A Fourth

When we were dating, my husband and I discussed kids, as anyone contemplating a life together really should do. We were agreed: we wanted four. Four would be great. We were pragmatic enough to leave it open ended. We might not make it to four. I might not tolerate pregnancy well. We might find conceiving difficult. Raising children might very well be even more challenging than the “we can barely imagine” we were anticipating. But, in pure fantasy, we both liked the idea of four.

When we were expecting our first, we dreamt up four names. Two for girls, two for boys. We had no idea how many we would need, but that seemed like a good place to start.

And, well, the first was a bit earlier than I would have chosen. My husband and I remember this period a little differently. He was ready, even if we weren’t actively trying. I was not quite so ready. I had two years of school left. But I was excited anyway. It was a good thing.

Her early years were difficult. My mental health was not what one would prefer in good times, much less while first time parenting and new baby while financially limited. Finances, health, the baby… it delayed school. I graduated, but it took me 8 years to get a 4 year degree.

We didn’t choose to have another child before I graduated. We didn’t choose to have another child after I graduated, either, because he was between jobs, and I was working part time at a craft supply store.

Then he got a job. We moved. We stabilized. We were ready.

There was a gap at least two years larger than I would have preferred between children, but we were ready.

And then we lost her.

And then it was another two years before I was ready to try again.

And our second child was born when I was 30.

I can’t say I was thrilled about that. I can’t say it was a pleasant experience. I can say I never wanted to do it again.

So that was it. We had three. Two of them survived. I figured that the place I would have had a fourth was in that gap of health and financial straights between the first and second. Three was pretty close to four, and we had always meant to be flexible. We were done.

But then something strange happened. One month, I wasn’t quite sure whether we were in for a surprise or not. I was terrified. The last thing I wanted was to go through another pregnancy. So when I was devastated to find out I didn’t have to, it raised questions. It motivated a lot of prayer and conversations.

And what God said was simple: you have room in your heart and family for one more. Will you accept them?

Honestly, I said maybe. I said if you’re sure, because I’m not.

What followed were three of the most stressful months of my life, and that third month I told God that that was it. I was terribly sorry, but if he wanted us to have a fourth baby, I needed to be expecting already, because I couldn’t keep going like that. But I also kind of knew in my heart that I was already expecting. The same way I had always known that I would lose a child some day, I knew that I would have my fourth.

The pregnancy was awful. I’m sorry, but it really was. It was painful. It was exhausting. It seemed to tear my body to shreds. But neither of us were ever really in any danger.

She was ornery enough to be a third girl. No pre-selected name would do for her. And she’s been ornery ever since. She is my wild child. My strong willed little beasty. And I can’t imagine our life without her.

She was born when I was 35. I didn’t want to have a child that late. My body still isn’t the same, and I’ve been exhausted for about eight months longer than she’s been alive, but I can’t imagine our lives without her.

She is the most difficult yes I’ve ever said, but I can’t imagine our lives without her.

I have no idea what she’s going to do with her life, but I have no doubt it’s going to be big. It may not be splashy, but it’ll be big. Or maybe she’ll light up the world. But it’ll be big. Just the impact she’s had on her brother and sister, on us.

Sometimes yes is terrifying. Sometimes yes is painful. And you may never know what you’re missing if you say no. But say yes. It’s always worth it.

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