By Hallie Bandy
During a month focused on gratitude, it’s easy to recognize the obvious. But when I look at the dear sweet faces of my children, I’m reminded to be thankful that God answered a prayer in giving me each one—especially the last one.
Because sometimes we don’t really know what we are asking for. And God answers prayers in ways we never imagined.
Case in point: my fourth child. Because she is six years younger than her next sibling, most people assume that she was our “surprise.” But actually, she was an answer to prayer.
I just didn’t know what I was asking for.
I don’t remember praying we would be able to conceive. We didn’t have to. Our first two children arrived just like it’s written in the textbooks. They broke us in pretty easily, so we were naïve enough to think we must be doing something right, and actually thought we should have more.
Of course, when things are so well balanced—two parents, two kids; a boy, a girl—there doesn’t seem to be a “right” time to add a third child. I started asking friends why they had only two kids, or when they decided to add the third. There were plenty of interesting answers! One friend said, “I just knew, when we sat down to dinner, someone was missing.”
Ironically, as I was trying to decide when to have that third child, I realized that what I thought had been a really bad case of stomach flu was really morning sickness.
Yup, I was pregnant. Even though I hadn’t planned it. These things happen. Surprise!
And then the third child arrived. And nothing was ever the same.
I made it to the delivery room two hours after my water broke, just in time for the nurse to scream, “I need a doctor NOW.” Apparently whoever was handling admitting that morning sensed the urgency and told my husband he could fill out paperwork later. So he arrived, breathless, in time to greet our son, cut the cord, and tell me, “Don’t ever do this to me again.” As if I was planning a repeat event.
And that’s when the fun began. If you want to call it that.
Three kids under the age of five is a stretch for anyone, and when one of the kids is “one of those kids,” it’s enough to make anyone question her sanity on a daily basis.
Our third child cried louder, slept less, took more risks, and knew how to push everyone’s buttons. He climbed out of his crib before most kids can sit up. And when he climbed out, he wreaked havoc—or hid. Which meant that, post naptime, I either had to clean up a mess, or locate a baby.
Being a Mom can be lonely and desperate at times, particularly when there is still a nap schedule to keep—or deal with when it’s not kept. Everything requires extra effort, the to-do list never ends, and any precious “me time” is often spent asleep. There are certainly intangible rewards and priceless moments of family bonding that I would never trade. But part of the sacrifice of parenting means we lack the time and funds for luxuries that would make up for the long days—and nights—of thankless tasks.
I remember thinking a medically induced coma sounded like a vacation.
At some point, I stood in my living room, and prayed, aloud, “God, don’t ever let me forget what it is like to have little kids.”
Maybe it was the day the bean-bag chair exploded and the electromagnetically charged pellets went everywhere.
Or maybe it was another incident with diaper contents. Or the umpteenth call to poison control.
I don’t exactly remember the circumstances, but I remember that prayer, feeling alone with a mess, determined that I would do my best to help young mothers once my own kids grew up.
But that doesn’t mean I’ve always remembered that prayer. The memory of that day was tucked neatly away with the toys, crib and baby equipment that I was, for some reason, determined to use, just one more time. Trouble was, I didn’t have any cooperation. I would mention a fourth kid, and my husband would say, “You have one who is the equivalent of four. Isn’t that enough?”
No birth control is quite as effective as the presence of young children. Anyone’s, really. But especially your own.
Someone was missing from our table, though, and I knew it.
And, after five years, I managed to wear my husband down.
And so we have our youngest. And a fresh reminder that sometimes leaving the house is far more complicated than it should be. That life is messy. That Moms of young children need help and encouragement.
A reminder that I asked God not to let me forget.