me. Luke is baby number 4, but he is beloved in a way that numbers one through three (sorry, kids!) were not privileged to experience.
I do love all four of them very much, but if I’m being honest here, I’m a little bit in love with Luke. Maybe it’s the mellowing effect of having done the pregnancy/newborn thing a couple times and being able to relax into the enjoyment of it, maybe it’s the cacophony of joy as his older siblings orbit him like adoring planets, racing to retrieve him from his bed in the mornings, or maybe it’s just the winning combination of the sweetest smile and the most joyful temperament, but this kid has me smitten. I kiss him more than is probably socially acceptable, and even now as I sit here tapping the keys, he’s tearing the lid of the trash can and searching for coffee grounds to dig in and I’m smiling benevolently at him over my shoulder because it’s adorable.
Somebody get a message to my first-time momself that I will eventually lower my standards to an unrecognizable level of filth and indulgence and that it will be fine. It will all be fine.
It’s only the machinations of a divine economy that could yield increasing returns of joy and pleasure from decreasing levels of sleep and time and money. It doesn’t make sense that this little person should have brought so much joy with him when he banged open the doors to our hearts a little over a year ago, but there it is.
I never wanted to have a large family. If anything, I was ambivalent about having children, period. Not because my own childhood wasn’t great (it was), or because I didn’t like kids (I do. For the most part.) but because I seemed to lack that nascent maternal instinct that had my girlfriends easily answering “1 of each” or “3 boys, 3 years apart” when asked about their reproductive futures. When I peered forward into the shimmering mists of time, I could never see clearly what it was that I wanted, exactly.
Which is why motherhood has been so pleasantly surprising and so gruelingly difficult, at turns. I didn’t really plan for this, and even now, at Costco, when someone blinks in astonishment or delight at my little crew and asks if I’m done, I never know exactly what to say. I don’t have strong feelings either way, that we’re “done” or that there are “(X) more babies” waiting for us (<– never was too keen on that theologically-sketchy concept). But I do have strong feelings for Luke, and for each of my children. Every one of them is an incomparable miracle, someone I never could have dreamt up or planned or, quite frankly, executed to the level of perfection they each possess.
I am astonished by the level of collective joy that seems to titrate up with each new arrival. And yet. Even knowing that, even having experienced it firsthand four times over, I still can’t fathom it happening again. I can never love another baby the way I love Luke, I’m sure of it. And yet, if God does send another baby, (which, for the record, He has not currently) He will also send the love. And it will be a new love, and a greater love, and a love that literally did not exist before the object of it’s affection did.
Babies come from love, but they also bring the love.
There is never quite enough time or money or sleep to go around, and yet there is. It works out. Some months or days are tighter on energy or money than others. And some weeks are grueling, and some seasons are disappointing and trying beyond belief. But there has never been a moment that I regretted saying yes to these kids, and if anything, each subsequent baby has deepened the love I have for my older children. (Which doesn’t mean – please, please hear this – that smaller families have less love.)
But, to limit the size of one’s family out of fear of a lack of love, a poverty of love, to imagine that there is a limit to love…that is the lie.
I may be afraid of having another baby for all kinds of reasons, but I’m not afraid that there won’t be enough love.
All I have to do is look down at my little puppy dog Luke (currently eating deli turkey off the kitchen floor #reallife) and know with deep certainly that the love is there, that it will come in abundance. And that it will overflow the bounds of my grinchy little heart and stretch it just a little further, until I’m that mom who is kissing her toddler’s fat neck in the checkout line at King Soopers and wondering if there was ever another cherub alive whose (now borderline feminine and becoming confusing to strangers) curls were so perfect, and who laughs a little and shakes her head when asked “is he your first?” and answers honestly, “nope.”