I woke up to the sound of four padded feet shuffling into our bedroom. It took rubbing my eyes to get them to open all the way, and once I could see her, I pulled my pacifier-faced 2 year-old into our bed. The 4 year-old plopped onto her favorite spot on our little "pouf" on the floor. We turned on PBS and snuggled together until a new sound got us moving - our brand new baby, stirring from her bedroom.
My husband had to get ready for work and my mom had been up with the new addition throughout the night so I could get some rest (praise the Lord and pass the coffee), so I grabbed the baby and took all three girls downstairs. It was the first time I was solely responsible for all of them. I got cups of cheerios for the big girls to munch on while I nursed the baby, and we all settled into the couch. Five minutes into what should have been a 45 minute feeding, the freshly potty-trained 2 year-old stood in front of me saying she had to go to the bathroom. This was problematic because while she is potty-trained, she can't get on the potty without help.
I looked at the baby in my arms, the 4 year-old next to me on the couch, and then at 2 year-old dancing around in front of me. So this is what it's like to have 3 kids. I decided my only option was to channel my inner Michelle Duggar and nurse-walk into the bathroom. I crouched down and lifted my daughter onto the potty with the arm I wasn't using to hold the breastfeeding newborn.
I described the scene to a friend a while later and she said that another friend of hers with 3 kids said she didn't know she could run up the stairs while breastfeeding until her third was born. I cracked up when I found myself doing exactly that the very next day when playtime turned into scream-at-your-sister-time upstairs.
When I talk about that kind of stuff with friends who have fewer than three kids, their eyes get big and they usually start shaking their heads. When I tell the same stories to friends with three or more kids, their eyes start to shine and they giggle, and they start shaking their heads. And I think I know why. Because no matter how many kids you have?
It is totally crazy.
Raising people? It's nuts. Tina Fey describes toddlers as little people walking around like they've had a bit too much to drink - a particularly accurate description if you ask me. And we keep adding them! Surrounding ourselves with them. We keep willingly signing up to be on the hook for their very well-being.
Because this chaos, this Michelle Duggar-style, nursing a baby while taking another to the potty whirlwind lifestyle, it's a beautiful kind of crazy. And as far as I can tell, we have a choice to make, every day. We can pull back from it, be overwhelmed by it, retreat from it, or we can step into it. Surround ourselves with it. Embrace it.
I'm betting everyone reading this sees that as no choice at all. We want to embrace this crazy task called motherhood, whatever that looks like in our particular family, but doing that can be so hard day in and day out. I'm with you, sister. I don't have all the answers.
But I do know this -
We were meant to be free.
As we prepare for the day, as we try to get our hearts ready, it's not about binding ourselves up so that we don't yell at naptime or straightening ourselves out enough to plan lunch. The last thing any of us needs is to walk back into the chains we've been freed from - to wither under a banner that screams you are not enough. We know the truth - we aren't enough. But we're free from needing to be because Christ in us is more than enough. That is the banner waving over us. And he offers us his help.
If you're like me, that can be hard to remember because it seems so intangible, and the things that I need help with are the opposite - very, very tangible and very loud, actually. But it's real. God says he will be with us (Isaiah 43), he says he'll give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40), and he does just what he says he'll do.
How much easier is it to embrace the crazy when stop trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and start calling on the name of the one who frees us in the first place?
Read more from Kristi at And Babies Don't Keep.