Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Love that Multiplies

... and subtracts years from your life.

It's 8:16 on a Tuesday night, and it feels like midnight on Saturday. I just yelled to my 3-year-old from across the house threatening to "call Mr. Traynor so he can come over and spank you." as he lies wailing in his room for the 5th consecutive evening in a row of bedtime protestations. (Mr. Traynor, for the record, is my parent's 70-something next door neighbor and a good family friend and not at all scary, except I guess he is, when I use his name in vain.)

Yesterday Lizzie and her brood crashed at our house for what effectively turned out to be a 24 hour toddler endurance marathon, complete with sword fighting injuries, slapping fights, incidences of public urination, and nap boycotting. Holy hell, there's a reason kids usually come one at a time. Mothers of twins and beyond...you have my unending admiration and respect. Mothers who custom-order Duggar sized broods from laboratory facilities...you are effing crazy.

You see, in between wiping up vomit and spreading peanut butter on tortillas, I thought good and hard about grace and nature and the way God designed parenting and motherhood in particular to function.

And I realized something: He won't give us what we can't handle. Unless, of course, we demand it, ripping it from His hands like spoiled children who 'know better.' And I think that's a decent explanation of what is going on with forms of assisted reproductive technology like IVF, and perhaps part of why, aside from the obvious moral quandaries regarding selective reduction of pregnancies, eugenic screening, and sex-selective abortions, the Church steadfastly condemns its practice.

I can't speak for every mom of course, but for myself and my comrade in arms yesterday, bare minimum mode would have been a generous description of what was going down. All these babies, all this noise, unbelievable chaos...and of course, it was good. It was very good. Children always are, no matter the circumstances of their conception or birth. But it was so evidently not ideal. And I kept thinking to myself, why, why oh why would anyone try to have three 2-year-olds at the same time? There's a reason triplets are genetically rare. It takes a special kind of mother with amazing grace to do this kind of zone defense, and the ladies who hit that kind of fertility lottery are few and far between. Except increasingly, they're not. And I wonder if that's a good thing.

Our particular cousin buddies are 3.9 years, 3 years, 1.9 years, 18 months, and 5 months, respectively. There's a good reason why one single family could probably not have put up those kind of numbers, biologically speaking. (Adoptive parents, my hat goes off to you for a million and one reasons, and this line of reasoning excludes your beautiful families, fyi.)
Charlie and John Paul, separated by a mere 6 months and a whopping 12 pounds.
What I'm rambling on about is the fact that God didn't intend biological motherhood to produce children this close together in age, or (in 99.9% of naturally occurring cases) in number. The ratio is untenable. The chaos is unimaginable. And the fun...oh yes, there was fun. But mostly there was screaming. From all parties present, I think, until bedtime rolled around and the world's best daddy  spelled us girls for a much-needed night excursion to my favorite thrift stores.

If you managed to hang on this far, I salute you, because the prose it is a 'ramblin and the letters on my screen are kind of blurring together. All I'm really sure of is that my mini van was the picture of serenity on our drive home this evening, sans cousins, where my thoughts were interrupted only by intermittent strains of "Happy birday!" chirped from the backseat, accompanied by the soothing dialogue of Disney's "Cars" bumping on the system. 2 exterior babies, 19 months apart? Bliss, sheer bliss, I tell you. I have one arm for each of them, so far, and I'm crossing all my fingers and toes that when little Miss makes her debut this winter, Master Joseph will be a whole lot lower on the imminent physical needs scale than he is even now. And that's how it was designed.

Joey is awfully fond of baby Charlotte. "I just love her and she is so pretty."
They come out a squalling bundle of needs and then gradually, almost imperceptibly, the needs ... change. They don't necessarily let up, but they grow and evolve with the child, and the next thing you know, the baby who nursed round the clock and whose diaper was always in need of a change is suddenly a little boy whose most pressing demand is the knowledge of why cats meow and what makes the clouds turn colors at night.

Nothing like a little perspective to help put your own house in order.

Big baby gets what he wants. And speaking of big babies, check out that 28 week mountain. 


  1. So funny. I think maybe the changing seasons is also making everyone's kids irrationally crazy these days as well... ? Hope you are enjoying being back.

  2. WAIT! Did I possibly miss a gender announcement...?!?!??R$@#@#?


    1. Yes, she's a girl! Genevieve Therese will be here, God willing, by Christmas day. Or at the latest, within the current calendar year. Fingers crossed.

  3. Joey, you are so so so sweet and we miss you!!!

  4. Yesterday after Mass, when I told a veteran mother I was expecting twins and would have three boys under the age of two for a while, her eyes got big and she said "God must know you can handle it!" My response was something like "Well, I'm assuming He's going to teach me how to!" Hehe.

    My cousin may visit this weekend with her 18 and 4 month olds, so we'll see what kind of chaos ensues. :)

  5. haha, so great!
    I love how my girls have many cousins on both sides of the fam very close in age. It's fun when they're all together...but freaking insane at the same time. :)

  6. This is so, so true! My sister and I have kids spread like yours - our oldest two are 4 months apart and our next two are ONE DAY apart! We live in the same town and were together a lot in the early years. Chaos. Fun chaos! But chaos nonetheless. My other sister has twins, and manages really well (because she has the special grace to have two babies!) but I marvel at her from the sidelines and thank God that He didn't see that grace in me!

  7. We have twins who will be three years old in February, identical boys. It is hard. Really, really hard. But, the twins were my first and only pregnancy, so it's our 'normal'. We don't know what it's like to have babies one at a time! :)

  8. I struggle with this because it implies that those couples dealing with infertility are being denied children by God because they wouldn't be able to "handle" children. I do not condone the use of IVF, but as someone who suffered with infertility before finally conceiving my son, I know the pain that infertility causes and how strong that temptation to turn to immoral fertility treatments can be. I guess its just another symptom of the fallen world in which we live.

    1. Oh gosh, I would never, ever imply that. I can't imagine the pain of infertility (obviously), but I didn't mean to diminish it in any way with this line of thought. There really is suffering on both ends of the fertility spectrum, though i think those who suffer for want of children suffer in a deeper way than those who are blessed with children...even those who are perhaps a tad abundantly blessed. I think, if anything, couples who are given that particular cross are entrusted with the greatest suffering of all.


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