As the years continued to tick along after the birth of our eighth child, our family of ten – an even, tidy number – increasingly seemed to be the final family God had planned for us. Things that used to be luxuries when all the kids were small, like adult conversation, or saying “get in the car” and having self-dressed people do so, became more commonplace. A couple years ago, when we experienced a fairly early, though rather drawn out, loss of our unborn child Siena Joseph Mary (gender unknown), we began to accept that we might be moving through our family’s final baby milestones. Infant and maternity items were given away. We were moving into the next phase, ready to watch the eight children – just as we’d had them, like dominoes in a long row – become teenagers, grow up, and move on, leaving us with an empty nest.
But God had a plot twist for us, and her name is Nona Margaret. From the time she made herself known in the womb this girl has been a go-getter. She has not stopped moving and dancing and twirling. (She emerged with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times and then again around her body.) Once here, she has blown through all her first year milestones with a force of will that belies her tiny stature. Her wit and humor have been apparent from a very early age. She has brought our whole family together in love and admiration of this perfect gift from God.
Today she turns one year old. She can run and climb, and says a number of words including her own name when she sees herself. She loves to video chat with her 1 year old cousin and kiss pictures of her newborn cousin. When she hears her beloved dad’s voice, she stops whatever she is doing and toddles to find him, knocking with her little fist on any closed doors that stand between them. She wakes up most mornings looking for her siblings and crawls up the stairs to their rooms if they aren’t around yet. During family dinner, she demands to be a part of the conversation by screeching until we look at her and then making the silliest smiles. She can be distracted by applause, wondering what amazing feat she has just accomplished, and joining in the clapping.
Families are tasked to be “schools of love,” and what a perfect lesson she is. Our joys at her baby progress echo the same ones we felt when we had our first, but are multiplied not only by having more sentient family members along with whom to rejoice, but also by the experience of how quickly this time goes. Children are a blessing from the Lord, and that is evident to us every day. She has been a beautiful gift to us all. We are so grateful that God has graced our family with this beautiful pearl.