This may be an unusually long post. I have an unusually large family.
When I was in high school, I told everyone I wanted to attend UC Berkeley and be a lawyer. Maybe I'd have three or four kids, but that wasn't my first goal. And I meant it.
I ended up graduating from BYU in medieval history with a minor in humanities. After I had my first child.
You see, our Heavenly Father has different ideas of what our lives need to be for us to learn what we need to learn while we are here. And here is the tale of how I became the mother of many.
Brad and I were married June 23, 1989 in the Salt Lake City LDS temple. We were both in school full time, and we were going to wait to have kids for a few years. After we'd been married about eight months, I started to feel the itch--you know the one. The baby itch. It took me a few months to pass the itch on to him, but when we both finally agreed, it only took us one month before we were expecting our first child, and I was thrilled.
I don't want this to devolve into a succession of birth stories, so let me just say that Heidi's birth was scary--two months early and weighing in at one pound and twelve ounces, I left my firstborn in the care of the Utah Valley NICU for 65 days. When she came home at three pounds and fifteen ounces on February 5, 1991, I finally felt like I'd become a mother. I loved that baby (still do!). But the transition to a full-time stay-at-home mom was hard for me. I missed the interaction with people. I missed feeling like I was doing something important. I missed being Jenny.
Since her birth was so traumatic and complicated, we knew that if we were going to have another child, we needed to do it before we left Utah for law school--Brad's law school. We found out we were expecting Tucker a few weeks before we were ready to start trying. What a happy surprise. He was born one day early on May 17, 1992, just seventeen months behind his teeny sister. Four months later, we moved across the country to Chicago, and more kids didn't cross my mind. I was involved with a group of women--moms--who were all staying home with one or two kids while their husbands completed grad school of some kind.
I loved Chicago. It is one of the happiest regions of my memory--covering independence, family identity, self-acceptance, and young motherhood.
After two years of law school, the itch came back. I wanted another baby. It had been so easy the first two times. Time to try again. But it wasn't quite as easy this time. Months went by, and still no missed period. Graduation came, we left Chicago for sunny AZ, still nothing. Finally, after over a year of trying, I got pregnant. Benjamin was born almost four years after Tucker, and we all rejoiced in this new little Arizona brother.
Now I was the mother of three--and my oldest was five. I was gaining experience in this mothering thing. And I liked it. Since discovering myself in Illinois, I never looked back at the career and the other stuff. I was beginning to see that home was where I belonged.
Two and a half years later, I got itchy again. And I stayed itchy for what seemed like forever. This time, I went to a fertility specialist, and I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. Weird. I had always thought that if you could have one baby, you could have as many as you wanted. I learned that your fertility cycles. I didn't like that. But I still had that itch, so I started clomid and all the drama that comes along with it--charting, temperatures, timing. I became a psycho, crying uncontrollably every month when my period would start. And then the doctor gave us a limit--one more cycle was all he would recommend. And I had to make the decision if I was going to try harsher fertility medications or be satisfied with my three fantastic kiddos. Three is more than most have, anyway. But I knew that wasn't where our family should stop.
That last round of clomid was the one. I was pregnant, and we couldn't be happier. This was the first baby that we really got to have ultrasounds (I'm old, you know--pregnancy before ultrasound was a much more surprising adventure), and when we saw the profile, we knew another Denton was coming--Lily Jane joined our family April 4, 2000, almost four years from Ben's birth.
Like I said--inordinately long post. Inordinately large family. Hang with me.
Since my last two pregnancies had been so difficult to start, we were never careful. While on a trip to Mexico, we took a detour to a Mexican pharmacy for a pregnancy test. My period was almost two weeks late. And . . . ? Surprise. Here we go again.
I remember telling a friend at sixteen weeks that this was my LAST baby. I was 32, and five was a lot. A few weeks later, she was gone, and I entered the darkest, loneliest corner of my soul--grief.
I wanted a replacement. I wanted more. And that's when I knew that five would never be enough. Clomid and charts and thermometers entered our bedroom for a second time. And just like before, I ended up pregnant on the last clomid-enhanced cycle allowed. Someday I will write of that interminable pregnancy--28 weeks flat on my back, only up to shower every other day and use the toilet. But it was worth every single second. Every single one. Micah means "gift from God," and that's always how I've seen him. He's a special gift, sent to me through the loss of another.
He was just ten days old, and we had taken our family to the school playground. Brad and I were sitting on the bench next to the stroller, marveling at this tiny miracle, when Brad said (after seven months of grueling double duty as the dad and the mom): "I'd do it again." That's when I hoped Micah wouldn't be our last child.
We waded through the foster process about this time, thinking that fostering to adopt would be a great route for us. We waited for placement for almost a year, and nothing happened. This was almost as frustrating as trying to get pregnant. Someday, there is a post in this process as well.
This time, we didn't wait--no barriers, but not really trying for much. I did the six months of clomid again. Nothing. I was beginning to think that that was all--five kids to take care of, one to miss. Then, two months later, we knew we would be parents again. Hyrum was born March 28, 2007. We were thrilled. Heidi was sixteen, and Micah was two. That's a big spread, but I knew how to do this mothering thing now.
March 1, 2009--positive pregnancy test. Brad articulated both our thoughts when he blurted: "What does that mean?" You'd think by now we'd know that that meant. Brad was excited. I had to get used to the idea. Baby would be born after Heidi left for college, and I was old--almost forty. When Eve was placed in my arms a year ago, I knew God had saved one of His tenderest blessings for last--this sweet, blue-eyed angel for our family to dote on and fight over.
And somewhere, deep down inside, I felt something I'd never felt before. That's it. She's the last one.
It's hard to say last. But this journey through motherhood has been enlightening. I know this is where I belong. I know this was my calling in this life--to mother these seven beautiful, wonderful, headstrong, smart babies. I know we were meant to weather life together.
So my lucky number? I still struggle with the question: "How many kids do you have?" When they're all swarming around at a restaurant, screaming and fighting and laughing, it may seem like twelve. Sometimes I say eight. Usually I say seven.
But I do know one thing--God's plan for my life wasn't in the courtroom arguing over millions.
The plan was for me to be home, arguing over shoe choices and clean rooms. Teaching responsibility and faith. Showing love and joy. Learning that motherhood is the most rewarding job in the world for me.
I wouldn't trade it for anything.
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