A friend of mine just announced her pregnancy at 43 with her new husband. A blended family, this will be the ninth child of her new tribe. She is thrilled, and wondering why people are saying such dumb things to her.
I remember it well, pregnant at 42 with our youngest of a (smaller, but still substantial) tribe of seven. People said, “are you crazy?” Or, “is this baby wanted?” Or, they commented on population control and how we should have adopted and my age. After Josie arrived, people asked if I was the nanny- and the worst and unfortunately somewhat frequent mistaken assumption that my 18 year old daughter is the mom and I am the grammy.
Now I know as much as the next person who listens to NPR and cares about the world, that population control IS a disaster already happening. I know that there ARE children who we could have adopted who would find a wonderful, loving home. There is truth in all of that.
But, that baby is coming, joining us in a world that is imperfect, and she will be loved like crazy and knit that tribe together with an unbreakable thread of unity that will persist for generations, and make life better for everyone all nine members touch.
We congratulate people on new cars, promotions to higher levels of consumption (pay raises), get excited about their air, sea and car trips around the world, wish we had a seat on the Virgin Galactic– all of which consume almost incalculable resources. But, we roll our eyes and comment on a new, cherished human life? I don’t get it. I really don’t.
Our Josephine is now six years old. Without hesitation, I can say she is the most loved child I have ever known. When she was sick recently, her older brothers and sister in turn walked by her as I held her in my arms on the couch. They rubbed her little back, patted her head, crooned wishes for her to feel better, told her openly and without hesitation how much they loved her, and couldn’t wait to play with her when she felt better. Every single one of them.
That doesn’t mean they don’t get mad, or annoyed, or tired of the responsibilities that come with a large family, but it does mean that they have learned early to express affection, to show love, to care about and for someone other than themselves or their parents. And, Josie will always know she was loved- no matter what, and all the time- not because of what she does or doesn’t do, but simply because she is.
I often wonder what the world would be like if everyone were as loved as Josephine. Yes, the birth of my friend’s baby will mean diapers, and fossil fuels and one more mouth for mother earth to feed. But, she will be a multiplier of love, and goodness that can be found in no other miracle, and have a farther reach than any other gesture of human possibility.
Happy birth-day, my little friend- and get ready world, for a baby-step forward.