Family Life,  motherhood,  Parenting,  toddlers

More work, more love

(and if I’m being honest, more diapers)

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.”

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15 Comments

  • Meaghan

    I have 4 under age 6 right now and that is exactly how I feel about little Sean too — my #4! It’s like I can finally relax (somewhat) and enjoy him. He just turned 1. Love this post

  • Ashley

    Great post. I can relate so much. I think it took me until Sophie and TJ (#4 and #5) to let go of most of the unrealistic expectations I had for myself. I was so concerned with milestones and how I measured up as a mother that I feel like the first three were just a blur! Thank goodness for some maturity and allowing myself to slow down and just enjoy them. I think our family, as a whole, is better for it.

  • Jen

    Yes! This is it! Currently holding #5 typing one-handed, exhausted, but so happy to have this little. Never thought I’d be here – can’t imagine anything else.

  • Cami

    Many of our family members give off the notion that you shouldn’t have children unless you have the means to save for college. I suspect they consider us irresponsible for expecting our fourth baby when our oldest will only be 5 1/2 years old. We are in no way comfortable financially and are experiencing professional hardship on my husband’s end in finding adequate work. I’m home all day with my small people. But when the college question comes up, my husband and I try to remember that we care more about our children going to Heaven than going to college. God has a plan and would never punish us for being open to life. So while my SIL is telling my husband he needs a vasectomy, I’m enjoying (like you, Jenny!) my “big boys” rushing to greet their baby sister as she wakes to lovingly smother her in affection. I’m sad for the cousins being limited to 2-per-family and missing out on the joys of a baby in the house. And even though my boys love the baby we have now, they also are elated about the one growing in mommy’s belly. There is nothing like a family culture of celebrating every life and marveling at God’s gift to us in every unique child.

  • Melissa

    It is so true for me that the baby has made me love my older two children in completely new ways! And I have always worried with each new baby if I can love another one as much as my first/second but now after number three I’m pretty confident that if we have another I won’t be worried about that at all!

  • Adrian G.

    Hi,
    I would ask Ms Uebbing and Catholic News Agency to stop constantly using the word “kids” to refer to children. In the above article Ms Uebbing uses it several times; while one of your headlines reads ‘Pope Francis: Love those who struggle, but don’t push gender theory on kids’. But in the article Pope Francis isn’t quoted as using the word ‘kids’. It is highly demeaning to children. It is considering them as second-class citizens to call them ‘kids’. In my opinion it’s bad write-as-you-speak journalism. The Catholic Church over recent décades has not had a good record on respecting children as the Holy See has acknowledged. Respect for children might start by considering them as fully-fledged human beings in their own right, not to be abbreviated or done down. I don’t care about so-called ‘political correctness’ as such. But I do care about children. So let’s call a child a child.

    • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

      Adrian G., I know Jenny can handle herself when it comes to comments, but I just have to say that if you feel Jenny doesn’t consider children “fully-fledged human beings in their own right” then you must not be a long-time reader of her blog. She has ample respect for children and speaks to this regularly. She is fully in line with the Church’s teachings on human dignity and has devoted countless hours defending and explaining those teachings in her corner of the internet (and received quite a bit of hate for it). It seems disingenuous to suggest that by abbreviating the word to “kid” she is somehow disrespecting children. “Kid” is a pretty common and accepted term that is used by all sorts of people in society, including those with great respect for said kids. When I’m asked “How many kids do you have?” it is in no way a statement about them having anything less than full human dignity.

  • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    Jenny this was so beautiful. I love my own little Luke (#3) in the exact way you describe and it’s just such a wonderful, warm, fuzzy, giggly kind of love. This line really struck me, “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.” I’ve never thought of that before and it’s quite beautiful to meditate on.

  • Adrian G.

    Hi Kaitlin,
    Thank-you for your response. My point wasn’t about the content of Ms Uebbing’s blog; and I woudn’t dream of expressing any kind of personal hostility to a journalist. It’s about the term ‘kid’: a lot of things are accepted by society at large which are not necessarily good and I take issue with what I perceive is a slack verbal approach to children. Such a verbal approach could potentially be a sign of disrespect. I remember a Bruce Springsteen concert where he said ‘Children are a window onto grace’ – children, not kids.
    Love to all, Adrian G.

    • Jean

      Actually, I take offense to your use of the title “Ms” when referring to Mrs. Uebbing who is a married woman. Not that I’m expressing personal hostility to you, Adrian G, but we Catholics hold the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony in higher regard than the promotion of socially popular individualism.

      • Adrian G.

        Hello Jean,
        Thank-you for your response. I certainly meant no offence by using the title “Ms” and apologise if you – or she – took it in bad part. I believe many women, British women at least are perfectly happy with the term “Ms” (and it’s standard nowadays in administrative papers for example). That said, I hold no truck with “socially popular individualism”, and am myself Catholic. Sincerely, AG

  • Alicia

    I enjoy my #4 baby so. much. I just delight in her more than I did with my first 3. It really is a letting go of unrealistic expectations and a shift in values. It helps that #4’s older siblings delight in her as well. The kids love making her smile or laugh. I roll my eyes at the phrase “the love multiplies,” but it really is true.

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