Recently, Drew and I have started talking about whether we might like to try for #2, and that’s not an allusion to being constipated, although the Aleve I’ve been taking for my back for the past few weeks does have some uncomfortable side effects, thank you very much. Before Jackson was born, it seemed settled that we’d aim for two kids. As early as our first date, we both talked about how we each wanted two kids eventually. Drew may have even said he wanted three.
I always wanted a little girl, and when I found out I was pregnant with a boy, I told myself, “Maybe next time.” I wasn’t too disappointed because there was still a chance I might have a girl eventually, and anyway, what’s wrong with a boy? (Nothing! Except the part about missing the toilet a lot of the time).
After Jackson was born, I boxed up my maternity clothes and put them in storage until the next pregnancy. As Jack outgrows his own clothes, I box them up and put them in storage, too, for the next baby. If we have another boy, he’ll already have a whole wardrobe full of cute hand-me-downs. If we have a girl, I hope she likes trucks and frogs and giraffes and stuff.
Speaking of clothes, in one of my drawers, I have a tiny pair of baby girl shoes. I found them brand new, with the tags still on, for a couple bucks at a thrift store years ago and I’ve been saving them in case I have a daughter. My in-laws have also saved several boxes of their daughter’s clothes should Drew and I have a girl. She will be one well-dressed baby, that’s for sure.
But here’s the thing: I’m not sure I have room in my life for another child.
Up until a few months ago, I didn’t think there was a question that we’d at least try to have another baby. I didn’t take for granted that it would happen again. I knew that just because I got pregnant easily with Jackson, it didn’t mean we’d be so lucky again. I’m hurtling toward my late 30s faster than I’d like to admit, after all, and my eggs are hobbling around on canes these days. But, still, I always thought we’d at least try to make another baby. And if it didn’t work, I thought we’d consider other options, like adoption. Hell, maybe we’d even consider adoption before trying to conceive. It’s possible. Especially after all the fun I had being pregnant and giving birth and all.
But now I’m not so sure I really want another baby. I should say now, in case it isn’t perfectly clear, that I love my son so very, very much. I love being a mom and I love the family we have now. And that’s the thing: I love the family we have now.
Maybe it’s enough already? Maybe another person would be too much. Maybe I would feel spread too thin. Maybe it would be more than I could handle. Right now, my joy to stress ratio is in my favor. Would it still be that way if we added another child to the mix? Can we even afford another child? Am I willing to sacrifice some of the comforts we enjoy now in order to support another person?
I don’t know! I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
Up until two months ago I was checking the real estate section every few days for three-bedroom apartments in our neighborhood we might be able to afford. And then I traveled with Jackson by myself to Germany to visit my parents and my mother made a comment to me about how, “You don’t have to have another, you know.” And at first I thought she meant that I wasn’t a good mother, but that wasn’t it. She meant that for me, maybe one child was perfect already.
Back in New York, I nervously told Drew over breakfast one morning that I needed to talk to him about something.
“I don’t think I want another baby,” I said softly, fixing my eyes on my half-eaten bagel, bracing myself for his reaction.
“You don’t?” He said.
“I don’t think so,” I replied, a little louder. “I mean, I thought I did. I always thought I wanted two. But now… now I think Jackson is enough.”
Suddenly, a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I realized I’d been holding this in for longer than two weeks. This was something that had been weighing me down for months. And luckily, Drew didn’t resent me for feeling the way I did and was open to the idea of not having another baby.
We didn’t make any final decisions that morning. But what we did decide to do was embrace the idea of stopping at one and seeing how that felt. We decided to live with that scenario for a little while — imagining that our family is complete — and then check back in with each other and discuss our thoughts. If relief is the predominant emotion, we’ll have our answer.
I’ve mentioned this to a few close friends — how the thought of having another baby makes me more anxious than excited–and most of them have told me that that might change in a few months as Jackson gets further and further from his newborn days.
“Wait til he’s walking and talking,” advised one friend. “You might feel differently then.”
And I have to admit, I’m wavering more than I was even a few weeks ago. As Jack becomes more and more toddler-like, I’m realizing that though the baby days are challenging, they really do go by in a flash. And maybe when Jackson’s two or three, I’ll be ready to take on the challenge of a newborn again, especially with the benefit of experience this time around. Maybe I’ll have made more space in my life for another child. Maybe Jack won’t require quite as much hands-on attention and I’ll have more energy to devote to a new baby.
But maybe I’ll want to devote that energy to other things instead that bring me joy: my marriage; my writing; friends; travel; biking; learning new tricks.
I wrote recently about how I’ve been finding more balance in my life now that Jackson’s older and I’ve got a better handle on this whole mom gig. I worry that two kids might throw off that balance forever. I worry I’ll be that frazzled, harried mother in the playground in sweat shorts and Birkenstocks who has completely lost herself to the endless needs of her children. I worry I’ll be the mom of a newborn letting her older kid poop in a bag in the middle of the park because she’s too damn tired to walk the ten minutes to the public bathroom. And I don’t want to be that mom!
It’s easy to point to what I don’t want. Not so easy to say what it is I do want. I know I don’t want us to make any decisions we’ll regret. But how do we know when we’re making the right choices? How do we make sure we don’t wake up ten years from now and wish we’d done things differently??