As the seventh of 10 children, I always wanted a big family. Growing up, our home was always crowded, but it seemed like a good thing to me: there was a lot of laughter, lots of creativity, plenty of roughhousing, and so much love. My parents always welcomed friends and neighbors to drop in for dinner: “What’s one or two more?” they would say.
When I had my first child, everything changed. I had an unremarkable pregnancy with routine appointments that took just long enough to pee in a cup, get weighed and measured, slip my arm into a blood pressure cuff, and wink at the doctor – until one day, at 33 weeks, I didn’t measure up. And I didn’t pass the pee test. And my blood pressure was abnormally high.
A few bedrest days later, Bruce was born at 3 lb 3 oz by emergency C-section. I was surprised by the dramatic birth, the lingering pain afterward, the new vocabulary I learned, the amount of love I felt for a tiny being I just met, the sadness I felt when leaving him in the NICU every night, and the amount of uncertainty introduced into my life in such a short period of time. Needless to say, childbirth was not at all what I expected. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t know it could hurt in so many ways.
Fast forward nine years and I have redefined what it means to have a big family. The quantity of kids somehow matters less, and the quality of time I spend with the three kids I have matters more. My three kids were all preemies and brought me more joy than I ever thought was possible. Our home is crowded with happy chaos, but there is always room at the table for a friend.