Thursday, February 07, 2013

To my {second} youngest daughter

Mary Lucille,

Roughly three weeks from now I'll be giving birth to your new baby sister.  My water will no doubt break like it always does, we'll grab some towels and go to the hospital and, after what will hopefully be yet another of my short-and-uneventful-labors-that-hurt-like-heck-but-make-me-feel-empowered, Baby Heldt Number 8 will be here.

And, I know.  Baby Number 8.

In case you hadn't noticed, we have us a lot of kids 'round these here parts.  You're all fairly close in age and four of you are adopted and two of you were born with Down syndrome, and so we get a lot of attention when we go places like Costco and IKEA.  Our family is noisy, messy, crazy, funny and, well, different--we drive a huge 15-passenger-van that other peoples' kids like to look inside, for goodness' sake.

Over the years, we've been asked many times if we are "done having kids".  Being that we are about to have eight, I guess you know the answer.  God showed us long ago that children are a gift, a blessing, and ultimately the beautiful product of married love.  When I married your daddy over ten years ago, I knew he'd make an amazing husband and an incredible father, but I'd had no idea just how true it would be.  With the birth and adoption of every.single.child, our marriage has grown, stretched, and multiplied in love.  With the addition of each and every precious one of you, my respect for and relationship with your dad has deepened.  It's become better.  And that love extends to you and your siblings as well. 

So as for being "done", well, it is impossible to imagine life without any one of you crazy kids.  We may not be the world's most conventional family, but our home is full.  Filled to the brim with life.  It's Anna with her nose in a book, it's Yosef and Biniam whispering about their day before they drift off to sleep at night, it's Kaitlyn leading Mekdes, you and Tigist in some sort of craft she's come up with (that usually involves drinking straws and glue), and it's you dancing with your baby dolls to Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" as I write this letter. 

And you see, I know there could never be a moment in the future when I would look around--no matter how crowded our dinnertable might become--and think that there are just too many children. Or ever think that factors like college funds and bedroom space and owning a cool car ought to dictate family size. 

I'm so glad for each of you and for the beautiful, priceless, impossible-to-be-replicated dynamic you bring to our family. 

Done is overrated.  Obviously.

Now of course you and your sister Tigist are collectively known as "the babies".  You in particular have been the youngest for awhile now and even at three years old, I think of you as my baby.  The way you mispronounce words and boss your older siblings around, and the way your wispy blond hair flies in the wind and gets in your eyes because you refuse to wear a hair clip--all those things are so you, and make you so incredibly dear to me.  This may sound strange, but I've savored my "baby time" more and more with each subsequent child.  Chubby toes and big tears and little voices...all of it.

And we've had some amazing time with you as our baby.  We've done some amazing things. 

Remember when we took you all the way to Ethiopia, and you were the first sibling to meet Mekdes and Tigist?

Or when we went to Rome, and I breastfed you in the roped-off area of the Sistine Chapel?  At the invitation of Vatican officials? 

But you're not technically a baby anymore, nor are you technically the youngest.

Because a new baby girl is about to be born.

And far from being even a little put out by this unavoidable fact, you're on track to win the award for "Most Excited Kid to Meet the New Baby."  For the past nine months your hand has never been far from my growing belly, you regularly greet me by asking if the baby's awake, and when she kicks and you feel it?  You squeal, giggle, cover your mouth with delight and yell happily at the top of your lungs.  No insecurity, no fear that you might just be losing your place in the family.

Just love.

I'm not sure why this still surprises me--after all this time, after being amazed over and over again by how God multiplies love and opens hearts and knits families together, I still somehow wonder.  I am still for some reason tempted to question God's design for families, for the community of siblings which nurtures and instructs and loves without condition.  Is it really okay to have seven siblings?  Will this baby be...resented?  Even a little bit?

But it just never seems to happen.  Instead, God strengthens bonds and softens hearts as He brings forth life.

When we brought you home from the hospital three-and-a-half years ago, you were greeted by two sisters and two brothers who refused to leave your side for, well, the last three-and-a-half years.

And now it's your turn to love and ohhhh and ahhhh and fight over a new baby.  You'll be stepping into a brand new role in our family, and a role that God is giving you at that.  Which is pretty exciting, in part because I'll get to see a new dimension to who you are.  I already see how you take a nurturing role with Tigist who, while chronologically older, is developmentally younger, but I think it will be even more apparent with a sweet and fragile little newborn for you to hold and kiss.

I can't wait.

And so even though you're clearly far too young to read my blog (in spite of your recent ability to buy an app, unauthorized, on our Kindle), I wanted to write all of this down as I reflect on the mystery and beauty of marriage and family, of life begetting life, of God working through mothers and fathers and children and siblings to bring love, hope and true peace to the world.  You are part of God's amazing creation, part of His most perfect plan, and I honestly can't wait to see how He uses you in the life of your precious new sister.

Because while you may be young, you are born with a beautiful and innate dignity, and are a unique and profound gift to your new sister, to your family, to the world, to the Church, and to Jesus. 

All of this to say, as you prepare to give up your spot as baby of our family, thank you for loving New Baby Girl so well, Mary Lu-Lu-Lu.  She is blessed to have you waiting for her.

All my love,


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