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Is it worth it?

December 18th, 2003 · 3 Comments

Last night Ted and I were discussing his blog post, part of a weblog dialogue on having babies , about the choices and changes of having children. Then we headed upstairs for bed. I had just gotten into the tub, relaxing and reaching for the soap, when Ted heard one of the girls get up. It was our three-year-old, Michaela, who, in her coughing, had thrown up all over her pillows, sheets and pajamas. Together the two of us cleaned her up and got her bed ready for further sleep. I gave her my own pillow and took a guest one for myself. We tucked her back into bed. Then I got back in the tub, water still somehow warm, and finished the interrupted bath.

With three sick kids, scenes like these have been a bit common at our house recently. Elisabeth, the one year old, has spent much of the past month being fussy and cranky with her ear infections. Some days all I can do is hold her; she’ll cry if I try to put her down or do anything else. Even five year old Abigail complains and whines when she’s tired. My arms have been filled with ill children. There are times when the changes and responsibilities that come with parenthood, like cleaning up vomit after midnight, aren’t so pleasant.

Ted’s life has changed. But I could argue my life has changed more. I did want to be able to focus on being a mom so I planned on staying at home for a while and I never pursued a career intensely. How I spend my days has changed: I used to go to an office too, and for a while I even worked in a laboratory, but now I do my experiments and paper work at home. With three little ones now though my life is 24/7 children. My social life has changed. My body has changed.

And most of all, who I am has changed. A friend of mine has just had her first baby; reading her recent email reminded me of those early days with Abigail. I remember how anxious I was, how little I understood about caring for a baby. Sure I’d read a bunch of books, even done some babysitting, but it was nothing like having my own infant, being up with her in the middle of the night, trying to calm her crying. Through the past five years, there are a lot of things I’ve had to let go, saying goodbye for a season to other things I might like to be doing, ways I’ve had to simplify. I find myself continually making choices about priorities, deciding what’s truly important to me. I’d be doing that anyway, I suppose, but the choices seem more intense with children.

I like to think I’ve discovered a lot about myself, who I am. I’ve had to take some good long looks in the mirror, even at 3 am, seeing pride and things I need to do differently, ways I needed to change. And I’ve also learned how little I can control life. Sure, you can do your best to eat and exercise right during pregnancy, but you have no control on who it is who will be born from your belly, which kind of kid will be yours. I like to think too that I’ve learned about love. That I’ve learned a little bit about laying my life down and letting go. Trusting people and trusting God. I think I’ve changed in many ways. But I still have a lot to learn.

And I’ve discovered too that despite much of my life changing, who I am has only become clearer and stronger through these children. I’m not the same woman who was pregnant with Abigail six Christmases ago. I’m not even the same Julie who brought baby Elisabeth home from the hospital last year or the same mom who made Michaela a pink hippo cake a couple months ago. But I’m glad and grateful for the way the children are changing me.

Most of all though I am grateful for the chance to have children. For a while Ted and I didn’t know if we could have any of our own. I still remember the horror and sorrow of sitting in the infertility clinic waiting room, wondering if we would ever be allowed to hit the jackpot on the ovulation lottery game we were playing, using doctors and drugs to better our odds. Call it the Clomid casino: anything for a positive pregnancy test.

I am grateful God decided to give us these children. That Someone trusted us with these three little girls. And how Ted and I have the power and potential as parents to shape our daughters. How we can help direct their hearts, feed their minds and nuture their souls. As Ted wrote in his blog post, no computer software or career lasts as long as people. Relationships are the only lasting investment. So if I am learning to pour my life into theirs, in little ways, a drop or two at a time, it’s a wise way to spend my days. And I like to think that in somehow, in our days as a family together, in these little ways Ted and I can help shape the world a little through raising these girls.

Our marriage has changed too. No more doing whatever we want to do when we want to. Of course, it’s not like we were ever into the club scene or concerts or even made it to the movies that often. It’s been a struggle at times; we’ve gotten stressed at each other and the children in our weariness and weaknesses. And there are moments when we wish we could have some instant space to ourselves, without having to buy or borrow babysitting. Squeezing in time together late at night, adjusting to the changes and interruptions of the season, helping each other as parents, sharing the work and the joys, we find ourselves closer than in our pre-kid years of marriage (and we’re probably even having more fun! )

Getting back into the tub last night, I thought about Ted’s post. While I washed my body, with its mementos of motherhood, I could hear Michaela still coughing and I thought about what it’s like to live this life with children. A life of cleaning up vomit at midnight, dirty diapers and sticky spots on the floor. A life where every moment can be interrupted and there are no guarantees for what will happen next, what changes may come tomorrow.

Is it worth it? I asked myself, slipping back into the bath. Is it worth it, this life as a mom, all the changes for children?

You bet your life – actually I have bet my life – it’s worth it.

Tags: family

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 tania // Dec 18, 2003 at 9:42 pm

    i’ve been thinking alot about that recently.i walked around stanford mall today and looked only at kid’s stores. i looked at Banana Republic wistfully but could not generate an ounce of interest to go in. ( i am with you on fleece). i am always hoarding her favorite food off my plate. am i child-centered? or eternity centered? or have i found the only thing worth investing in?

  • 2 Tamara // Dec 19, 2003 at 11:39 am

    That post of Ted’s is actually the one my husband sent to me. We were chatting about it over IM.

    I think a lot of parents are people-centered. Having children, for me, is embracing life and it’s cycles. I get to have to have one, two, three childhoods in addition to my own. I get to see it all again from another angle. I get to connect with my mother, and father, and grandparents and understand them in a way I wouldn’t otherwise.

    The first thing I did after a few months with my first son was go to my Mom and tell her she was amazing.

  • 3 Seedlings & Sprouts // Dec 20, 2003 at 10:48 pm

    More blogging about having babies

    The wonders of dialoguing via weblogging… It’s been fun for me to look at the other postings and comments, that began with Chris Winter’s original one on having babies. If you’re interested, go back to the trunk of the tree,…