So it is December 20th. Dietrich turned 4 today. We leave for my folks in 3 days. Gifts are wrapped. Some baking is left to do. One school party day is past and a preschool pajama party is waiting to happen. I am taking a break from listening to Christmas music to take an evening with Josh Garrels' and Bon Iver's music while Brad is out ordering a cabinet and counter-tops for our kitchen and then heading over to St.Paul to hear one of our friend's bands perform. The kids are all just asleep. Tonight I read another post from Rachel Jankovic on Making Christmas Happen for our kids. God has apparently linked up her head/heart to mine so that everything she writes is a direct exhortation and encouragement to me straight from God Himself. He's given her very earth-y, real-time biblical wisdom that completely translates into Sarah-ese.
Lately I have been having an unwanted visit from old frenemies: confusion, restlessness and deep, drifting sadness. My thyroid medicine has skewed off in the past month and had to be increased so I know there is some physical cause behind the yuck. I also know that Brad and I have been incredibly busy these past two months which means less time together and when we are facing each other, we are drained and faded out so there isn't much conversation or "space" to find our way into connection. Sort of like "1-2-3 Ok, Go!" Relationship Time: 20 minute slot at 11 pm after a bootie-kicking day. This kind of living-life-merely-existing-next-to-my-husband makes me grouchy and forlorn and melodramatic. And there is another thing: Thea Belle is 16 months old in another week. She is our last baby. Not unexpectedly, other people continue to have babies. This is how it works. One person is done having babies. Other people are still working on it or just beginning or still waiting for it to happen. Pretty standard. At some point we are done welcoming children into our family, and when you start a little later in life and/or you have a smaller number of children closer together, it is a relatively short part of your overall life. I have asked a number of women with older children how they knew they were done having children. The answers were in a few categories: 1) Something physical had happened that caused them to be done 2) They just knew that 2 or 3 or 5 children were all they could focus on and do the work required to raise them well 3) They prayed and talked it over with their husband and both felt at peace about it. Brad and I really prayed and talked through our decision. It is right. I have been challenged before and again by adoption, by foster care, by vasectomy reversal, but there are many reasons the first two just don't seem right for us. And the, third, still siren-call tempts me. But there are four big reasons that make me feel we, makes Brad (who is the exceedingly better decision-maker in our team), sure that we are a full-house: 1) We really want to know each of our children very well and want enough time/erenrgy to do that 2) I will be 54 when Thea Belle graduates from high school. So considering the life expectancy of my side of the family, I probably have about 10 years after that to see, enjoy, help my children into young adulthood. If we were to do some kind of reversal (in the next year or so) and IF that worked right away I (like within a year of the procedure) I would probably be 40 or 41 when I had another baby. That would put me at near 60 when that child reached 18. It's not all about numbers and no one knows how long you live, but when trying to make a decision like this... 3) We want to be able to serve others with and out from our family and the tiny baby/young children mode definitely puts a couple/family into a very insular, needing more help than they are able to give, high inward demand (read: needing the full attention and resources of the parents) mode. We are thankful for the good things inherent in this needful semi-monastic place we are in, but we have always felt our family (including our children) is meant for wider and outward, out-spilling life. So it seems right to move on from here. 4) Bluntly, I am not naturally gifted at parenting toddlers or preschoolers. I continue to hope that I will begin to show some kind of improvement with school-age kids...maybe I see it with Atticus (though it is hard to ascertain with the still enormous pull of the youngest three's emotional, disciplinary, physical constant and loud needs). I know that God changes (sanctifies) us through the challenges and "loads" He wisely, perfectly lays on our shoulders, and that if I were to have 5, 6, 7 children then He would give me the grace and humility and strength to be further and more deeply broken and re-made. I know. I am also aware that with the increased work (the emotional and spiritual strains being the hardest) and personal sacrifice (dying to my own pursuits of reading, writing, creating, thinking, having order and peace and space) comes great buckets and troughs of good things. I am still, after a few decades of living, uneasy with the tension of blessing-trial/happy-sad/enjoyable-uncomfortable/awesome-horrible that so much of life is made of. I read a Slate (?) article a couple years back that said people with children were both happier and more miserable than people without. I snort at that even more now -- because, it really feels like that. Being a parent is incredible and satisfying and sometimes painfully (big-time cheese-ball cliche) magical and also limiting and painful and boring and annoying and terrifying and relentless and so un-endurably heavy that you can't even believe you are able to keep carrying it.
So after all that rambling, where was I? I get sad every month when I have not miraculously become pregnant. Really. Isn't that crazy. Yes. Yes, it is. At the same time, Lincoln's two-year old angst and drama is threatening my very sanity. Dietrich and Atticus complain and bicker and jostle for attention. Thea Belle is clingy and screech-y and very much needs gentle, deliberate attention in this messy, noisy pack of male dogs she has been dropped into. I never have enough time with any of them. I know I am ready to move on into the next lines of the story. Still....I can't believe I will never grow another baby or meet and hold that newborn child for the first time. It is the one and only creative endeavor whose culmination did not disappoint -- it exceeded, broke the very farthest bounds of my expectations. I try to remember that the creative endeavor of making this family is on-going, is full of hope...to not quit believing that God will bring this family, these children to something greater, something surpassing the fulfillment and inscrutable right-ness of those first moments and weeks of my sons or daughter. I just have so much less certainty, or assurance of what the story to come is. So much less faith that I am who I need to be to mother, to "wife", to live in a way to make joyful, God-reveling, honorable, creative, kind, truth-loving, diligent, peace-hearted, faithful, wise humans...because I am not those things I wish to make this family, I am not the things I want for my children, for my husband. I didn't know how to be or become those things before I had children. And I still don't know. Plainly, I really feel like I don't know what I am doing. But here I am with these four children sleeping in the next room and I am shaping their lives at every turn. It is scary and confusing and too much. Meanwhile, I need to fold the 5 loads of laundry on our bed, wash the dishes, and finish Thea Belle's Christmas dress. No more rambling for tonight.