Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The gift of children

The more I think about it, the more I am amazed by the awesome, incredible gift of children. If He wanted, God could make us all out of air. If He wanted, he could make us grow from seed like plants. If He decided so, we could be born right into adulthood, or have a childhood too short to create any substantial memories.

But no. He chose to give us this fascinating, wondrous, blessed way of children conceived, shaped, gently and carefully nurtured in their mother's womb. He chose to give us, mothers, the gift of babies and children - not for a month, not for a year, but for a beautiful, ever-changing, long yet fleeting season.

And without even knowing it, those little ones touch lives. They bring smiles and lots of joy to anyone who sees them - parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. A miracle! I will never forget how I saw Shira, who just emerged from my womb and was suddenly out - breathing, moving, crying. My first words were, "this cannot be!"
(Shira's hand - so tiny and precious. It looks like she's trying to reach towards something.)

Whether you have children yourself or not, it's a blessing and privilege to meet children in this world, to know children, to be their friend and let their little lives touch yours. It's an even greater gift to be able to bear children - a gift not every woman will have, and for those of us who were so blessed to have it, it's not forever and will only last a season in our lives - perhaps ten years, perhaps twenty, but it will pass.

Even though I'm young, and can hopefully have many more children if that is God's will, I try to imagine what a mother must feel as she approaches the final years of this beautiful, incredibly rich and fruitful season in her life. There must be a bittersweet finality in knowing that though you've raised a lovely family, no more children of your womb will be added to it. Of course, there are always miracles (like our Mother Sarah, who gave birth to Yitzhak at the age of ninety), and there's the joyful expectation of grandchildren, but what must it feel like to know that never again you will feel a child moving within your body; never again you will hold your baby who has just entered this world, never again you will melt at the sight of your child's first smile!

Think about reading a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book, approaching the end of it, and knowing that you can never read it again. Wouldn't it make you treasure every page?

I've never met a mother to many grown children who looks at her family and says, "I wish I didn't have my fifth, sixth and seventh children". But I know more than a few older couples who wish they could have had another child, or even, tragically, couples who wish they had known it would soon be too late - before it was too late.

What am I trying to say? Just that every moment spent with each and every dear child, and indeed, with any of our loved ones, is a treasured gift that will never return. Relationships filled with love are of the few things that are truly important here in this path we walk upon earth.


Anonymous said...

Kids ARE great. It is amazing how they are immediately little people with their own distinctive personalities -- and so much potential. Though childless (by choice) myself, I enjoy the children I know and well remember the happiness of my own childhood.

But I know people who have regretted having children. It's just that it is not considered socially acceptable to say so. Having children is definitely not the right decision for everyone.

-- Pendragon

Persuaded said...

i am nearing that time when it will soon be impossible for me to have any more children and it is indeed a difficult life transition. i would have loved to have many many more little ones, however circumstances have prevented it. but still i trust the Lord♥

Heather said...

Anna~ It is all so true. Sometimes it is hard to be in the moment with our children when life gets busy and rushed. But the floor will still need to be mopped tomorrow and the laundry can wait. It is a good reminder to cherish the time when they are little while we can.

Anonymous said...

I think I am still young 39 but the world makes me think that I am too old for another. I have two daughters 15 and 12...

I am wondering how old is too old. I know I should be leaving this to the Lord and I guess I am now thinking my daughters are to old now why start all over?

My mom had my sister at 47 years old and I see how hard it has been on her although she has Never complained and loves my sister sister is 18 and my mom is 65.

I know many people think my sister is my daughter?

I know that I should not be worried about this because God is incontrol...I just wish I knew what to do because I would love to have a few more....


Anonymous said...

I am nearing my late thirties so I guess I will soon be in the category of those who can no longer bear children.

It is bittersweet because for me it means I'm aging. I will no longer be a young, fertile woman. It is not bittersweet because I yearn for another pregnancy; I feel my cup has runneth over in that category, and really doubt that in a decade or two I will regret not pushing myself to have another baby.

I do know some older women who regret not having more children (usually they say they should have had 'just one more'). I think it's often a case of nostalgia erasing the hectic, tough parts of childbearing. I am pretty sure that if those same women were given the chance to relive a week in their life, they would remember the reasons they decided to limit their family size. (Often so they would have the energy and time to concentrate on the kids they did have. Or so mayhem would not reign on their home. Or so there would be enough money to live respectably. All good reasons).

In my twenties and early thirties, I would just hold or smell a little baby's fresh baby smell and I would feel like I want another of my own. I no longer feel like that....they're wonderful, but I don't want another, thank you.

I am so happy my littlest is nearing three. We can all go out as a family again, and I'm not stuck at home with a nursing, sleeping baby (I found it very hard to take babies on most trips or even many outings). I can sleep through most of the night! I have time to do so many things with my older kids - and with my little one. I have time to myself. I really feel a new sense of freedom.
The end of childbearing years need not be depressing.

Finally, I agree with Pendragon that there are people out there (a minority) who regret having kids, but most would die before admitting it.

Tracy said...

The transition is a most difficult one, from being a young mother of little children to being an older mother, who knows that she won't give birth ever again. Though I have four beautiful, healthy children, I long for more, though it is not meant to be. I know plenty of women my age (38) who can and do have children, but I've had medical complications which makes it impossible.

I love every minute that I spend with my children. The moments are fleeting, for certain. I'm so thankful that I didn't heed the world and wait to marry later than the tender age of 18. Had I done so, I may have missed out on being a mother altogether as I gave birth for the last time at 28.

Anonymous said...

Children are a blessing and I've wanted to be a mother ever since I was a young girl. Alas, I am unable to have children. It kills me to know that I won't ever have the experience you describe and while there would be a bittersweet feeling for those nearing the end of their fertile years, for those of us who are completely unable to have our own, it is more bitter.
When you write "never again will you feel a child moving within your body", those of us who have never experienced this cringe with longing and hope.
So for those who have five, six or more (or less!) children and are upset at the thought of never having another, please remember the women in your midst who consider you blessed beyond measure as they cannot have their own. Not everyone who dreams of children is fortunate to have them.

the momma said...

My oldest is 22, youngest is 3 months and I am at that very pplace - knowing there will be no more children growing within me. No more babies fresh from the womb to hold.
It IS a sad place to be.

Enjoy your precious little one!

Anonymous said...

Oh Anna, it's all so true. And it continues on into childhood. After my oldest son gets home from a day in the first grade, and we cuddle for a bit on the couch, I am often struck by the fact that soon, very very soon, he won't want me to hold and stroke him anymore. There will be a time when he decides not to share the story of his day with me. And even though I now have 5 children, my newest one not 7 weeks old yet, I can almost not stand the sadness that my own children growing can bring me.

Time moves impossibly fast, and while I know only God knows where we are all going, I can't help but quietly beg for us all to be together always. Isn't that what being a mother is?

Great post, Anna.


Country Mouse said...

What a Beautiful article. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us, it is truly inspiring.
It is a reminder to us that are having a rough day with our young ones, to enjoy this season of our life, this is just a day, and days pass quickly. I am currently expecting baby number three, it is our third child in three years, and there are many days I forget why we decided to trust God! This article has helped to remind me ;)

jAne said...

We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, AnnaT. Such a precious photo of Shira's hand. So tiny and perfect. Humbling to know our great and wonderful God formed every wee bit of her. What a delight.


Elizabeth said...

I have been blessed with four children and wish I could have had more.
Due to worsening ill-health, this has not been possible :-(

It was a very poignant moment when having an abdominal ultrasound a few weeks ago, I saw my empty womb on the screen - every other time I have had a scan, there has been a child growing there......

Enjoy precious Shira, and enjoy your childbearing years, Anna ! May you be richly blessed with young ones !

Sally said...

It seems I have to re-sign up if I don't post within a certain amount of time. This pertains to my response as a nice introduction and illustration.

I had to try 4 times to decipher the "crazy" letters that you have to type in. The aging process is a real thing.

I am 47. My eyesight isn't what it once was. My energy isn't NEARLY what it once was. I have arthritis in my knees and would have a hard time doing the crouching and crawling around I did with my first-born 20 years ago. The thought of having another baby (I'm soon to be post-menopausal, anyhow) frightens me!

I'm not an old woman, but I'm ready for a new phase of life. Soon my oldest will be finding Mr. Right (current bf may be the one) and beginning her own family and then I can enjoy grandbabies!

However, I do notice that when I go to school events for my youngest that I tear up every time becaue I know this is the last time for these things.

The season is coming to an end, but it's not over - and there's a new, exciting season around the corner!

Sheri said...

Anna, my mom and I were just talking about these precious moments as "young mothers." She said that she enjoyed every season (still does!), but the years when we were little, were extra special. Oh may we treasure these gifts from the Lord, taking nothing for granted.

Jessica said...

I just love babies' tiny little hands! What a sweet picture of Shira's. :-) I can't wait until September when our second little boy will be born, Lord willing!

CappuccinoLife said...

Beautiful thoughts!

I recently lost a baby, never saw him alive on u/s. Before that I had 1.5 years of infertility after my third child. That really brought home to me how much I need to treasure the ones I have. I will certainly be sad when this chapter of my life closes. Hopefully not for another decade or so!

I do know two people who stated they wished they'd not had any more than 1 child. Both were horrid, disturbed women who said it multiple times in front of their younger children. :( Truly, the problems they had were not that they had too many children. One of those women was my grandmother. She may not have deserved children, she may have regretted having them. But my mom is a gift from God no matter what her mother thought about it.

Anonymous said...

I am in my late 30s, but it hasn't occurred to me that children are no longer an option. It certainly becomes less likely as time passes (a fact I am comfortable with), but I hardly think we 30-somethings are over the hill in reproductie terms.

I assume three things: (a) You can't really write off biological childbearing until menopause. I have plenty of peers starting families now, and a colleague who just had twins at age 52 (presumably with the assistance of fertility drugs).
(2) Even if you can't conceive your own child, there are other options worth exploring such as adoption.
(3) Given longer life spans and better health until older age, I am comfortable with becoming a parent even at age 50 or so.

Anonymous said...

Er, that last comment about becoming an older parent, was from me, Pendragon.

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand when people get all weepy at seeing their babies grow. I feel proud and happy, and I enjoy my children more and more the older they get.

I also think there is a time and season for everything. As long as things progress well, and everybody is healthy, the end of your children's babyhood is a good thing, it's the beginning of a new chapter, not the final page of a book. Same for the end of a woman's fertile years.

Karen said...

I guess I will probably look back on it with longing, but I really dislike the preschool years. My preschooler is whiny, bossy, and hates to share. I go through this with her over and over! But I know it's just a phaze. However, my toddler and 5 month old are wonderful. I do wish I had a clean house and more sleep, but, I'd rather have them. Messes, sleepless nights, bossiness and all. I just wish we could go from 3 to 7 lol.