Remember those heady days of early blogging when the mommies – and the blogs – were plentiful? I was messaging with a writer friend this morning, reflecting on what an unusual and also extraordinary thing it was to be part of it at the beginning, to be one of a handful of Catholic women fumbling around with a blogspot dot com at what felt like the advent of the era of digital self-disclosure and the birth of online community.
I remember having to explain myself to people in real life that I also had real friends who I’d met online but, uh, never actually met in person. It was a little weird! Not anymore, though.
Those were the days, weren’t they? Truth be told I still love it when one of the OSB cranks out a low key day in the life post (I’m looking at you, Bonnie, Christy, Kendra), and while I don’t write many of them myself lately, it’s not for lack of affection for you, dear readers; it’s just that I’m starting to feel a little bit like I’m wearing the wrong size shoes. The self disclosing and rambling that once came so naturally now feels a little bit, I don’t know, over the top?
Part of it is being a mother to kids who are older.
Not older kids, because with my oldest nearing only nine, I’m not exactly out of the elementary years over here, but just being a mother to kids who can read has changed the rules of the game, big time. Not that they read my blog, nor do I expect they’ll ever want to – not the boys anyway. Just that something feels “a little bit not good,” as one of my younger siblings was known to say, when I identify one of them by name, like I’m chipping away little by little at their privacy or autonomy or something.
Funny stories about public nudity and diaper explosions are great when they feature feral toddlers as their stars, but older kids require more nuance, more deference, and more privacy.
The other thing is this: I feel disingenuous sometimes. Like I’m here on the other side of the computer screen handing out advice and tbh I’m just figuring things out as I go along.
I really don’t look to style myself as any sort of expert on anything, except maybe painting things which were previously thought un-paintable, so I feel a little sheepish sometimes when I do write about more serious stuff. A sort of existential angst like, gosh, I hope nobody thinks I have this all figured out.
I don’t. Have anything figured out, that is. And the older I get and the more kids we add, the less certain I am of anything. Things that were set in stone with babies one through three went out the window when Luke the Verb was born. Still more fat was trimmed away (not literally, alas) when Zelie made her debut. (Buh bye breastfeeding, don’t let the door hit you)
And I’m certain that come late November, this year, things will shift once again when we discover whether or not kids are cheaper by the half dozen.
Not where you thought I was going with this, right?
It’s true, we’re expanding our crew, and he or she is due to make an appearance right around Thanksgiving time.
So forgive me if the blogging becomes more…unreliable.
To anticipate a few questions, if I may:
Yes, this baby was “planned”. Well, planned in the sense that we knew we were opening ourselves to the statistically higher probability of conception. There’s always a chance, you know? I sort of hate the language around ‘trying/not trying,’ even in NFP circles. The older I get and the more kids I have, the less certain I am that we’re in control of anything in our lives, much less our fertility.
THAT BEING SAID, Marquette has been a godsend for us. As dwellers on the extremely, very, intensely fertile end of the spectrum of fertility, we found a method that helped us truly appreciate and understand our physiology. The challenge, in fact, gradually shifted from “oh my gosh could we please get some breathing room” to “gosh, we really have this down to a science now…and it’s up to us to discern whether we have grave reason to avoid.”
Guys, I just never thought I’d be there. I went from “delighted yet overwhelmed young mom” to “bitter and slightly panicky middle experience mom” to “relieved and also awed-by-responsibility” older mom, all in the span of three (3!) different NFP methods. I’m so grateful we stuck it out and found a method that worked for us, because it was hard.
And NFP is still hard. There is a reason the Church gives it to us as a means of recourse, but not a requirement. Can I go so far as to say that NFP is probably not good for every marriage in every season? But also, that it can be the saving grace of some marriages in some seasons? Catholicism has a funny way of holding seemingly irreconcilable things in tension like that, does it not?
Anyway, to make a long story longer, we were confident enough with Marquette to actually get to a place of “wow, we could actually be done having babies,” which caused us to consider the question, repeatedly, over a number of months “are we done having babies?”
And, well, I guess the obvious by now answer is: no.
I don’t take my fertility lightly. What felt like a crushing burden in my early thirties feels like a solemn responsibility in my later thirties.
At the end of the day, even this, our fertility, isn’t ours to rule over. God entrusts us with certain resources and asks us to make good with them. For whatever reason, God has called us to accept the challenge of parenting a larger family.
As a girl who never dreamt of having tons of kids, it feels strange and mysterious and also a little crazy. I don’t smile with obvious joy when someone reacts strongly to us in public. Honestly, lady at the Y, I’m just as surprised as you are. And not because I don’t know how it works, but because I know exactly how it works, and even had a pretty good handle on maintaining the status quo, and He still asked for more!
Oh, and one more question I’ve gotten. Ages! Our oldest will be 9 when this baby comes, so the lineup will be 9, 7, 5, 4, and about a month shy of 2. Yes, that’s crazy. But no, I don’t homeschool. So to have ages 4 and up in school, at least part time, will be a significant game changer.
I hope you’ll bear with me as I navigate this new season and look for a new balance irl and online. I’ll never stop writing because, apart from having many babies, I truly believe it is something I was put here to do. But things might change in the coming months, a lot or a little. One bigger change? I’ll be writing more feature pieces like this one and this one for CNA. I’m thrilled and a little intimidated to be stepping into the role of legit journalist, and it’s a responsibility and an honor I don’t take lightly. I can’t wait to share more stories like these with you guys.
In the meantime, I would love your prayers for our little baby, and also for couples who are still struggling with their fertility. We could easily be back in that place after this baby comes; I know nothing is as static as we’d like to believe. I have so many friends whose arms ache for babies who haven’t come, for babies they’ve held and lost, and from the weight of holding as many babies as they’ve been asked to hold.