Tuesday, October 23, 2012

COM Ch 12: Adding One More to the Mix

Chapter 12:  Adding One More to the Mix

            This one really threw us for a loop!  Now, when we got pregnant with Kody, it was a surprise, too.  A good surprise!  And the last two pregnancies were very planned.  But we just weren’t ready for this one. 
            We had always said that we wanted four.  That sounded like the perfect number.  But my third one had really worn me down, as you already know by now.  So I had started to think that ending with three sounded pretty good.  I was just so exhausted and stretched thin. 
            But God had other plans!  And I think, semi-unconsciously, so did I.  And we got pregnant again.  (I blame it on a mathematical error.  And I realized it mere moments after “the act” when I went, “Wait?  What is the date again?”  And I ran to the calendar, recounted, and went, “Oh, crap!”  I never was good at math!) 
            Big Stressor #3!  (A good kind of stress, but still stress.)  
            Now, I loved the idea of another baby (and I knew that I would always have felt like I was missing something if we ended with three kids), but this one came at a rather financially rough time for us.  The recession was beginning (Big Stressor #4) and things were already tight financially.  And we had really been looking into getting a house of our own.  We were out-growing the two-bedroom rental we were in.  Jason, though, was having a tough time at work with things starting to slow waaaay down.  It was not the best time to find out that we were expecting again. 
            We were used to living on a tight budget.  We weren’t deprived of the necessities and extra blessings.  But we were always conscious of what things cost and always looking for ways to cut back.  We were not impulse shoppers or splurgers.  The recession, however, brought us a third-less income.  And it would take a lot more juggling and to-the-penny calculating to make ends meet, even skipping grocery shopping a couple of weeks.  (It never hurts to use up what you’ve got anyway.  Beans and rice, anyone?)
            I knew that Jason was already stressed with the pressure he was under to provide in the tough economy, and so when I found out that I was pregnant, I was afraid of having to tell him that we were having another child.  We were going on a family vacation in a few weeks.  I debated waiting until then to tell him.  Two weeks?  Could I wait two weeks?  Should I tell him now so he can get adjusted to it by then, or should I wait till he’s relaxing by the fire at our favorite Jellystone bungalow and risk ruining his vacation?  Hmmm?  I had a few hours to decide before he got home from work. 
            (You know how I said that you should never say anything about other people?  Well, a couple weeks before I got pregnant, Jen called to tell me something . . . she was expecting a fourth child.  I giggled in shock for her, knowing that they were as stretched as we were.  And then I said this:  “Ohh, Jen! Congratulations!  I’m so happy for you.  And I know you can do it.  But I have to say . . . I’m just so glad that it’s you and not me.  I couldn’t handle that right now!”  Those were my exact words!  Yep!) 
            So Jason came home from work. 
            “How was work?” 
            “Fine.” 
            “We’re having spaghetti for dinner.” 
            “Mmm-Hmm.”
            Biting tongue, biting tongue.  Hmm!  Two weeks!  I can keep a straight face for two weeks.  That night we went to bed, and I laid there, deep in thought.  Lord, let me know when it’s the best time to tell him!”  And then Jason began telling me about a friend of his that was going through a rough time and how his friend had said, “I’ll just trust that God will work it all out.”  I couldn’t help it; my tongue was bleeding.  
            “You know, it’s good to hear when people trust in God to work things out, especially when it’s overwhelming for them.  Like us!  Umm . . . we are . . . expecting again,”  I said into the darkness. 
            Long pause.
            “What?  WHAT?  Are you KIDDING!?!” he blurted out, in a you-better-be-joking way . 
            “No, I’m serious.  We’re having another baby!”  I said, pulling the covers up over my face, giggling nervously.  Thank God that it was dark.  He just laid there quietly, processing.  Or passed out!  
            We didn’t get adjusted to this one as fast as the other three.  When we found out I was expecting, I actually felt like a knocked-up teenager, pregnant accidentally.  At least, that’s how we pictured his parents seeing us.  While we were full-grown adults, we still felt somewhat ashamed and sheepish having to tell them.  We were afraid that they would think that we were irresponsible.  And they didn’t disappoint us.
            “How the **** do you expect to get a house when you keep having kids?” was the first thing his father said.  No . . . actually, the first thing he did was stare at me in wide-eyed horror and say, “What?  WHAT?”  Deja vu!  (“Why are you staring at me?  Stare at your son!  It’s his fault!” I wanted to say as I pointed a finger accusingly at Jason.  It’s amazing how quickly I was willing to throw him under the bus!)
            But time went on and we all got adjusted to it.  I think, in the end, his parents are rather happy with another grandchild because it’s probably their last grandchild from us.  (Right, Lord?)  And I think my mom was giddy with the thought that I would degenerate further into a harried mother of four (because I still found a little room to be prideful with three - despite the challenge that we named Ryder.)  And now . . . there was the possibility of a girl.  My mom really wanted me to have a girl. 
            I was going to be fine if it was another boy, which is what it probably would be in all likelihood.  But she really wanted me to have a girl because she had really wanted a girl after having five boys in a row.  In fact, when she was pregnant with the twins, her doctor assured her that at least one was a girl.  She had twin boys.  Her hospital roommate, who really wanted a son, had twin girls.  They both cried! 
            For Mother’s Day, my mom bought me a pot of pink flowers in a pink watering-can.  “Do you think I’m hoping it’s a girl?” she said. 
            My Grandma Mary was less subtle with her opinion.  “We’re all praying for a girl,” she said.  “We don’t care what you want.  We’re praying for a girl.”  God bless her!  Too funny!   
            A girl would be fun and a nice change of pace, but a boy would fit so nicely.  So either was fine with me.  But it’s amazing what kind of responses you get when you walk around with three boys and a huge belly. 
            “Oh, I bet you want a girl.”   
            “So?  Going for the girl, right?” 
            “One . . . two . . . three boys!  Maybe this will be your girl?” 
            By the end, I wanted to scream.  And since I am so stubborn - and I generally fight the mainstream - I started to think, No, I’ll show you all.  I actually really want a boy now.  You can’t tell me what I want.  I want a boy!  I want a boy just because you all think I have to want a girl.  Are you all happy now?  Look what you’ve done to me! 
            (Now, truth be told, I would love a girl.  Then I would never have to feel like I was missing out on anything: being the mother of the bride, seeing your daughter have kids, teaching your daughter to be a lady, and growing into female friends.  But I do adore my boys, and I have to say that my heart belongs to boys.  And it has always been really important to me that my kids have each other as friends.  So a boy would fit so well.  Either way, I knew I’d be fine.  There would always be daughters-in-law.)    
            Three weeks before I had my child, Jen called me to tell me that she had her baby.  “Oh, so what is it?” I asked.  (I knew she really wanted a girl and I wanted that for her.  I really did!  But I couldn’t help it.  Please, be a boy!  Please, be a boy!  Then I couldn’t be jealous if I had another boy, which is what the odds were.  Besides, our families fit so well together, having all boys around the same ages.  Why mess with it!)
            “It’s a boy!” she said.  I could hear the joy and the acceptance in her voice.  “I really am honored to be the mother of four sons,” she said.  And I knew she meant it.  I was happy for her, for what she had, and sympathetic for what she missed out on.  And then I could almost hear her start three weeks of subconscious praying for me, Let it be a boy!  Let it be a boy!
            Our little baby kept us waiting until the due date.  By this time, I had two successful homebirths and knew what to expect.  (Although the doctor barely made it in time for the last one.  He’d arrived only fifteen minutes before the baby did.  I had actually told Jason to go wash his hands because I thought for sure that he’d be playing catcher.  His eyes were frozen open in fright.  So that was a little scary.) 
            In fact, it was so pleasant and uncomplicated that the nurses and I joked upstairs in the bedroom all through the labor and we sent our older two boys off to a play-date.  (I think the father that picked them up was a little horrified and disgusted to realize that I was in labor right at that time, right in front of him.)  It was really relaxing as far as labors go. 
            It was so relaxed that just moments before the baby arrived, I began to smell something a little odd.  It smelled like coconut.  Why would I be smelling coconut right now?  
            Well, the doctor called Jason to come upstairs because it was “showtime.”  And as he took his place behind me, I asked him, “What are you doing down there?”
            “Oh, I decided to try making homemade fries for the first time and I used the coconut oil to fry them,” he replied, rather nonchalantly. 
            Excuse me!  But I am deep into labor, moments from delivering your baby, and you are downstairs chopping and frying potatoes to make homemade fries for the first time!  Seriously!  
            Oh yeah, we were experienced parents by that time!
            And it was another successful homebirth (Thank You, Lord!).  Sixteen hours of labor (I never did have one shorter than fifteen-and-a-half hours) and one batch of coconut fries later, and a healthy, screaming baby entered the world.  Our little Jackson.  Our fourth son!     
            Four Boys!  (I could hear the giddiness and relief in Jen’s voice when I told her.)  It all fit just right.  Four amazing sons!  Jen was right, What an honor!  (Boy, I tell you! God knew what He was doing.  What are the odds that two people could be randomly placed together as roommates over ten years ago in a little Christian college, and then years later still be close friends who live an hour apart, think freakishly alike, homeschool our children, and both have four boys nearly the same ages?  It’s so like God to think of these things.  Oh, and I told Jen that because we seem to have kids at the same time, if she and Jon start talking about having more children, they have to include me in that discussion.  I get veto power.)   
            While I was thrilled with another boy, I can’t tell you how many people looked at me with pity when I would go out with all my kids.  And then the comments started all over again: 
            “Wow!  Four boys.  No girls at all!” 
            “Is the baby a girl?  Oh, no!  Too bad.” 
            “Maybe next time?” 
            “You poor mom!”
            “Gonna try again for the girl?” 
            If I had a dime . . .!  But, honestly, I didn’t mind at all having all boys.  I had four healthy boys!  And boys fit me wonderfully well.  In my frustration, though, with other people’s pity after the baby was born, I made up a T-shirt that said, “Actually, I’m THRILLED . . . I wanted another boy!  So save your sympathy for those who need it!”  I intended to wear it when I was out with all my children.  Too harsh? 
            Now, Jackson is adorable and we love him dearly.  (Hunter asked if we could name him “Hunter”.  I asked him how he would know which one we were calling when we yelled his name then.  He said, “I know.  You can call me Hunter Number One and he can be Hunter Number Two!”  Umm, cute, but no.)  But having another baby completely undid all the effort and work that I put into getting the house in order.  I was just getting near the top of the Motherhood mud-pit, after years of clawing my way up the slippery sides.  How easily I could go from “Hey, look at me with everything all pulled together” to the bottom of the mud-pit again.  (I can’t tell you how many times I seem to end up there after all my effort to climb out.  Maybe I should just get comfortable?) 
            And I’m not sure, but Jackson seems to have some Ryder-ness in him.  I told Jason this once, that I thought he would turn out to be a little like Ryder. 
            “Don’t think like that,” Jason said.  “Or you’re gonna want to throw yourself off a cliff.” 
            I laughed about that.  And I told Jason that it doesn’t really matter what Jackson turns out like.  Ryder broke me.  He broke me hard and now I have no expectations of anything being relaxing or easy ever again.  So even if Jackson’s a terror, it won’t really ruffle me because I’ve been through Ryder. 
            (If you’ve never experienced being broken by one of your children, then you can’t really understand what I am saying.  And you probably want to tell me to stop being so over-dramatic.  And to you, I say, “Keep having more children!”  They’ll be one in there somewhere that will be so different from the rest that you’ll understand what I am talking about.  You’ll love him dearly and you’ll know that God has really big plans in store for him, but you’ll understand.  As my Grandma Mary said after watching him play one day, “That boy’s a special one!”)   
            Although some people thought it was irresponsible to have so many kids when we can’t even afford a house, I always said that I’d rather have a bunch of kids in a happy tent than a large, empty or contentious house.  As time went on, though, I began to think that God was going to make good on that - the tent part.  We really are going to end up in a tent.  Aren’t we, Lord?  We now had four sprightly, wonderful kids, but still no home of our own. 
            While I was thankful for my healthy children, I did feel a growing sense of disappointment over still renting.  I always assumed that when I got married we would buy a house.  After all, that’s what you did when you grew up; you bought a house and made a home.  I had seen my parents buy several homes, even building two of them themselves.  (Not with their own hands, of course.  But designing them.)  And I really, really wanted to make a home for my kids.  But it had just never worked out for us.
            When we got married, I was still in graduate school.  We decided to rent until I knew where I would get a job after graduating.  Then came children, much quicker than expected.  And then a very fast growing housing bubble.  The prices were skyrocketing quicker than we could manage.  And since I now wasn’t working, and we were paying school loans, and we had two children and then three and then four, we were never able to afford a suitable house.  So we rented, certain that the Lord would bring us a good place soon.  
            But that wasn’t what was happening.  And this became the 5th Big Stressor for me.  And it came just as we were dealing with the recession, which came at the same time as the new baby, which was just after Ryder’s teeth, which was soon after my parents’ divorce. 
            In some ways, this one has been the hardest one of all.  With my parents’ divorce, I could distance myself a little.  With Ryder’s teeth, I could actively try to help by making healthier food choices.  With the new baby, well, that was a nice surprise, a good kind of stress.  And we would just have to deal with the recession, ride it out like everyone else.  At least we had our family and our health and Jason still had a job.  But waiting for a house was a long, slow burn and a source of severe frustration, depression, and self- pity.  And it was one of the Lord’s biggest tools for breaking me down.   

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