I am the mom of Irish twins. My oldest, Parker, was born on September 21, 2014 and we found out that we were pregnant with our youngest, Elizabeth, on Valentine’s day of 2015. She would be born later that year on September 18. That makes them precisely 362 days apart. I was pregnant for about two years straight. It wasn’t what I would call… pleasant.
I am incredibly fortunate to have only had one very negative experience in regard to people remarking on the closeness in age of my babies. However, that one experience has stuck with me and has affected every other interaction I’ve had when introducing my children to someone new.
My mother, son and I were at the wedding of a family friend. I was about six months pregnant at the time. I was excited to be at this wedding. I hadn’t seen many of these people in a few years and none of them had met my extremely adorable son and to be frank I was anxious to show him off.
The excitement didn’t last long.
After talking to a few people an old family friend walked up and started chatting to my mom and me. This was a man I had considered to be like an uncle, someone I had been quite close to and respected. I hadn’t seen him since before I had gotten married or graduated from college. However, instead of asking about any of these big life changes I had recently gone through or about my son who was jabbering away in my arms he immediately delved into the fact that I was clearly pregnant.
“So, you’re pregnant again?”
“Yep! Our little girl is due around early October!”
“Well, you know what causes that right?”
Let’s pause right there. Never say this to someone. It’s rude. It’s obnoxious. It’s terrible. Let’s move on.
“Yes. And apparently, my husband and I are pretty good at it too.”
I’m a smart aleck and to be honest I am quite proud of this response, so was my mom who was standing next to me and heard the whole exchange.
These next words have echoed through my mind and wedged themselves into my heart.
“Yeah, well maybe you shouldn’t have done it as often then.”
At this point my blood was boiling and that dull aching feeling of imminent tears was beginning to gather in my chest. I don’t remember what I said next just that my mom and I hastily extracted ourselves from the conversation. The rest of the wedding is a bit of a blur to me as that phrase replayed over and over in my head.
“… you shouldn’t have done it as often then.”
I don’t know what his intent behind that remark was but the tone was not kind. It was not playful, not that it would have been acceptable even if it was. It was scathing. It was full of moral superiority and condescension. The message could not be missed. I had done something wrong. I had made a mistake.
My daughter was a mistake.
He shouldn’t have said that. I don’t know why he did.
But I couldn’t control that he said it.
I could control my reaction to it and what I chose to do moving forward.
And I can now say that I am completely ashamed of what I permitted myself to do.
I let this comment eat at me. I let it settle into my mind and take root in my heart. I allowed the shame to weave itself into my personal narrative. I let its ghost be present at every single interaction I’ve had when I’ve introduced my children.
“So how old are they?”
“Parker is two and Elizabeth is one.”
That’s the correct answer to the question. No more information is needed beyond that point.
But I almost can’t contain the words that come rushing out behind. They race off my tongue, hurriedly, attempting to guard against an unseen enemy of hurtful comments that may or may not be next.
“She was our surprise.”
I have allowed myself to feel the need to justify my daughter’s existence. To explain why she’s here. That she wasn’t intentional. That I know I was irresponsible. That of course I wouldn’t knowingly get pregnant so soon after my first.
In my desire to shield myself from cruel comments I have stolen dignity from my daughter. Denied her the gift of acknowledging the pride we take in her very being. Robbed her of the truth of how much she was wanted and loved from the moment we realized I was pregnant.
No, my daughter was not planned, but that doesn’t mean I must apologize for her being born. No matter the circumstances of her conception she is life and so she is immeasurably precious. My Creator didn’t tell me to value only the life that was well thought out. I must celebrate all life not just the life that strictly follows social protocol.
Sweet friends and sisters, please learn from me. It doesn’t matter how your child came into this world.
It doesn’t matter if others thought you were too young, too old, too poor. It doesn’t matter if your children are twelve months apart or twelve years. It doesn’t matter if this is your first child or your fifth. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or unmarried. Your beautiful gift of life does not need to be justified. That life stands separate of any mistakes you may have made. He or she is pure beauty.
Don’t allow seeds of cruelness planted by others careless words take root in your heart.
Her name is Elizabeth.
She is named for princesses and queens who refused to listen to what others said they could not or should not do. She is named for a woman of great faith who waited patiently for God to answer her prayers. She is named for a fierce friend who boldly goes into all corners of the world reaching those that everyone else has forgotten.
She has her aunt’s eyes, her Nonna’s feet, her mom’s nose.
Her very bones are full of the fire that lights up her eyes. She is kind beyond measure. She dances and twirls like the queen she is. She leads her brother into mischief with a daring fearlessness that is impressive and terrifying.
Her name is Elizabeth.
She is my daughter. She is precious to me. She is more than I could have dared to hope for.
Her name is Elizabeth and I am making the promise that I value her too much to make excuses for why she exists.
Her name is Elizabeth.