Y’all, I’ve written this post a thousand times in my head. I’ve struggled with what to share and what to keep in my heart. Ultimately, love won out and I’ve decided to share some intimate moments with you because I think they need to be said. And, I want this sweet baby I’m carrying to read this someday and know just how much he or she was prayed for.
“I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
Those words came from a NICU clinical assistant. I was sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit, holding my 16-day-old son when the clinical assistant entered our room. She was restocking the supplies and nonchalantly asked me how many children we had. “Five,” I answered, smiling down at Luke. “Well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” she quipped. Then she spun on her heel and walked out.
I’ve reflected on that statement many times, but most especially these last few months that we’ve been keeping the world’s greatest secret. When the pregnancy test first came back positive ten weeks ago, I stood in my bathroom, put one hand on my belly and the other to my eyes to wipe away the tears. Tears of absolute joy.
You see, Scott and I have been praying for this baby for quite some time. We knew I wasn’t getting younger (dang it) and we decided to put the future of our family squarely in God’s lap once again. Truthfully, it’s always been there. That’s what happens when you don’t take artificial birth control and instead give God the steering wheel. Our life really isn’t our own, is it? I decided if I gave him control over every other part of my life, but continued to hold the control of my fertility, that I felt like a hypocrite. So, ten years ago, I went off the pill. Every month we pray about whether God is calling us to have more children or not. Yes, every month. It has been the single best decision we’ve ever made in our marriage. It’s harder than hell, but we do it.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard well-meaning friends and family ask, “Luke is your last, right?” I never had a good answer except to say, “You’re asking the wrong person.”
The lesson we learned with Luke was so perfectly simple. It was love, of course. Were the NICU days hard? Hell yeah, they were. Third ring of hell kind of hard. Do I ever, EVER want to relive them? That would be a double “hell no.” But, even though we lived through some of our darkest days in Bay 2 and on the fourth floor of Dell Children’s, the lesson I learned was love.
It has permeated everything. It has touched each of our children. It has changed people. It has softened even the toughest of specialists. It has made friends with complete strangers. Luke personifies love, as do each of our children.
So, yes, Miss Clinical Assistant I did learn my lesson. Babies – even the most difficult, the most fragile, the most vulnerable – are worth it.
Now, while I share the love fest with you, it was also a long road in getting there. The NICU left very real scars. It’s only normal and perfectly natural for a preemie mom to fear another pregnancy and what it may put her and her family through again. Over the last few years, we’ve had some serious heart-to-hearts with Luke’s many specialists – geneticists, OB/GYNs, developmental pediatricians, general surgeons and perinatologists – and each has provided us with amazing wisdom and compassion.
In fact, I shared with one of Luke’s doctors that we were considering more children. “It’s crazy, isn’t it?” I shared. “Not at all, she responded. I think the world needs more Whitaker’s.” Those are the kind of people God put in our lives. They know our history, intimately, yet, they encouraged us to not give up so quickly on love. I’m so grateful they did.
For four years I’ve sorted through the waterfall of varied emotions: fear, anxiety, hope, joy, worry and love. And eventually love won. I have never, with any of my previous pregnancies, ever felt this kind of peace before. I believe that is solely God’s grace.
I hope you can feel my joy. It is undeniable. I don’t want to spend these nine months in fear. Pregnancy is not to be feared, it is to be celebrated. And I can honestly say that I am cherishing every moment. Yes, even the ones when I want to hurl. That permanent grin you see on my face? It comes from somewhere beyond my full understanding. It comes from confidence in knowing that everything will be okay. And even if it’s not okay, it will be.
The kids were the first people to know and oh y’all. I’ve never seen so much jumping, screaming and happiness. We are still riding that wave. After we told them (via the balloons above), we all walked outside on a beautiful Friday night, said a prayer and released the balloons. It was perfect. You know, there was fighting over whose balloon was going faster, who actually *released* it and why they had to release it. Same-same.
And as we turned to walk back into the house, John Paul looked up at me and said, “That’s so awesome that you’re having a baby, Mom.” I smiled and then he finished with, “We should have 12 more.”
Kids. What’s not to love?!
St. Gerard, pray for us!