My “baby” is really not much of a baby. While he isn’t yet three, he’s larger than any of my other kids at this age and just wants to be one of the big kids. He’s almost out of diapers (hallelujah), feeds himself at every meal and is even starting to put away his laundry just like his siblings. He’s taking steps towards independence and at each stage I don’t know whether to celebrate or cry. Or maybe both.
He’s my last baby. Maybe.
And this is what makes it so hard. After ten years of diapers and middle of the night feedings and “will this fever go down or should we go to the ER” questions, my baby days are coming to an end. I think.
If I knew this was the end, I would get rid of all the baby clothes and supplies. I would rest easy knowing the midnight feedings are never coming back to haunt me. I would stop reading up on new guidelines on infant feeding and sleep recommendations. I would feel secure that we could plan family vacations a year from now or know youth sport schedules aren’t going to conflict with morning nap times. I would grieve that that special stage of my life is over. I would shut the door on this baby time. I would celebrate a job well done. I would move on.
But I just don’t know. When I’ve been tempted to cry while packing up the tiny onesies, I’ve reminded myself that I have no idea what this family could end up looking like. I didn’t plan for this sixth child. Or the fifth. Or the fourth. After the adoption of our oldest, I made peace with the reality that children would not come easily for us, so maybe one child was it. But that wasn’t God’s plan for our family. As I’ve seen this beauty unfold, I have had to reconcile my desire for control with my understanding that my plan is inferior to whatever God might have for us. I am so incredibly thankful his dreams for our family were bigger than mine.
I’ve known many women who felt confident they were done having kids at a certain point. It might have been an age they felt was a good cut-off, or they reached their max capacity for chaos with a certain number of children. Whatever it was, they felt secure in their decision to not add more children to their family. It’s been a long time since I actively felt a DESIRE to have more children, but I’ve just never felt finished either.
It could be that this last baby is THE last baby. It could be that ten years from now, we’ll be adding a 9-year-old to our family. Because we are people who love adoption and foster care, the door just never feels closed. And that uncertainty makes me a little crazy. I want to know the end of the story, and that desire means I sometimes want to just say, “We’re done.” That would be definite. That would feel like control.
But then I remember one year ago, the phone call that changed our world. There was a baby. It was a brother. And we said, “Yes.” Wholeheartedly, without reservation, knowing the chaos and struggles that could define the next year of our lives. The tubs of baby clothes and supplies were dragged out of storage. The beds rearranged. The kids prepared. And then the baby didn’t come.
We were heartbroken and it lead us down a path of advocacy we didn’t expect. We’ve seen beautiful outcomes from that journey, both for the baby we weren’t allowed to parent (who does now live with a sibling even if it isn’t our child) and for other foster and adoptive families who are now able to more easily advocate for their brothers and sisters to be kept together. Change was made, a path was forged through that bureaucracy for others to follow and while it has been a blessing to those who needed this change, it was and it is painful for us.
The door is still open. While I can control my own body (. . . mostly), I can’t control what siblings of my children enter the world. I can’t just decide to close that door for them. I can’t decide what laws will be passed, what decisions caseworkers will make, what the biological parents of my children will want.
So I keep the door open. It is painfully open. Open to potential heartbreak and loss and beauty and redemption. Just like it is for anybody who isn’t sure this is their last baby. We aren’t guaranteed outcomes for our kids, but we have to trust God can see them. I fully believe His plan is best, but this desire for control, to avoid heartache– it’s very real. It means I live in the tension of being present in this moment with this family and knowing it could all change. Or it could never change. Contentment has to be my pursuit no matter what.
I have a beautiful family. I have a wonderful baby. If he is my last, he was the perfect last baby– sweet and funny and charming. I don’t know the ending of this story and that’s hard. But I can be faithful today to love these kids with an open hand, knowing their story isn’t mine to write. And if God wants to add more children to this open hand of mine, I want to be joyfully willing to take whatever risks that might entail.