Monday, April 21, 2008

Virgins--and Babies

by Jennie Lucas

Doing research for The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin, I discovered that Spain and Morocco have some remarkable similarities in culture—and some remarkable differences. Both have beautiful, brutal landscapes, with rocky crags and wide, harsh deserts. It was such an adventure writing about exotic Tangiers and sheikhs, then gothic Moorish castles and sleek, modern Madrid!

When I wrote the story, I was pregnant, busy with a toddler, and it was Christmastime. I remember that it was snowing outside, but I still felt hot all the time! And I was always eating, gaining about five pounds a week—which you might be able to tell from the creative mention of food in the plotline. Just thinking of Marcos’s enormous sandwich still makes me hungry. And then what he does to Tamsin with the ice cream…YUM!

But thinking of The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin makes me think of my baby. My book was due on January 1, but I finished it early and handed in the revisions on Dec. 22nd. Thank goodness, because although my baby wasn’t due until January 8th, he arrived ahead of schedule—on Christmas Eve!

And now, almost a year and a half later, he is walking. He’s looking at me now, standing on the bottom stair, mischievously swinging the open baby gate back and forth with a throaty baby chuckle. How did he grow up so fast? How?

I’ve been feeling a bit wistful for the past few weeks—since he finally gave up crawling—knowing he’s my last baby. Two is the perfect number of children for my family, and yet….Many of you moms probably understand the wistfulness I’m talking about.

But I can take comfort in knowing that although I’ll never be pregnant again myself, or never be up all night with a brand-new baby, I can still dream about pregnancies and brand-new babies in my stories. All the fun, without the exhaustion! I'm about to start a baby story, probably set in Tuscany, since I’ll be going there next week. (To attend Sharon Kendrick's creative writing workshop at the Watermill at Posara, which will also be filmed by the BBC for a documentary--you can read more about it here.)

When did you realize you were done having kids? Were you happy? Sad? Relieved? Wistful? How did you channel the creative energy? Reading books? Writing them? Having a career? Scrapbooking or creating a really warm, beautiful home?

And another question: have you ever thought you were done...only to find out you weren't?

Jennie Lucas’s book The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin will be out in the U.S. in a few days. Caretti’s Forced Bride is out now Down Under. She’s also being interviewed today about her books and her upcoming Tuscany adventure at Romance Bandits!


Pat Cochran said...

When did I realize I had borne my
last child? When severe medical
problems caused me to accept that I had to have a hysterectomy. We did
end up adding one more child to our
family when my sister succumbed to breast cancer. We raised her little daughter as our own. Our children have given us 10 grandchildren, the youngest is 5 days old. They are a joy of an entirely different sort!

Pat Cochran

Jennie Lucas said...

Oh my gosh, Pat... what a difficult way to realize you were done. It sounds like you wanted more children? I'm so sorry, and very sorry about your sister. But what a blessing that you were able to raise your sister's child. And 10 grandchildren! Your house must be truly joyful and wild during the holidays! Congratulations on your five-day-old grandchild. What a happy time!

Pat, your history reads like a heroine's--brave and strong and loving your family. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

Pat Cochran said...

Thanks for the kind words, Jennie.
I was 32 when I had my surgery, there was time for the fourth
child I had wanted. I'm a great believer in things happening when they are meant to happen - in
God's time! Shannon became that fourth child for us, we call her daughter and she calls us parents.

We celebrate all birthdays and every other "holiday" that comes
our way with a family gathering.
That now means 18 birthdays to
share! This past Christmas, we
teasingly warned all the mothers
to keep a close eye on their
young ones. With all the gift
wrap that was going to be flying
about, we could lose one or two
of the smallest!! It truly is
a joyful life!

Pat Cochran

Estella said...

I had four children and none of them were planned. When the fourth was born my husband took measures to insure there would be no more.

Anna Campbell said...

Jennie, I've been to Spain but not Morocco, although it's definitely on the list. It's an amazing country with such a variety of landscape. Parts of it are so big and dry and empty, it's like Australia! The book sounds great - hmm, can you tell I haven't had my breakfast yet? The kidlet sounds gorgeous - love the description of his chuckle. No wonder you write such HOT heroes!!!!

Cheri2628 said...

Both my sons are grown now, and there are times when I wish I could have them little again just for a day. They were so cute and sweet...of course I am blocking the unpleasant memories! I am hoping to one day have grandchildren to love and spoil and then give back to their parents!

Cris said...

Well, I thought we were done with two girls, but then I fell pregnant again (how did that happen??). I'm currently typing with one hand while baby Sophia is sucking on her fist, head on my shoulder. Yes, they grow up fast -at three months old she's no longer a starry-eyed little newborn. Is she our last? Yes. But then sometimes I look at her and think how lovely it is to have a baby in the house... and my husband would like a boy...

Jennie Lucas said...

Pat, your playful joke about possibly misplacing a child amid all the mad spree of wrapping paper made me grin. I love the holidays. And being part of such a large family is truly wonderful. My husband is the oldest son in a family with eight children--and I think his folks have 35 grandchildren--so I've had a taste of how great big families can be!

You were only 32 when you had surgery? So young! To think if you'd waited to have children, you might not have had any. I was 33 when I had my first. It makes me realize how lucky we are that it worked out for us.

Jennie Lucas said...

Estella, four children? You must be very busy! And none of them were planned, just happy surprises? What a great family adventure! Were you relieved when your husband made sure you were done? Or a bit wistful?

Jennie Lucas said...

And Anna--great to see you here! Thanks for all your nice words about my hot heroes. :) It's especially terrific to get comments like that from one of my top writing idols!

So did you just love Spain?? I'd love to hear more about your trip!

Jennie Lucas said...

Cheri, your comment about wishing your boys could be little again for one day really struck home. Strangers we don't even know have stopped us in restaurants and at Home Depot, to tell us to enjoy our children while they're so little. So I know.

I try to do that the best I can. Always though, there's this little bit of guilt. Am I doing enough for them? Spending enough time and energy? Enjoying these precious years?

I hope I am. But I'm sure as they get older, I'll look back and miss these years sometimes. The snuggles. Being called "Mommy". The cuddle of my baby as I give him a bottle before bed. All those things.

But having adult children must be amazing, too. My mom and I are such good friends now--something that wasn't always the case when I was a teenager!

I hope you'll soon have all the grandchildren you can handle, and have lots of good times and baby snuggles!

Jennie Lucas said...

Oh Cris, what a wonderful description of three-month-old baby Sophia snuggling against you. The image of her chewing on her fist made me grin--and sigh a bit, too!

Having a newborn is truly the best of times and worst of times. I remember the bone-crushing exhaustion of never having more than two hours of sleep at a time. But then the moments of joy are incomparable as well!

And as for how you became pregnant again...hmmm. Mysterious, very mysterious. And quite possibly it could happen again. *grin* Whatever you decide is best, I hope you have many family joys.

Anna Campbell said...

Jennie, I'm sure Spain has changed a lot since my visit (way back in the mists of 1985 - I mean, people are voting who weren't even alive then!). But I found it absolutely enchanting. As I said, the landscape is so incredibly varied. Parts of it are like desert and they filmed a lot of spaghetti westerns there in the 60s. The coastline is gorgeous, although I must admit I wasn't crazy about the very developed parts along the Costa del Sol and co but it's easy enough to get out of those and up into the hills and suddenly you're in the Spain you read about in Presents books! Andalusia is breathtaking - again, like the Spain you imagine. And I was in heaven in Cordoba and Granada with all the glorious Moorish architecture. And then there's Madrid with its amazing art galleries. And San Sebastian which is one of the prettiest towns I've ever visited. And the food. And the music. And...

Um, are you sorry you asked? ;-)

Gigi said...

I knew when I was pregnant with my second daughter that two children was going to be it.
Back then financially it was the right thing for us. I am a planner and I knew with college and all the other things that come with kids two was a nice number.

Fast forward seven years and my youngest is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This disease has really blindsided the family.
My daughter just passed her 10th anniversary since diagnosis she is now 17 years old now.

When she was born I knew she would be my last baby. I held her more and spent lots of time playing with her and her sister. I new that it wouldn't be long before they grew up and didn't need me anymore.

Donna Alward said...

We knew we were done after baby #2 because I'd had such bad post partum depression. I can't tell you the date, but I do know that the dh and I were laying in bed and we just sort of agreed that we should count our blessings...2 happy, healthy girls. I think at times he wishes he'd had a boy, but then as they get older they get even more fun, and we can enjoy so many more things with them. I know the girls would like a baby brother but we're happy to be done with diapers and midnight feedings and car seats! :-) Now we find other people with small babies to spoil!

Jennie Lucas said...

Hi Gigi!

Someone in my family has Type 1 Diabetes as well--I know how difficult it can be. And to teach a seven-year-old to give herself shots must have been very hard. You have all my sympathy. But now that she's seventeen and growing up, it's hopefully easier for her--and you.

I keep thinking about what you said that you held your younger baby extra because you knew she would be your last. Sometimes I'm afraid I give my baby far less attention than he deserves, simply because he's the second child and you just can't give the same undivided attention when you have two. But I'll try harder. I'll make sure to give him extra snuggles today. Thanks for reminding me. :)

Jennie Lucas said...

Anna C, I'm not sorry I asked. I just wish I could see your scrapbook of your Spain trip! I bet the pictures are amazing!!

*sigh* Someday....

Jennie Lucas said...

Donna, I've heard that postpartum depression can be a killer. I had a touch of baby blues I think, but it's hard to tell when you're just so exhausted all the time. And now that I'm 35, almost 36, I don't think I could handle the newborn stage again. The babies are so, so sweet and cuddly. But never getting any sleep just about killed me for the first four months.

You're right. At a certain point it's good to just count your blessings without being greedy for more. And to enjoy whatever stage of parenthood or grandparenthood you're at!

Donna Alward said...

I think that's a lot of it with us, Jennie. Now that the girls are older, our life is different and to go back to babydom isn't really in the cards. Besides, I just got to a point where I can write full time as they are all in school! And I volunteer. It's a good life.

PPD can be really debilitating. But I have two great girls and I love spending oodles of time with them. It was worth every second.