Ever since I was a young girl, I knew I wanted to be a mom. I also knew I wanted a lot of kids. Like. A loooot. Mothering instincts have always come naturally to me. Younger children were drawn to me and I enjoyed babysitting. In fact, I took babysitting so seriously that I created a “Babysitting Kit” full of fun activities!
I am the oldest of 5 children. Hustle and bustle was the name of the game in my house growing up. Dinner was loud, but fun. There was never a lack of playmates. I love looking at family photos and seeing how large my family is.
In college, I remember telling a friend that I wanted 15 kids. I was only half-joking. When Matt and I started dating, children were an important part of the conversation. I wanted a large family and Matt understood my dream.
Four years into marriage I had a baby.
Holy moly was my world turned upside down.
When she was 4 months old, I returned to work and that is when I began recognizing that I am a medium-low capacity momma. Capacity is the physical and emotional energy you have. It also may indicate how many balls you can juggle before it’s too much. By the end of the work day, there was hardly anything left for my little family.
When Rilyn was an active 23 month old, I gave birth to Landon. From the beginning, he had issues nursing and it didn’t help that Rilyn knew she could get away with anything when mommy was trying to nurse. At 4 months old he fell below his birth weight and was labeled “failure to thrive”. Between this and the toll pregnancy had on my hormones, I found myself deep into the baby blues. So much so, that it took me nearly two years and trying different medications before my emotional and mental health was normal again.
Walking through that tough season was incredibly hard on my marriage and my motherhood. I am so grateful to have had a husband who stood by my side through the ups and downs. He understood this was not normal for me and fought for me and our family when I couldn’t.
Because of all of this and after a lot of prayer, Matt and I made the decision that, at least for the foreseeable future, we will not be adding to our family via pregnancy.
Enter grief for the loss of a dream.
Experiencing the loss of your family dream can look a lot of different ways. Maybe it was the dream of one boy and one girl and three boys later, you’ve decided not to try a fourth time for that girl. Maybe like me, for unforeseen personal reasons, you have made the choice not to get pregnant again. Or maybe you’ve experienced infertility or the unimaginable loss of a child.
It’s ok to grieve the family you always dreamt of.
While I know and trust that we have made the right decision for our family, I have still had to grieve the loss of what I always dreamed my family would look like. When we make a decision that is best for our family, it does not take away the loss of our dreams. So you and I have to allow ourselves to grieve but also not lose out on the moment of now. We can’t let what we don’t have cripple us or define us.
Just yesterday, I was going between anger with God and grief yet again as a friend with 6 children posted family photos. This is what I dreamed my family would look like. While it could be easy to look at another mom with more children and feel inadequate, I can’t allow Satan to steal away the joy of my family and you can’t either. Regardless of whether your tendency is to shut down emotionally or dwell in your emotions, you can’t fall into the trap of not being the woman your family needs while walking through the grief.
Recently, the longing and grief were weighing heavily on me and I finally shared what was on my heart with a friend of mine. Wouldn’t you know, I heard the words, “Me too!” What a reminder that none of us are alone in this journey of motherhood. There are other moms who may have a different story, but understand the emotions.
In our book, Better Together, my mom writes, “Sometimes just having someone to listen can make all the difference in the world. Most women long to be heard more than to have their problems fixed. When we can be a safe person for a friend to be real and raw without judgment, we give them an incredible gift.”
Caring for others allows us to more easily share with others because we know that we all go through hard times. Taking off our masks is an important part of taking friendship to a deeper level.
So here I am, mask removed. Letting you know, “Me too!”
3 thoughts on “To The Mom Whose Family Doesn’t Look Like What She Imagined”
I always knew I wanted a big family. Cheaper by the Dozen? Sign me up! I just always assumed I’d have a good mix of boys and girls. My dad is one of six, and there are 3 boys and 3 girls. I am one of four, and there are 2 boys and 2 girls.
I have four boys. And we had them in five years.
By the fourth, my patience had waned and my body just needed to rest and recover. We knew that if we wanted another child, it wouldn’t be for a long time. And we felt like it just wouldn’t be fair to have a huge gap when these four would be so close in age and then just have another one years down the road. And, if we’re being honest, we knew that we didn’t just want another child. We wanted a girl.
We decided no more kids for us. And it has given us such peace and new joy to just love our sons without any anticipation over what a new child “might” be. It’s totally helped me embrace being a boy mom! And I know this was the role I was meant to have. But there will always be a part of me that wonders what it would have been like to raise a daughter.
Oh wow! Some of the same feelings and situations here (“me too!) I’m the oldest of 5 and always thought I’d have at least 6 kids. I married my wonderful husband knowing he wasn’t sold on a lot of kids. A weird auto immune disease that literally does not affect me one bit when not pregnant (but wreaks havoc when I am) sealed our family with 2 kids (& almost just one). Either post partum depression or baby blues affected me after both kids. My preemie second born was not breastfed because even though I tried and tried, I didn’t produce an ounce. My mom had died 6 months before and that coupled with his early appearance and NICU stay I think shut down my body (even though plenty of other NICU moms were able to produce).
It’s hard for me to grieve because it’s hard for me to give up the dream. It could still happen. There’s always hope. I am 36 but there are other ways to grow a family. I guess I need to grieve the “not now” part. My husband feels our family is complete but he also felt that after one kid.
Anyway, long rambling comment just to say “me too. My family doesn’t look the way I imagined.” Looking forward to reading “Better Together.”
Anne-I’ve followed your mom for several years. I dreamed of 4 kids, I’m one of 3. My husband and I said we’d have 3 and then see about #4. I dreamed we’d have 2 boys and 2 girls. I have 2 brothers and have always longed to have a daughter since I never had a sister.
Fast-forward many years and I am the 37 year old mother of 2 boys ages 10 and 7. I love them fiercely! Financial circumstances prevented us from having more children. My husband and I are now at a point where we don’t have the energy to do babies and toddlers again. And we are still recovering from 5 years of under-employment and trying to sell our original home since relocating for my husband’s first full time job since 2010 (it’s been on the market for 15 months-and under contract since December. FHA loans take forever to close now).
This is NOT what I imagined at all. And most days I am totally fine with my life…every so often though…it’s hard…and I wonder why God didn’t let me have the children I wanted. However, I know that He has a plan and it’s better than anything I could imagine. So I love-on my God-daughters and my new baby niece and know that God knows my hurt and He has a plan for that 🙂