Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Question Everybody Seems To Be Asking

I was sitting in church Sunday morning when the pastor asked us to stand up and talk to the people around us. So I turned around and shook hands with the nice man and woman behind me. As we sat down, I could sense the woman craning her body so that she could see the baby in the baby carrier next to my seat. When she caught sight of the blue blanket, I heard her whisper to her husband, " Four boys...I wonder how they ever do that!" This is nothing new for me. People stop in Meijer just to count the boys I have. A woman in Panera once asked me, "Where is the girl?" When I said I didn't have one, but had some awesome boys...she told me to keep trying. As though boys just aren't good enough. Anyway...back to this morning...the woman whispers to her husband as I sit there with my four boys, and then the pastor immediately goes into his announcements, one of which was the daddy/daughter dance coming up. And then he went on to give a fantastic message on CONTENTMENT.

When we told everyone that Everett was a boy, a lot of people said things that were hurtful...but I know they didn't mean it that way. Things like, "Did you do it right this time?" As though, a boy would just be wrong. Some people immediately followed my announcement with, "I am sorry! Maybe it will be a girl next time!" As though, this child didn't count....lets go right on to the next one. There was nothing to be sorry about...I had a healthy gorgeous boy growing in my womb. It was difficult for me. On many levels. Which is largely why we did the gender thing with Silas differently. I didn't want to have to tell people. And I knew that once the baby was here, people would be more gentle with their remarks...because when there is a picture of a real, live, healthy gorgeous newborn baby...you just can't say, "Sorry."

When I was pregnant with Landon I really didn't think I cared if the baby was a boy or girl. I just wanted a healthy baby. But when I found out that he was a boy, I surprised myself by crying. I remember calling my mom from Ohio (where we lived) and telling her I just realized I had no idea what to do with a boy. I had 5 sisters and only one older brother. But very quickly I warmed up to the idea of a boy. And once he was here, I was sold. But Noah was my girl...I just knew it. The pregnancy was different, I had the girl dreams, my intuition was so strong. On the ultrasound day I went into that room just waiting for confirmation of what I already knew. And when she said boy...I was devastated. Please hold your judgement. I had bonded with this baby...as my daughter. Foolishly so, but I had hopes and dreams and felt in my heart that my daughter existed in my womb. And when she didn't...it was as though the daughter I had bonded with disappeared...I was grieving that which never existed. But God spoke a purpose to me for Noah almost audibly. He told me of the joy that Noah would bring to our family. And when the doctor handed me our Noah...she truly handed me Joy...our joy boy. Everett was my faith baby. I prayed and prayed and prayed for a daughter. I prayed from the top of her curly blond hair down to the tips of her painted toes. And God gave us the ray of sunshine that is Everett. The boy who can shine light anywhere he goes. And Silas... as we conceived him, I laid down my desire for a daughter on the alter. Saying simply, my heart is open for whatever is given.

Awhile back I was at Panera (I eat a lot of bagels) with one of my closest girl friends. She had just born her daughter and her two year old son was walking ahead of her. I was traipsing behind her with my (then) three boys in tow. A woman stopped her and looked at her beautiful daughter, and went on and on about how my friend had the perfect family...a boy and a girl. And how great it would be as they grew. And I stood there looking at the ground. I had three kids...and no girl. That woman was simply being kind to my friend. But that is how the world views kids today...like it is some sort of mail order. "I will take two kids...one boy, one girl, no special needs please." But that is not how God created this process. Children are a gift. Something we don't get to choose, or manipulate. People who struggle with infertility...or who live and serve children with special needs on a moment by moment basis...do you think they feel like they fit into the cultural ideal? Do they feel left out and looked over and "out of the club?" Absolutely. With each of these situations you don't grieve what was lost...you grieve what never was, what never will be.

When I had two boys...a ton of my friends had two of the same gender...but on the third, almost all of them had a change in gender. By the fourth child, I only knew four other people with three of the same...and two of them had a gender change on the fourth. I very much felt out of the realm of normalcy, out of the club. And when people make comments about how crazy my life must be or how they would never want my life...it is hurtful, there is no other way of stating it. But wondering why others could have what I so desperately desired was a difficult question. Because if I envied them, it cost me joy over the gifts I had graciously been given. It has to be like I feel when I give my kids a great gift, only to hear them compare and complain about why they couldn't have what their friend got. Ingratitude. Spoiled rotten. Entitlement. And then the guilt comes in.

I didn't want a daughter to dress her up or to paint her nails. It wasn't about the pink. It was about a lifelong desire to share something that I share with my mom and my grandma. It was about so much...such a deep longing that I can't and won't  begin to really share the depth of it here on a public blog. It was about redeeming past hurts. It was about the bond. For as many people that said hurtful things, many said comforting things like the fact that I will have 4 great daughter in laws someday. And I have held out for that. But just last week my colleague was telling me about his four sons and how his wife just can't have as close of a relationship with their families as the moms of the daughters have. And it broke my heart.

This is not about me. I am not blogging about this to get nice comments or any sort of condolences. I don't need condolences. I have had people say to me, "I could never do what you do...I don't know what I would do if I had your life...your life must be insane and chaotic!" All of these are very hurtful as though something is inherently wrong with the life I have been given. Let me say this loudly for all to hear: I DO NOT NEED PITY FOR HAVING FOUR HEALTHY BOYS!" Silas is no less loved or wanted than was Landon. He didn't choose to be fourth, and I don't have to choose to love him...I just do, in the exact same ferocious, lion hearted way I love my first born son.

I am writing this blog because people ask me what its like with four boys. If I struggle. And to be honest, yes. I have (or am trying) to release my dream. I have wanted a daughter my entire life...as far back as I can remember. I have had to grieve the loss of a dream that never will be. She doesn't exist. And it comes up every time I leave the house. Last night at Meijer I told a woman I had 4 boys and she asked if I was done having kids, insinuating that I would try 100 times until I got a girl. Since when is my child bearing plans any business of complete strangers?

I am writing this blog to simply say...think. Think before you talk. Before you say something well meaning but hurtful to anyone outside of the "average" and apparently "normal and perfect" American family. Before you say something moronic to the mom of a grown gay child. To the couple who has no kids (by choice or infertility). To the single 50 year old. To the parents of a special needs child. To the parents of a child who has died. And yes, even to the parents who have all of the same gendered children. You don't know the battles people fight on a daily basis, sometimes a moment by moment basis.  Learn to be sensitive...and remember that sometimes the best counselors, are those that listen and keep their mouths closed.

Life in and of itself is a gift. In any form. Even special needs. Even 4 boys. Especially 4 boys. I don't need pity or applause. My children are a gift. If I lived 200 years ago I would be called blessed among women. But it is different in our "perfect American tradition" where 1.8 kids, one of each gender is the norm and the desire.

I won't buy prom dresses or wedding dresses. I won't see her play with my barbies or wear my Laura Ingalls dresses. I won't pass her my old ponies or watch her face light up when she talks about the boy, and I won't braid her hair. I won't take pictures with her hand next to mine and my moms and Grams (I have a picture like this on my entertainment center, sans any 4th generation female hand). I won't pass down my Grandma's name. And any sadness I have over that sits right next to the incredible gratitude I have for the awesome boys I have been given. It is an enigma. Something you can only understand if you have lived it. Much like so many other things in life. So again, I say...think before you speak. Encourage with your words...don't tear down. Don't judge. And above all...don't pity. For there is absolutely nothing to be sorry for, and so very much to rejoice over.

This topic is so multi-faceted. And so difficult for someone who would struggle to conceive even one child. Or two. I am fully aware that in even discussing this, I could be causing someone pain. That is not my desire. Please know my heart and the gratitude that lives there for what I have been given. This is something I rarely discuss with anyone and while I have shared experiences in this blog...I have not shared a ton of my personal feelings on many things. If you are someone who feels alone in the way that your family does not fit into the "ideal" and you would like to talk more, feel free to message me. To have someone validate what you feel and how that yearning can sit so very closely to your gratitude. Because I know this well. Very, very well.

So much of life we cannot control. It seems most people get what they desire...the husband, the job, the kids. I can only imagine what it must be like when the cancer diagnosis hits, or infertility dominates, or yet another miscarriage happens, or a parent dies unexpectedly, or a child goes through cancer or dies. These are all things we cannot control...and things that don't feel fair...all things that at some point if we are honest, cause us to question (if only for a moment) God's goodness. Satan loves that. He would love to convince us God is not the Giver of Good Gifts. That God is not good, not in control, not in it or over it. But if we give into those questions, we lose our peace. Just like if we envy, we lose our joy. The gifts God has given me are perfect...for me. And those he has given you...although different than mine...perfect for you. Rejoice today in whatever those gifts are...even if they came at a price. The joy is in the journey...not the destination. So next time I am questioned as to "How I do it with 4 boys," I think I will look the person square in the eye and tell them, "I do it with joy."