I had two out-of-the-ordinary encounters this past weekend which couldn’t be more diametrically opposed in every way. They’ve been on my mind a lot this week so I had to share…
I was in the grocery store the afternoon before my husband’s graduation, grabbing last minute items for our big celebration shin-dig the next day. A gentleman came up to me in the dairy and egg aisle and gently tapped my shoulder.
Ma’am, is Number Three a boy too by any chance?
“Yes as a matter of fact it is!” I replied with a laugh as I unconsciously rubbed my basketball of a belly.
The elderly man beamed. “Sweetheart that’s wonderful. I had three boys too. Can I just say God bless you for what you’re doing – your boys are beautiful…” and with those words he turned to chat with my two Bear Cubs in the shopping cart.
After saying his goodbyes to the Cubs he turned to carry on his way…and then almost as an afterthought turned around once more and proclaimed: Ma’am, you’re a saint!
“Either that or a crazy person!” I retorted with another laugh as I thanked him for his kind words.
It’s always refreshing to find encouragement and support from a stranger who recognizes both the trials – and the joys – of a young family with young kids. I never know what conclusions and judgments strangers are drawing when I’m seen in public with my two kids ages two and one and my ever-swelling baby bump. It’s nice to know it’s sometimes tremendously positive!
The very next day, after the Hubs’ graduation, I was standing in the lobby of Georgetown University’s bookstore/student center with my boys beside me in my best-ever double stroller.
An elderly gentleman walked out of the bookstore and strutted directly towards us.
“Two boys? How old are they?” he immediately asked as he peered into the stroller. He seemed quite taken with their pinstripe seersucker summer suits and bow ties.
“Almost three and 17 months” I replied.
The stunned man looked back and forth between my children, then he turned and stared a full few seconds at my bump before making eye contact.
“YOU’RE A BABY FACTORY!” he burst out with a cocktail of disdain, disbelief, and what seemed like utter horror.
Now the bitchy Cruella De Vil that probably lies dormant in every mother’s soul (at least it does in mine!) threatened to rear it’s ugly head at this man’s abrupt name calling to my person. But as I remarked to the Hubs later on, I think most southern girls have a hard time getting the Cruella De Vil comments to actually get past our throats in the heat of the moment. We were raised to act better than that.
So I gave a nervous little laugh and a smile and said “Well, yes, I guess you could say that.”
…and with that Mr. Full of Lovely Compliments went on his way.
But his comment did not walk away with him.
A Baby Factory. A Baby Factory??? That’s how he sees me? That’s how he views the beauty he sees before him in those gorgeous chubby cheeks and bright eyes and heads full of thick yummy hair? That’s how he reacts to my children waving their dimpled little hands at him and saying “Hello!” without even a prompting from me? That’s how he views my baby bump and my life that I have literally poured into these little ones…as a human assembly line for making, outputting, and caring for babies?
Part of me wanted to run after him and explain myself. To defend my life and my choices:
“All three of them were PLANNED and INTENTIONAL and WANTED by my husband and I. We actually TRIED to have them this close together because we wanted our children to be close in age and good friends and we felt the Lord put this same desire in both of our hearts. They are not “oopsies” or “surprises!” or “we haven’t figured out where babies come from” or “we are Catholic so we can’t do anything about having so many kids if we want to have sex more than twice a month”. Nope. They were wanted. Planned for. Desired. Loved. They aren’t ruining my life (even though they sometimes DO drive me crazy), they are completing it and making it far better than it’d ever be without them.”
I felt like in one accusatory, shocked outburst the gentleman was throwing contempt upon everything I lived for. Everything I sacrificed for. Everything I worked hard for each and every day.
Last night when I walked in my son’s room to give an extra tuck-in and check on him, as I do every night before I go to bed, I crept up to his bed in the dim light and watched his sleep-soaked face. He was cuddling his “blankey” and his Daniel (favorite puppy stuffed animal) in his arm, and he was smiling a full-on smile in his sleep.
As I pulled up the covers and smoothed the hair from his forehead, I was powerfully reminded of this truth:
They are beautiful. They are happy. Oh so very happy. Yes, they throw tantrums, yes they fight, yes they argue, as only two toddlers 17 months apart can argue. But they are also inseparable. They love each other. They love life with every ounce of their tiny beings. They are learning to love Jesus. They love being part of our family. They know they are loved. And they make the Hubs and my life together so wildly happy, fun, funny, and complete.
And in the end, all those things are what really matter.
Yes, maybe in some ways I am a Baby Factory. I’ve been preggers quite often in the past four years. But the former gentleman was also correct. Or almost so. I’m not a saint yet, but this crazy vocation called motherhood is the path to sanctity that the Lord has chosen for me.
And I accept it with all my heart, along with as many beautiful babies as the Lord is gracious enough to entrust to my care.
To Him be the glory, now and forever.