Sometimes I look at you and wonder what you will think about being the sixth child. You may wonder, as you grow older, if maybe we wish we had stopped at five, or even sooner, for that matter. And in fact, many people would think, and some even expressed to us, that you should never have been born at all. You are an anomaly, it seems, a sixth baby. That just isn’t done anymore, we don’t fit in with the culture around us because we have more than the accepted 2, maybe 3, kids–so we’ve been told. Moms have asked me how I manage with so many. And it’s true–I haven’t written very many posts about you, not nearly as much as about your siblings. I don’t have a journal for you, either. I haven’t even begun to put your pictures into an album, and I don’t remember the dates of all your “firsts.” I guess from the outside it would appear that they are justified in thinking I was too overloaded already to add another kid to my load.
In many ways, our materialism-driven society would look at you and call you deprived. You came home to a co-sleeper beside my bed, not a nursery that had been lovingly decorated before your birth. You had none of the “essential” baby items, like Bumbo seats and infant bath seats and customized artwork on your wall. We didn’t have real pictures taken of you until you were four months old, and even then you were so fed up by the time we finished the group shots that we were only able to get a few shots of you by yourself. And now that you are finally getting mobile and ready to play, you make do on whichever of your siblings’ toys happens to be nearby and not a choking hazard instead of new toys that were purchased especially for you. I confess, my mama-heart wanted all these things for you, sweet girl, but we just didn’t have them in the budget, so I guess from the outside it looks like they are right, that we just don’t have the resources to provide for another child.
But I hope, as you grow, that you will see how wrong they are. You are rich, sweet girl, sixth baby or no. And you make us rich. And you are blessed with love overflowing. There are five precious kiddos who absolutely adore you. Your siblings love you so much. They drop what they’re doing when you enter a room on Mommy’s hip, and they fight with each other over whose turn it is to hold you. They bring you toys and do anything they can to make you smile and laugh. You might not have much in the way of things bought at a store, but you have five best friends for the rest of your life, and you just can’t buy that at Babies R Us. And your daddy is pretty crazy about you, too. He is patient with his babies, waiting sometimes months for them to realize that they have a second parent. But you, like all the rest before you, are quickly figuring out how to wrap him around your finger, and I know the day is coming soon when you let go of me to run and jump on him when he gets home, just like your siblings have done. Your siblings haven’t stopped to think about whether you should have joined our family or not. They don’t realize that some people pity them for having so many siblings, and therefore being “deprived” of things or attention. They only know that they love each other, and you, and that their family is pretty awesome. And your daddy wears his quiver full of arrows with pride and deep thankfulness. He works hard to provide for his children, and the thought that it might be smarter to have stopped a couple of kids back is ludicrous to him. He knows kids cost money, and that there are plenty of purchases or experiences that may never be part of our life, but he also knows that doesn’t matter. He knows that Scripture doesn’t say vacations or nice cars or new houses are a blessing from the Lord. He knows, too, that our family is pretty awesome.
And your mama? Oh, sweet Lydia. You have demanded more from me than any of your siblings did. For weeks before you were born, you refused to let me sleep. And then, you took me through my most difficult and intense labor of the six, because your little body couldn’t tolerate the pain meds, so I labored to deliver you with no medicinal relief whatsoever. And you insisted on coming hard and fast, in a blaze of mind-numbing pain and glory, leaving my body and my mind spinning for days trying to process what had just happened to me.
In the first few weeks, it quickly became apparent that you were another reflux baby, but you struggled harder than your siblings, crying through feedings and keeping me up for an hour after you ate while you fussed and cried, only to wake up ready to go again an hour later.
And then we noticed that you were favoring your left side. And you didn’t roll over when you should have. So I began working with you, teaching your siblings to hold toys over your left shoulder to encourage you to look that way. I worked and worked with you through the summer, rolling you over to try to teach you to roll yourself.
Then, as your reflux improved, your teeth came in–eight of them in about three months’ time. So we still worked our way through fussy, tear-filled nights.
You also decided that you preferred me to anything else, including playing in a seat or on the floor, or being held by anyone else. I tried and tried to get you satisfied anywhere besides my arms, mostly to no avail, and I ended up carrying you through my days–at home, at the gym, at church, pretty much everywhere. I thought I was already pretty skilled at multi-tasking with a baby in my arms, but you took those skills to Olympic levels.
Gradually, though, you became stronger and more content. You finally rolled over, got yourself into a sitting position, and even pulled yourself up to stand. I was so excited to take you for your check-up, ready to finally get a great report on you. But then they weighed you. And you only showed a gain of 8 ounces since your last checkup, three months earlier. And that wasn’t enough. So, I was told to give you formula. I was devastated. I had been under loads of stress and apparently it was affecting you through my milk supply. I desperately wanted to keep nursing you, so we decided to hold off on formula and try to give you the needed extra calories through my milk. This meant that, at the time when I would normally be beginning the slow weaning process, instead I needed to step up the nursing, feeding you more often, including during the night, just when we had felt ready to train you to sleep all night since the reflux and teething issues were behind us.
So basically, I am exhausted, squeezing in as much sleep as I can before you wake up at 3:00, and then again at 6. You have demanded more of me mentally and physically than I would have said I could give. You have drained every ounce of energy I have on most days, forcing me to give of myself over and over when I thought I had nothing left.
So what does your mama think? Should I have stopped at five like much of our society thinks and like some people have told us? Or four? Or three?
Oh, my precious girl. Those people are blind fools. You are more valuable to me than any hour of sleep, than any physical or mental energy I spend on caring for you, than any money that would be freed up had we fewer children. You fill my heart with such joy. Your crinkle-nose grin lights up my life. You are loved, and you are wanted. You have value, you have worth because God created you, and I will spend my life in humble and heart-filled gratitude that He did. There is no sacrifice I can make as your mother that would make me regret the day your life began inside me.
I hope that your place as the sixth child in our family will never be a source of frustration for you. I hope you never lose focus of the riches you have in your family even though you may not be counted rich materially. I hope you never encounter the fools who say we should never have allowed our family to grow this big. I hope you never hear their callous and careless ungodly words dismissing the value of your life.
The irony here is that many of those who argue against having this many children would claim to be pro-life and many of them are Christians. But being pro-life must necessarily be more than simply being anti-abortion. If anyone claims to be pro-life but criticizes a family who has more than three children then they fall short of being truly pro-life. Not every family will or is called to have “many” children. But every Christian should celebrate life, simply because God is the one who creates life, God is the one with control over the womb. And Lydia, that is why we were overjoyed to welcome you into a family that was already said to be too big. Because we celebrate your life. You are loved, sweet Lydia. Created by a good and wise God. Loved and celebrated and cherished.
You are the sixth child in a family that wasn’t complete until you joined us. I love you, sweet girl. And more importantly, God loves you. And that is the truth about your life.