We recently announced to family, friends and co-workers that we are expecting our fourth child.
However, not everyone shared in our joy.
"Don't you two have anything else to do?"
"Wait, how many kids do you have at home already?"
"Can you guys even afford another?"
"This couldn't have been planned, right?"
"Wow, a fourth. Did you even want another kid?"
Still, whatever the reasoning, the criticism didn't catch us completely off-guard. In fact, it was something we had grown accustomed to over the years with each new addition to our family.
The day we announced our first pregnancy, people were shocked. We were too young. We couldn't afford a baby. We were foolish and should have waited.
We seemed to get a pass on our second child under the guise of it "made sense" to give our daughter a sibling to play with.
We would not be so lucky with our third pregnancy. It seemed that people in my life just couldn't wrap their heads around the idea of three children, two parents, all co-existing in the same home. Is it really that mind-boggling to society?
As long as we were done, then maybe we could reclaim some normalcy to our family and be responsible, stop having children and try to deal with the chaos we already had on our hands.
But, that was not in our plans.
The day after I delivered our third, I was scheduled for a tubal. My husband and I had this responsible plan laid out for months prior to my delivery. But when that day came, I burst into tears and refused to consent to the surgery. The thought that I had even agreed to this plan in the first place made me ill. My husband tried to calm me and reassured me that it was all of the hormones talking and to trust what we had decided months ago. That day, as I held my third baby in my arms, I knew right then and there that there would be a fourth. It's incredible what our maternal instincts can speak to us if we pay close attention.
And here we are, a year and a half later, a third of the way into our fourth pregnancy. And with that brings the list of questions that are asked by everyone, including ourselves at times.
How could someone possibly want to add a sixth member to their family? A fourth baby in six years; have we gone mad? Our house is already beyond chaotic, our bank account runs extremely low and too close for comfort by the end of each month, and there are days we search for our sanity, and as hard as we search, it can't be found -- anywhere.
Another couple years of giving my body over. Nine months of carrying this child to term, endless days and nights of discomfort. Another pregnancy of severe sickness, constant fatigue and more migraines than I can count. Once again my hormones will leave me feeling as if I'm ready to jump out of my own skin at times, let alone the up and down roller coaster my poor family has to deal with. And after this newest member of the family enters the world, I will no longer be a home for him or her, but I will be their only source of nutrients to keep them alive.
I have found myself nervous, revisiting the nights I have found myself hallucinating from not getting enough sleep for not only days, weeks or months, but rather years.
I wonder how I'll survive as some days, I have found myself completely frustrated over numerous things that are completely out of my control, but must just be endured and pushed through. Will this new addition decrease that?
We had a clear vision of light at the end of the tunnel that has now disappeared. Now we are in for a few more years of buying and changing diapers. We'll have another toddler to eventually potty train. More sleepless nights and long days of consoling this little unknowing angel of the torments of teething.
Patience and time. Two things that seem to drastically decrease in each of my days. My husband and three other children yearn for so much more of me; how could I find room for one more? I remember falling in love so heavily with each child, I was certain with each subsequent pregnancy I would not be able to find enough love to give to another.
There are days I find myself amazed as I handle certain situations with an evolving grace and patience. And then, more often, there are other days I find myself a mad woman, running about at 65 mph. No one is listening to me, whatever I have tried to accomplish just needs to be completed again and I feel as if I'm about to break.
I go through each pregnancy trying to hold tight to my faith. I try to chase away anxiety and fear with patience and prayer and tell myself time and time again that all of my complaining and worrying will do nothing but make matters worse. I read about tragic stories of complications during pregnancies, child birth and the hardships that all too many babies come into this world facing.
There are already times in this pregnancy when I feel run down, sick and overcome with the most intense rush of hormones. I try to make it through some of my days with white knuckles as I hold on for dear life. As tears come down, I ask myself: How in the world will I handle four?
So... why another baby?
Considering all of this, it's still quite simple for me. I couldn't imagine having it any other way. I get to experience, for a fourth time, what some women don't get to experience nearly enough, or rather, never at all.
When I think of bringing another baby into the world, I'm completely overcome with awe that once again, I get to go through one of the most remarkable experiences that one could undergo on this earth: giving birth to a child. It's the most intense and painful, yet exhilarating, phenomenon one could ever endure.
I get to find consolation in my children when not one other single person in the world understands me. You never know true peace and the best kind of heartache until your toddler wipes away one of your tears, rubs your head and looks deep into your eyes with the most warm, sympathetic, genuine gaze that any human being is capable of giving.
I get to refuel myself in the most incredible way possible after hours of pacing an inconsolable baby. When your baby finally falls fast asleep, laid perfectly against your chest as your hearts are now as one, their most perfect, tiny breath whispers in your ear. Right then and there, you wish you could hold onto this moment for longer than forever. You find yourself so still, not only for fear of waking this angel, but for fear of losing this moment.
Given the choice, would I choose another baby over a larger bank account? I'd pick a baby any day. Would I prefer to call myself rich in regards to growing numbers in my savings, or in terms of my precious, growing family? The latter has been the easiest decision of my life.
There are times where I get a short break to myself or when the kids are finally tucked in bed for the night when the silence can be almost deafening. I certainly appreciate peaceful, sleeping babies, yet I know there will come a time years down the road where our children no longer want to talk to us or be around us, and to be able to prolong that timeline puts me at such a great ease.
God willing, one day, our children will bless us with grandchildren. This leaves me feeling completely fulfilled with the utmost satisfaction. Big family, big holidays, 'big' love... it truly may be one of the best gifts you could receive in this lifetime.
Family, no matter what the size, is the most important thing you will ever have in this world. If only society could see babies just as they are: blessings. Oh, the battles and hardships and stressors that lay ahead for me, this I will not deny. But the abundant blessings that these miracles already have and will continue to bring to my life is truly immeasurable.
So here we are, another baby. Another body to clothe. Another tummy to feed. Another 18 years of growing expenses which then turn into car payments, college costs and weddings.
And let me tell you, I could not be happier.
Regan Long is a teacher, author, columnist, photographer, grad student, wife and mother to three, soon to be four children, under the age of 6. To follow her, check her out on Facebook at:
Photograph of Regan Long's three children: Kendyl (6), Kaden (3), Kennedy (1)
In the Moment Photography by Regan Long
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