Next Wednesday, Drew turns 44 and Jackson turns 2 1/2. In September, I will be 38. Thirty-eight!! How did I get here already? This year marks twenty years since I graduated from high school — twenty years since I started college! I look at my friends whom I met when I was 17, 18, 19, 20 and I can’t believe we are full-fledged grownups now (whatever that means) when it seems like last month we were sitting on someone’s porch swing on a sticky Saturday night in Missouri sipping Zima and hoping whomever we were interested in would notice us.
It’s all moving too fast and I wish I could hit a “pause” button and just hang out for a while without worrying so much about whatever tomorrow might bring. But, of course, I can’t. None of us can. And the weight of decisions feels heavier than ever if only because there’s more at stake and time, as infinite as it may sometimes seem, is running out. For me, right now, the decision I’m thinking about the most is whether or not to have another baby (or, try to have another baby, I should say, since I don’t take for granted the ability to do so). Before Jackson was born — before I was even pregnant — I thought I wanted two kids. And even after he was born, that was still my desire. But then, for a while, things got harder than I anticipated. I wondered if the joy to stress ratio would continue being in our favor if we added another child to the mix. I thought maybe it would not.
There were a lot of discussions and some tears and a lot of anxiety. For a while, I thought I was pretty sure I was done. Drew has never wavered in his desire for a second child but has also never pressured me and has let me know he is very content with our family as it is now and will respect whatever decision I make. I am grateful for this, of course — for his understanding. But in some ways, knowing the decision is really mine to make has made the decision even harder.
A friend of mine whose son is a year older than Jackson told me that she didn’t know she wanted a second baby until her first was about 18 months old. “And then it was like a switch,” she said. “All of a sudden, I really, really wanted another baby.” Since Jackson turned 18 months old, I kept waiting for that switch to happen to me, too, but it didn’t. Even as the women I knew whose first kids were Jackson’s age started getting pregnant with their second babies, I didn’t feel any desire to join them in the second wave. What I mostly felt was relief that I wouldn’t be juggling a toddler and a newborn and that I wouldn’t have two young kids in diapers at the same time and that I wouldn’t be paying childcare costs for two.
But then, about two or three months ago, something happened. The switch! And suddenly, I have baby fever. It’s just like it was the first time around — a sort of manic desire to do this, make it happen, right now. Only, this time, I have some idea what “this” actually entails and I’m not quite ready for all of it yet, logistically speaking. Ideally, I would like to wait a few more months, but at my age, — and, frankly, Drew’s age, too — I do feel like each month counts. I got pregnant within weeks of trying with Jackson, but who’s to say we would be so lucky the next time around? I have friends who also got pregnant right away with their first babies and then couldn’t have a second. Plus, I don’t want to be hitting the re-set button too far in the future. I don’t want to have, like, a 5 year-old and a newborn, for example. I’m ok with a 3 1/2 year-old and a newborn or maybe a just-turned 4 year-old and a newborn, but anything past that and I think I’ll just feel too far removed from the baby days — too far over them — to do them all over again.
The window feels small. I’m not even quite ready to open it just yet and I already feel its impending closure weighing on me. I guess that makes me sound more anxious than I actually feel. I am anxious, but not terribly so. I’m excited, really. I’m excited to know what I want, and to know that, one way or another, we are moving forward. Because as much as I would love to hit the pause button and hang out right here for a while, I can’t, so moving forward with conscious actions and behavior that reflects some sort of plan feels better than just letting life happen. It’s the relief of jumping off the fence where I’ve been sitting for the last year or so and moving again, comfortable with either destination I — we — may end up (and hopeful that any unwelcome detours or surprise destinations aren’t anything we can’t handle). And I’m excited about the idea of adding more to our life — more joy and more love and more laughter (along with more chaos and stress, I’m sure).
For those of you with kids, did you ever waver in your decision to have (or not to have) another? Did you even actively make a decision to try for another or did you just let whatever might happen, happen (or not)? And in what ways does having another baby change your family dynamic?