You may remember towards the end of the summer that I shared a bit about the discernment process we used to decide that perhaps we were finished actively pursuing the conception of biological children. The thing about discernment is — it’s never really over.
No. Nothing has changed. We don’t intend to actively pursue the addition to our family with biological children. But what I have found in the last few months is that I still think about this. All. The. Time. It’s not that I think about desiring children, it’s that I see my children growing up and I realize there’s going to be an end to the whole grow-up process.
Over the last 12 years, when there’s always been a baby in the house, it’s been difficult to imagine life without a baby in the house. But here I am, sleeping all night every night. Here I am, serving meals for my family with no high chair in the kitchen. Here I am, putting my youngest child in “Time Out” — and he stays there.
And I notice things that I mark as “the last time.” I know someday in the future — probably a few months from now — I will realize we’ve stepped out of Mass with the youngest for the last time. I saw a little bouncy seat in the basement recently — it got missed whenever I passed along a bunch of baby stuff to my sister in the spring — and I realized I’ve had my last time cooing at a smiling baby in it. We took down the crib and my boys are both in “big boy” beds with the bunk beds, so I’ve had “the last time” one of my kids slept in a crib, too.
We pray a blessing before meals at our house, and I’m kind of lenient with the babies…they don’t always understand they need to wait until we’ve prayed to eat. But just a couple of weeks ago, we began praying, then Vincent tried to eat and I gently nudged his hands and showed him we were praying and he stopped, left his plate alone and folded his hands to finish the prayer with us. He doesn’t do it all the time yet, but he is waiting to eat until after the prayer more and more often. Pretty soon, he’ll be the one reminding us all that we pray before we eat.
Some mornings, I marvel at the fact that I haven’t had to bathe, dress, comb hair or brush teeth for my girls in so long that I can’t remember when I did it last. Dominic even gets himself mostly ready in the mornings, though he needs help getting his breakfast. So, I’m left with changing a diaper and dressing Vincent each morning…but even Little Mr. Independent is looking for opportunities to take those duties away from me.
Of course, Sarah’s growth as she’s progressed through middle school fascinates me, too. She is organized and takes pride in doing a good job. I love that she insists on kissing each of her younger siblings good night. Every. Night. She gets herself cleaned up and ready for bed and has all of her school stuff packed and ready at her door every night before bed. She even will sit down with me on Sunday night, pull out her planner and make sure she knows for sure which nights she has activities, how she is getting there and who is picking her up.
Dani and Helen do their homework independently, monitor their own progress, ask questions when they need help. I am still reading with Helen — at her prompting (Dani is a “speed reader” so she never liked to be read to, so I enjoy getting back to this with Helen). They handle so much without my help. And I am happy about this — not because I am in a hurry for them to grow up — but because it means we are getting there, to that point where our kids really will become independent, contributing members of society.
Instead of focusing on the end, I see that it’s a new beginning. The window on bearing children and caring for babies and toddlers is evolving into the rearing of young people, teaching them how to behave, how to engage and discuss things with adults, helping them figure out how to communicate their opinions — or even just that they should have some opinions about things. And I realize that I’m not sad like I thought I would be. Sure…the thought of never carrying another baby in my womb is sad in the “man, I sure did love being pregnant” sort of way. But I always worried that once we discerned we would not seek pregnancy anymore that I would be resentful or overwhelmed with grief. I especially worried about that after we lost Gregory. But I’m surprised at the peace I feel.
A big part of me is excited to see how my children are turning out. I have a lot of fun talking with Sarah. And Dani surprises me with her ideas and her imagination. Helen adores me (and I her!) and I’m starting to see that I have something very special with her that I can cherish forever. Dominic is such an inspiration on many levels. And even though Vincent is a handful, I really enjoy how much he is talking and how quickly he is catching on to being a bigger toddler.
So, I just wanted to put my thoughts out there about how I am feeling now, just three months after Craig and I discerned the childbearing phase was set to close. Because truth be told, I was scared. As I said then, this sort of stuff is not to be taken lightly and it’s not for the weak. But I’m pleased at the peace I feel with the whole thing. I’m not losing anything. Life is a progression and we’re moving on to the next step.
There is so much excitement to come. For me, I think having openness to having a large family, for a period of time, put pressure on me to think I must always be open to more, that discerning to avoid pregnancy indefinitely would be wrong on some level. But I feel comfortable now with the fact that our five children on earth (and our little Saint in Heaven) are enough.