Better Than You Think

Chapter One Text

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” 

-Romans 12:3

When you have as many kids as I do, lots of folks solicit your advice.  Being the chatty southerner that I am, I enjoy sharing my experiences with other moms.

My ninth baby was the first not born in Memphis.  I had the privilege of having him in the great state of Vermont–land of freedom, even during labor. By that I mean that I (the one in labor) called the shots.  Now, having ten kids over a twenty-five year span, things have changed a lot.  With my first born, in 1987, I had to stay in bed, push when they told me to, and as soon as the baby arrived, they whisked him away to an incubator even though he weighed in at 8 lbs, 8oz.  Then at scheduled  times I was allowed to reach in and stroke him through a window in the side of that scary plastic box.

Fast forward to 2007, twenty years later.  I was all hooked up (I don’t go natural if I can help it) and just waiting to deliver.  The nurse asked would I like to get in the tub, or sit on the exercise ball?  Um, no, I say, I don’t think I could manage that. 

“Are you hungry?” she asks. 

“You mean I can EAT?” 

“Of course, you can do whatever you feel like doing.”  Nothing I would ever say to my kids, but during labor, those words were music to my ears. 

But the biggest shock of all was when the doctor told me to just let her know when I thought I should push.  Times have changed, I said, recalling how I had a nurse storm out of the delivery room when I told her I didn’t feel it was time to push, and with my seventh birth, no less.  And the incubator?  A thing of the past for healthy babies.  Nowadays they lay that little bluish-pink baby right on your chest for some “skin to skin” before they even clean him up.

During those three glorious days in the hospital, I had two different nurses solicit my advice about kids.  “Is this your ninth baby?” my night nurse asked, pulling up an exercise ball. 

“It is.”

“Can I ask you about my ten year old?”

We both chuckled.  Of course, I say, agreeing that age ten is when they start rounding that corner, exiting childhood.

And the day I left that wonderful hospital (I am never ready to leave when it’s time) my discharge nurse stood beside my bed.  “Can I ask you about my twelve year old?”

Again, I laughed.   Yes, I confirmed, twelve is tricky. 

I am the first to admit I haven’t done it all right.  It has been (and still is) a journey of trial and error.  However, I will begin by passing on some of the best advice I’ve ever received.  “When you think you have parenting all figured out, you probably aren’t doing as well as you think,” my mentor, Jean Stockdale, told me long ago.  “But when you know you’re in way over your head, when you start each day with ‘Help, Lord!’ then you are most certainly doing better than you think.”

Now, over thirty years later as the mom of ten, I can tell you that has been true in my experience.  And the “Help, Lord!” place is where I live most of the time.

If you’re there, too, take heart. You’re doing better than you think. 

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