I’ve never been wedding dress shopping. I knew before I got engaged that I wanted my mama to make my wedding dress. She sewed multiple drum major uniforms for me when I marched with the band in school, as well as a “Shakespeare in the Park” costume when I was 17. She even copied a dress I once saw in a magazine so that I could wear it for Easter, by taking two different dress patterns and combining them to make one garment.
I’ve never had my ears pierced. As a little girl, I begged my parents for the privilege of getting pierced ears. But they told me I must wait until I was twelve–as a six year old, that seemed an impossibly long time to wait. By the time I turned twelve, I was over it. Then I got my nose pierced when I was 25. Had I known how much that would hurt, I wouldn’t have gone through with it. Now, though, I’m glad that I did–it’s a little way that I showcase my personality on the outside.
I’ve never suffered a miscarriage. With so many, many friends and acquaintances (and also a family member) I know who’ve lost a child, or multiple children, due to miscarriage and infant loss, I sometimes feel I dodged a bullet on this one. I’ve also never struggled with infertility or struggled to conceive. Again, a bullet I’ve dodged. You may be reading this and thinking, well, good for you. Please read on, sister.
I also never imagined I’d have only two children–that I would mother only a pair of children, instead of a passel. I grew up as the oldest of 4 children in my family, and I imagined I might have 5 of my own when I got older. I met a fellow college student one summer who was one of 6 brothers. And I thought, How fun! A whole pack of boys! I didn’t necessarily envision giving birth to 5 or 6; I thought I would adopt and possibly, probably, foster children, too.
But, no. No fostering, no adoption. Never even pursued the paperwork or the training or the home visits. And unless God does a miracle of transformation in more than one way, I won’t have any more children, through any means.
This doesn’t mean that I am discontent with my two sons. Nor that I feel I have a hole in my life that should be filled with more children. I don’t feel life is incomplete with “just” two. We are fully a family; I am fully a mother. And I don’t wonder, where’s my daughter? I am a joyful mama to my rambunctious, delightful boys.
And yet…recognizing that adoption and fostering and having more children to love and raise is not part of my life is recognizing the death of a dream.
Two years ago, I surrendered those dreams. I said by faith, like Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished.” I came home from church, weary and tearful, and shut myself up in our bedroom. After closing the blinds and making the room as dark as I could get it, I laid down on a worn-out pillow on our worn-out carpet and sobbed–all while listening to the Alabama Shakes’ song “Hold On” over and over and over.
I have made my peace with this. By that, I mean that this doesn’t stop feeling sad to me; I’ve just chosen to lay it to rest–and to look for other ways to live out this dream. Because, really, ultimately, I want to care for little ones in need, not only raise more children. There are orphans and children at risk all over this world, and there are many opportunities to serve them. I jump in where I can. You may be tempted to tell me about these dreams, Don’t stop hoping! For me, this is not an issue of hope or lack thereof. It’s an issue of acceptance.
But here’s what it’s hard to make my peace with: questions. Questions such as these: “When are you going to have your girl? Are y’all having more children? Are you stopping at two? Are you going to try next time for a girl?” (We weren’t trying for boys. We just wanted children.) Two weeks ago, I heard it again, and it sounded like this: “Are you guys done having babies?” All in all, an innocuous question from another mother with whom I have things in common but whom I don’t know (and who doesn’t know me) very well.
I responded as I usually do, something along the lines of, “Well, I’m 41 now.” I’ve answered that with “I’ll be 39 in January.” And then, “I’ll be 40,” then “I’ll be 41.” So I’ve made a vow to myself. I will not answer that question by stating my age, as though that provided the sole explanation. Maybe I’ll simply say, “No, we’re not having more children.” And I might follow that up with, “It’s complicated, but our family is complete at four.”
I wish people wouldn’t ask, but I think I understand why they do. They care; they want to make conversation. I wish they wouldn’t ask, but I can’t control their questions. I can only control my answer–and my acceptance over things which I cannot control.