Last Child or Second of Many?

Last Child or Second of Many? January 31, 2012

“Do you know what you’re having yet?”

“Yes, it’s a boy.”

“Perfect! One of each!”

The assumption, of course, is that I’m done. I can’t tell you how often I get this. People find out I’m expecting, find out it’s a boy and that I already have a girl in preschool, and they assume I’m done. Two kids, one of each, the perfect American family. It’s not that I’m necessarily not done, it’s just that having been raised in a family influenced by the ideals of the Quiverfull movement, it’s hard to imagine actually thinking that way.

In a Quiverfull family, the second child is simply the second of many. The idea that it might be the last is laughable. That second child will be the second in a stair step line of children lined up to show off, the second in command when you leave the kids to run an errand, the second helper when new children arrive, and the second to use each homeschool textbook.

And indeed, true to form, my parents and friends from growing up assume something totally different from the “normal” people I know.  When they find out I’m expecting my second, they say things like “congratulations, and my God bless you with many more!” Far from having my last child, the assume that I’m just getting started.

This dichotomy is so strange. One set of people assumes that having my second, and a boy at that, means I’m now done with child bearing. The other set of people assumes that this is just the start of a much larger family of five, seven, nine, or even a dozen children.

Does this mean that one group of people is more excited for me than the other? Not necessarily. What has struck me is simply how different the reactions are.

The other thing that’s different is the realization that after this use I could simply pass the bassinet on rather than storing it because I may never need it again. The bouncer seat, the baby bath tub, and all the rest, even the baby clothes themselves. I grew up in a world where a woman could expect to need all of that baby paraphernalia almost continuously for fifteen or twenty years. Imagining a world where I could, in my mid-twenties, simply pass those things on and be done with them forever is . . . strange.

And I have to say, it’s hard to get it into my own mind that this could very well be my last. In my mind, this is the second of many. In my mind, I’m just getting started. How could I already be finished? And yet, logically, I know I don’t want a big family. I know there is a good likelihood that this will be my last. It’s just hard when your brain has been wired one way to swap your way of thinking. I’ve made a lot of progress, but there may be times in the future when I mourn the children I have chosen not to have – not children dead or pregnancies terminated but rather children never conceived.

Realizing that this could well be my last pregnancy is also strange. After all, I watched my mother spend twenty years pregnant. How could I, in my mid-twenties, already be saying goodbye to pregnancy forever? I’ve been raised to see my collection of maternity clothes like an investment, something I’ll use again and again and again. And now, I look at my little stock of maternity clothes and realize that I may never wear them again and wonder if I should even store them again afterwards.

Growing up with Quiverfull ideals and then leaving them behind and easing into the new world requires many adjustments, and watching people’s reactions to my second pregnancy – and watching my own reactions – highlights one of the biggest.

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