I’ve heard many responses to the question, “Are you going to have another child?” and many of them fall on a spectrum between nervous laughter and apologetic shrugs.
And then there was my friend H. who was asked that at a dinner party in front of half a dozen adults.
“Oh yeah wait, and I’m just going to fish my uterus out of the hospital bucket,” she said, not missing a beat. Brilliantly indelicate, she almost embarrassed the questioner. How I loved her in that moment. We all laughed with her, but it was clear that she had heard that question too many times, and had come up with a whole swing to answer the question unequivocally.
As someone with a child, I’ve heard that question way too many times, too. Just last weekend, I winced when three strangers asked on separate occasions, “Is it just your daughter?”
Every time a person (a woman, let’s face it) is asked about this, they are embarrassed in a variety of ways. Do you pull back the curtain on your own family’s privacy just to be polite? Are you revealing more of yourself than you are ready to? And when things are particularly raw and difficult, are you talking about the fight?
I’m not as brave as H. “I can barely handle what I have” is a standard response. So does “Give me a minute to get used to it,” although that loses its impact now that the child is three years old. “Sorry, you’re probably fed up with people asking that question,” they hastily add. But they still wait for the answer.
A few months after her birth, I was firmly convinced that we would have another child. “I want her to have a sibling,” I said to my husband. He looked at me like I was crazy. There I was, on meds for postpartum depression, struggling with freelance work, mad with insomnia. “You can’t have another child just because you don’t want them to feel lonely,” he said.
Of course he was right. At first I took his reluctance as evidence that he felt he had bitten off more than he could chew. Why wouldn’t you have another when the love you feel is so brilliant. Why not double or triple? In fact, the opposite is probably true. We are more than enough for my husband. Wanting someone else feels like betraying the blessings we already have.
I began to question why I wanted another child. The first few months of new motherhood are so confusing, it’s like learning to live underwater. Was I looking for some kind of second chance to nail motherhood that had been flapping around in my hands like a crazy wet fish the first time? Was I hoping that some kind of repetition with a second child would give me a better sense of how overwhelmed I felt having my first?
Or was it because, in this haze of confusion and insomnia, I missed so many beautiful moments in my daughter’s first year? People used to tell me, “cherish those moments,” and I dismissed it as a simple cliché. But when I look at pictures of my daughter’s chubby infant arms or feel the smallness of her first onesie in my hand, I realize I’ve never been fully present. I was always worried about the next meal, the next sleep. I wished the days away and looked forward to the time when she would be older and hilarious/cute/independent.
When considering having a second child, my age also played a not inconsiderable role. I had conceived almost effortlessly at 41, but three years seems like a very long time when you think about fertility as a woman in her 40s. For the first time in my life I was dismayed and disappointed when my period came – a very unique feeling.
Out of curiosity, I went to a fertility clinic to get what is called a “fertility snapshot” to see exactly what we were dealing with. “The numbers are actually pretty good for your age,” I was told. But when you’re in your mid-40s, “your age” equates to zero fertility base, a dust-covered womb. As they listed the (limited) options, I could feel my wallet starting to sweat a little in my hand. Even the least invasive procedures and options cost hundreds of dollars. I decided to call off the dogs, so to speak.
When I made that decision, I started feeling sad about my daughter. The idea that she was an only child felt lonely. She would never know the joys, the madness, the unique love between siblings. I felt bad that she would just sit with us two idiots as a family.
But I’ve come to a new mindset. I let go of the idea of having a second baby. Anyone who asks me if it’s “just” my daughter might see my family as incomplete, but I don’t. We are more than enough, our little trio. We are a whole unit. My heart is already filled to the brim. Now there’s just that annoying “learning to be present” thing to learn.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/after-our-daughter-was-born-i-was-adamant-we-would-have-another-child-but-ive-finally-let-go-of-the-idea-of-a-second-baby-41403111.html After the birth of our daughter, I was firmly convinced that we would have another child. But I’ve finally said goodbye to the idea of having a second baby