Some News from Chez Brooks. Written early August 2015.
We made a decision. We’d like to have another. And yes, I do mean another b.a.b.y.
But why? Am I one of those ‘baby’ people, who loves babies? That would be an emphatic “no.” While I love my children dearly and am truly grateful for them, I don’t enjoy being pregnant, giving birth(!), breastfeeding or waking through the night. And to be honest, I don’t even enjoy holding babies that much. They don’t do much, do they? I love the babies I know, but not because they’re babies. (This is, in many ways, a good thing. Babies don’t stay babies!)
I can’t explain it, but after much careful consideration we agreed that we would like four children, even though they will one day (God willing) become four teenagers, and we only have one teeny tiny bathroom (it’s almost double the width of the bath).
And it’s happened! Brooks baby number four is on his/her merry way. Still microscopic for now, but a person all the same. We haven’t told anyone yet, so do keep it to yourself. To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about sharing this joyous news with my largely unsuspecting friends and family.
When you’re pregnant with your first, people are so happy for you: how exciting! You’re going to be great parents! Praise God! Let’s pray right now about that!
The second baby is less of a surprise, usually, unless it’s eye-wateringly soon after the first, but people can see that you want a ‘proper family’ (I object to this term but people do say it), or that you want to ‘get it all out of the way at once’ (objection again!), or that you just want a little playmate for Jonny (let’s hope Jonny is on board).
In our culture, two children is normal. So when you announce number three is in the pipeline, as it were, people laugh a bit and say things like, ‘Wow, you’re going to need a bigger car.’ Which is true. (Actually for us it was more, ‘You’re going to need a car.’) People with three children in the UK are perceived as having a big family. The washing, the bunk beds, the car seats. Wow. But in my experience, people admire, or at least respect you.
But four children? Are you insane? You can’t have four children in a normal car. You will probably need to move. Goodness me, how will you even walk down the street? You can never go to a supermarket again. Wow, you must LOVE babies.
This is why, since having three children, people have often said to me, ‘I bet you’re finished now, aren’t you!’ or words to that effect. I always thought family planning was quite a private matter, but evidently I’m mistaken. I don’t mind a close friend asking gently if I’d like to have more children, but someone I’m not close to announcing, in front of my children, that I won’t be having any more, is just inappropriate. Being English, I generally smile politely and change the subject, as I wouldn’t want to offend them by telling them it’s none of their flaming business.
A mother-of-two once said to me with absolute conviction that it was totally unfair to have more than two children, because you wouldn’t give them enough attention. But this opinion is so culturally bound. By the end of the 20th Century, women in London were having on average half the number of babies compared to those at the start of the century. In many cultures – and, by the way, in God’s word! – children are seen as a huge blessing and wealth. Your children are your inheritance, as they’ll look after you when you’re old. (As someone said to me last week, in some parts of the world we’d just be getting started.) But now that we have (free) birth control in the UK, people with lots of children can be seen as a drain on society and a nuisance. Hasn’t she heard of the Pill? (or, ‘tie a knot in it’ as I heard someone recently put it.)
When I was in hospital with my first newborn the post-natal ward was, to use the medical term, rammed. I mentioned this to a nurse at one point, who said, ‘It’s the Muslims. They’ve got an agenda, to populate the world.’ I was a bit too drugged up and sleep-deprived to have the suitable reaction (reporting her to some Body or other), so I just mumbled something in defence of Muslims and tried to change the subject. But this is just another example of how large families are viewed. They’re unruly; a threat to the status quo.
So now, instead of phoning round my friends and family with the happy news of a baby on the way, I’m wondering how to break it to everyone. Family holidays with relatives are going to be even more chaotic, with even less chance of a good nights’ sleep. I’ll be less available to other people as my family’s needs grow. My church family will need to help me even more! And will I ever go back into teaching, for crying out loud?
Well, if motherhood has taught me anything (besides the exact words to many a Julia Donaldson chronicle), it’s to care less and less what other people (especially strangers) think of me. Since getting pregnant the first time, I’ve been judged so much that I now just assume that people are horrified by whatever it is I’m doing. Even with three children who are clearly alive and rather stable, people still assume I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing: your child doesn’t look safe on that wall/is far too hot/has cold hands/hasn’t had her hair brushed (that I’ll give them)/is being ignored (yes, that’s because he’s screaming for Haribo). Or even if you’re not doing anything wrong, your child is probably just being a nuisance by his/her very existence. So I’m learning the healthy lesson of not-being-self-conscious. Or something more succinct. I’ll keep praying, asking for advice from wise people, and doing what I think is obedient. The Lord knows I’m making (sometimes slow/sometimes moderate) progress!
So for now, I’m happy to keep it just between Mike and myself, because we’re really chuffed to bits about this little tike. And if the news is met with mixed responses, hopefully I can thank the Lord that he’s making me less and less affected by the judgments of others. Although with pregnancy hormones thrown into the mix, that may work better in theory than practice.
Please feel welcome to comment below – I’d love to read your thoughts!
If you are wondering whether or not to have another baby, you may find this article useful. (I only found it today, but would have found it useful six months ago!)
Reading this a couple of months on, I’d just like to add three comments of my own!
- The people we’ve told about the baby have actually been very supportive, so I’m really thankful for friends who genuinely care about us and take delight in our little family. Praise God!
- I’m sure I’ve been guilty of feeling like children are a nuisance, or that “enough’s enough.” If this post seems judgmental, sorry, as the finger should definitely be pointed at me, too.
- I think pregnancy hormones had a role to play in my anxiety about this, too! Surprise, surprise.