The big news is officially out: My husband and I are expecting our fifth baby. Yep, you read that right — we’re having baby number five. In today’s world, that makes us a bit of an anomaly. Most people don’t have big families anymore. The average number of children families have today is two, so a couple with five kids? I already got stares whenever I took my four kids out on an errand; I can only imagine the reactions when I’m toting around five.
The number one question people always have whenever we’ve announced a new pregnancy is, “Was it planned?” I hate that question — does it make a difference? Is it any of your business? But in the interest of honesty, I’ll answer it this time. No, it wasn’t planned. It also wasn’t unplanned. I was surprised when I realized I was pregnant, but mostly because we had been pretty lackadaisical about it all, and it just wasn’t really on my radar.
I had always wanted a big family. I wanted a house filled with kids. I was thrilled each time we got pregnant, because it was what I wanted. But this time, when I got that positive pregnancy test, I cried. I was scared, and I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was pregnant for as long as possible. A few close friends were given the news — I cried on the phone to them — but I kept it a secret otherwise. After having Clara, our fourth baby, I felt like I was done having kids. Our family felt complete. And my hands were full enough as it is! Still, I felt sad. Every now and then, I would think about never having another baby — never looking excitedly at ultrasounds, never feeling a baby kick, never anxiously waiting for that moment when I saw my new baby’s face for the first time — and I would feel so sad. I didn’t want another baby, but the thought of never having another one was devastating. (It made about as much sense to me as it does to you.) But still, the reason I was so scared and upset wasn’t because I was having a fifth baby.
It was because I dreaded the reaction I would get.
I sobbed, over and over again, to the few friends I trusted enough to tell that this would not be a baby whose life would be celebrated. It wasn’t just conjecture on my part, either; all I had to do was look back on the reaction we got when we announced that we were pregnant with number four. We constantly got rude, inappropriate and snarky remarks… usually accompanied by laughter, as if it’s hilarious to joke about someone’s sex life or to tell them they need to stop having children. I didn’t say much at the time, but those comments hurt. They hurt me deeply. And rather than congratulations, we got sneering and scorn.
Don’t you know what causes that?
Man, one of you really needs to get fixed!
Don’t you have any hobbies?
You need to get a TV in your room.
Was this planned?
Are you done now?
You really should stop after this… I mean, enough is enough!
And on and on it went. I knew, with utter and complete certainty, that very few people would offer their sincere congratulations. People would look at us like we were crazy, irresponsible freaks with little self-control. It started after we had Ivy, our third child. She was our first girl, after having two boys. And so we heard all the time how we could “stop” now, because we finally had our girl! As if children are a collector’s set, and we were missing a specific piece — now that we had at least one of each gender, we could be done. With Clara, it was as if we needed to apologize for her existence. This attitude came from everywhere — from family members, friends, complete strangers. When you have a big family, virtually everyone feels entitled to comment on your family size, your reproductive choices and your sex life.
There are some things that I’m slightly nervous about, of course. I’m busy enough with four kids; Lord only knows how it will be once I have five. I’m not looking forward to losing what little sleep I get now. And it sure is nice to have four mostly independent children, who can feed themselves and play together and aren’t reliant on me for every last thing. But I’m also confident in my own abilities as a mother; I know that while having a fifth baby will be difficult, it’s something that I can handle. And I still stand firm by my assertion that the hardest transition wasn’t going from two babies to three, or from three to four… it was going from zero to one. Adjusting to being a mother when I hadn’t been one before was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. With each new baby, I’ve been able to learn a little bit more, and by now? I’m practically an expert.
So my feelings of devastation, whether right or wrong, were almost solely due to my fear of the reactions I would get. I didn’t want to brace myself for people’s cruel comments or thoughtless remarks. I want, so badly, to know that this new life will be cherished and loved and joyously anticipated… if not by the world, then at least by the people who claim to love me.
A big family isn’t for everyone; I know that. I don’t expect people to run out and have a bunch of kids just because that’s the choice my husband and I have made. But if a big family isn’t for you, then try to at least be understanding and accepting of us moms who do have a lot of kids. Don’t make jokes or ask personal questions, no matter how clever or funny you may think they are. Be supportive and be excited for them. And here’s a little tip that applies to all moms: No matter what her situation, there is only one thing to say when a woman tells you that she’s expecting a baby: