family planning

when we got pregnant with layla so soon after having judah i thought maybe it was the start of becoming a mom of many kids. i liked that idea. i pushed hard for having back-to-back babies (in a time sense, not a sharing a womb together sense...i'll pass on twins!) partially because being that kind of family seemed fun and, hey, we'd better get going. i never gave it much more thought than that. i love the duggars so hard, and while 19 has never been on any agenda of mine, the picture of lots of kids playing together and loving their big family really appealed to me. i only have one sibling and it was sort of lonely. i thought my parents were selfish slackers for only having two kids. ha. hahahahahaha. stupid, stupid child.

the past 3 months have put that idea to rest death. i had always just thought, "i will have the kids first, and then that will force me to be the right kind of mom to 2/3/4/5/6 kids." while i think god certainly gives grace to get through anything, and would certainly have been all up in that, i have recently realized that this might not be the wisest idea for me. i now believe that moms like michelle duggar---that is to say, any mom who can biblically, intentionally, and patiently parent that many little ones at the same time--are to a certain extent born, not self-made.

i mean to say that i think it takes more than just generally wanting lots of kids to be the kind of mom who can actually thrive and be fulfilled by the calling of the day-in day-out mothering of lots of kids.

that's a dukes, not a duggar. and we're thrilled to have her.

maybe you had this moment growing up. i can remember going into my room as a 13-14 year old and saying, "i am going to put on makeup and do my hair so carefully and deliberately that i will be the most beautiful i have ever been." a total makeover to find out my potential. and i remember when i got done being kind of perplexed by the fact that cameron diaz, britney spears, and all the other hot chicks on TV were so much prettier than me still. it wasn't a feeling of insecurity or ugliness, it was just the realization that no matter how much extra stuff i tried, i would never look that good.

you cant just want your way into being starlet-pretty, you have to be born with a certain framework to start with. bummer if that's your major life's goal, but kind of a relief in another way: since it just wasn't in my particular genetic makeup, it wasnt something i needed to shoot for or run after, it was simply something that i wasn't.

like being right-handed or too short to play front row in volleyball, that's just who i am. and the realization was like when you are waiting for news and it finally comes. it may not be the news you wanted, but there is still a relief and peace that at least you aren't still waiting, with it hanging over your head, or killing yourself trying to make the good news come. i had my answer and could move on, being the prettiest me possible, and leaving the full lips, doe-eyes and mandatory institutionalizations to the famous chicks.

so these past months have led me down a similar path about what kind of mom i am. layla's early mobility coupled with judah's 2 year old boundary testing have made parenting more a display of cat herding than anything. jesse and i have looked at each other across the toy and crumb-strewn wasteland of our living room while wrangling kids and gasped, "no! more! babies!!!" we dont mean forever (i'm betting we end up with at least 3) but we just can't do them back to back anymore like i had envisioned.

instead of feeling like a sucky failure who didnt make the mom-of-many-at-once cut, i feel a great peace now that i have realized that i dont have to try my way to being zen earth mother to a brood, that that just isnt who i am. and instead of waiting for the grace that would make me this person all of a sudden (aka the magic wand that makes me look like giselle), i might already be receiving the grace that says, "it's okay, and even right, for you to not be that person."

a more immature keight might have tried to force god's hand (cause, yeah, that's possible) and just had the kids first because she liked the idea of it and then demanded that he show up and get her through it (i'm sure he loves that). but it has been really cool to instead stop looking at all those bloggy or friend or TV moms-to-many, to drop my ever-changing wants or expectations ("oh, look at that family's picture on pinterest! let's have twin boys rightnow!") and instead look to jesus for the answer to the question of, "what kind of mom am i? what kind of daughter to you am i?"

holding tight to the picket fence dream

since asking this my antennae have been up and my sensors alert. when i am with my kids i am noticing how parenting plural munchkins makes me feel. what energizes me or fills me with jesus? what stresses me out and makes me growl such frustrated noises that judah says, "mah scay-urd." and what do these observations tell me? what do they indicate that i need to work on or pray about? can i get any wisdom about what this means for planning our family and what is best for us?

fresh off my day-old epiphany, i am now qualified to give unsolicited advice (yes! let's all gather round and listen to the chick who contemplated pulling a power play on YAWEH, creator of the universe. what founts of wisdom spew forth from her bosom!). if you are feeling the itch to have a baby or have another baby, because of your age or your friends all having babies or pressure from parents, or from some mental picture of your dream family that probably came from a catalogue, try, TRY to set those feelings and motives aside and really ask yourself and jesus (if you swing that way...though he'll show up even if you don't) if that picture is true or best or realistic for who you really are and where you are.

the good news: i didnt do this before deciding to have either of my kids, and i really dont think i WAS ready for them, but, aloha? i LOVE them and they are the #3 and #4 best things to happen to me (jesus and jesse in case you were wondering about 1 & 2). but i have had to learn some really hard, ugly things about myself along the way, and i have hurt my kids hearts because i was having to do my growing on the fly instead of entering parenthood with a humbly prepared heart. if i could do it over again and be guaranteed judah and layla, i would have waited at least 2 or 3 more years before becoming a mom.

our little tools...and the amazing children playing with them (see what i did there?) please note layla's belly overhang, and judahs lush locks. dear golly, we love them.

it never occurred to me before either baby to ask for the self-awareness--and i shudder to use such a churchy word, but i think it's appropriate here too--or revelation to evaluate who i am and where my strengths are, and if they are appropriate and compatible with the family i wanted. only in the chaos and coming to the end of my mommy rope lately have i gotten the wake up call to turn this stuff back to jesus. being mommy to and authority over little kids around the clock can get me in "i'm in charge" mode so deeply that i seriously forget that i'm NOT!

thinking of some of this stuff before jumping into decisions really feels like wisdom straight from jesus. it's so counter to my normal methods and so out of the blue that i know it's his grace working sparkly magic in me.

so i ask you:

1. do you think it takes a special kind of person to be a mom to lots of kids all close in age? or does having the kids first make the mom?

2. how hard will we all laugh when i turn up pregnant with twins next month?


  1. As a mom of 4 kids 4 and under...you're perfectly correct, it's not for everyone. It shouldn't be. And while I can't imagine NOT having all these whimpering, snivelling, laughing little knots of emotions surrounding me at all times, I can definitely see the wisdom in just a few, spaced in an orderly fashion, in order to lessen the chaos. Because that's all it is: the chaos of herding cats. Cats who can hit and talk back.

    And lady, as much as I love mine, I would never wish twins on anyone. Nor do I understand when people say "Oh, I always wanted twins!" What the hell? You're crazy, hypothetical crazy person. Now slap yourself.

  2. This is so refreshing to see... I have been blessed to have this epiphany with my first one. I knew that I was not mentally prepared or mature enough to really "get" parenthood. I, most regretfully, have scared and hurt my little ones heart as well. However, I do feel as though to parent how God wants us to parent is impossible without complete reliance upon his strength and patience. We are faulty still.. just as much learning and discipline going on from our heavenly Father as we do with our own kids. My son will be almost 4 before this one is born and though they are not as close in age as I had first imagined my kids to be... it's right for our family and my mental state.

  3. @emily amen! i struggle with disappointment wishing my as-yet-unconceived next kids could all be as close in age as the first two, but i know it's not right for us either. i'd rather have 3 spaced apart kids that like me than 5 back to back who resent the wounds i inflicted and incite rebellion! and i totally agre on complete reliance. every epiphany or breakthrough "i" have had in my parenting journey has been submitting to him and letting him work.

    @christine: i am a hypothetically slapped person. i find myself always simultaneously jealous and terrified of your setup!

  4. Honest question: Is it possible that we don't know what we're made of or what we're ready for until we give it a shot and see how we respond?? I'm having my first in 5 months... we will be just short of our 2nd anniversary. I don't want regrets.

  5. @wading patiently, YES! a first time parent doesnt really know what's in store to even be prepared for it, and there is so much learning as you go that is perfectly normal. but i didnt even think through or weigh the utter giving up of my own time and agenda on a pretty inclusive daily basis that mothering would require. that has been the hardest part for me. and i wouldnt say i have regrets. i am jealous of my single and DINK friends' freedom a LOT and just wish i would have stretched out that phase a little longer. but i wouldnt mess with a fiber of our story if it meant not having the exact two kids we have now. you know a lot more about what it takes when you start having 2 and 3 and 4, even though there are tons of surprises there too. my situation was finding myself doing it for the catalogue pictures rather than truly praying about if my heart was ready for such an undertaking. and there has been TONS of grace and testing my mettle in that but also sadly some emotional fallout for all of us because of it.

  6. Keight--this is a great post, and so true. I think we all do this at various stages of our lives--whether it be marriage, starting a family, whatever! I think it is so important to self-reflect and examine your heart's desires within the context of a greater plan....there have been many times when I realize that I am trying to "force" God's hand...create the life that I want, rather than allowing the one he wants for me to unfold as it should. Love this post, thank you for such an excellent reminder.

  7. To answer your first question: yes and no. I think that as you noted, God gives us the grace to handle the situations we're given--so, a non-special kind of mom could very well manage 4 kids close in age if that were what she had. that being said, i really think there are certain personality and character traits that make our lives as moms better. Organization is a HUGE one for me, because i'm not. Never have been. And never cared, until I had 2 kids 12 months apart. And now every day of my messy, disordered, nuthouse has me cursing myself, wishing I'd gotten at least SOME of my shit together first. When I find myself saying "so-and-so is the best mom ever" what I'm usually referring to is the moms who have snacks AND wipes AND diapers AND extra outfits AND pacifiers AND hand sanitizer in their diaper bags, instead of leaving the diaper bag at home, like i do. Or the moms who have their pantries stocked with organic, healthy munchies for their kids, instead of a pack of hotdogs purchased at Walgreens because I forgot to go grocery shopping, like in my fridge right now. So I do think there are certain types of people who fall into motherhood more easily, simply because their lives have a sense of order which mine lacks. That being said--do I think I should be judged on my parenting by the contents of my pantry and diaper bag? I sure hope not. I think anyone CAN be a good parent, I think some people have to work harder at it, and we all need a TON of Jesus.

    We also had planned to have 4 kids spaced out about 18 months each. God gave us our second baby when our first was 13 weeks old, and having 2 so close together has made us chuck our plan. I am sure I would find a way to handle it--however, I think I would lose a little bit of the joy I get from my kids. I want to enjoy them and cherish the moments, and it's hard a lot of days as it is because I get SO bogged down. So we're hoping to wait awhile and then have 2 more down the road.

    Great, wonderful, encouraging post. And yes, I'm going to laugh when you're pregnant with twins.

  8. you know it's a good post if I'm chiming in.

    I'd say it doesn't so much take a special kind of mom/parent as it does a special kind of attitude. Certainly some people are more predisposed towards patience and organization, and those things help a ton. But what's more important is whether or not you will have a humble heart and let God grow you in the midst of the craziness that ensues every frickin' day as a parent.

    The biggest thing I try to remember with raising kids is, this thing is a marathon and not a sprint. So its not super useful to judge yourself in the short run, even though that's all of our natural tendency. My hope is that we always continue to grow as parents and that we never stop letting God humble us and mold our hearts, and THAT is why you are an AWESOME mom.

    In the long run, I think modeling repentance and humility when do let our anger get the best of us, or the stress overtake a situation, will have more of a positive impact than any small wounds our actions may cause our kids.

    The truth is, we can do ALL things through Christ, but that's in his strength, not ours. The difficult part is submitting to Him, and sometimes being overwhelmed by life is what it takes to get you there.

  9. Oh how you hit on my soapbox today... if we were actual friends, you would never bring up fertility and mommy-hood around me because I do not shut up.

    I have been thinking much about this as we were/are hoping to baby bunch... but maybe not the 5 we planned on- maybe "only" 4...

    I think some people have more maternal instincts than others, and I also think that Michelle Duggar did not wake up 20-something years ago with all of the mommy wisdom she has today. I think she's in the habit of being honest before God and allows Him to change her into the woman He is in the process of making her to be. We might not be rock-star mommy's now, but only God knows and can un-tap our mommy-potential. If you end up with twins next month, He isn't going to sit outside your window and laugh as you and Jesse try to parent 4 kids under 4 (though I might...)- He's not in the business of screwing you over.

    And yes- while age should not be a determining factor for deciding to have a baby, it should be part of the conversation. Most OBs will not explain to a 29 year old the decline that will happen to both egg quality and pregnancy rates once she hits 30. So if you're stable, married, etc... having a discussion about more kids in your early 30s is a good idea, simply because- like it or not- there is an expiration date for us females. It's not a pressure thing, it just pisses me off that women aren't told more about what's happening to their genetic material.

    Ok- done now. And you can officially block me from your blog and claim that we were never ticky tack blood sisters. But I am making that fall chicken soup you pinned that you ate with Panera bread... it smells amazing and I might eat it all before dinner.

  10. @amy, block? Never! That was awesome. I need to hear all the different perspectives. Such a good reminder that Michelle wasn't always the mom to many she is now. And good to know about the eggs! All of these new points of view will be going into our next kid talk!

  11. i couldn't have said it better! this post basically sums up the tugs in my mind in heart when i think of having more kids, and wanting that picture of lots of kids close together, but then realizing that the two kids i already have are enough. definitely for right now, maybe even enough for always. after many weeks and prayers and talks with the hubby, i am finally feeling at peace that it's okay to be satisfied with the two kids i have now. and it's also okay to be able to say that they are enough right now. and even with just the two of them, many days i feel like i am barely treading water, and i feel like the world's worst mom for snapping at my two and a half year old and letting my 6 month old sit in the exersaucer for too long. ultimately, god is oh so good, and puts up with me, even though i neglect him so often, and try to figure everything out on my own. (which of, course, doesn't work)

    that was a lot of rambling. but sum it up with this: thanks for writing such an honest post. i completely know where you're coming from

  12. Oh man, how much I relate. My parents spaced my siblings and I really far apart (3.5 years between my sister and brother, then 6 whopping years between my brother and me). My mom always told me it was because she wanted to be able to give each of her kids their fair share of individual attention - which we definitely received. I think my mom's wisdom and foresight was partly due to the fact that she waited six years after getting married to have kids in the first place (as opposed to my one year). In any event, when I started having kids I thought I wanted them closer together because I was discontent with my sibling experience. I always wished my siblings could have been playmates. I was thinking, 2 years distance, max.
    Yeah, that was before I actually had a kid. Now, I'm grateful that I grew up with a mom who was realistic about what she could handle, because it's helped me accept the reality about myself that has hit me upside the head since becoming a mom: I am no way, no how cut out to be Mom to a big family, much less of multiple babies close in age. As it is, our two will be 3.5 years apart, and I STILL don't feel ready for #2. It encourages me when I remember the experience of some people close to me who grew up in huge families and for whom it was not a good experience, because they always felt like their mom was overwhelmed. I know that if I had 4+ kids, I WOULD be that mom. And that's not the kind of mom I want to be. So...here's to family planning.

    It will ALWAYS take huge trust and humility to be good parents, regardless of how many and how close our babies are...but I'm also a firm believer in being realistic. I admire you for owning both of those things simultaneously.

  13. You're an amazing Mom... for reals. I would have no idea you felt this way if you weren't so honest. Your kids are awesome and you and Jesse are awesome. Maybe we all need to look at exactly what we have right now and think it's really special... and it'll keep being special for a long time. It's so easy to look around and want to be "MckMama on a Farm"... but you're right, it's not for everyone. Good for you for figuring it out not a moment too soon :-) xxoo

  14. Amen. To your post and the comments. Well said ladies.

  15. As a child of a family of five, I knew very early on that I did not want many kids. Part of that has to do with the disfunctionality of how I was raised, but mostly I knew that I wasn't personally programmed to handle multiple children like my mom.
    I am just very thankful that I had many signs early on that made it clear we needed to be a two child family. And I'm glad we listened. Because I am married to a man that lives babies! But luckily we have plenty of friends with babies that we can just borrow!
    Keight- you are a great mom because you are real. You recognize struggle and you think it through with the help of God. I admire you for your faithfulness and courage.
    And if u have twins, I will laugh and then I will offer to babysit because you have really great kids!

  16. Keight - this is a great post. I have been struggling with this a lot recently. I've always wanted three kids (even before I had any and knew what parenthood entailed) and I thought my husband's desire for 'only' 2 kids was a cop out.

    I love the two children I have more than anything but the thought of adding more right now (and being pregnant right now) is more than I can handle. However, the thought of waiting another year or two and being a 38 or 39 year old mother to an infant (and two others)scares me more.

    I am coming to accept that (for me) it isn't a cop out to have only two kids and it might even be true that I can be a better parent to only two kids. Gasp. I might even be a better parent if I can one day regain a few of my own hobbies and let my kids see that even I have my own interests...this might even be a healthy thing to do!!

    I am still a little sad that I may have come to the end of my child bearing years but I really have nothing to be sad about. I have 2 beautiful children and a great husband. I'd probably feel the same sadness if I had 5 kids and was coming to the end of the 'baby years'.

    Thanks so much for this great post...your timing was perfect!

  17. I think that a mom needs to spiritually prepare herself for each child and be patient as she learns to adjust to that additional child. I think if the parents are willing they can be a parent to any number of child, but there is no need to make it harder on yourself and have another kid before you think you are ready.
    I want to say I appreciate your honesty! We are expecting our first in about 17 more weeks. I know that pretty much nothing can prepare us for the life changes that will come (my sister and several friends have kids and have warned me!) :) but I do know that only the Lord can give me the strength and patience I need for motherhood. I pray every day that He will teach me to be a godly wife and now mother, and that I will be teachable.
    I have realized that my husband and I disagreeing on how many kids we will have is not important now. We need to focus on becoming godly parents and continue to deepen our relationship with each other and the Lord. And when we decide we want to add to our family, we need to first take it to the Lord. So many times we can make big decisions and not seek the Lord. I pray that I will become the woman to always seek Him FIRST!
    Bottom line, children are a blessing from the Lord. No matter the number you have! One should not feel inferior for only having one or two, or that she is crazy or not doing good enough for having 3, 4, 5 or more!

  18. So now that Ive reviewed blog posting 101, and reminded myself to look carefully for the green light that says I'm in the sweet spot, and my post really has been saved to be reviewed... I'm attempting to rewrite my long post on this amazing entry. I'm sure it started with: WOW! Wow!! Wow!!! Keight, this is one of the most incredible, honest, thoughtful (and thought provoking) posts in your long history of that kind. I can NOT tell you how impressed I am that you are asking these questions at this point in the game, and doing such a great job of seeking and listening to counsel from others. I was so un-self aware at your age (still in shock that you used that word...AND the word revelation in the same sentence, same post, same month, year, decade, etc) and especially since I had a hard time having children, I was mostly, I've got this -- full steam ahead. I love the fact that you're examining your motherhood and asking yourself what kind of mother you want to be, rather than getting to the teen years, having problems then asking what went wrong (if there are problems!)

    I just have to say you are an amazing mom, and your children are benefiting, and will benefit tremendously from the self examination you are doing now. It helps to think about what you want your kids to remember about you and their childhood, then ask Jesus to change the parts of you He needs to change to make you that person!! He will lead and guide you regarding how many, when, if, etc. if you keep asking Him, and will give you the grace to be the person you need to be for them if you continue to humbling ask Him to empower you to BE so. I've been praying for you about these very things, and it's so cool to know Jesus has been saying them while I've been praying them. I love you, Keight, and am so glad we can take this journey together. HUGS!!!

  19. I have three kids ages 3,2,and almost 7 months. I personally feel that I can only handle a couple more and not for another year or more from now. I am not a zen mama (Mrs.Duggar) and I know I've made mistakes but by the grace of God I am a good mother to my children. I've learned these past three years that I have to figure out what is good and right for my family and just not worry about the other families around me. If we as mothers go about comparing ourselves and our families to others around us we end up in a constant state of guilt.

    Stephanie from Oklahoma

  20. Really enjoyed both the post and the comments! I have a 6 year old (who I homeschool), and two foster children, ages 20 and 25 months. Our youngest has only been with us for a little over a month, and we are really struggling to adjust, even though we have been eagerly anticipating his arrival for some time. I can totally relate to wanting to be "that mom" who appears to have it all together, and can manage to be joyful and content at the same time. I am not this way naturally, and it is only by the grace of God, and the passing of time in order to find our "new normal," that I will get there.

  21. Hey - found your post thru the Livesay blog. I'm the mom of 9 children - ages 13 months thru 19.

    Your question, basically, "are good mothers born that way?"

    Well, no....not in my experience. My husband and I thought we'd have two, perfectly spaced two years apart - and they were! Our first two boys were one day shy of two years apart. YES! We were perfect planners, perfectly in control of our lives!!! :) So proud of ourselves, too!

    Then, our third, a little girl, came 17 months after our boys. Total surprise, with the use of two types of birth control - but there she was. :)

    Which made us decide she needed a sister. Baby number four was a girl, and the sweetest, most peaceful baby you could imagine - so easy. She tricked us into thinking kids were easy, so we kept going. (No, really - we had surgery planned, but the night before I fell into deep grieving, as if I would be missing meeting some very incredible people. We cancelled the surgery - scared, really, that we might end up with EIGHT kids. FREAKS!)

    We weren't even kid people. Loved our kids, but didn't like working in the nursery, or really, other people's kids. We weren't high-energied people, like things to be clean and orderly and organized.....

    So we weren't naturals.

    And you know what? Those years have been a long time ago now. God led us down the road to have more children. (Not that everyone has to (!) I'm just sharing how it was for us. We were listening to his voice. It had less to do with how equipped we were, and more to do with how willing we were for Him to do whatever it was He wanted to do in our lives, through us. I don't think it's the same for everyone.)

    We have nine, as I said - and as I write this down I think, for sure, what wonderful people we would have missed if we had stopped. (And please know that I'm not trying to change your mind. I wouldn't gain a thing from that.) i think God has a purpose for them.

    I was so ill-equipped to be a mom, some days, I still feel that I am. But it really doesn't take perfect parents to raise wonderful parents. Sometimes, it's letting go of expectations, and knowing that things aren't going to stay the way they are forever. It's remaining humble and teachable (by God)and being willing to say we're sorry.

    Hope you find peace, no matter what you decide. You'll never go wrong by slowing down and listening for God's voice - that's for sure. :) Just don't think you have to have "arrived" in the parenting department. :)

  22. Can't tell you how much I love this post. I completely agree - functioning moms of many are born and not made. Unfortunately for me, I didn't figure that out until I'd added four to my brood in four years. It's been quite a journey, and I regularly have to remind myself that while I may not be a Michelle Duggar, I am the best mom that *I* can be. And that may look a little different and involve lots of help.