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?