Finally I decided to consult the doctor, but I knew the first question he would ask would be "Are you pregnant?" Of course I knew I wasn't, but I went into the lab and took a pregnancy test just so I could give him the negative result. That afternoon I called up the lab and asked for for the result.
"It's positive," said the nurse.
"Positive?" I croaked, once my heart started beating again.
"Is that bad news?" asked the concerned nurse.
"No... no...," I croaked. "It's just that I already have an eight-month-old."
And so, on Sept. 4, 2003, Julia was born. She hasn't changed much from the early days -- she's still sudden and prone to unexpected entrances and heart-stopping stunts -- but she's the best suprise I've ever had. Happy birthday to my favorite three-year-old!
And on the note of one child showing up hard on the heels of another, Bearing Blog had up a post recently about a woman who had 22 children, and I've been thinking about it all weekend.
Lucille Miller of Waseca, Minn., who bore 15 girls and seven boys and raised them on a farm with the help of her organizational skills and the buddy system, died Monday in Waseca. She was 83.Lucille Miller is truly a good and holy example of extreme motherhood. May she rest in well-deserved peace.
Miller was 17 when she had her first child and 43 when she had her last."We didn't intend to have this many children," she said in an April 17, 2000, Star Tribune article by Chuck Haga. "But it's been wonderful to have them and watch them grow. They're all individuals."
Reading about Mrs. Miller's achievements, I realized: it's already too late for me to have 22 children. I started at 23, not 17, so she already had six years on me there. Plus she bore children at the rate of about one a year, and I've already skipped two years between Babs and baby. What gives me pause is realizing that had I emulated Mrs. Miller, I'd already have, at 27, nine children. Now there's a trip through the Total Perspective Vortex for you.
Now many days I feel overwhelmed with three children, though I wonder if that's less a matter of the number of children as of the fact that the older two are four and three, and rather boisterous. (In fact, I have this sneaking suspicion that behind my back, my friends shake their heads and say, "Those Darwin girls... they just do whatever comes into their heads..." Actually, that's not even a suspicion, because someone told me that in front of my back.) I don't want 22 children, or twelve or eight. Some days I'm not sure I want more than the three I already have. And recently I feel it's not even productive to speculate on future future family size when the baby is only six months old. I want her to stay the baby for a while, with her amiable personality and little teeth popping out and sweet gurgles and wrinkled nose and careful sitting. Once this one is old enough to sneak a package of pasta into the bathroom and spread it around the floor (or perhaps more importantly, when Noogs is old enough to prevent her from doing such things), then I'll be able to think more clearly about adding the next Darwin girl.
On the other hand, I think it's kind of silly when people obsess over how hard it must be to raise a large family. (I wish I had a dollar for every time some stranger has said to me, "My, you have your hands full, don't you?") Children grow and change and mature and assist -- rarely is anyone raising eight two-year-olds. The popular conception of parenting this immense unit of five children is very different from the reality of raising five individuals who are Elizabeth and John and Anna and William and Nathanael, who all have different needs and gifts and abilities.
Though I have to admit I'm rather relieved that bearing 22 children isn't really an option for me...