It may sound strange coming from a mother of five young children, but I didn’t grow up wanting to become a mother. It’s not that I was against having children, but my future plans didn’t center around motherhood. The idea of having kids was nebulous and neutral. I was an only child, my parents were divorced and I spent a lot of time alone. Aside from babies in public, or the occasional interaction with a friend’s baby sister or brother, I wasn’t around babies or children very often.
Being alone was my normal. I never experienced the constant din that accompanies brothers and sisters. Aside from my friendships at school, mine was a quiet childhood, with an abundance of solitary time–time I usually filled playing with my pets and stuffed animals, riding bicycles, outings with my parents (separately, of course) and reading books. Education became very important to me. I loved school. So naturally, I went to college right after high school. And then I went to graduate school. And then, I loved academia so much, that I chose to teach at the college level for several years when my husband and I were newly married. Having kids hadn’t really crossed my mind yet . . . motherhood seemed miles away. But when we finally decided to “get pregnant” (naively believing childbearing was completely of our own making) it didn’t happen. A year passed, and still no baby.
We ended up trying one type of fertility drug (a pill taken by mouth to “jump start” ovulation) and ended up pregnant with triplets. Our “first” child–was three children. Instantly, we were parents. The first year was survival mode: feed three, burp three, change three, rock three, repeat. We hardly slept. We hardly left the house. Aside from the photos I took that have retrospectively created my memories of that time, most of the first year was a complete blur. And then, after being catapulted into motherhood at lightning speed, I had not yet come to fully understand motherhood in its purest sense—that it is a gift, not a choice. These babies had been given to us, entrusted to our care–not just as an “addition” to our lives, but as the very essence of it. I suddenly had a new focus, a new purpose.
Even though three babies at once was completely overwhelming, God slowly began changing my heart and opening my eyes to the magnitude of this blessing. And He began to give us a desire for more children. So three years later, we welcomed our fourth baby. And even after responsive breastfeeding and co-sleeping, both of which naturally suppress ovulation, we welcomed our fifth baby three years later.
I surrendered to motherhood, and it has permeated every part of me. From the moment I wake, and throughout the night, there is always a little child calling to me, reaching for me, being held in my arms or nursed at my breast. It is exhausting and difficult to be needed so constantly, but it is also beautiful. Through God’s blessing of motherhood, He has redeemed broken pieces of my childhood and restored to me a sense of family I never really had—a family that is healthy and whole. There are brothers and sisters, constant noise and relationships I never knew were missing. Our life is loud, messy and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
Holly Bennington has a Masters Degree in Spanish Literature and is a Home Educator of five young children. She enjoys gardening, traveling, thrift shopping, reading books and singing hymns. She lives in a big, old house in the woods, drinks too much craft beer and coffee and is almost always taking photos of her children to post on Instagram.