Then I grew up and things just took longer than I thought they would. I didn't get married until I was in my thirties. It was nearly six years before our daughter was born. And then came several pregnancy losses - three in fourteen months' time - and then a year of nothing before finally getting pregnant with our son, and then another early loss when I had started to believe I would never be pregnant again.
When our son was born, I think people assumed we were done, even without knowing our history. One of each, two mini-me's to carry on our family name and traditions, the perfect-sized family for the 21st century. We fit nicely around a restaurant table, we can live without a minivan, and all of those "family of four" deals work well for us, thank you very much.
Except...there is that dream. And the fact that I have carried four other children in my womb, only to watch them be ushered into heaven's gates without taking a breath on this earth. And the fact that answering a question about siblings on a form for either of my children brings a lump to my throat. "One," I write, while in my heart, I am protesting, "No, five. She has five siblings."
Sometimes, though, I run from large families. They remind me of my dream, the one I've had to release to God's sovereignty and wisdom. Sometimes, comparing myself to them, I feel inexperienced and inadequate, as if God denied me my heart's desire because He knew I wouldn't measure up.
The thing is, I know that isn't true, even when the distance between the knowing and the feeling can be immense. But God is using this, too, to shape and form me. I am learning not to compare and not to envy, because having a van load of children does not mean that God loves them more or that everything is perfect. Those large families have their own bundle of struggles that God has seen fit not to put on my shoulders, just He as seen fit not to put mine on theirs - although I have learned that often, even those large families are familiar with the grief of pregnancy loss. I am learning to trust Him as He leads, choosing by faith to believe that in His wisdom, He is orchestrating events for my good and His glory, and that someday that will make sense.
I am also learning, slowly, to let that dream rest in His hands without snatching it back constantly. I walk this strange line between the mother that I am to the big family of six children that God has blessed me with, even if most of them are in Heaven, and the mom that I am to the small family I have, the two delightful children He left for me to raise on this Earth. I wonder, often, what if...and then I look at what is.
What is is good. It is beautiful and a blessing and I am ever-so-thankful for the family I have and that I have the privilege of raising. Honest, I am.
But, if you ever see me wistfully looking at a big, boisterous family in a restaurant or pouring out of a minivan like clowns from a VW Bug, it's probably because in that moment, I'm hovering between the worlds of what I have and what I once caught a glimpse of, and thinking of my foursome in Heaven, and loving them as only a mother can, and thanking God for allowing me to be a big family mom, even if no one knows it except for me.
Do you struggle with what God has given you and what you dreamed of? How do you deal with that struggle?