A child changes everything. I knew that heading into motherhood over six years ago, but I definitely lacked the understanding of just how everything would be changed by the arrival of our first-born.
Yet, even six years ago, people were more than happy to share with me how they thought having Olivia would change our lives. Although many of the things that were shared were positive, I’ll be really honest–a lot of them weren’t. And it seems that with each subsequent pregnancy (our ‘second’ child is due this summer, having lost a child in a miscarriage in 2011), the negative noise about having a child has continued, if not intensified. From sheer shock, “I can’t believe you’re having another. Your family has the perfect life the way that it is. Why mess with a good thing?” to: “You have such a clean and organized household, your world is going to come unraveled with this second child!” Sigh. Our rather clean and organized household is far from perfect, especially when it comes to what we want as a family, which is, not surprisingly, more family members. Yes, I love my family, no matter what, and I do love the independent stage that Olivia is in (that does enable me to have a clean and organized house), but that orderly life is not what brings me joy. It’s my family, my children (yes, the one in Heaven, the one born and the one pre-born on earth) and my husband, who bring me great joy.
Before you jump on the ‘they’re not really trying to say something negative’ wagon, just hear me out on this. Whether good intentioned or not, the truth is that words matter. As good natured ribbing as some of these statements may be, these words carry weight. Certainly, as a speaker and writer, I understand this full well and proceed accordingly as I craft my words, but, in my opinion, it’s the day to day conversations we have with people in which words have the greatest impact. Whether we are aware of it or not, the truth is that everyone we meet is facing something, and pregnancy and abortion are often one of those ‘somethings.’
For a woman who is worried about how her husband or partner is going to respond to the news that they are expecting, hearing the words, “why would anyone ruin a good thing (by having a child),” could have an effect on her that you never intended or could have imagined. The same could be said for a woman who is used to having life proceed smoothly and simply, who hears that having a child is going to wreak havoc on her life as she knows it.
Yes, those of us with children are blessed to know that a child changes everything, in ways that may be difficult (Olivia is five and still doesn’t sleep through the night. Sigh.), but more so in ways that enrich our lives, expand our hearts and are sometimes hard to articulate. Just like much everything else in life, it’s easier to put the difficulties of parenting into words than it is the joy and life-changing perspectives that being a parent brings you.
Having children has made me a better person–a better wife, a better daughter and sister, a more efficient worker, a better citizen, and a stronger follower of Christ, among many other things. As I round out this first trimester of pregnancy with this child, I can honestly say that he/she has already made me a better person by motivating me to look at the bigger picture of my life and ministry and not put off until tomorrow what I need to do today to serve God and others.
How different conversations would be in our world if we articulated the beautiful ways that having a child changes everything. How potentially different lives would be in our world if we articulated this more and the difficulties (which I actually now see as areas for personal challenge and growth. Trust me, having a child who still doesn’t sleep through the night and is up by 5 am most days has challenged me not only in painful ways but more so, in very good ways), were just a continued part of the conversation, not the focal point.
I hope that you can join me in recognizing that our words have more meaning than we often consider, and in better articulating the high points of parenthood and how having a child changes everything, in unexpected but blessed ways.