John received a very special birthday gift this year, and though he probably doesn’t realize it now, I’m sure it’ll be his favorite gift for years to come. It came in the form of a book. But not any book- it’s a book that reads, “I am a big brother!”
Yes, you read that right. John is going to be a big brother. Andrew and I have become parents to a second child. We are expecting the newest addition to our family to arrive in August 2018, and we are beyond excited.
As you may know, we did not need to “try” to have John. He was our honeymoon baby, and while we had been open to life, we hadn’t been actively charting to increase the chances of conception. Early on in our engagement, we had discussed how we were going to approach having children. We wanted to be open to life, but we decided to wait a few months before actively trying to have our first child by charting. We figured if we got pregnant in the interim, it would be a very pleasant, super exciting surprise. So boy were we surprised two weeks into our marriage when the pregnancy test came back positive.
I honestly don’t remember exactly when we started considering the possibility of a second child. I can distinctly say that by December of last year, it was coming up in conversations between Andrew and me from time to time, but for the most part, it was strictly theoretical. We even went so far as to mention it to one of our priest friends while visiting him in Pennsylvania, but we didn’t seriously consider it for several more months.
We learned quite a bit during those months between theoretically trying, actually trying, and succeeding in getting pregnant. I learned that trying to get pregnant because most of my friends are pregnant is a really bad motivation. As much as I wanted to share in that joy myself, I was wise enough to know that it wasn’t our time yet. And as much as I loved the idea of being pregnant again, and adding to our wonderful little family, I knew that I was not mentally ready yet.
I also learned that there can be a fine line between not being mentally ready and letting your fears control you. There was a definite recovery period for me after John began sleeping through the night. Sleep had always been my greatest worry with John. If John didn’t sleep well, I didn’t either. After John began reliably sleeping through the night, it still took me months before I went back to doing the same. For months, I would wake up in the middle of the night, sure that I had heard a cry. I would finally fall asleep with my ears perked up for the sound of another cry, and I would continue to hear those phantom cries in my dreams. It took me forever to sleep through the night again, and I knew instinctively that I needed to allow myself a few more months of full nights of sleep before I really considered the possibility of disrupting my sleep again.
At some point, my realistic concern morphed into utter, unreasonable fear. I had enjoyed months of restful nights, and I no longer felt tense in the morning, as if I had barely slept during the night. But the mere thought of having another child drove me right to the edge. After a great deal of prayer and some time spent speaking to a priest, I realized that I couldn’t let my fear control me. I couldn’t let it determine my decisions. I was fairly certain that if I let my fear guide my choices, we would never have another child.
During the months that followed, our tactics changed from month to month. During months that promised a convenient due date, we charted diligently. During months where circumstances would have been less than ideal at the time of birth, we remained open to life, adopting the same philosophy that we had held at the beginning of our marriage.
We also learned that trying can be extremely stressful. We tried for several months with no success, and with each month that passed, the temptation to worry became just a little stronger. But each month, I made every effort to redirect my nervous energy towards something more productive: quality time with John. I knew that with every month that passed, we were one month closer to the day that John would cease to be an only child. He wouldn’t be able to have all of my attention forever, and I really needed to enjoy this time that we did have together. We spent extra time cuddling on the couch, took extra long walks outside in the afternoons, and shared cookies and ice cream while we watched an extra episode of PJ Masks on Netflix (yeah, we still do all of those things). Despite regular reminders that this time was precious and unrepeatable, it was still difficult to see that negative pregnancy test month after month.
After several months of trying, followed by a few months of not trying, we finally got the positive pregnancy test that we had hoped for. Or rather, I got it- Andrew wasn’t home at the time. After taking a second test, I got John ready to tell his daddy the big news, dressing him in a t-shirt depicting a large dinosaur and a smaller one with the words “I Am a Big Brother” written across the front. I eagerly anticipated Andrew’s arrival, but of course was not at all prepared for what followed: Andrew arrived home feeling ill and immediately collapsed on the couch and closed his eyes. As he told me about his morning, he didn’t open his eyes, and it took a minute or two before Andrew focused in on John, who was standing by his side. His reaction was well-worth the wait, though it was definitely the longest two minutes of my life!
And now, after months of keeping secrets and fighting the urge to tell everyone I meet that I’m expecting our second child, I can finally make the news public! Our little Whitmore family will be expanding to four this August!
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!