It was my sickest day yet. I got up queasy and rushed to the kitchen to make eggs while choking back gags I desperately hoped wouldn’t turn into those awful, first-thing-in-the-morning throw-ups when there’s nothing in your stomach to throw up. Meanwhile, my sweet and helpful children were trying to take our poor, deaf, geriatric spaniel out for his morning potty break, but he was so desperate, he piddled all the way out the door and emptied his entire over-stretched bladder the minute his paws hit the porch. Somehow, my kids failed to realize this and walked in it, then stood on the porch shouting at me for help. We cleaned it all up: the carpet, the porch, the feet and paws, while I snitched bits of fried eggs to keep from losing it. By the time I’d folded some laundry and gotten dinner in the Crock-Pot, I was ready to die. I sent a desperate text to my husband to bring us lots of Chicken McNuggets and sweet and sour sauce for lunch and collapsed on the couch to shut my eyes in the green haze and mumble reminders to my children about not screaming or taking toys from each other. Hubby arrived with lunch and kisses and headed out for his lunch meeting. I opened our McDonald’s bag. Chicken McNuggets, and…
Barbecue sauce. The McDonald’s people put barbecue sauce in my bag.
I sat down and cried. I sobbed. I worried that I was a terrible example to my children. And then I cried some more.
So, it was ironic that after lunch, I received the following comment:
I have two children. My husband is now talking of adding a third, and I’m going back and forth… I wish there was a way to skip all the pregnancy, sickness, anxiety over birth defects, birth itself, initial breastfeeding, lack of sleep, and all that comes with early infancy. I just don’t know how to handle this. Last time I was sprawled on the couch half the time of my pregnancy, watching cartoons with my toddler all day long. Was my second little one worth it? You bet, but I’m human. I have limits. How do I know what my limits are?
This is a post I didn’t want to write. There are two reasons. First, whenever I talk about family size/birth control, a lot of my close friends and family get mad. And I really hate having loved ones mad at me, especially when I’m so emotionally fragile that I cry over barbecue sauce. But you know what? A big reason that I have been crippled about blogging is that I spent a good deal of last year giving in to the fear of man. Our family was facing a lot of outside pressure and relationship struggles, and I just kept giving up more and more ground trying to get people to like me. Funny thing was, they still didn’t seem to like me, and I also got the impression they lost a lot of respect for me. I certainly lost a lot of respect for myself. And then one day, I realized that I had chosen man over God, and I’ve been praying fervently for God to show me what repentance looks like in my situation. And now a potentially unpopular blog post has dropped in my lap.
And the second reason I didn’t want to write this? It’s that I spent most of this year struggling with feeling like I had reached my limit. You read that right. The cocky woman who wrote Blessings, But and Let’s All Pause and Think About the Irony felt like she had come to the end of herself after five children. My husband had started his own business, and to say the buck stopped with him puts it mildly. He was responsible for everything, and he worked long, long, long hours in unbelievable stress trying to make everything work. I was facing long hours of my own parenting solo. On top of this, there was serious upheaval in several close relationships, and I spent the year feeling like I was breaking. I was leaning on the Lord and seeing miracles, but deep down I still believed that I could only do it because I felt good. I was strong and healthy and had ample access to caffeine, my precious crutch that saw me through from the groggy, rough mornings alone with my children’s low blood sugar in the get-breakfast-on race to the late nights sitting up waiting for my beloved. The thought of facing life tired and nauseous and without Coke made me feel like I was going to panic. And so I worried and fretted and wrestled with God for months. I even told Him, I can’t. I can’t do it. I can’t have another baby.
I watched my older baby grow up and learn to eat solids. I watched him nurse less and less. And I knew. I knew the clock was ticking. I was reaching that tipping point where estrogen wins out over prolactin and fertility returns. I twisted and squirmed. What did I believe? What did I really believe enough that I could bet my life on it? Children: blessing or burden? God: all-sufficient or not?
And then, one day, I surrendered. It was suddenly so clear. I knew what I had to do. Okay, I said to God. This is me trusting You. Eleven days later, there were two pink lines. And everything started to change. My husband’s stress miraculously eased, and he started being able to spend a lot more time at home. The relationship issues that had clouded our year and tangled my brain suddenly became more black and white, and my husband got peace about how he wanted our family to interact with the people in question. I still had to give up caffeine. I’m still nauseous and exhausted. The house is a mess, and I am not a spunky little dynamo. God has not made my life easy and pain-free, but He has made it possible. The limit melted away as soon as I gave it up to God.
And now, I am a mother of six, truly, from my heart. And this baby I was so certain I could not handle is desperately wanted and dearly loved. A tiny little person, made in the image of God, someone I know I would rush into a burning building to save, and what’s a few months of feeling like barf on toast in comparison with that?
Where’s the limit? I don’t know. Some people would say that the limit comes as soon as it isn’t fun any more, but on the other hand, most people don’t find even their first pregnancy all that much fun. Other people would say you’re at your limit when you feel like you have no more to give, but that wasn’t true of me. I would say that only God knows where our limits are. Only He knows what grace He’s going to give us and how He’s going to help us make it through. And the thing is, every baby I have, I love, I love with everything I have in me. Every one of them is worth it, and I think probably every mother feels the same. Once we hold those little people, watch them grow, see their smiles, and hear them call us, “Mommy,” we would never go back and undo them, not for a million days of spunk and no nausea. As soon as the theoretical baby becomes a real baby, the cost/benefit analysis vanishes, washed away by an ocean of love. Every. Single. Time.
That’s why I have chosen, all over again, to give my limits up to God. He’s the only One with enough information to decide when and if I should have another child. I just need to trust Him and do what He puts in front of me, even on the days I’m crying over barbecue sauce.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. — Psalm 147:5