We celebrated Otto’s first birthday yesterday. Between his birthday and Louisa’s next month (when we’ll no longer have 3-kids-3-and-under), these few weeks seem like something of a graduation for me from a year that I thought would be extraordinarily stressful, but ended up being extraordinarily transformational.
It’s no secret that Otto was our “unplanned” child, an “accident” of lazy Natural Family Planning. After the initial mixture of shock and morning sickness, my most profound reaction to the situation was pathetic: embarrassment.
See, I had this lofty idea that we could be an example of a Catholic family that upheld the Church’s teaching while still fitting-in seamlessly to the secular world. We would practice NFP, but we would be so good at it that our friends would be none the wiser. Ha! I now know that “lofty ideas” are hilarious in the eyes of God!
God destroyed my pride with the ease of a needle popping a balloon. I surely thought He was setting me up for failure, that I would collapse under the pressure of three young children, moving homes, a business expansion, and my husband shifting careers within the course of a year all while maintaining my outside career.
But that’s not what happened. When that big balloon of pride was deflated, I found that there was a lot more available space for grace. There is freedom in losing control.
God took that pride and through transformative grace replaced it with JOY! Not just the joy of Otto himself (who is such a bubbly, happy baby!), but the joy of letting go of so many ridiculous, modern-day markers of success. A clean and well-decorated house, a regimented schedule full of enriching activities, a flat stomach, and financial surplus once seemed of paramount importance. God knocked them over like bowling pins with Otto as the ball...the roly-poly, getting-way-too-heavy-to-carry ball. He flipped parenthood on its head. As parents we are charged to mold our children, yet so often they are molding us, showing us the importance of sacrificial love over prideful perfection.
I suppose every parent reaches that point when we realize that we’re not in control of our families. For us, Otto’s surprise arrival showed that at a time when we otherwise could have fooled ourselves for a few more years. We were given the choice between anxiety and surrender to God.
Yes, I had to let go of certain idealistic visions of motherhood, but the chaos gave me so much more: the ability to flip-the-bird to Mom Guilt and Mom Judging, appreciation for the incredible gift we have in grandmas willing to take-on the challenge, and the realization that my position as a daughter of God is even more important than my role as a mother.
Does it seem wrong to be so “public” that he was an “accident”? I can see the argument. I considered keeping it a secret for Otto’s sake, along the lines of that silly old adage that “the first baby only takes 6 months.” Yet the more I thought about it, the more I wanted our kids to grow up knowing that Otto wasn’t a mistake but a blessing, and that they, too, could live their lives with God in the lead.
Yesterday’s gospel, Matthew 6:24-34, is my very favorite passage of the Bible, and one that I often call-to-mind to remind myself to surrender to God. For all of my babbling here, I probably should have just posted this: