Since sharing that we’re expecting #8, I’ve been kind of blown away by the outpouring of love and support in response to the announcement.
I know that many of you have followed along here for ages and probably feel as if you know our family personally (I feel the same about certain online “friends”), and I expected you to be kind (and you were!).
But I also know that 8 (!!) sounds a wee bit batty to lots of folks (20-year-old Abbie would have thought so, certainly). So, I expected at least a few bemused responses and maybe even a few downright hostile ones (I’ve received it and seen it elsewhere before).
And yet, the reaction has been universally positive–effusively so, even.
I say all of this both to thank you for your kindness but also to establish that I know exactly what it feels like to press publish on a post (blog or otherwise) with trepidation in my heart and a tremble in my fingers.
Photo: Jason Stitt Photography
It is hard to expose such a tender part of your heart to the world, only to have it handled roughly by strangers.
Imagine then, how much harder it would be to receive unwelcome responses from someone close to you. (Some of you don’t have to imagine because you’ve already experienced it). Not a stranger, but someone who knows you well and still chooses to receive your news of joy with a sneer or a smirk.
A sweet reader recently messaged me asking how to cope with that fear of what others will think when they reveal the news of “yet another kid.” Had I ever dealt with that? What did I do?
Answer: Yes! The thought of what others would think has (sadly) been among the first that have popped into my head every single time I’ve seen a positive pregnancy test result. To be fair, that worry has lessened each time because 1) hey, if they haven’t figured out that this is how we roll by this point, nothing I say is going to change their response, and 2) the older I get, the less I twist myself into knots over whether people like my decisions as long as both my husband and I know them to be godly ones.
Truth is: it doesn’t take a whole lot of negativity for the doubt to creep in. One woman in particular comes to mind each time I’m pregnant, and I inwardly groan, dreading Mary’s (not her name) finding out and making another comment about how I “already have quite the litter.” (Yup. Litter).
My family? Completely positive. Shaun’s family? Same.
And I KNOW what a blessing and how unusual that is (from so many of you writing to ask how to deal with resistant family members).
But here’s the thing: maybe you’re not announcing Baby #5 or #9. Maybe it’s your first and you’re getting blow back because of the timing (I can still remember the lady who chirped: “Oops! Accidents happen!” upon finding out that we were pregnant with our first only 3 months after our wedding…who was not an accident, by the way). Maybe it’s your second, and they’re close together, and your Aunt Mildred says something like: “Didn’t we just do this?” (We, Aunt Mildred? We? I don’t recall your taking a turn when I was pushing this baby out).
Maybe it’s Number 3, and the first two are boys, and you’re maybe sorta hoping for a girl but happy with whatever God gives and yet dreading the exclamations of condolence if it turns out to be “yet another” boy.
The thing is, negative responses to kid numbers (of any size) don’t just stop at pregnancy announcements, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. A teenager at the gym daycare the other day exclaimed, “Oh, I’m SORRY!” when I revealed that I actually had 7 kids on the outside and one baking (Honor and Theo were the only ones with me). (My response: “Don’t be! I’m not!” With a big smile, of course).
So, given the fact that we are guaranteed to encounter some kind of negativity to the number of kids we have (whether 0 or 20), how do we respond?
Well, first, let’s go with how we don’t respond.
I wish, for example, that I could take back the “announcement” email I wrote to my fellow fitness instructors when I was pregnant with Theo, sheepishly saying something like, “I’m afraid we’ll be adding another little ankle-biter to our crew around Christmas, and I’ll be needing some subs for my classes.”
I wasn’t afraid of any such thing, y’all. I’d just allowed a few condescending remarks to undermine my confidence and felt hesitant to own my excitement at adding a sixth baby to our crew.
What I wish I’d said: “You guys! Exciting news! We’re having another sweet baby around Christmas, which means you guys get to earn some extra money covering my classes. Thanks ahead of time for your help and support!”
Do you know how they would have responded? With cheers! Because the tone I had set would have determined theirs.
When we are ready to tell the world about the children (regardless of the number) that the Lord has gifted us with, we should boldly proclaim our excitement, joy, and anticipation of the amazing things he is going to do with us and through us and this new life.
Being pregnant inside marriage is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a part of God’s plan for humankind (although, I know many who are still struggling to find their place in that plan and hope that you can read this with as little pain as possible). And it is a GOOD plan.
Every single baby is a good, good gift. And I have found that each time I put the focus on that truth and conveying that joy to the rest of the world, the world tends to join with me in rejoicing. (Not always the case, I realize, but often true).
Each time I present the blessing I’ve been given in a back-door, apologetic way, I’ve been met with people who feel free to say things like: “Ay yay yay, again?” and “Better you than me!”
So, here’s my encouragement to you: if you feel led to have lots of babies, have the babies the Lord gives you and announce their imminent arrival with ecstatic confidence. Same answer if you’ve been called to a smaller number. EVERY. BABY. IS. A. BLESSING.
Side note: Several years ago, after a kind lady told me what an encouragement my positive response to her compliment on my “beautiful family” had been, I started making it a practice to respond super positively to as many comments (good, bad, neutral) as I can about my children. I say things like: “Yes! They are fun” and, “I really like them!” It throws people way off. Because when they say something like, “I don’t know how you do it with 7. I’m losing my mind with 2,” they are expecting a similarly frazzled response. Thing is: you may be feeling frazzled in that very moment. Kids are expert frazzlers. But just by choosing to focus on the positive (“It can be a bit chaotic, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything!”), your perspective shifts, and you are able to see your kids for the blessings they are. AND! You have given that other frazzled mom something unexpected to chew on, instead of the usual elbow nudge of negative solidarity. Who knows? It may help her to view her kids in a different light or just lift her spirits a bit.
Choosing joy when we’re dreading others’ not joining in is hard. But hard is not the same thing as bad, and the more joy we choose, the more permission we give for others to do the same.
Speaking of pregnancy announcements, where my other pregnant mamas at? I’d love to know your names, due dates, etc. so I can pray for you and rejoice with you (just like you’ve already done for me).