Once upon a time, I planned to have eight children. Growing up as the oldest of six had been fun, but I figured a couple more kids would only increase the fun. With eight I could have equal numbers of boys and girls and still have them in pairs so each would have a special sibling friend. I even plotted the order: two boys, two girls, two boys, then two more girls to round out the octave.
Bryan was all for it. Of course, we knew that we would welcome as many kids as God chose to send us, and not limit it to eight, but we figured we had a pretty good chance of making it to eight at least, starting as we were at the tender ages of 22 and 20. We warned his parents that we expected our family to be big - they even bought a larger ski condo than originally planned so that it could lodge all our potential children - and my parents needed no warning, having planned themselves to try for at least eight kids before my mom's age (she was almost 42 when my youngest brother was born) brought them up short at six.
As you well know if you read here, I don't expect to have eight children anymore. I would still be thrilled by it, and with God anything is possible. But in the cause of sanity I've let go of planning on it. There's dreaming big, and then there's plain nuttiness.
The only part of my original plan onto which I still hold tightly is that part that, as it turns out, is the only part that matters: welcoming as many children as God chooses to send us. And if "as many as" turns out to mean "as few as" in our case, well, so be it.
Since I wrote the MfBW2 (Manifesto for Baby Wait #2), I've been praying and meditating regularly on the topic of future children: if/when. I need no extraordinary dose of self-awareness to realize that I would be happy to have more children; my instinctive awareness of motherhood as my primary vocation is part of what made BW1 so difficult for me. At the same time, waiting for and finally receiving Camilla has made me acutely aware that even one child is a free, miraculous gift. In one child, I have already received blessings far beyond what I deserve.
When we were childless I sometimes begged God for a child. There is certainly no shame in doing so; it is a long and proud tradition. But when I listened most carefully I felt God calling me, personally, to make a more difficult prayer: that He might have his perfect will in this area of my life. I was not always able to find the courage to pray this prayer, but by grace sometimes I did.
I've mentioned before that, the first time around, I never felt an assurance that I would eventually have a biological child, but did have a sense that God was promising me that the fulfillment of my vocation would come someday. It was just not up to me to decide when or how. Then I got pregnant and was overwhelmed by gratitude and joy.
The gratitude and joy continue, but as my beloved daughter grows into a toddler I realize how wonderful it would be to have another baby to kiss and snuggle and love. I think ahead to the coming decades and hope that our house will be crowded, that we will not be able to count our grandchildren on two hands, that we will have so many children that parenting them will take up all the empty corners of our hearts and minds and lives.
I have no idea if this will happen. In the past I would sometimes be afraid of childlessness, but when I thought about it prayerfully and quietly I would somehow *know* that I need not be afraid of that. I do not have fear of Camilla being our only child - a blessing this is, since I know from whence fear comes - but neither do I have any assurance that she will not be. I feel that I am being called not to beg for another child, but to embrace completely that prayer that I accepted so imperfectly the first time around: Thy Will Be Done.
Fortunately, a prayer for more grace is a prayer that is always answered, and by the beauty of that truth I stand where I do today: shockingly, blessedly peaceful in my circumstances. I could find myself pregnant at the end of this very month; I could accompany an only child to her high school graduation sixteen years from now. It matters little what happens. What matters is that God's plan is always better than anything I could have designed myself. The deeper I enter into my realization of this truth, the more I become the person He intends to me to be. It is hardly ever easy but what I have learned and continue to learn - by grace, through joy, and by my own failings, through sorrow - is that it is, always and forever, far, far better than the alternative.