By Christine M. White.
My husband and I recently welcomed our fourth child into the world. Our family is in the midst of newborn bliss, exploring every detail of this new person that has entered our home. Our routine right now is watching her sleep, feeding her when she’s hungry, and managing her adoring fans (aka her siblings) when she’s awake. She smiles, she coos, she likes to be held upright so she can perch her chin on my shoulder and look around the room. I might be biased, but, she is the prettiest baby you have ever seen and a dream come true for our family.
When I was expecting and visibly pregnant, people would politely ask me, “Is this your first baby?” And I would mentally prepare myself for the inevitable conversation about to take place and pray for the grace to take whatever came next in stride. “Fourth,” I would say, and an automatic audible, “WOW,” would come out of their mouth. Sometimes there were additional words of encouragement or shock, but thankfully nothing negative.
It is rare and unusual to see a large family anywhere anymore. According to a recent 2017 report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the fertility rate for the average American woman is 1.76 children in her lifetime. If members of our communities are accustomed to seeing families with only one or two children in tow, then “WOW” is right! Society tells us that having three children is a considered a luxury, which elicits a “good for you!” response. But, four or more, is literally, a LOT of children. To choose that, is something rare indeed. “How do you do it?” they ask. Well, for starters, I try to take myself off the “big family” pedestal that a stranger has decided they could never be on. “One day at a time, just like everyone else,” Is the best response I’ve been able to come up with. But more importantly, it’s true. If I start to think of all of the things that society says are required to take on another baby, I’m quickly overwhelmed at the expectations and empathize with couples who don’t think they could have another baby. But, if we take it one day at a time, one child at a time, and one need at a time, it is more manageable and it is easier than one would think.
"A baby is a real symbol of the marriage covenant that a mother and father have made with God, right there in the flesh."
It is true that by expanding our family, my husband and I are opening ourselves up to vulnerabilities we didn’t have before. There are more expenses to factor in – diapers, groceries, childcare, and education – just to name a few. We are literally outnumbered and arguably outranked, outmaneuvered, and outsmarted by all of these children. Like most new mothers I’m sleep deprived, brain-fogged, and at times overwhelmed, but through experience, I know that this is a temporary phase that we can and will get through.
However, it is also true that by expanding our family, our love for each other, for our family and for God, is multiplied ten times over. A baby is a real symbol of the marriage covenant that a mother and father have made with God, right there in the flesh. How humbling it is to be entrusted by God with a precious soul of His on this earth and to know that this child we have created together will live for all eternity. With every child, we have become better parents and our love for our children has grown. Occasionally, I think of the mother I was with my first child and how hard I was on myself. I had so many fears and anxieties, everything was new and foreign to me and it was a difficult adjustment. With every subsequent child, things have become so much easier and I have become a better mother to my babies and my older children.
Each new baby has been an opportunity for growth within our family as well. With every new pregnancy, everyone takes on just a little bit more of the household responsibilities spurring each of the children, especially, to evolve in maturity and gain more independence. In this way, a new baby is a kind of catalyst for pushing our little family along, making each of us better people and growing in virtues and habits we may not have gained if we weren’t making room for another person in our home and in our hearts. There is also no greater joy, than that which a new baby can bring to the extended family. The welcoming of one child into a family yields the transformation of countless relatives into irreplaceable roles as parents, godparents, grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters and brothers.
Christine is a wife and mother and works part-time as an independent communications and marketing consultant. A graduate of the University of Dallas, where she studied Theology. She resides in Falls Church, Virginia with her husband and four children.