I have two beautiful, spunky, precocious, ferocious and ferociously-loved children.
Much as I love them, I hated pregnancy and childbirth. I'm not really a big fan of infants, either. Give me a kid who can walk and talk, please.
And so for the (nearly) four years since Owen was born, I’ve been convinced that Jack and I were done having children. Our two were lovely and sufficient and there was no way I was going through THAT again.
Then (oh the pregnant then!) I went to China, and something about being away from the snuggles of my no-longer-baby-babies for two weeks left me thinking: maybe I wanted another baby. Mine were getting too big! And, when I came home from China, there was this commercial on tv that basically made me ovulate every time I watched it.
What I am trying to say is: I began to wonder if I actually wanted a third child. Or else what was this spring-flung desire I was flirting with?
I began to interrogate the want. Did I want cuddles? Did I want diapers? Did I want sleeplessness? Did I want Christmases?
Turns out, it was mostly about the Christmases.
I am the oldest of five children. My mother is the oldest of five children. I’ve always known Christmases loud and full, with too many places squeezed around the table and every seat in the car filled, the entire pew at church taken up.
The more I interrogated my desires, the more I realized that I was afraid. I was afraid of quiet Christmases. I was afraid of losing one child and only having one left -- one wouldn’t feel like a family. Too, I was afraid of the hypothetical future Christmas when both would be married and with their in-laws, and Jack and I would be alone, cooking something un-festive like steak salads and eating them in front of the tv. I wanted another child to shore up my chances, to guard against that possibility of someday being alone.
Nevermind that Jack and I love quiet and solitude, absolutely adore it. Nevermind the fact that we love steak salads and black and white movies. I am one of five. How can I be the mother of only two? How can I bear even the possibility of a quiet Christmas?
Because I know, maybe your hopes are up, dear reader (ahem: mom), let me pause to say: I am not pregnant. But I’ve decided to pray about expanding our family.
Just not in that way. I should not have another child out of fear, or as a way to protect against loneliness.
But what if I let my fears open me up to those who are alone? What if I were willing to consider expanding my family in another way? What if I remembered that the family of God has always been “non-traditional”: that Moses was adopted by a princess, that Jesus was adopted by Joseph, that on the cross he asked his mother and his beloved disciple to be family to each other? That David and Jonathan had a friendship that lasted; that Ruth and Naomi took each other as forever family, bonded by the same God?
Maybe we don’t need another child. But maybe there’s a lifelong single friend we need to adopt as family. Maybe there’s a widow, or a widower. Maybe there is a child who will need us for now or for forever. Maybe there is an international student who needs a family away from family. I at least need to pray about that.
Adding a child to the family is exhausting: sleepless nights, incessant needs, utter dependence. I shouldn’t expect real friendships to be free of those kinds of demands. Friendship, too, requires sacrifices, a willingness to give up some of my own desires for freedom and quiet and privacy to grow my family in a creative way.
What might the family of God look like, if all of us prayed about expanding our hearts in non-traditional ways as much as we prayed about whether or not to have another kid? I think it might just look like too many places squeezed around the table, and every seat in the car filled, the entire pew at church taken up. It might just look like love.