I never considered I would make this a public announcement or discussion. I raise the question every once in a while, sometimes more if I’m feeling a little pressured by time. It really isn’t anyone’s business and while some discussion could be a welcome dissection, hearing facts and statistics could quickly turn on my Momma-Hulk mode. But I think it is time to discuss it in public, to let people know that it is something parents struggle with. Is this ultimately a private decision, one for myself and my husband to make? You betcha. But maybe it’s this whole new “writer thing”. I’m finding subjects writable and want to put it out there. Crowdsourcing for opinions or insights. And to maybe find an answer for myself.
So here we go. I want another child, but I don’t want to ruin what we have. I have a beautiful little just-turned-2-years-old boy and I’m on the fence about if I should shake up an already great thing by adding another kid into the mix. One might say by writing this, I am digging for compliance, but it’s more complicated than that. Just as it’s more complicated than numbers on a spreadsheet or if adding another child to the over populated planet is morally right. Its feelings and urges. It’s sugar-coated memories and what-ifs. It’s acceptance and denial. I’s raising another child, and possibly complicating the balance that’s just now starting to emerge.
Perhaps it would be easier if I didn’t love being pregnant.1 My pregnancy was picture perfect from beginning to end, down to exactly the kind of birth I wanted with the bonus of a quick, if painful, labor.2 Giving birth was incredible, despite tearing myself open and wanting to stay in bed for weeks after. But I can honestly say giving birth to my son was the most empowering experience I have ever gone through. And I want to do it all again.
I want to feel the pregnancy kicks, the little tummy rolls as I lay in bed staring at the alien inside me. I want to smell that newborn smell and nourish it with my breast. I want to watch him/her grow and experience all the firsts again: sitting up, smiling, feeding themselves. I want N to have a sibling, watch them learn to share, protect and love each other. I want a baby girl, though certainly wouldn’t mind another boy (most of the baby stuff is gender neutral anyway).
When my husband and I started talking about having children, we were always talking about multiples (not twins, thankfully). His original child number was two while I played with three. After experiencing parenthood for that first year, both of us had been knocked down a peg, truly appreciating just how hard one child was. And accordingly, we both had lost the urge to procreate by one. It seemed for a while, husband was happy with just N while I still had a vague sense of incompleteness of the family. Nothing earth-shattering, but just hovering beneath the surface, the whisper of “have another”.
My husband and I like setting limitations. When we first married, we agreed we would wait at least five years before children, to give us time to be our own small family, experience our marriage, and a chance to build up careers. We ended up trying a little early, but chance and disappointment set out to keep us on track and we ended up having N within a month of our five year plan. History repeated itself when a few sleepless weeks into parenthood, we agreed no discussing having a second baby until N turned two. Sure enough, about six months early I started throwing the question out there, testing the waters. But husband stood true and now that N turned two last month, we have began the discussion in earnest.
Don’t get me wrong. Right now we are just talking. No active trying. There is a responsibility to this potential child, to bring him/her into this world with love and support. We certainly don’t want to be on the fence, find out I’m pregnant, then regret the change down the road. The regret would come from the things we would lose: out numbering the rugrats, sleepfilled nights, semi-easy vacations, a career that is gaining traction, my body being back into shape, a returning sex life.
So what are some of the specifics I need to address in order to work out my ambivalence and caution?
- Could I really handle a second baby? I think so. The first six or so months would be the hardest, I think. There would be at least a three-year age gap between the kids, so as one exits the diapers and enters school, the other would get tagged in. They could eventually be playmates, but still have their own age groups.
- How on Earth would I get out of the house on time? As is, I’m already consistently running late. Another baby would add more time to the clicking clock.
- I have finally found a workout program that works for me, and have been going regularly for over nine months. I have started running 5Ks and now lift twice what I used to. Would I be okay starting over again? Or worse, from even further back, and maybe never get my body in the shape it is now again?
- Let’s not forget the act that brought the child into being and is a healthy part of our marriage: Sex. When I was breastfeeding, my interest in sex bottomed out and there was quite a bit of pain for over a year. It lead to a lot of frustration on both sides, as husband felt neglected and I felt my body was never left alone. When N self-weaned at 14 months, we welcomed the immediate change. And while I never got my sex drive back 100%, it’s a scary prospect going back to that blue-balled time period. But on the other hand, we now know what to expect from each other physically and how hormones pretty much run the show for a while. Maybe by having lower expectations, we will be happier with what we can get.
- Husband and I are well on our way to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. N has slept through the night (granted, he was doing from very early in his life, so that’s nothing new) and has a toddler bed, we are going to enter potty-training soon, and he is feeding and entertaining himself, enough that I can be in the other room with a client and be sure he is okay. With a new baby comes sleepless nights and a renewal of fights. Functioning on minimal sleep has never been my forte and now with a lightning fast toddler it would require no daytime napping or downtime, something I now realized was a commodity for the first time around.
- Speaking of clients, what would happen to my career? I own my own massage therapy business. Coincidentally, I started it after leaving my spa job at 8 months pregnant, slowly gaining clients after N was born. It has been moderately successful for the last year. I have been very lucky to have my mother live nearby and be more than willing to babysit N while I had to work, as well as husband doing a lot of baby watching for the hour or two a client would require. With a new baby, I would not only have a stricter schedule, which could mean less availability to the clients, but I would have to take time off to heal. That is at least a month of not seeing clients, some of which I currently see twice weekly for chronic pain management. I would happily recommend them to another therapist, but there is no guarantee they would return. That would be a major hit to my income. Would I still keep the majority of my clients? I believe so; my career is quite fluid and new people are always looking for massage therapy. But part of my job is to care about the people I work on and I do.
- While I wouldn’t consider myself a social butterfly, I do have friends I meet up with occasionally. I distinctly remember being very lonely for the first few weeks of motherhood as I healed. Once I was able to meet up it was doable with a baby in a carrier. I don’t think my friends would appreciate my dragging my brood out just to have lunch, as well as the fact that with two, my attention to any conversation would be completely lost. So spending time with friends would require some serious scheduling and babysitting. Doable, just more complicated and possibly expensive.
I feel as though I know what I want in my heart, but my head is too clouded with pros and cons, what-ifs, and fear. What if my husband or I regret it? Will N like being a sibling? What if we don’t have time for all four of us? What if we don’t have the money to go on family vacations? What if something happens to one of us, leaving the other a single parent with two looming college tuitions? What I wouldn’t give for a working crystal ball.
There seems to be two pathways. The first is to stay a family of three, ignore the whispering voice (is it coming from my uterus?) and enjoy watching N grow as an only child with his many cousins living nearby. The other is to make room for another child, experiencing everything again, but differently. Change our lives around the new addition and roll with the punches.
Which is better? There is no way to tell and, as far as I can tell, no wrong answer. Just different choices and you simply make it work. Many times in life we have our two pathways and yet, we still feel lost. Do you quit a job you hate and risk unemployment or stick it out, collecting the paycheck? Do you save money for the dream vacation or house down payment? Do you attend this college or that university?
And there is the acknowledgment that my wanting another child could simply be my reluctance to admit the baby stage of life is over. No more playing peek-a-boo. No more new baby smell. No more pictures of sleeping husband cuddling a newborn in the crook of his arm. Would I ever be able to accept that? It is worth a pause to wonder if I want this just to “do it all over again”? Is that a good enough reason, is the desire reason enough?
And who is to say I won’t find myself in this exact same position in another two years? I did originally want three kids, so maybe the urge to procreate will rear it’s baby-faced head once more, especially as I have the hope to someday adopt. Will that ever be off the table, as birthing a child guarantees you start from square one, but adoption could be starting from any age? Would we be happier adopting an older child, not having to deal with the infant stage, which can be in some ways the hardest? Will I have to quiet whispers for the rest of my life to save our bank accounts? Would I be selfish to want more children than the one I have? Would I be selfish if I didn’t?
I’ll be honest – I still have no idea what we will do. I hear the whispers daily and dream of babies. I spend hours working with clients, gaining life satisfaction by making them feel better. I am still torn down the middle. Part of me wants to hide from this monumental decision; maybe something else will decide for me. More likely, I need to continue the discussion with my husband, keep soul-searching, and clarify what I really want and why.
Most importantly, I am setting out to enjoy our family in this moment. To watch N learn new things every day. To listen to him communicate and laugh, to run on the grass and pile dirt on his legs. To level-up into pre-school mode and save for vacations. To manage my stress levels, to go running, and embrace my growing clientele. To have dance parties and Netflix marathons while folding laundry. To love my husband and be a good wife. In short, I will keep living my life and appreciate it. No matter what happens.