The Subsequent Child

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I was chatting with two college-aged siblings while picking up my children from the nursery after church on Sunday. One of them said, “Parents love the first child more.” It reminded me of a discovery I had shortly after the birth of my second child: The love I have for these two boys is different.

We spent four years struggling to conceive. In that time, we had a miscarriage, I had surgery and several treatment regimens with a fertility clinic. Then, when we had success with IVF, the pregnancy itself was complicated, ending at just 33 weeks with a 3 pound baby in the NICU. When Silas finally arrived after such a long and difficult road it was like being rescued after spending weeks on a life raft. Silas was that much needed drink of water which fills you with life again. He was the medicine to restore my happiness.

The possibility of an “Emerson” was a surprise since we never envisioned being able to afford a second IVF treatment. Frankly, we were insanely fortunate to have my insurance cover Silas’ IVF cycle and I no longer held that job. We had the shock of a lifetime when someone left us money to try for another child. So we tried IVF again and it worked on the first try. That was followed by a stunningly healthy pregnancy. As the perinatal doctor said, we had David and were now having Goliath. And there it was again. Love. Instant before you even meet love. (By the way, I am still amazed at how their individual personalities were apparent even before they were born!) Emerson was like a beautiful flower, blooming in a wonderful garden, causing me to slow down to appreciate him and every other gift in my life.

I spent years believing I would never be able to have children. Now, in spite of the challenges and fear of failure I face as the mother of two boys, I can hardly imagine or remember what my life was like without them. This was meant to be. Always.

A note to that subsequent child for when you ask why there are fewer pictures of you:

First, because it is hard to be everything to two people and your mommy is pooped. Some days it is simply impossible and I have to choose whose present need is greater. Other days, you tag team me, hardly leaving me with time to go to the bathroom. Sometimes even going to the bathroom with you on my lap. And that is okay because I know it won’t last forever. Before I know it, your friends, your college, your work, your own family will come before the mommy you so consistently need today.

Second, it’s sort of like the footprints poem where God tells you He was carrying you where you only see one set of footprints. There simply is no more “downtime.” Every moment I could have been behind that camera snapping pictures of all the wonderful, adorable things you do is a moment I chose to leave the camera up on the shelf and just be with you.

Third, I will admit, there are fewer pictures of you but there are some pictures. That is because the days move by with such an astonishing pace that I am afraid I won’t remember these brief and beautiful moments. I know our hearts will remember but I want something our eyes can devour. I want you to have something to look back on to raise your heart’s memory to the surface like a flower bursting through the soil! The memory on your heart is so you will walk out into the world and be prepared to share love no matter what comes your way. The visual memory is to remind you, even when I am gone, that you have received love as well. My hair has gone gray filling you up with all my love. Take it and make the world bright.

Last, but not least, I refuse to concede that I love you any less than your sibling. The subsequent child (or children) has the good fortune of having a wiser mother. She now knows she can not do it all.  She knows she will fail. She knows you will not only survive but will thrive. She knows that, just as each child has a different personality, so is the love she has for them. It is different. Not more. Not less. Simply and elegantly and beautifully different. Look into your hearts, my dear children, it is there and not in my written word or snapshot that you will know I love you.

 

My Umbrellas, My Messy Beautiful Umbrellas

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After a recent weekend of spending time with old and new friends, I was reflecting during our church service about how one’s view of something changes as you mature. As a child, my neighborhood was where I played, lived and went to school. What I remember are the mechanics of our daily routines. There wasn’t much depth to what I saw, just the outer layer of things. -Just the flowers, grass and trees if you will. It was fun but it lacked any depth. As an adult, I see my neighborhood as something much more powerful. I see the quality of the people in it. How they live and work, strive and struggle, play and love. In church, I get to know that neighbor who I used to only see jogging by my house. I learn how he has been fighting cancer. No longer a stranger, I come to celebrate his victory over it. I come to know the other mothers in the neighborhood. Thank God, I have come to know the other mothers in the neighborhood. I come to love them as we share our joys and sorrows, our victories and defeats. We carry casseroles and tissues and laughter to each other through good times and bad. Our children play together. They learn together. They grow together. These people are the soil and air my family will grow among and I know we will thrive. Now, as an adult and mother, I notice not just the flowers, grass and trees but also the water, soil and air. I am fortunate. Very fortunate. And yet, I realize, my growth in awareness is still just a mere droplet compared to what God has in store for me. As I write, this song speaks to me: As It Is In Heaven – Matt Maher. Thank you, my friends and family, for being my water, my air, my soil… My umbrellas through the storms of life. 

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