I Thought I Was Happy with One Child, Now I'm on the Fence
I should have done more reading about it. I don’t mean the books about what happens to your body while you’re pregnant, or what happens to the baby at age 1.25 or 3.5. I mean the books that talk about the responsibility of taking care of another life while simultaneously foregoing that of your previous unencumbered self.
Of course I wanted one. Always had. Always envisioned a house full of little pairs of shoes in the mudroom. But did I really think about it? Did I imagine what it would be like when your baby is frighteningly sick and writhing in abdominal pain, and your husband is at work or just at the hardware store? What’s that, doc? What do you mean, it’s just gas? It felt lonely and hard and scary. I was naïve. I wanted it to be perfect and easy. Foolish, and so now I revise the history in my head.
When she was old enough to play by herself for 20 minutes without interrupting the all-important task of showering, unloading dishwasher, reading mindless entertainment news on the Web, then, I finally exhaled. Have I been afraid to take another breath?
And now, I am asking that question of myself. The one I have avoided or argued away. Sometimes, I was outright angry in my response. “Why do people assume every family should have multiple children? What’s wrong with having just one?” I even bought the books. Having just one, they all stated, was enough.
So, why now? I’m practically over the hill. Geriatric pregnancy they call it. Never in a million years would I guess that I would be sitting here now, over four decades old, finally feeling GOOD as a mother. Finally seeing the fruits of my labor. And finally wondering if I should have another.
She turned out great. Why was I so scared? It took a long time to admit that. To admit that I was scared. Maybe I was scared the entire time. But somehow, she has turned out great. Now, I might allow myself to imagine what I have been so afraid to imagine before.
Maybe it won’t be perfect, just as it wasn’t with one. But would it bring me joy and meaning? Will it bring the three of us joy and meaning? And what if she really benefits, too? Of course, we have gotten rid of all the baby stuff. Sold the crib, high chair, and strollers. Gave away all the bottles, clothes, toys she wouldn’t miss.
The chaos will reappear. Diapers. Smelly diaper bin. Bottles. Baby bath tub. Trips to the grocery store, encumbered. Packing a mule for our family vacations. BEING the mule on family vacations. More doctor visits. Vaccines. Inexplicable symptoms of pain. And the big one. NO SLEEP. Putting up the gates on the staircase. Childproofing all the electric outlets. Possibly putting up the playpen (note to self: didn’t I read somewhere that it was abusive? Not unlike the leash?). But I can’t un-think the thought that has now given birth inside my brain. What if?
The obvious risks haunt me. Followed by the less obvious ones. And then there’s the vanity of it all. What it will do to my body; what if I get depressed? Again? But now I have more information; I have more data points. The first time, I acted as if I had something to prove. I could do it. Let me do it! I don’t need help. I’m not a martyr (psst, I was actually playing the martyr). What if I just let go?
There’s no grey for me with this one. There’s no- “let’s just see what happens!” I need to have an answer for myself – yes, or no. Do I want to? Or, do I not want to?
I look at her face. I look at his face, as he looks at hers. I look at them together and try to find space in between their impossibly perfect snuggle. Is there room for another being, another shadow along the sidewalk? Another set of towels in the linen closet? Can I possibly have room in my heart to love another human as much as I love her?
The clock is not only ticking, but its chimes are likely running out of battery power. I’m not particularly religious, but maybe I will ask Him for an answer.
Just when you think you’ve had it all figured out…
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