I grew up in a family with four kids. I liked it. Chuck grew up in a family with four kids. He liked it. So early on in our relationship we very easily settled on a plan that involved having four kids.
In our infinite wisdom, we deemed ourselves ready to get going on those kids a few months into our marriage, but Heavenly Father in His actual infinite wisdom gave us some extra time to be ready :). In fact, as we look at when our children have come into our family, it's so, so evident that the timing was divinely designed. And this fourth pregnancy is no different.
It took us a year to get pregnant with Clyde. It may seem like Will was a much quicker study since he came just under nineteen months later, but that equals out to ten months of trying (albeit while breastfeeding). After that we gave ourselves some time to adjust to two little boys and some time for me to finish school. In that time I must have mixed myself up with some sort of fantastically fertile individual, because I worked out a timetable for our next baby - and actually believed it would happen just like I planned. Starting in the summer of 2009, I expected to get pregnant any second. That fall was my final semester at Boise State, and I was enrolled in a yoga class. I remember approaching my teacher at the beginning of September to give her a heads-up that I was anticipating being pregnant soon; she congratulated me and assured me that we would make any adaptations necessary. Needless to say, such adaptations never became necessary and I graduated with my bachelor's degree in December of 2009 with a sweet, supportive husband and 2.0 darling kids by my side.
It was the next month, January 2010, that Chuck and I came to the realization that our sweet Will more than likely had autism, with the official diagnosis occuring in July. Over the next few months as we met with doctors (our pediatrician, the developmental specialist) and therapists (occupational, speech) our pregnancy expectations were hardly forefront on our minds. Once in a while that year, usually during Will's therapy or mid-meltdown, I would think, BOY am I glad I don't have a newborn or infant right now!
But towards the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I did spend more time wondering why we hadn't gotten pregnant yet. In my all-or-nothing frame of mind, I decided that we must be destined to only have two children and to talk myself into being on board with this fate, I reminded myself that our boys were such a blessing and I shouldn't be greedy, and hey, we'd never have to get a bigger car, and financially two children are much easier to support than three or four, and so on and so on.
And it worked! Settling into 2011, I was firmly in the mindset that ours was going to remain a happy family of four. So the positive pregnancy test in mid-May after almost two years of trying was equal parts surprising and terrifying. (I attribute that early fear to some sort of inherent knowledge that Jack was going to be a biter.)
Of course there was a third 'equal part' mixed in: elation. It was impossible not to feel excitement and joy that we were being blessed with another sweet baby to love and raise in our family.
In August I had my ultrasound and found out we were expecting another boy. That same week, new research was released about the prevalence of autism in younger siblings of children with autism, with numbers showing that a younger brother had a 26% (one in four) chance of also having autism (a younger sister was lower, 9%). In a family where two children had autism, the likelihood of a third sibling having autism jumped to 32% regardless of gender. Alas, to a hormonal mom-to-be, 26% may as well have been 96%. At that point, Will was a sweet and delightful three-year-old whose autism was fairly high functioning, but it still presented very real challenges. Leaving anywhere - church, Grandma's house, stores - almost always involved me having to carry him out against his (vocal!) wishes. His language skills were developing but still much behind schedule. I couldn't imagine having the energy and ability to be a good mom to two children with autism. Blessedly, Chuck was there to hold my hand and reassure me and remind me that there was a 74% chance our new son wouldn't have autism, and even if he did, we would be able to handle it together.
Still, at this point Chuck and I felt that this third baby would complete our family, especially since a fourth baby would have such a high likelihood of autism if my worries about the third baby were fulfilled. (It should also be noted that Hirschsprung's recurs in families at a higher rate than it occurs in the general population, so that's always at the back of our minds as well). We discussed tubal ligation with my doctor (it's pretty easy to take care of right after the c-section) and we made this a special focus of a temple trip to Twin Falls in November.
The work that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do in our temples is wonderful. We're able to go and learn more about our Heavenly Father and His plan for us. We're also able to use that time to spiritually renew ourselves and ponder and pray and seek comfort and guidance - which is what Chuck and I did. I took the opportunity to ask my Father in Heaven if I should go ahead with the tubal ligation. I received - over and over, because I'm the kind of person who keeps asking when she gets an answer she doesn't want - a very clear answer that we should remain open to the possibility of more children. I cried.
Fast forward a bit: Jack arrived safe and sound and absolutely darling. He gave us some initial scares during his infancy, but overall his development has been right on track and we have dismissed any possibility of autism. In the meantime, Will has grown leaps and bounds in the last two years. His autism is still evident (one of these days I'll blog about his adorable debut as a basketball player, complete with videos where he's spinning and flapping and humming half a court behind the action) but his comprehension and language development allows for much better communication and reasoning and sooo fewer meltdowns. HOORAY!
In the year and a half following Jack's birth, Chuck and I decided to make sure (you know, to the extent of our ability) that a fourth baby didn't wedge him/herself in right away. I figured 'remaining open' didn't mean 'trying really hard to have one any time soon.' I also half figured that one of these times we'd ask again and then we'd get our 'yep, you guys are good with three kids, good job!' answer - I gave away 80% of Jack's baby clothes!! And then a few months ago my period got a bit wonky and as my doctor and I tried to figure it out, I had a randomly fleeting thought about how I should just get pregnant and that would solve (at least temporarily) all of my period-related woes.
And that fleeting thought didn't freak me out as much as I thought it would. (It freaked me out a LOT, just not as much as I was expecting...)
So I brought it up to Chuck, who also didn't freak out as much as I thought he would. We resolved again to take the matter to the Lord during our July temple date, and we both walked out with distinct impressions that we should try to have another baby. Once again, I didn't feel quite reconciled to the good Lord's will right away - I told Chuck I was hoping it would be an Abraham and Isaac situation, where I just needed to demonstrate my willingness to obey but I wouldn't actually be required to follow through.
Which is why I was quite perplexed at how sad I was when I didn't get pregnant the next month. I had been expecting to feel relieved, but instead Chuck and I were both really disappointed - and that's when I realized how on board we really were with this new direction in our family. I tried to remind myself that it would still probably take a while so I didn't set myself up to be let down month after month but I was still randomly optimistic that it would happen soon.
And it did - the following month we very, very excitedly found out we were pregnant. (Despite our decision to tell our families right away but wait a few weeks to inform friends/the general public, Chuck told like five of his co-workers that day. He kept saying, "Sorry, I just got excited!" It was adorable and only a little infuriating). All previous doubts about this being right for our family have vanished.
I've thought a lot about how quickly Chuck and I went from being SO adament that we were done having children to being so on board with wanting a fourth one. I feel like right from the get-go we needed to be 100% in agreement with each other and with Heavenly Father that this baby should come to our family. I think that our excitement and joy and resolve has prepared us for this particular pregnancy and baby and the challenges that it has brought and will bring. I'm really not being pessimistic or predicting anything dreadful, but I think we needed to be wholly committed without any potential regrets or resentment - whether that was so we could more easily endure this longer-lasting morning sickness (blessedly now mostly contained to the evening hours) or because we're getting a girl this time and that's going to rock our worlds, or if this baby will have autism and we'll need to be ready for that, or if he/she will just be a typical demanding youngest child (a la Quinn) and that will require extra patientce :).
But whatever this new adventure holds in store for us, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have another little baby and I'm grateful for a husband who is the best co-parent I could ask for and I'm grateful for three existing children who are delightful and keep me on my toes and need me and remind me what's important. And I'm grateful for my testimony of personal revelation and how much it has been strengthened through this experience.
[p.s. I'm also grateful my ultrasound is scheduled: Monday, December 23rd, wooo! I'll do a post next week asking for gender predictions, maybe even get fancy with a poll. Who knows??]