Mother of Five
Mother of Five
I already had four sons. This time I prayed for a girl...
I’d always wanted a daughter. I come from a family of girls. Each of my three sisters has a girl. Naturally, I thought I was meant to have a little girl of my own.
My husband, Lonny, and I had our first child, a beautiful baby boy. I figured our girl would come along later. Our second child was a son too. So was our third. And our fourth.
My fifth pregnancy wasn’t a surprise. Lonny and I planned for a big family. But we did consider the likelihood that this baby would be our last. I loved my boys utterly. It was just time to have that girl I’d dreamed of.
I pushed back the first ultrasound to early January so the baby would be developed enough to identify gender. Being pregnant at almost 40 warranted the super ultrasound at the university medical school.
I lay on an exam table, Lonny standing beside me, as the doctor roved the transducer over my belly. The baby was healthy and strong. Only one question remained.
I closed my eyes and pictured my little girl. Wisps of blonde hair escaped her ponytail. Her eyes were wide and green. She wore cotton and crochet on top, and bare pink toes fringed out from frayed jeans.
Her gentle spirit was evident in the way she moved. She was mine to teach, mine to mold, mine to pour myself into.
A fresh squirt of goop on my belly jarred me back to reality. “Are you ready to know what you’ve got?” asked the doctor. Lonny drew my hand into his, and I nodded. Our eyes were fixed on the monitor. The marbled image on the screen moved closer.
I was pregnant with our fifth son.
Everything about the walk through the university parking lot was slow. Conversation was slow. Our pace was slow. Even the snowflakes that shook from the clouds were slow. “You know, Shawnelle, you are an awesome mom to our boys,” Lonny said. “No one could do better.”
“I adore our boys,” I said.
“They’ll be great men,” he said, “because of you.”
That I wasn’t so sure of. I was gentle, sensitive by nature. I loved books, not bugs and baseball. I worried that my boys would need more than I could give them, especially as they got older.
“Are you okay?” Lonny asked.
“Sure,” I said. But I wasn’t, and I was ashamed of it. We had lost a baby early in our marriage. We’d struggled through a time of infertility. I had friends who couldn’t conceive. I understood the fragile blessing of a baby. I just couldn’t control the tears.
That night I waited for Lonny’s breathing to fall into the even rhythm of sleep before I crept from our bed. I stepped around the action figures and dinosaurs in the hall and curled up in our wing chair in the family room.
God, are you sure you’ve got this right? I asked. I’m confident I can raise a daughter well. I have so much to teach her. But I’m not sure how to raise strong men. I just don’t feel qualified. I strained to hear a reply. Nothing except the tick-tock of our grandfather clock.
Winter–and my pregnancy–progressed. March brought a thick end-of-season snow that sogged through our mittens as my boys and I played at our friend Sue’s farm. Sue was the ultimate boy’s mom. An all-star. I admired and envied her.
I’d seen her wrestle her son to the ground and hold him for a 10 count. She could send a football soaring and wallop a baseball to next Tuesday. And she could nail a moving target with a March-heavy snow bomb.
“Over here, Mom,” my firstborn, Logan, called. He popped up from behind a snow bank.
Grant, my second son, bounded up. “Snow dogs unleashed!” Samuel and Gabriel, my two youngest, charged. All my boys were armed with snowballs. All fired at me. Slush snaked past my collar and down my back.
I wanted to call it quits then and there. If I had my way, we’d be snuggled under warm blankets, drinking hot chocolate and reading aloud from a great book.
Instead, my boys waited for payback. I knew they wanted to be chased down and attacked. I scooped up snow. I jogged toward my herd of boys. I aimed and fired. And I missed every single one. My belly, thick with baby, and my lack of natural athletic ability prevented proper retaliation.
Sue sprinted toward us, chasing her son. Her long stride narrowed the distance. She tackled him, pinned him and bounced back up. Then she ripped after my boys. She scooped and fired like a combat machine. One, two, three! Snow missiles exploded on bright parkas.
Only Gabriel, my toddler, was spared. He squealed with delight anyway. My boys peeled after Sue. I stood in the falling snow and watched, longing to be a fun mom for my boys, a wrestling mom. To be good at what they liked to do.
Spring came. Lonny and I took long walks along the Mississippi. One afternoon when the river was flat and smooth and the air heavy with rain, we walked hand in hand. Our two youngest ran ahead, filling their pockets with rocks, poking at anything they could with sticks.
“It won’t be long now,” Lonny said. We both looked at my swaying belly. “Are you settled with this, Shawnelle? Having another son?”
“I love this baby entirely,” I said. “Sight unseen. But I do still wonder.”
“About what?” Lonny asked.
“I wonder what God is doing. I want to be the best mom I can be. I just don’t know how to put what I’m good at into boys.” Lonny was silent.
“And I want to be what they need me to be. I want to teach them what they need to know. I want to be on the same page with them. Sometimes I feel like I’m not even in the same book.”
“You are exactly the mom our boys need, Shawnelle. One hundred percent. Why else would God keep giving you men to raise with me?”
Our conversation halted. Ahead lay a little boy’s dream. A puddle the size of a wading pool. Before I could stop them, Samuel and Gabriel peeled off their shoes and socks and leapt gleefully into the muddy water. I sighed. Puddle stomping. Another thing that would never come naturally to me.
Our baby’s arrival drew closer. We decided to name him Isaiah. I was waking up a lot at night. Often I’d make my way to the family room, curl in our wing chair and take my questions to God.
You made me quiet and gentle. You gave me the ability to be sensitive to others and care for their needs. How do I fold these things into my boys? I want to raise strong men.
At last it was time for Isaiah to join our family. That morning broke calm and clear. Because I was a repeat customer, my obstetrician let me choose where I wanted to be on the surgical line-up. I was scheduled to be the first C-section of the day.
Lonny and I loaded our sons into the Suburban and drove to the hospital. I went into the surgical prep room alone. Once I was fully decorated with tubes and monitors, the nurses stepped out and shut the door.
It creaked open again. One by one, my boys shuffled in. They assembled alongside my bedrails. Lonny stood near the headboard. “You’ll be okay, Mom. I know you will. We’ve prayed for you,” Grant said. His eyes were brimming.
“Thank you for doing this, Mom,” Logan said, his voice quivering. “Are you comfortable? Can I get you another blanket?”
“I have your slippers ready. For when you’re done. I love you, Mom,” Samuel said. His lower lip trembled.
“Love you, Mama,” echoed Gabriel. “Love you.”
My four strong boys. Two to my right. Two to my left. Eight hands rested on the white sheet that covered me. Some of the hands were nearly man-sized. Some were still small and could barely reach me. Their gazes, though, were what drew me.
My eyes locked on the wide green eyes of each of my sons. And what I saw there stirred my soul. Compassion. Mercy. Gentleness. Love.
These qualities, the ones that God had given me, were not lost. They were not bound by gender. And they did not flow into my sons as a weakness. These qualities helped make a man, just as Lonny told me–a man strong enough to care for others.
I am a wrestling mom, I thought. I wrestled with God over his plan for our family, and he showed me how he’d let me win. With Logan. Grant. Samuel. Gabriel. And now, Isaiah. I couldn’t wait to hold my fifth son in my arms and look into his wide green eyes.
For more, read Celebrating Mom: 7 Inspiring Stories about Mothers.
I’d become part of someone else’s Mysterious Ways, and didn’t even realize it. God sets our paths at just the right angles, so they intersect in both crowds and lonely places.