I became pregnant with my 10th child when I was 41 years old.
Initially, I was totally mortified. In fact, I felt like a terrible disaster had occurred in my life. I dreaded my first prenatal visit. I avoided the grocery store. I was terrified to face my cute, skinny friends who were already finished with bottles and diapers. I was convinced that my pregnancy—and our upcoming child—meant the end of my independence and freedom.
I wondered how I could go into public at my age carrying a carseat. I dreaded the impact of another baby to my already busy family—our nine older children and my husband. I felt exhausted at the prospect of adding one more child to our home. In short, my 10th pregnancy sent me into a spiral of self-doubt. Surely, I reasoned, this baby would be nothing but a burden for our family.
But I was wrong. In fact, I was dead wrong. My pregnancy was not a tragedy, it was a tender mercy. My 10th baby was an incredible blessing that I did not anticipate.
Now my baby is almost 4 years old. He is everything to me. He is everything to my husband and to our nine other children. He is the light of our lives. We can’t begin to imagine a world without him.
He is the sparkle on our cold, dark mornings. He is a ball of blankets to hug and hold when we are lonely. He is the first person we all want to see when we come home after a long day. His toddler words and laughs and antics are the softest and sweetest and most comforting. He is the last smile we seek at night. He is the spice in our world. We love him dearly.
And, in addition to the fact that we adore him, all of our previous parenting skills have gone completely out the window. No more motherhood theories. No more trainings or teachings or natural consequences. He eats his ice cream first. He sleeps in our bed. He gets McDonalds nuggets for lunch. He stays up past 8pm. In fact, raising our baby is SO. MUCH. FUN.
When he wants a toy at the grocery store, I buy it. When he needs new shoes, we pick out the cutest ones. When he asks to ride the merry-go-round, I let him. This is my last chance at parenting, and I aim to enjoy every minute.
We don’t worry about his squeals, or messes, or whims. When he gets hurt we all rush to his side, wanting to be the first to kiss his skinned knee, help him with his Band-Aid, and assure him that all is well.
Playing at the park is not a burden. It is pure joy! We are happy to stop working and push him on the swing, or take him on a bike ride, or point out the birdie on the fence post.
When the big kids come home from school they rush to squish him in their arms. They save him treats from their lunch and drop homework to play trains or ball with him. They jump to help him tie his shoe, or read him a story, or reach his blocks on the shelf. He is the light in all of our lives.
Holidays without him would be nothing. Our family is old, but Santa still comes. The Easter Bunny is real, and the Tooth Fairy is hovering nearby, still waiting for that first lost tooth. It’s SO. MUCH. FUN.
Life has a way of turning years into cynicism, but in our home we have a built-in protection against aging: our little guy. He keeps things fresh and happy and hopeful. The morning snowfall; the garbage truck out our window, the plane in the sky. Every aspect of life still feels innocent and needful. Despite our grey hair, we will never grow old.
We’ve always believed in children. We’ve always known they were good and purposeful and wonderful. And we entirely and completely love our oldest nine. But now—somehow—we believe in children even more. We feel more, we experience more, we love more, we live more. Children are not a nicety. Children are everything. In some sort of eternal paradoxical parable, children actually give us life.
In a small way I feel sweetly akin to Sarah and Elisabeth of the Bible. We will attend his high school graduation with our grey hairs. We will be at his wedding with our walkers. We will hear of his college accolades and job promotions from our rocking chairs. We will be old and wrinkled when our baby’s babies arrive. And we will love every minute.
Despite my initial trepidation, I’ve come to understand with a singular vision that babies are not a burden. Babies are a blessing. Babies are not a tragedy; babies are a triumph. They are not the end; they are the beginning. Children do not drain us of life, they breathe life into us, and—like sunshine—into all those around them. Set aside money and wealth and fame and fortune. It is babies—children—families—that make the world go around.
From my last child I have finally learned the rest of the motherhood lesson about life and love.
Thank you, Baby #10.