Having one child was NOT an option. As the ninth of ten children myself, I viewed it as mean. You can't have one kid and put him/her in front of my husband and I. "This is all you get, kid." We just aren't that much fun. It would be a cruel, terrible thing to do to a child. So we discussed every option during our pre-marital counseling that would keep us from bringing one child into the boring, awful existence of having us as his/her parents. We discussed adoption, fostering, having four (the number I wanted), and having two (the number he was more comfortable with). We talked about the number of years we would wait to start and the number of years that would be optimal between them. So we agreed, at least two and no more than four. They would be the gifts that we gave to them, each other.
I suppose that's what pre-marital counseling is for, to discuss things in theory. As though you have some control over your life, your partner, and your circumstances. To talk about ideals and expectations. It's important, but it's not definitive by any stretch. Life has a way of happening in spite of our plans and people have a way of changing because of those happenings. As soon as we got married, the happenings started happening and the people (us) started changing.
My husband began to doubt his stability and his ability to provide for us financially. He had already changed jobs multiple times in our short marriage. He is an extremely hard worker, but hadn't found his niche. I was ready for babies, lots of them! He was ready to wait longer than we initially agreed. Somehow I convinced him and we got pregnant on track with our initial plan. Pregnancy for me was glorious. I'd never felt more certain of what I wanted or what I was doing. He'd never felt less certain. I was getting excited about our family and he was getting distant. To add to the emotional roller coaster, both of our daddies died in the first two years of our marriage. His, when I was pregnant. There is something about your daddy dying that changes you.
We gave birth to Marie six weeks after we buried his father. My emotions and my circumstances were like a pin-ball in a machine. I shot from grief to elation to confusion and loneliness faster than I could feel or identify them. I was a new mom and I felt lost. He was an uncertain dad who just lost his best friend and whose only comfort was in the role of providing for us financially, so he stayed gone. He didn't know what else he had to offer. The first 2 years of my daughter's life are an emotional blur for me. In grief, in daily existence and in parenting her we worked together separately. Separately together. Few words. Fewer connections and even fewer plans for the future that we'd agreed upon.
"She needs a sibling," I would remind him. He said he couldn't. Said, he wouldn't. I cried. I prayed. I pleaded with God to change his heart. "Lord, you can't put a child in front of us and say this is all you get!" We aren't enough. So many times as I begged my heavenly father, I received the same silence I got from my husband. Nothing. No words. No explanations. No promises. No emotion. I became more disillusioned in both relationships. I became more depressed and more confused. I cried holding my baby, believing that I was failing her. Knowing that I was not providing for her the greatest gift I could give her in this life. The greatest gift I had been given in my life. The tears fell almost daily, from my face to hers. I told her I was sorry and promised her I would keep trying. My depression deepened. The anger towards my husband grew. We rarely spoke about what our life had become; he wasn't interested in that discussion and I was incapable of having it without venomous words and poor motives. So we moved through life in virtual silence. It was deafening.
I had well meaning friends telling me, "Just get pregnant and he will have to deal with it." Even in the throws of my anger towards him, that never registered as sound marital advice. I wanted him to change his mind. I wanted him to consider my feelings. I wanted him to think about our daughter. I wanted him to be on board and I knew if he wasn't it would only make things worse. There was no evidence, however, that he was or was not thinking about, praying about, or considering any of these things. There was only silence. So I continued to pray. I fought with God because my husband wouldn't fight with me. I became angry at a loving God who I was certain had led me into the trap of this marriage. An emotionless, communication-less marriage with one child. One. The only option that wasn't an option had become my reality. One. One kid. Well, guess what kid? "This is all you get!" Your dad and I, who have been derailed by life, loss, and each other, that's all you get. And so I cried.
My screaming crying fit to God continued as I made my case known, as though He was unaware of what I was experiencing. "This is all she gets Lord? This can't be all she gets, it isn't fair," I sobbed. "You have to change his mind. You have to convince his heart. Help us, Lord." All of the sudden, after two years of crying, begging, and pleading with God, my perspective changed. In one sobbing moment, like a whirlwind it changed. I was no longer Marie looking at us saying "This is all you get." Like a camera in a movie, the perspective swirled around and I was now me looking at Marie. As I looked into the eyes of my amazing two year old, in the clearest non-audible voice you can imagine, I heard "You get all this!" Looking into that precious, precocious, rambunctious, beautiful, drooling face I heard; "You get all of this and it is as complete and as whole as you will allow it to be." My crying stopped.
At that moment I felt peace for the first time in years. At that moment I didn't understand my husband but I also didn't hate him. At that moment I realized that God is bigger than our lives and bigger than our plans for them. I understood that God doesn't just exist in our circumstances, but He exists in spite of our circumstances. He doesn't have to change our lives in order to be found in them. He is big enough for my husband's doubt, even if it doesn't change. He is large enough to handle my grief, even if it never goes away. He can heal the disappointment of our marriage and teach us how to re-build in spite of the brokenness that exists. He can bridge the gap between us even if, perhaps especially if, we can't.
My little family of three is complete. It's as whole as I allow it to be. I will always grieve that Marie has no siblings, I just will. It will likely be the longest regret of my life, but it has also been one of the greatest lessons. I know that God loves her more than I do. So what I believe she is missing from lack of siblings, He will give her in abundance in other ways. He will fill the gap that I see. He will create in her a personality and character that is beautifully complete in Him. He will orchestrate experiences that will shape her and mold her into exactly who He needs for her to be. God knows that our family is not a mistake, it is not partial, lacking, or limping. He sees us as whole, complete, and His. It serves me well to see things the way He does.
In His goodness, He has also provided the grace and love that our marriage was unable to cultivate itself. He led us through the grief in a way that we didn't completely lose each other. He brought grace into the silence and love into the distance that we managed to create. He has allowed us to find each other again not without the wounds but in spite of them. Circumstances don't always change in the manner we desire them to, but His grace is not dependent on our circumstances. His love is powerful enough to meet us in the midst of whatever mess we have created. It was hearts that needed changing not circumstances. After all, "We get ALL this and its as whole and perfect as I will allow it to be!"