Sunday, September 21, 2008

This post will be long and very personal

(Warning! If you don't think people should reveal personal stuff on their blogs, if you're uncomfortable reading about the gyrations of someone's deep inner soul, please skip this post, go look at our crafts or something, and come back another day. Only the few and the brave should read on.)

OK. Okay okay okay.

Here I am. I'm writing this. I've procrastinated like crazy -- exercising, reading shoe reviews on, you name it. Normally I'm bursting to write about things that are on my mind, but this time I'm suffering from writer's block, stymied by all the many versions of this post I've been composing in my head. So, this won't be very well-written. It will be a series of words, probably too many, spilled onto the screen like the beads that keep falling off my daughters' homemade necklaces.

But I've been getting some significant nudges, so I'd better stop hemming and hawing, stop waiting for the perfect time, and write this promised post.

Many of you have wondered, and have asked at various times, what Tim and I are thinking about our family size. Others just assume we're "done," and still others, living in the society we do, like to think that by now we've figured out "what was causing the problem and how to fix it," as someone so nicely put it, in reference to her own family, at a party the other night. (Those comments always make me sad.)

But something strange has been happening lately. Background: I calculated the other day that I have been either pregnant or nursing a baby/toddler, or both, for the last nine years (yes, Anne, I know you have me beat). Without interruption. Yes, for those of you keeping score at home, that means that Caroline is still nursing. In a few weeks, she will be my first child to make it to three without a new baby in the house. Until recently, I felt fine about that. OK, maybe not 100% -- I've never been able to say with finality, except during and immediately after Caroline's birth, that I am DONE -- but close enough.

Lately, though, my insides are all scrambled. The bottom line is, even since Caroline was a baby, I've always felt that three is an odd number. Wait -- I didn't FEEL that three is an odd number; it IS an odd number. Growing up, I had several bad experiences with friendship threesomes, and maybe that's why the idea always unsettled me a bit. I've felt for a long time, so deep inside that I hardly breathe a word of it to anyone, that someone in our family was missing, like another soul hovering nearby, wanting to fill a chair at our table or a space on the tire swing. Does that sound weird? I've told myself over and over, looking at my mostly-happy kids together, "Yes. Our family is complete," but it always feels like I'm trying to convince myself.

Why should I convince myself? Why not just go for #4? Oh, the reasons are many. My fears, my innate tendency to laziness, most of all, my LOGIC, supply plenty of arguments, many of which are sound. Here's a sampling:

- Money. This sounds so trite, but the reality is that children cost money, and not just the birth. Things are already tight around here with Tim in school for another year-plus. After that, we'll be trying to recover and save like mad for college. How could we afford to give a bigger family the lifestyle we want? (I'm not talking ski trips to Vail, folks. I mean stuff like the violin lessons Eliza's asked about and maybe a family vacation that doesn't involve a tent and lots of rain. Oh, and grocery shopping without getting palpitations at the checkout line.)

- My physical health. I am not a great pregnant person, if you know what I mean. My last pregnancy involved varicose veins in my legs that got so bad I had to wear compression hose (like really tight medical grade panty hose) all through the summer. I had sciatica, bad. In my first trimester I didn't get sick (unlike the nightmare of Ian's preliminary gestation) but I'd drop onto the couch in the middle of making dinner and Tim would have to take over. Once I have the baby, I end up needing to see the chiropractor, lots, because carrying around a baby all the time does unpleasant things to my congenitally weak neck.

- My mental health. No joke, people, I have been on antidepressants three times, after each baby, after things get so bad hormone-wise that I think obsessively about driving to the airport and flying away. Is it fair to put my family through another year or so of Moody Mommy? Can I really come up with the energy for another one?

- Speaking of antidepressants, since I'm on them now (see? I'm telling all!), I know I'd feel bad about taking them during a pregnancy -- but I haven't found anything natural (and affordable) that works well enough for me.

- My husband. I'm thinking that when it comes right down to it ... well, neither of us is Superman. I can't do this by myself, and pretty soon he'll need to be launching his career, ergo with even less spare energy and time. I worry this might send him over the edge. ;-)

- My capacity. I have friends with four, and read blogs of other moms with four or mom, and most of them seem to do it with such grace and relative ease. But I am not them. There are so many times when Caroline, that dangerous little girl, will say or do something that delights me so thoroughly that my heart breaks at the thought of not sharing these unique and fleeting toddler moments with anyone again. Or the kids will be playing together, getting along famously, and in a burst of quiet euphoria I'll think, "Oh, what's one more to add to the fun?" But then we'll have moments, or days, when I think, "Another child? WHAT AM I SMOKING???" 'Nuf said. Oh, and sometimes I think that my eldest may count as two children in terms of parenting energy required. Oh, and when they all talk at once my head feels like it's going to explode. Oh, and I couldn't count on any help from my side of the family because all the family womanpower is sort of concentrated elsewhere right now. And rightfully so.

- And that brings me to ... My dad. The ALS is progressing, and when the time comes that I need to be there and do more than periodic weekend visits, what if I can't legally get on an airplane? Just because Sarah Palin got on a seven-hour flight after her water broke doesn't mean I think it's a good idea for me. Just one of the many ways in which I am not Sarah. (For you, though, Dad, I might pretend.)

- My "plans." Ever since Tim started school, I've sort of held onto this dream of taking a trip together, probably with the kids, after he graduates. A celebration of sorts. A baby in our midst would change what we'd be able to do. Why not wait until after graduation? Because I don't want the kids to be so far apart (Caroline will be four by the time he graduates) that they don't mix well as a group, you know? I've seen my youngest sister, who's sort of our "caboose," struggle with feelings of being left out or not always sharing the same set of memories or jokes that we older ones do.

Ahhhhh. Have you made it this far? If so, I probably have you pretty convinced that I shouldn't have another kiddo, right? Hey, if you happen to be a relative, you're probably shocked that I'm even HAVING this conversation monologue. You're running to the phone to ascertain what I'm smoking. Your call will be answered in the order in which it was received ...

But. Despite all that, the reality is that since Caroline was the wee-est of bairns, there's hardly been a day gone by that I haven't had some little conversation with the Lord about this very question. And I wonder, why can't I let it go? Why can't I just sell that box of cloth diapers that's been sitting in my room on eBay? Why do I have save all those baby clothes for my sister? Why not get rid of the Maya Wrap that's toted three babies through countless hours of their little heads against my heart? Why can't I feel, with full peace, that we are complete?

"Tell me, Lord," I've begged. "Tell me what You want." And even though I think I see signs from Him -- "See? I don't have the patience for another child! God is clearly talking to me here!" -- I have no rest in my spirit. Lately my prayer has been more, "Whatever your will is, to remain as we are or to expand, give me peace inwardly. I don't want to struggle against You, and I don't want to struggle against my own complicated mind." In other words, regardless of the outcome, I want the source to be faith, not anxiety or a sense of what we "should" do.

Thank you for listening, dear friends, if you've made it this far. Perhaps I should have broken this up into two or more posts, as if that were possible by now! Please pray for us, that Tim and I would both have the same feeling and that any decision we come to would be one that brings joy and peace. I have a feeling that many more conversations, between the two of us and between us and the Lamb whom we follow, lie in store.

(P.S. Yes, we've considered adopting, thereby circumventing the hormonal rollercoaster that is pregnancy and postpartum in the House of Hannah. But financially, that's unfortunately out of the question, much as we'd love to rescue a little Chinese bambina from a future as an underpaid, undernourished factory worker...)


Jenny said...

I know you've been struggling with this, and I hope you find peace...

And kudos to you for finding the courage to write such a personal blog post (despite who might or might not be reading it). I know that's not easy for me!

MoreThanJustaMom said...

Oh, wow - remember that "dark side of the force" connection you mentioned some months ago? It just surged again. I've wrestled with this same thing - with many of the same points, and then some different ones, of course - since Chase was born. I have strong feelings about birth control and family planning, etc., and there's a big part of me that's deeply saddened at the idea that this could be the last go-round for us (I think, indeed, I often behave as if Chase is the last one, probably lavishing on him somewhat). But at the same time, my body shudders at the mention of doing it again - I've been thinking of talking with my midwife, in fact, about whether it's possible to have experienced physical/emotional birth trauma during an otherwise satisfying birth, and if so, if it's possible to heal after something like that, because I can't imagine facing birth in my current fragile state. And emotionally...yikes, isn't that an issue here, too! I am not on medication, but my therapist has strongly recommended them, and we just haven't been able to make an appointment with someone who can prescribe them. Or I would be on something to help make me less CRAZY. :-) Too often I feel like I'm teetering on the edge (of what, I'm not exactly sure, but it all seems like too, too much sometimes). How would adding a baby help? And yet, sometimes I have this crazy, fleeting notion that I NEED to have another baby, to give me something else to think about and hope for. NOT a good reason to have a baby, I know. So anyway, I can identify with your struggle a little. I know you'll be led to the answer, though, and you'll have that feeling of completiom , whichever road you take. Praying for you!

Oh, and I only have you beat by just a few months - hardly significant after nine years! :-) NINE YEARS...?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Anonymous said...

Hi Hannah...I know you don't know me (although I know the Dillers), but I had thoughts I really wanted to share with you...but prefer the private method. You happen to touch on something I have personal experience in (like many others, I'm sure!!)...How does one communicate privately in this blog? It's new to me!!! :)

Hannah said...

Offlist/private comments may be emailed to me at dillerh at gmail dot com. (take out the spaces, make the at an @, the dot a .) ;-)

Margo Cousins said...

Hi Hannah :) Firstly , I LOVE the new look! Your Photoshop skills are inspiring me...

I can't relate to the feeling of being a mom, and what it takes to carry, deliver and nurse a new child. But I can definitely relate to struggling with a big decision with the Lord. I will pray for you and Tim :)


Vanessa said...

BIG hugs to you.. .you brave soul :) And I thought I was an open book on my blog!!

All I know is that His way is the best, His timing is perfect and His life meets meets every need.

BTW, I really really like your new banner.

MoreThanJustaMom said...

Yikes - sorry for rambling earlier! It hit a the right time...or the wrong time...Thanks, though, for sharing your thoughts on this!

EmilyThe Brave said...

Sice you let it all out, so will I...
In your back yard...I know for a fact you can handle anything that comes your way. If you have even a slight leaning, go with it girl, all else will come by and by. It is not something you can go back and revisit. I know people will ding me on this but take it from an older mom, it is the truth. Nothing gets easier with time.
If your love is with you, and god is with you, there is nothing more you need. I know that sounds so silly but I really believe it. I think you answered your own question in the first thoughts of three. I have seen your strength and it is AWESOME, you are awesome, your family is awesome. You have a special glow about you. I was just a family in your back yard and you and Tim have treated us with kindness and warmth beyond expectations. When our youngest wanted to see your kids and play, Tim built a cool two wood plank hinged access to your yard. There were no questions asked , no big don't do this or don't do that. It was just a loving invitation.

Plus, ever since I met you I have asked you about your having one more. I don't know why, maybe just a feeling.
Anyway, you asked for me to comment on your blog. You probably didn't expect this!

melissa said...

What about adopting an American baby through CPS? You don't have to aspire to rescue some bambina on the other side of the world when there's thousands in Texas alone that could be rescued. There's a foster-to-adopt program too, allowing you to delay any financial commitments (legal fees) required to adopt.

JoAnn said...

Dear Hannah,
I had no idea that you have been struggling with this decision.... Much as we would gladly welcome another grandchild, we are also concerned for your own health and welfare, so I think that your concerns are quite valid. Giving your body a chance to "recover" from nine years of pregnancy and nursing can give you a boost that I am sure you will welcome, and may even make a later pregnancy easier. Your concerns about having a "caboose" child will no doubt cause you to be more aware and careful that a later child will not feel left out, so that is a factor that doesn't necessarily need to prevent you from waiting. It seems to me that with all of your doubts, fears, and concerns having been so well expressed, having another child, but waiting a few years to do it, would allow you to satisfy the longing while also making allowance for the other concerns you expressed. We pray along with you that the Lord, who does all things well, will make his will known to you and will give you the peace to follow Him.
Your loving MIL

goooooood girl said...

i like......

Jennifer said...

Hi Hannah,

I love the new header you have on your blog!

I struggled with the decision to have another child before Ayla was born. I always thought I wanted four children, but I have gotten progressively sicker with each pregnancy, and Dunagan was a high-needs baby. I just didn't feel done, though, and I am very happy to have Ayla as difficult as my pregnancy was and as hard as this year is going to be.

That said, I know I am done. For all the reasons you listed, but also because I think I would spend a lot of another pregnancy in a hospital on an IV. I have been cheerfully giving baby stuff away as she is outgrowing it, even before she is outgrowing it. I saved one sleeper that all my newborns wore. That tells me that I really am done.

Before I got pregnant with Ayla, I quizzed a lot of moms about how they knew they were done. All of them just did. There was no question in their heart, and any 'question' that might ever come up was one more of nostalgia.

I mention this because you don't sound done. But like some one else commented, there are lots of children that nobody wants in the US who need homes.

You're in my prayers that your path will be made clear for you soon.

Beck said...

This is something we're going through as well, with nearly exactly the same list of reasons! Eerie. I've had severe post-partum depression and been on bedrest for each pregnancy and my husband has said that he feels like he loses his wife for two years whenever I get pregnant. Sigh....

jenni (sil) said...

I love you, Hannah. Thanks for sharing your private inner thoughts with us. Weren't we talking about this not too long ago? :)

I've had thoughts back and forth over the years, but the direction my life is taking now has helped me realize what is best for me and my family. Unlike you, I have easy pregnancies and deliveries (they just about fall out of me), so my reasons are very different from yours.

We've thought a lot about adopting, after all, it's the best way to guarantee that we'll finally have a boy! I've looked into it in depth and CPS makes it financially doable. I have friends who have adopted that way and their children are wonderful. But, right now, there's no way that is an option. And it may never be. But, what's nice is to know there are options.

Know that whatever decision the Lord leads you to, we all know you are doing this with prayer and we will all support you in whatever the outcome is.

Love you!

Julie said...

I know we've never met, but thank you so very much for posting this from the bottom of my heart. I am praying for you and agree with one post that you don't "sound" done, and agree with Vanessa that God will take care of everything. I also really appreciate all the comments that posted. I am praying for you too, just to add to the prayers:) BTW it was a very eloquently put post, not at all words falling all over...:)