Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On second babies, and being different

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. :)


  1. I have this recurring issue with people feeling the need to come up to me and start telling me why they're really glad they stopped at one/two (or even didn't have any!). It's getting to the point that I'm getting a bit skeeved, especially when it's a repeat offender retelling the story for the umpteenth time about how they knew they "were done" and how it was so right, blah blah blah.

    And I only have one so far! I can't imagine how it's going to be like when/if God blesses us with that jaw-dropping 4th child.

    It's funny isn't how the line is so severe from 3rd to 4th? I have an issue of Today's Parent that literally has as one of its cover stories "Is she crazy or clever? Tales from moms with FOUR KIDS." With FOUR KIDS in really big font. I had to laugh. Oh my stars and garters! FOUR KIDS!

    Anyway, I'm getting so tempted to just reply "Why do you feel the need, out of the blue, to justify your reproductive choices to me?" Because really I don't want to talk about it. Instead I usually just smile awkwardly and attempt to change the subject.

  2. Wow - can't believe he's standing so soon!

    Yeah, we've already heard a few of the "oh great - one boy and one girl: the perfect family" or "now you can be done." Not me so much (since I'm rather isolated from non-Catholics), but Tom says he's heard it from a number of people at work.

    Before I was married, I always joked about wanting twelve (!) kids. But the thing was, I wasn't really joking. I really thought that was a pretty ideal number to have. It took actually having a baby (and then a miscarriage) to realize how much the whole thing is really out of my hands (as well as the fact that all women are probably not equipped to handle such huge families!). I have NO idea what the future holds - in terms of my fertility, or family situation, etc. At this point, both of us feel open to a possible large family down the line("large" being defined now as "not necessarily as many as twelve!!"), but who knows.

  3. I became very absorbed in the world of "Traditional" Catholics where it was commen place to see families with not just 3+ but even 10+ kids (multiple families like this) in one small rural parish in the protestant land of Oklahoma for example.

    But after leaving seminary and come back to Northern Virginia it was somewhat of a rude awakening. The culture of death is so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife at times. Yet I still see things that delight my heart. Just the other day for example a young woman, who couldn't have been too much older than us Rosemary, I helped at the store I'm working at who was clearly very pregnant and had three little kids in tow. Wonderful!

    Women like you are what give me hope for the world. And it is good Catholic couples who doing so much for society by multiplying themselves through many children and instilling in them the Catholic Faith. Meanwhile the culture is committing suicide through contraception and abortion.

    God bless you all for being true to your vocation, and as always know that you are in my prayers.