My friend Christine had her second baby recently. My cousin, too, is expecting her second. Hers will be 13 months apart, and I keep finding myself wondering--when will our next be?
And I only mean exactly what I say--I am wondering. Not planning, not trying, not anything like that. Just wondering. ;) (If I have any illusions about being ready for the next one, days like today shatter them.) I keep finding myself thinking ... if our next one is born when Michael is [insert age here], that means I'll be pregnant [insert time here].
|Standing at the tender age of four months ... ;)|
I guess I shouldn't be, but I'm always a little surprised by how often people ask if I plan on having another one. I know that it's common for people to try and plan their families down to the last detail, much the same way they sketch out career goals and when they will buy a car, a house, etc. I think this approach carries the danger of relegating children to the role of making you feel complete and accomplished, rather than a good in and of themselves, individual people to be valued for who they are rather than what they give us. (And then there's the fact that people assume everything will go according to their plan--that they 'll be able to conceive when and where they want to--especially when most people seem to wait until their most fertile years are over to start trying. Twenty-five is a great age for your body to bear children!)
But I spend so much time with friends who hold the same values as I do, I am still taken aback when people ask. If I'm going to have more, if I'm going to have one--and when I plan on looking for a job. (Do people really leave their four-month-olds in daycare? That makes me so sad.) (Also, I need to figure out an answer to that question that isn't defensive. Maybe just a gleeful "Never, God willing"?)
The fact is, I don't know when, and I don't know how many. When the people who ask find out that we want more than, say, three ... they are shocked. (For some reason three is considered by many to be a large family, which I find baffling!) But I don't know whether we'll have a large family, either--growing up I always wanted five or six kids (which I consider medium sized ;) ), but again, planning numbers in advance seems so silly when you don't know what your life (or your children) will be like in the future.
I know that as I have more children, this gap between me and others--my bafflement at them, and their bafflement at me--will only grow. Today I carried Michael into a Carter's store to buy a button-down shirt for a wedding we're going to next month. Everyone smiled at how cute he was, asked his age, and so on. But what if I'd walked in there with four kids? I know from experience--from my friends who have come from larger families, from watching how those families are treated and looked at in public, from listening to mothers older than me talk and tell their stories--that often people with as few as three kids under five get weird looks and, even worse, rude comments in places like the grocery store.
Sometimes it's enough to make you want to live in a Catholic village in the middle of the country somewhere, where you are understood, where you are not so radically different from the world around you. And I say that as someone who has a pretty awesome Catholic circle of friends to run in.
But of course, that is not the point. If I am isolated and making no impact on the world around me, I am not living my vocation properly.
So I will continue to be baffling to a large portion of society, and to speculate on when Michael will have a sibling to keep him company. :)