Recently I was asked how I felt about not having any more babies after Hailey. That sounds like a strange question but it was part of a conversation with a friend and something that for her has been heavy on her mind and heart. I wanted to comfort her, help her know her feelings were not unusual and find a way to tell her of things I have been learning. Really, I wanted to throw my arms around her but there were others around so I didn't. I wish I had been able to express my feelings better than I did. I answered with "I have mixed feelings," and then proceeded to ramble on making no sense I am sure. I would like a do over. This is what I would tell her.
After Robyn was born the doctors told me I would likely not have anymore children. I had mixed feelings. I was thrilled to have a babe in arms and heartbroken for the ones I thought I wouldn't hold. I was excited to share my life with that sweet little bundle and disappointed that my kitchen table would be small. I was proud to be raising a brilliant child and angry at the stupid people who made insensitive and ignorant comments. I was then amazed at the growth and eruption of personality from my daughter and sad that the time was passing so fast.
But then, medicine is not always an exact science.
There are now five children with three to four years between most of them. It just worked out that way. There is one that we didn't have to wait for and one who was a surprise. I did not expect the second, how could I have possibly expected number five? Looking back, I should have known she was coming. She fills up a spot in our family we truly would have missed without her. They all have been that way. I can't imagine my life without them. I know they are gifts. I am happy to make room for them at the table.
I think no matter how many children a mother has, if it is one or many, she is filled with mixed feelings. Joy, worry, pride, frustration, elation, and fatigue. That is the nature of motherhood. I never would have guessed that I could get so frustrated with some one whom I loved so much. Some say I gave up too much of myself to stay home and raise my kids. I say, "You weren't at home with us. You don't know what you are talking about." Sometimes I dream of the career I could have had, or the travel and glamour but those feeling are gone in a moment when I think of the life I have. Nothing is worth more to me than my time with my family. It hasn't been easy and I don't see that it really will get much easier. I do know that it is completely worth it. Have I given OF myself? Yes. Have I given UP myself? No Way! I have learned about myself, grown, developed and thrived as a mother.
So now as my children are getting older and leaving I am again filled with a mixture of emotion. There is a wonderful sense of freedom when the children can get in the car by themselves, but there are no more 2nd grade Mother's Day Tea Parties. I can go to the grocery store by myself, but I have long days alone while the kids are at school. My laundry basket is not as full with children gone from home, but there are fewer voices laughing with each other. There is less bickering but fewer hugs. I have more freedom to explore hobbies, education and other interests though I miss going to the park with the mothers who still have small children.
As my house is emptying I have often wished I had more children to keep it full, but my older kids would still be leaving and it would still hurt just as much. It is fun and satisfying to see them grow and accomplish so much and I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of being their mother. I am a better person having known them.
My kitchen table has a few empty seats on most days but I have had a glimpse of the future when this table is filled to overflowing as my children bring home spouses and children of their own. Being a grandmother will bring other mixtures of feeling I am sure, but I wouldn't miss it for the world!