The Only Reason We Said “Yes” to Six Kids
Y’all, I’ve written this post a thousand times in my head. I’ve struggled with what to share and what to keep in my heart. Ultimately, love won out and I’ve decided to share some intimate moments with you because I think they need to be said. And, I want this sweet baby I’m carrying to read this someday and know just how much he or she was prayed for.
“I hope you’ve learned your lesson.”
Those words came from a NICU clinical assistant. I was sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit, holding my 16-day-old son when the clinical assistant entered our room. She was restocking the supplies and nonchalantly asked me how many children we had. “Five,” I answered, smiling down at Luke. “Well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson,” she quipped. Then she spun on her heel and walked out.
I’ve reflected on that statement many times, but most especially these last few months that we’ve been keeping the world’s greatest secret. When the pregnancy test first came back positive ten weeks ago, I stood in my bathroom, put one hand on my belly and the other to my eyes to wipe away the tears. Tears of absolute joy.
You see, Scott and I have been praying for this baby for quite some time. We knew I wasn’t getting younger (dang it) and we decided to put the future of our family squarely in God’s lap once again. Truthfully, it’s always been there. That’s what happens when you don’t take artificial birth control and instead give God the steering wheel. Our life really isn’t our own, is it? I decided if I gave him control over every other part of my life, but continued to hold the control of my fertility, that I felt like a hypocrite. So, ten years ago, I went off the pill. Every month we pray about whether God is calling us to have more children or not. Yes, every month. It has been the single best decision we’ve ever made in our marriage. It’s harder than hell, but we do it.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard well-meaning friends and family ask, “Luke is your last, right?” I never had a good answer except to say, “You’re asking the wrong person.”
The lesson we learned with Luke was so perfectly simple. It was love, of course. Were the NICU days hard? Hell yeah, they were. Third ring of hell kind of hard. Do I ever, EVER want to relive them? That would be a double “hell no.” But, even though we lived through some of our darkest days in Bay 2 and on the fourth floor of Dell Children’s, the lesson I learned was love.
It has permeated everything. It has touched each of our children. It has changed people. It has softened even the toughest of specialists. It has made friends with complete strangers. Luke personifies love, as do each of our children.
So, yes, Miss Clinical Assistant I did learn my lesson. Babies – even the most difficult, the most fragile, the most vulnerable – are worth it.
Now, while I share the love fest with you, it was also a long road in getting there. The NICU left very real scars. It’s only normal and perfectly natural for a preemie mom to fear another pregnancy and what it may put her and her family through again. Over the last few years, we’ve had some serious heart-to-hearts with Luke’s many specialists – geneticists, OB/GYNs, developmental pediatricians, general surgeons and perinatologists – and each has provided us with amazing wisdom and compassion.
In fact, I shared with one of Luke’s doctors that we were considering more children. “It’s crazy, isn’t it?” I shared. “Not at all, she responded. I think the world needs more Whitaker’s.” Those are the kind of people God put in our lives. They know our history, intimately, yet, they encouraged us to not give up so quickly on love. I’m so grateful they did.
For four years I’ve sorted through the waterfall of varied emotions: fear, anxiety, hope, joy, worry and love. And eventually love won. I have never, with any of my previous pregnancies, ever felt this kind of peace before. I believe that is solely God’s grace.
I hope you can feel my joy. It is undeniable. I don’t want to spend these nine months in fear. Pregnancy is not to be feared, it is to be celebrated. And I can honestly say that I am cherishing every moment. Yes, even the ones when I want to hurl. That permanent grin you see on my face? It comes from somewhere beyond my full understanding. It comes from confidence in knowing that everything will be okay. And even if it’s not okay, it will be.
The kids were the first people to know and oh y’all. I’ve never seen so much jumping, screaming and happiness. We are still riding that wave. After we told them (via the balloons above), we all walked outside on a beautiful Friday night, said a prayer and released the balloons. It was perfect. You know, there was fighting over whose balloon was going faster, who actually *released* it and why they had to release it. Same-same.
And as we turned to walk back into the house, John Paul looked up at me and said, “That’s so awesome that you’re having a baby, Mom.” I smiled and then he finished with, “We should have 12 more.”
Kids. What’s not to love?!
St. Gerard, pray for us!
Hello from Australia! Congratulations on expecting a new baby, such wonderful news. I will pray for you and your baby at Mass.
Thank you for sharing your ideas and experiences on your blog. I am a young woman and have been struggling to find the courage to embrace my vocation to marriage and family life. I have been reading your blog and feeling so uplifted by the beauty of the role of a mother that you show. I notice your family has a lot of rituals and I like this idea so I have started a list of all the rituals I want to do with my family one day. Once again, I want you to know how grateful I am to you!
I was going to same something very similar! I started reading your blog in the spring, so I guess I’m new to it, but it has been amazing for me. Thank you so much for writing this out. I was hoping you would write about this pregnancy, and that this is what you would write. I can imagine this peacefulness you are feeling, what an amazing experience, to reach a place of such peace and contentment (you know, in between the hurls and the back pain). Though I am really am embracing my own journey to being truly open to God’s will, I do feel like I’m journeying ahead of my husband (a wonderful, loving Catholic, husband, and father.) My goal for the upcoming Advent season is to focus my prayer and thinking on how to bring us more together on that path. Although I think this was a long time in coming for us, your story has really been the “in-person” kick in the pants that I needed. Because I feel in my heart that at least one more kiddo is in store for us, I know he or she is in spirit waiting to become part of our family.
Alice, I’m very touched. Thank you!
Oh, it is hard having a special needs baby but I would have another. I would adopt another. The timing may never be right for us as C’s path is so very similar yet so very different from Luke’s- so many unknowns, so much medical travel, so much ahead of him yet. In the end it will be okay. In the end love trumps all. So excited for you all! SQUEE!
Thank you so much for posting this message. I’m sure it was hard to write. I particularly appreciate your stance on special needs parenting being a gift. Our second has autism spectrum disorder (as does our third and fourth). After the first was diagnosed, the comment was made by a close family member that “most people would stop before they had more.” It has also been strongly inferred I shouldn’t ever complain about what my children suffer because “I asked for it.” Nice. A world that fails to appreciate humanity by its intrinsic value misses the whole point of being alive.
I just gave birth 4 weeks ago to my first “baby after a NICU baby” (also our 6th). There has been a lot of healing in the past 10 mos. that I feel was essential.
Many prayers as you face the critics! Praise God for a new life!
Kathryn, you’ve done it again… brought me to tears (of love). What a beautiful message! Thank you so much for sharing your heart once again.
God bless you and your family!
Congratulations! You are so right…kids are great….who wouldn’t want more of them?
What a beautiful post. I had a similar experience with a doctor telling me we “should really think long and hard about having more children” after my second had some development delays and other medical issues (not life-threatening, not life-altering mind you). I couldn’t believe it and was very hurt by it but we also place our family planning in God’s hands, not a doctor’s, not even our own. He’s given us one more child that I can’t imagine life without. I wish he had given us more but like I tell people that ask about being Catholic and birth control, “God doesn’t give everyone 19 kids or 10 kids or even 5 kids.” His plan is perfect for each family and we should trust in that. Congratulations to you and your family!
Prayers for continued peace and joy! Also praying for a healthy baby for you all.
This is so beautiful! I’m glad you feel such peace and joy! I’m so excited for you, K!
Congrats! I have never read your blog before but a friend of mine told me about it today because I too am expecting baby #6! So many similarities we share. We are a blessed catholic family that has had some issues with small babies, babies with health issues and those loaded questions of “your done right? Or you know what causes this right? Or are you trying to out do the Dugger’s? ” I too put this baby in God’s hands. I too was nervous about telling people of our exciting news because I was afraid of the unkind comments that would deflate my balloon. I decided not to give those people that power – God is our only judge and He gave this gift to us! Congrats again and I will add you to my prayer list, especially prayers to St. Gerard! God bless.
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!! I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for always blessing us with your faith.
I feel your joy, thank you for sharing it and sharing this post.
I started to cry when I read, “For four years I’ve sorted through the waterfall of varied emotions: fear, anxiety, hope, joy, worry and love. And eventually love won.”. Like what Alice wrote, I too struggle at times with my vocation and your (and other wonderful blogs) have helped me immensely. Thank you.
Renee, I hope they were happy tears 😉 I think we all struggle with our vocations, otherwise we wouldn’t need God!
Congrats and thank you for sharing. What a very blessed little baby.
Congratulations on baby 6! I got pregnant with my #6 when I was 39 and I could not BELIEVE how many people responded to the news with “Was that an accident?” I was so grateful to the friend who said something like, “The world will be lucky to have another McGee.” So grateful for each baby, however they come, and for God’s hand guiding it.
Whoop! Congrats to Team Whitaker! So happy for y’all!
YESSSSSS!!!! I can TOTALLY feel your JOY!!! Oh, my, tears are streaming down my face. What a beautiful testimony to life, to faith, to hope. And, the children – isn’t that the best?? How they can see the purest of the pure just for what it is??? Despite the sacrifices, life is PURELY God’s goodness showered down on us. Aren’t we blessed that He trusts us with all of this LOVE?? I will keep you in my prayers, my friend, the world can definitely use one more Whitaker, and you are going to see to that!! 🙂
Thanks, Susan. So much! I hear your prayers are pretty fabulous.
I can’t remember how I came across your blog but oh how I love to follow your posts! Your testimony is beautiful and I wish I had more people in my life that feel this way. We just had our 4th baby. Our 3rd child was difficult from the beginning and still is quite challenging at 3. We thought we were done after being so consumed with parenting her and the other two. But when she was 15 months old I surprisingly got pregnant. I cried tears of worry and anxiety. However, we lost that precious baby at 10 weeks gestation and my life was changed forever. Months later I was at mass and found myself proclaiming to God that I would welcome as many children as he wanted me to have. 8 months later we finally felt ready and I had a “chemical pregnancy” at 4 weeks. I was so distraught and a close friend told me “Kristin, give and let God”. I then made peace with us maybe only having 3 kids and moved on with “life”. Soon after we were pregnant and our little miracle is 3 months old!! We told people while I was pregnant that 4 is likely our limit but deep down I know that I would be fine with more if that is God’s plan for us. But this also makes me feel like I am a little crazy and I have a hard time sharing that with most people even though we are so engrained in our Catholic community. My question is this: how can I be ok with more children if I can’t seem to handle the ones I have? Our house is crazy, the kids often don’t listen, my husband works until 9 or later at night and some weekends, and I know my extended family would not be supportive if we had more. I already feel like if I complain about how hard it is they would say “I told you so”. But why do I still feel the desire for more and the desire to be open to the gift of children? My husband feels the same but let’s face it, we can’t even afford the ones we have! Anyway, I secretly look up to you and your family and wonder from afar how you manage to stay positive amongst the challenges. Thank you for sharing your family with us and prayers to you and the baby 🙂
What a beautiful story, Kristin! I can tell you that after child #2 I looked at my husband and said, “I cannot have any more children.” For real. I felt so overwhelmed and exhausted and everyday felt like a failure. I wish I could tell you that I now feel like supermom, but most days I realize I have a long way to go. I’ve started asking God to make me a better mom tomorrow than what I was today. Baby steps, girl. Baby steps. You see my highlight reel here. Don’t forget that. One thing I did early on and it nearly killed me, was thinking about having 3, 4, 5 or more kids when I had 2. Then, I would get overwhelmed and discouraged. I was forgetting that God gives them to us (usually) one at a time. And to be content with my current children and learn to stretch a bit more with the next child. You can’t parent children you don’t have. And, don’t you worry ONE SINGLE BIT about what other people will say or how they will or won’t be supportive. You’ll get what you need when you need it, even if it doesn’t come from family. That I can promise you. We can’t afford ours either 😉 But I love them and that counts for something. For everything, I think. I’ve put the finances in God’s hands and He always delivers. So happy you’re here. ~K
Thanks so much for the advice and encouragement Kathryn. It means a lot. I’ve always thought about starting a blog (after all, I have a great one already written up in my head!) but have been apprehensive to share my thoughts and personal experiences…putting myself out there so to speak. So for now, I am glad I get to connect with others who are braver than me! Best of everything to you and if you are ever in Charlotte, NC I know some great coffe shops 😉
God Bless, K.A.
Thank you so much for sharing! After three very difficult pregnancies, we are now expecting our fourth child. We have had some family members who haven’t been supportive of our choice (mostly out of concern for my health) and this was a great reminder to not let their words change the love and joy our family feels about this beautiful new life.
Awesome. Awesome. Awesome! Brought tears to my eyes Momma. You are a blessing to the blogging world and to all us younger mommas who are nervous about expanding our families past societies 2 kids + a dog = happiness. I see families like yours and others closer to home and felt God tugging at my heart strings. Thank you for your witness and your honesty. Your family is in our prayers.
Thank you, Colleen. We’re all in this together!
That’s funny because the last time I saw you I said to myself,
“I wonder if God will give them another baby.”
What wonderful news and a huge feat over much of your fears.
Congratulations dear Whitaker family!
Leslie, you know how much I love you. You are especially in my prayers tonight as you prepare for another sweet little life. St. Luke’s feast day – the best birthday ever for your new little guy!
Beautiful post. Congratulations on your new blessing. I am no. 6 and have always been grateful. We have 5 and it’s amazing some of the comments we receive too.
[…] of babies, you got my heart earlier this week on the blog about our decision to have six children. It’s never easy putting yourself out there, nor admitting your shortcomings, but I hope that […]
Thank you so much for sharing. I’m a NICU mom and we are just starting to try again after 4 years. Our son has multiple diagnosis. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my fears. We also see the love and light our son brings to everyone’s life. We get note’s just saying “Your son makes me laugh” and “He is the true miracle” NICU or not little ones bring love.
YAY! Congratulations! 🙂 I love reading your blog and am so happy to see this. We are also discerning another baby (it would be our fifth on earth, with one miscarried baby in heaven) and posts like this encourage me. 🙂
Beautiful! What a perfect announcement. Congratulations to you and your whole family.
Kathryn – I love this blog post. I am not sure what it is about people thinking that they have anything to say about your decision for your family. My hope is that this pregnancy continues to bring your family more joy, closer together, and more reasons to celebrate. I love the balloon release. Such a perfect way to start the family journey.
Sometime I’ll have to share with you and Scott, if I haven’t already, the story about how, when I was a new Catholic, in about 1991 or 2, and I had gone to see Fr. Mike Sis in the OLD St. Mary’s Student Center, and asked him about the Church’s teaching on birth control….bottom line is we put it all in God’s hands and had three more children, in spite of all the questions we got from our dear Aggie and 12th Man friends, even my dad who would ask me every time I called him to say we were pregnant, “Son, do you know what’s causing this?” Shit, no, Dad (I wanted to say…) WHAT? Needless to say, it is such a blessing that we have Blair, John Mark and Mary Kate. Thank you God!
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