I would have rejoiced with every pregnancy test. First reaction - gratitude and love. I always wanted a big family, but somewhere along the way I got scared of my plans coming to fruition. The added worry, the added expense, the added chaos of having a new baby were among the first thoughts floating in my mind when the test read positive. I cried because I wasn't ready to go through it all again. It being a pregnancy and delivery. It being a natural, healthy occurrence for my fertile, healthy body. It being the product of the love shared between my husband and I. We said it with words, we said it with actions, and we were blessed with a baby from above. I would have seen the blessing sooner, trusted more, worried less. I was living the dream, why couldn't I see the bigger picture instead of white-knuckling through each addition?
I wouldn't listen to all the baby advice. I would have trusted my gut more. I would have seen the amazing connection a baby has with his mama and just lived in the moment more. I would have breastfed on demand and not by the clock. I would have nursed in bed more often. I would have sat on the floor and let the little ones climb all over me. I still would have kept up the housework though. Babies may not keep, but dirty dishes stay in the sink until someone cleans them. I would have said "yes" more and "no" less. I would have kept their sleep schedules sacred for as long as possible, because bigger kids mean less scheduled little kids.
If I'd only known then what I know now..
I wouldn't have stressed so much about having to go back to work. I would have believed that my kids would be OK. I wasn't messing them up because they needed a mom and dad to provide for them. I was still the mom, still the most important in their little world, no matter who cared for them during the day. A mom's love can not be replaced, but a good babysitter will get close enough. I would have known that God was in control - He knows I need to work and He also keeps sending the babies. I would have found peace with living His will sooner.
If I'd only known then what I know now.
I wouldn't have worried about hurting people's feelings based on decisions that were right for our family. I would have set stricter boundaries with our family time. I would have asked for help more often. I would have given myself more breaks. I would have disciplined the younger set the same way as the older set. Somewhere along the way we got a little too tired to keep it up. I would allow the kid's friends to come over, no matter what the house looked like. I would have invested in adult friendships more, made my introverted self get extroverted more often. I would have gotten a dog sooner. I would have moved my parents in right away. I would have prayed the rosary daily. I would have married even younger.
But there's no way to have known then what I know now, is there?
The only way to get to the now was to go through the then. "We can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it!" So in that sense, perhaps I wouldn't have changed a thing because it led me here. I'm grateful to be in this place where maturity, wisdom and patience runs thick and I don't miss the days of questioning, doubting, and fearing the future. God's grace is amazing and though we only get it when we need it most, He's always ready to pour it out. If I'd only known that then.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Colleen Martin's website. It has been republished here with permission.
Colleen Martin is a full-time working mom of seven. In her spare time (does that even exist?) she enjoys running, writing, and watching sitcoms. When people ask her "How do you do it?" she is quick to credit her awesome husband and the graces God has poured out onto their family. Life is crazy. Life is good. Life is Crazy Good :)