Thursday, February 10, 2011

Q&A Thursday: Another baby already?

Today's question comes from a dear friend who has her hands full with three young children. She recently found out she's expecting again and sent this question for my blog.

What advice do you have for expectant mothers (and fathers) that found they were expecting before they were ready to expect again?
It's tough raising children, and sometimes when we feel we're stretched as far as we can go, some new challenge enters our life, such as an unexpected pregnancy. Here are a few suggestions:

* Go to the Lord to understand His will. This is important anytime our life goes in a direction we didn't plan, and such twists and turns happen to all of us. (I think planning your life is overrated, anyway, at least if you expect it to always follow the plan!)

Focusing on how your plans went awry keeps you from finding a way to enjoy the new plan. God can help you understand what blessings will come from this new direction in your life and can help this challenge shape you into a better person.

I love this quote by Elder Ezra Taft Benson, “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.”

As you work to make room in your heart and your life for this new child, you will need the Lord's help to make the necessary adjustments in your priorities and expectations. He will be there for you -- He always has been for me.

Some of my children have come sooner than I would have chosen, but through prayer and priesthood blessings, I've come to feel and understand that God had a plan for each of them and I've rejoiced at the blessings I've seen from having my kids come when they have.

* Keep this challenge in perspective. There are worse things that could have happened to you -- such as the struggle of infertility! Many people deal with unexpected twists in their lives that don't end up with such a happy outcome. At the end of this pregnancy, you will be enjoying and loving a precious son or daughter of God, and the relationship you build with that child will outweigh all the sacrifices and struggles you'll experience over the next few years.

* Realize that while having kids close in age is hard, it's usually only difficult for the first few years (Unless, of course, you're like me and you keep doing it!). Those first years your children depend on you for everything, and having a bunch of them close in age can stretch every limit of your patience, your capacity, and even your courage.

But a funny thing happens to kids -- they grow up! They start to use the bathroom on their own. They start to dress themselves and entertain themselves. They learn not to bite and kick and scream and throw tantrums. They learn to wait for what they want and take turns. They learn to get along and go to sleep without a two-hour battle. At some point, they even get old enough to contribute to the household and make the burden lighter for their mother!

There are a lot of advantages in the middle years to having kids close in age. Your kids will always have a playmate. You'll be able to sign your kids up for activities that they can both do at the same time. They can play on the same sports team or take the same classes. They'll be able to relate to each other more as peers than as older and younger siblings, and the friendships that form are wonderful to watch. My kids play together on the playground. They share some of the same friends.

During those years when you're sleep-deprived and the days seem to go on forever, hang in there. Things will get better!

* Pray to know and love the child you are carrying. For me, this has been the key to avoiding resentment and frustration at the sacrifices required of me to take care of my children. I hate the first three months of pregnancy. I'm horribly sick and depressed and I struggle to get anything done. During those tough times, I cling tightly to the reassurance that my children are God's first. I believe that we all lived as spirit sons and daughters of God before we are born into this world, and that we knew and loved each other there. To welcome a child into our family, to me, means to become re-acquainted with someone I once knew and loved. I pray often to understand who my children are and have felt hints of their personalities long before they are born. If I didn't have that, I don't know how I'd get through pregnancy.

This is another reason that I love the opportunity to watch as my child is given a name and a blessing. God has a plan for each of us. He loves each of my children and had a plan and a purpose for their lives. Knowing and keeping that eternal perspective when the days are hard brings me peace that what I'm working for is worthwhile and that God will bless my meager efforts.

* Remember that children are a blessing. It is a significant and wonderful thing to be entrusted with one of God's precious children.

* Realize that YOU CAN DO THIS! You are stronger than you think! You have talents and abilities that you're not even using to their full capacity. Don't let anyone tell you you can't do this. This experience may stretch you, but you will not break. With God's help, you can meet the needs of all of your children and your other responsibilities. You may have tough days -- all right, you WILL have tough days -- but you will be able to handle them.

Keep in mind that for ages and ages of the world, women have been having children, and many of those families had children close in age. It's harder in some ways now because so few women have children close in age. You'll likely feel alone in the task of figuring out how to take care of all your little ones as well as your home, your marriage and yourself. I have found, however, that it is often when I feel the most alone that I am growing the most. The winds of loneliness bring me to my knees to plead for answers to my prayers, and I arise stronger than I was before.

I loved what Mary Hall said at our mother's group meeting a few months ago. When she was raising her kids, she didn't have a computer or the internet to turn to when she needed answers. She had to go directly to the Lord, so each Sunday she would sit down and consider the needs of each of her children and then ask for God's help and God's answers.

* Don't apologize for having kids close in age, and don't refer to the child as an "accident" or a "mistake." If you must refer to the child's unexpected arrival, call it an "unexpected blessing" or "a happy surprise." Especially don't get in the habit of apologizing for your child's existence when they get old enough to understand what you're saying. Life's hard enough for kids without having to bear the burden of being reminded constantly that their parents didn't really want them at first. I know a grown man who explains to others that "I was my parent's accident." While he's got a good attitude about it, I'd hate for any of my children to think they are here by accident.

And one final thought:
* Don't worry so much about what having another child might "take away" from the children you already have. Think instead of what you are giving them: a friend, a sibling, someone to help them and teach them and be for them what you can never be.

Perhaps it's as if you are invited on a cruise. Before you go, you're told, "You can have some friends come along, if you like, but it's a small boat and there's only one captain and one tour guide and you'll have to share." Wouldn't you rather have that boat full of your friends even if it meant a little less individual attention and maybe some cramped quarters? Wouldn't the benefits of spending time with people you love outweigh the challenges?

I believe that my children knew each other before they came to our family and that they love each other. I've seen them welcome each new child with grace and maturity and even reverence for the purity of the new child who joins our family. I think our family is blessed to be full of wonderful children who are close in age.

**
What are your thoughts or ideas on this subject? What suggestions would you have for my friend? Have any of you experienced the benefits or challenges of having a sibling or children close in age?

9 comments:

GregnLaura said...

I now am to the point with my children that I get to see some of the benefits of having kids close together. My oldest just turned 14 (yesterday), my 2nd oldest will be 13 next week, my 3rd oldest will be 12 in April, and my 4th will be 11 in Sept. Those first 4 certainly came faster than I would have "planned", but it was so fun! And now they are hanging out together, going to mutual together, going to school together. And a great thing for me: I have 4 babysitters so when I have to run errands or pick up kids, I usually have at least one of them who can stay home so I don't have to load everybody up. Bed time is a little harder since my 4 oldest sleep in our basement. They seriously have a party every night. It's hard to get too mad at them, though. And there have been several times that they studied scriptures together and have done sit ups and push ups. I can't wait till they can start having boy/girl parties in the next few years. They will have a blast!

swedemom said...

I love, love, love this response.

Here are some of my thoughts. My first three boys came so quickly. It surprised me greatly. And it was a LOT of work.

When my third son was 8 months old, I was diagnosed with lupus. I was told in no uncertain terms that at the point, I shouldn't have more children. All of a sudden, I felt so humbled. If I had relied on my own timing or plan, those boys wouldn't have come. But the Lord had a different plan for me and they were all there at the right time. Seven years later, I've had two more children.

Incidentally, at the same time I was diagnosed with lupus, a dear friend of mine became unexpectantly pregnant making two of her children 14 months apart. We cried together at both challenges. Both my friend and I are thriving and living with our challenges. Her two daughters are almost like twins. And I'm still alive and kicking after living with lupus with 7 years.

My point? You never know what is coming in your future that may necessitate children coming faster or sooner than expected.

You can do it! I know that you can. If I could have my three boys close together and move to a foreign country and still find joy and happiness, you can survive and thrive with your challenges.

And guess what, the future gets better. Today, I had to take my daughter to ballet. I left the four boys at home. The three older ones did their homework and took care of the baby. All were happy and smiling when I got home. When I was exhausted after preparing an awesome dinner, my oldest son did the dishes like a pro.

Tanya said...

When I found out I was pregnant with number 4, I was just blown away. I agree that I would never call it a mistake. We call her our bonus baby. She was not planned, but I have no doubt that she was meant to come so that we could live and learn and grow together.

I have definitely had moments of being totally overwhelmed with having my 3rd and 4th children 17 months apart, but of course I'd never trade either.

Like Christina said, we are often given experiences to stretch ourselves. When we have these opportunities we turn to the Lord and He will help us make up the difference.

Was having kids so close together in my plans? Nope. But if it happened again, I'd welcome it. I think it just reminds me that it is best to spend my life trying to follow God's will instead of my own.

Wendy said...

Thanks CHRISTINA!!! I totally needed to hear a lot of these things!! Our extended family doesn't know yet, but some friends in the ward and a few people at school know, but baby #6 is on the way for us. And I am terrified to death, and very emotional it's almost scary!! Lots of different thoughts and feelings that I haven't had in the passed are being experienced this go around. And this is an "unexpected blessing" I'm just trying to come to terms with that and your thoughts are helping.

Thank You.

Mostly Diane said...

I love your thoughts on this! My kids are all very close except for #3 and #4. It definitely keeps me busy and tired and I may fret about how close my babies are while I am pregnant, but as soon as we get that new little baby I know that child is meant to be here with us in our home and at that time. The Lord knows best. It is not easy to give your will in this matter to the Lord, especially in a time when that is looked down upon. But it has turned out very well for our family. Our kids are best friends and they all love being close together in a big family.

Goodricks said...

Christina, this blog and the comments have helped me so much. Thank you for the perspective. You addressed exact concerns that I had and I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I'm sure I'll visit this post at least a few times in the next couple of months and after the baby is born. Thank you for taking the time to be an answer to my prayers.

Mama Rachel said...

Christina, you have given some beautiful advice here! We all, no matter how many or how few children we have, feel overwhelmed at times. (Or ALL the time! LOL!)

If it's okay to share here, I wrote a post on my blog when I found out I was pregnant with my eleventh baby. It can be found at this link:
http://blog.oldfashionedmotherhood.com/2010/01/and-baby-makes-13.html

This work we're doing as mothers is not easy, but it's so VERY important. And God qualifies those He calls!!!

Hugs,
Rachel

Anne Marie said...

You have so much wisdom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love the phrase "happy surprise".

Stacey said...

Such good advice! I hope your friend listens and is able to take some of this advice. I know there were times I could have used it for sure!

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