One of my young friends asked me recently, “What is adding #5 like? I hear not much different than #4 and I hope that is true! I am exhausted these days and keeping up with 4 is tough.”
That's a subject worthy of a blog post all in itself. LittleBit was conceived about six months after we’d been through a really rough patch financially, where he was in school and we were living on food storage until the student loans kicked in.
That was the time when we ate oatmeal twice a day, and sometimes three times a day. Just before the loans were due, we had $14 to feed six people for two weeks. I went to a grocery store that sold four conjoined loaves of bread for a dollar, and I bought seven of them. If we ate nothing else, two loaves a day would keep us alive. I also bought two boxes of generic powdered milk; we had sold the goats at that point.
Firstborn was in fifth grade, and in three weeks she dropped ten pounds because she couldn’t gag down another bite of oatmeal. I lost 21 pounds in those same three weeks and was so stupid from hunger that I couldn’t see that my children were starving. Fortunately, her teacher saw; she insisted that we put the kids on free lunches at school.
So when I found out that I was pregnant, I was both happy and worried. I didn’t know if I’d have the health and strength to carry her to term. I did a lot of praying and bargaining with God, and actually it turned out to be my easiest pregnancy. Those middle-trimester glory days, when you feel good and have enough energy to take on the world? God extended those for me well into the last trimester. My sewing jobs meant the difference between student loans and reality; when the children’s father graduated from chiropractic school we had borrowed $90,000 and lived on about $11,000 a year for three years.
LittleBit fit seamlessly into our family. I was already dancing on the edge of exhaustion, so the crazy-weariness of having a newborn in the house barely fazed me.
I found out that I was pregnant on my 37th birthday. I don’t know what it would be like to be younger and healthier and stronger and less desperately poor. I only know what a joy she has been and is, to me.
Raising kids has been the wildest roller coaster ride of my life, the hardest work, and the greatest blessing. My heart aches for all the good women [including, apprently, two of my precious daughters] who want to have children, and cannot; it has been the making of me as a human being, after all that my parents taught me and all that I’ve learned from the scriptures and the Sunday School lessons.
I have been struck, over the years, at the intertwining of love and birth and death. Middlest was conceived when her father came home from a week in California, after the death of his mother. I’ve always felt that Middlest was a farewell gift from her, every bit as much as she was a gift from God.
And when Mom called to tell me that one of my aunts had died, I was in labor with Fourthborn. I like to think that they waved at each other as my aunt rode the up escalator to Heaven and Fourthborn rode the down escalator to earth.
I remember reading, as a much younger woman, that couples often go home after attending a funeral and make love, and that very often they have “proofs of affection” nine months later. I thought it was just plain weird and a little disrespectful, but now that I’m older I think I understand it. Making love is, or ought to be, a sweet and profound communication between a husband and wife, a comfort in times of trial, an affirmation of life and hope.
And, unfortunately, it is not an option for me at the moment; I can’t just go to the spouse store and pick one out the way I’d choose between one pair of shoes and another. [And there is the matter of making sure I’ve chosen one that’s not the equivalent of a pair of stiletto heels. I want somebody who will be dependable and trustworthy over the long haul, not somebody who looks good but makes me hurt.]
So I thank you kindly for the lovely comments and emails and phone calls. And I’ll take all the hugs I can get. I’m not looking forward to telling my friends at work today. Sunday was infinitely better than Friday night in terms of emotionality, but it’s really hard to answer the switchboard with a stiff upper lip.
Tomorrow is Knit Night. I have a little church work to do before I get to go knit, but I plan to be there even if it's not until 8:00, and even if I can only stay until 8:30. [Of course, LittleBit may be working tomorrow; she gets her schedule at work tonight. So I may get there and have just enough time to say hi to everybody and then have to leave.] But time spent in the company of other good women is wonderfully healing. Particularly *these* good women.
- Five years into widowhood, after one year of incredible happiness and nearly 14 years of single blessedness. Have given up perfect manicures and pretty hands in order to resume playing the soprano recorder and to see if I can figure out how to play bluegrass banjo. Singing in the shower. Still really, *really* love to knit!