Some Thoughts Regarding Baby Number Six. Yes. You Read That Right.


Later this year, Maile and I will celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. That’s a long time. Seventeen years ago, it was a different millennium. We spent our first New Year’s Eve together in 1999 as newlyweds in Jacksonville, Florida, waiting for the world to collapse under the weight of all those nines turning into zeroes. Seventeen years ago not very many people had an email account. In 1999, Justin Bieber was five years old.

The main reason I bring this up is simply to say that 17 years is a long time, and after 17 years you get to know someone pretty well. So when Maile leaned around the corner a few weeks ago, her head peeking out of the bathroom, and asked me the following question, I knew she wasn’t joking. I had seventeen years of experience in knowing the difference.

“So, are you ready for baby number six?” she asked, her eyes round, like a deer in the headlights. I just kind of stared at her. Everything went silent, except, of course, the sound of our five children playing in other parts of the house. Yes. Five plus one does indeed equal six.

* * * * *

It’s difficult to talk about this baby number six because I have more than a few close friends who would love to have baby number one, but for who-knows-what-reason, they haven’t yet. When I compare how I feel right now to how I know they would feel with a baby on the way, I feel a little guilty, a little ungrateful.

This is one of the most difficult things in life, the unfairness of it all. It seems like things should be more even. It seems like blessings should fall in a way that looks less random, makes more sense.

Good fortune, luck, blessings…whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t make me feel as ecstatic as it did when I was younger. I think I recognize better now the pain on the other side of the gift, the emptiness that trails along behind good things. I am happy, yes, I am grateful and amazed and full of thanks, but I also bear the weight of those who still seek, those who still yearn after something, something really good, something that just never seems to arrive.

Can we live in that tension between the having and the wanting? The blessing and the waiting? Can we celebrate and mourn with those we love at the same time?

* * * * *

To be honest, my answer to the question Maile asked from the bathroom was, “Not yet. I will be, when it’s time, but not yet.” I know I’ll be ready. I know after I hear the heartbeat in a few weeks, I’ll even be excited, falling in love with this next addition to our wonderful family. But right now? Honestly? I feel too old to be setting out on this journey again – I turn 40 in December. Leo will be just over two, and he still isn’t sleeping well, and I’m tired. Lord, I’m tired. Maile and I both are.

Thinking about baby number six is also tough because Maile has miscarried twice before. Twice we’ve gone in for the first scan at around 12 to 14 weeks only to discover there was no heartbeat. Things were not progressing. Twice we’ve left that appointment in tears. Twice we’ve gone home and gathered our children in a mass of humanity on the couch and explained what happened to the baby growing inside mama and then had a huge, family cry together.

And we can get through that again, if Maile’s upcoming scan reveals the worst. But I feel too old for that, too. Too weary, right now, for deep grief.

* * * * *

I remember when we found out Maile was pregnant with Cade, thirteen years ago. We had been trying for six months and Maile fretted she would never be able to get pregnant. We lived in England. I worked in London, and she was taking a cooking class at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, and everything they cooked made her morning-sickness tummy feel like throwing up. I would meet her at the tube station and we’d board the train and she would hand me the food she’d made and I would devour it.

That first night after we found out she was pregnant, I found a kid’s clothing store downtown and bought her an outfit for the baby with a little giraffe on it. She cried when I gave it to her on the train. We sat close the whole ride home, her head resting on my shoulder, the weight of the existence of a new human being heavy on our souls.

* * * * *

I also remember Maile’s last miscarriage, three years ago, the two of us on the floor in the bathroom with her going back and forth between throwing up and passing blood clots. I ladled the ruby red human tissue out of the water with a slotted spoon so the doctors could analyze it. I put it in a baggy and we handed it in, feeling a sense of betrayal and deep loss. There was so much there, in the clear plastic. An entire world. A universe.

She slept for days on end. The kids asked what was wrong. I told them. It was like a nightmare but duller around the edges.

* * * * *

Now, here we are once again. We’ve got the noise and chatter of five wonderful children in the house, the mess and the chaos and the love to prove it. We’ve got a one-year-old who I lay down beside almost every night, the carpet leaving marks on the side of my face. And inside Maile, that miracle.

This is not the life I expected or planned. I can assure you of that. But it has more depth, more meaning, than I ever knew a life could have. The sadness is heavier, the joy less transient. Of course, it’s not just the children that make it that way – it’s the friends, the successes, the failures, the questions, the doubts, the certainties. The blessings. The empty spaces. All of it, balled up into one beautiful thing called life.

You know, just in writing this out I can feel my answer to Maile’s question shifting towards a yes. I am ready. There is a space here in our family for this little one.

Now, we wait.

35 Replies to “Some Thoughts Regarding Baby Number Six. Yes. You Read That Right.”

  1. This was beautifully written. I like your sensitivity to those who are so desiring of a baby. I too know several couples who are struggling with infertility and it isn’t easy for them to be happy for friends who continue to add to their family year after year when they can’t even have one.

    “This is one of the most difficult things in life, the unfairness of it all. It seems like things should be more even. It seems like blessings should fall in a way that looks less random, makes more sense.”

    That sentence is so true! I think of it too in those who would love to be married and every time they turn around another friend is tying the knot but it just isn’t happening for them.

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts and emotions so well and congratulations on baby #6! This child is very fortunate to be joining your family.

  2. I laughed out loud at the title, and as I read the tears came easy. One of our babies went straight from my womb to God’s hands nearly three years ago. That grief is so very near to the surface; it is the presence of an absence. I wish I had a grave to visit; I feel like I had an invisible child. I like so much of what you’ve written here, and more, how your heart is already making room. Congratulations!!!

  3. This is so incredibly beautiful. And I know just what you mean – how good but how heavy blessings can be. Not burdens, exactly, but heavy regardless. Like solid gold, I suppose.
    But I am glad for you and Maile. Both of you, and this baby blessing, are in my prayers.

  4. Wow! Congrats Shawn! I can’t relate to having that many kids, but our one year old is the same age as Leo and isn’t a great sleeper yet either, and I totally get that “not yet…” line of thought. Sending prayers for better sleep for him soon.

  5. I always have loved your transparency in your writing. I am one of those who struggle with infertility, and I had a miscarriage 4 months ago. After nearly a decade of not bring able to conceive, then to find out I was indeed pregnant! Only to have that taken away far too soon. Thank you for acknowledging the tension between grief and joy.

    1. I am so, so sorry, Tiffany. Thank you for having grace and for taking up the difficult mantle of celebrating with others in your grief.

  6. We just finished the 1st year with baby #5 (we need him Tillerman.. Means last man on the boat) and we are 40 somethings… And also tired! But I can’t tell you the beautiful story that is unfolding between the three teenagers, a lil sis and this baby. Miscarriage is so raw…been there also – so so sorry. Hopeful for all the ways adding another shakes up your story and those of all your people.

    1. Last man on the boat – I love that. And we can also attest to the beauty of seeing children of different ages serve and love (and fight with) each other. Thanks, Jenny.

  7. Hi Shawn! My husband and I were one of the couples who waited. I always wondered about our friends on the other side – how they navigated their joy with our sorrow. It couldn’t have been. You’ve written beautifully about a complex topic. Thank you for sharing.

  8. You have captured both the beauty and the pain of having children beautifully in this post. We too suffered the loss of a child, and the grief is quite simply unimaginable. And, like you, we were older than most when our sixth was born-but then we knew we would be, since we didn’t start till our mid thirties. I’ll tell you now it’s quite frankly exhausting-the laundry, cooking, and running here and there seem never ending-but well worth it when at the end of the day your kids are all home safe and happy, and the youngest ones still snuggle you up at night. Now, off to switch the clothes in the machines and out to build a snowman with my daughter!!

    1. Ha! It is non-stop, isn’t it? But as the famous saying goes, The days are long but the years are short. Or something like that.

  9. Thanks for sharing this. Seems like a whole mix of emotions. I appreciate the honesty of saying you aren’t necessarily instantly delighted the moment you find out you’re having another child. I’ve thought too that if we get pregnant, it will be both exciting and terrifying :)

    “Can we live in that tension between the having and the wanting? …Can we celebrate and mourn with those we love at the same time?” — this is the same thing I was thinking about this past year, when we had a thanksgiving service, and one of the two infertile couples in our church stood up and announced their pregnancy – and the wife of the other couple wept. ( I think we are often calling the pregnant women to weep with their infertile friends, but what about the other way, can God make the infertile rejoice with the pregnant? He has commanded it, so He must enable it.

    Anyway…great thoughts! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Julie. It’s such a tough thing. I feel that it’s the calling of those able to have children to weep with their friends who cannot first, and I think that when that happens it paves a way for rejoicing. I’ve certainly experienced that first hand in this instance.

  10. First of all, congratulations on adding to your family. This Christmas I experienced like never before that heavy yearning for the other side of the eternal. That waiting. I think it’s Advent. Even, so come, Lord Jesus.

  11. Hi Shawn,

    I know Maile through co-op(although we are no longer are a part), and you can pass along to her that I can relate. We are currently expecting our 6th child in May, and I went through all the thoughts you just shared(even the age…I’m 41). Over the past 6 months I have found God be so faithful, and gentle. All the fears/worries I had about with another pregnancy God has so graciously One by one either helped me walk through, and totally illiminated. Praying for you both as you as you journey into being a family of 8.

  12. Thank you for capturing something few can process. My wife and I welcomed our firstborn in late August, while my brother and sister-in-law welcomed and then, just two weeks later, buried their firstborn due to major health complications. The contrasting joy and loss, life and death, were simply incomprehensible for our family and especially for our parents, the new grandparents. It has only been through deep prayer and leaning on the Cross that we are coming out the other side.

    1. What an incredibly difficult situation for your family to navigate. I can’t imagine the tension in that rejoicing and mourning.

  13. Beautifully said, Shawn. Congratulations on baby #6 – I am really happy for you and Maile…but I also totally understand the weight of it all (and I only have 2!).

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