From 2009 to 2011, I had a baby a year. I was a regular human factory, producing the next generation at an alarming rate. I called it the band-aid approach – we ripped that band-aid right off and had all three before the first one turned three and reality (i.e. the toddler years) set in. Genius, right?
There are some things I really do love about the way we’ve done this, like I only had to change six years worth of diapers. I mean, I could have stretched that out for a good nine to twelve years, right? I almost never have clothes sitting around in a tub somewhere. They go right down the line from one kid to the next. The boys like the same toys, watch the same shows, and occasionally they even play well together. In those respects, life is pretty dandy.
On the other hand, I was pregnant and/or breastfeeding for four and a half years straight. I liked certain parts of pregnancy - the dancing belly was pretty awesome, and my husband was super nice about running out for my favorite treats - but mostly the whole experience just made me tired. Not so bad the first time through when I could nap regularly, but the next two rounds were…rough. As it turns out, sleep is kind of a thing for me. I really, really, REALLY like it. And I really, really, REALLY suck as a person when I don’t get enough of it. I mean really. My Facebook statuses from those years pop up daily in my “memories” and they are ALL about sleep.
“Why won’t he sleep?”
“Ugh…up twelve times last night. Need coffee.”
“Whoo hoo! They’re asleep. Wait…oops, never mind.”
“Crap, they’re asleep. At the wrong time. And now they’ll never sleep again.”
Honestly, it’s amazing that I have any “friends” left at all.
So, I was tired. And hip deep in tiny people. And feeling so, so alone. Getting out required juggling the nap schedule and the feeding schedule and then wrangling toddlers while wearing a baby. Staying in meant I was alone, and the sole source of entertainment for three people with varying degrees of fluency in the English language. I let them watch too much TV, we treated ourselves to doughnuts way too often, I was too short-tempered, I was the worst housewife, a lazy cook, and I was fairly certain that no one in the history of ever was doing it as badly as I was.
But into that mess, came God, again and again. He sent nectar from Heaven (otherwise known as Starbucks) delivered by Angels (the friends who put up with all that Facebook whining). Sometimes those Angels brought their tiny people and stayed for a visit and said “me too” to all the hard things. One awesome Angel always had a hilarious story to prove that she was clearly a worse mom than I was. Sometimes, no one knocked at the door, but His quiet voice in my head would say, “Take the day off today.” And I would. I would set aside all those expectations and “shoulds” and just play. Those were always the best days. There is so much fun and magic in escaping grown-up life and returning to childhood for even just a day. Play-doh dinosaurs, forts and flashlights, bubbles...it’s all magic.
Once, while seeking out verses to encourage myself in being a gentler parent, I found Isaiah 40:11:
“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
And carries them close to his heart;
He gently leads those that have young.”
“He gently leads those that have young.” Hey, that’s me! I have young. So many young. He sees me. He cares about me. He has raised me up and prepared me for this. And now, when I am willing to follow, He will gently lead me through it. He will care for me in it. He will send me friends to travel with, mentors to light the path, and sustenance (COFFEE) to carry me through. He has not left me alone in my mess, but comes to me again and again, through friends, His word, the quiet voice in my heart and mind, and in so many other ways. It’s easy to miss if I’m not careful. Sometimes, I forget and start to believe all those lies about being alone and the worst. But He never stops trying to get my attention, and when I look up, His love and care are so abundantly obvious that it takes my breath away.
Look up, my friends! You are being loved. Do you feel it?
Jenn is a book-reading, quietly nerdy introvert who has, one choice at a time, managed to completely surround herself with chaos. Wife to one incredible man, and homeschooling-mama to three crazy-awesome boys, life is almost never quiet...but in each day there are moments - brief pauses in the crazy - and it is there that she finds God. He is in a quiet breeze through the trees, in a one-on-one conversation, in a lingering glance at a sleeping child's face. It is enough.