I asked my friend Deborah to weigh in on the decision to have a second baby. I know that Deb doesn’t throw caution to the wind when it comes to major life decisions, so I am happy to share her contribution to this discussion.
I was thrilled and relieved that Whitney asked me to weigh on the current Rookie Mom’s discussion about whether or not to have a second child. Thrilled because I love Whitney and Heather’s site and feel humbled by the request to do a guest post; relieved because this is something my husband and I have been talking about for months and I need to finally put pen to paper to untangle help some of my thoughts.
I sit down and write this with a sense of irony because I’m already seven months pregnant with number two. So I guess you could say I’m rationalizing the decision rather than making it, but I don’t think the thought process needs to be significantly different for someone who is considering a second (or third or fourth) rather than preparing for one who is already mid-cook.
First of all, I believe that you can’t make a wrong decision here. If you decide to have another kid, that’s great. If you decide not to have another kid, that’s great too. It’s 100% up to you because you are the only one who lives in your skin and know what you are willing to live with. I guess I should slightly modify that last declaration and say that it’s 100% up to you and your partner, but quite honestly, if you’re not 100% on board it may not matter what your partner believes. Yes, marriage is about compromise but let’s be realistic here. Agreeing to spend Christmas with your family and Thanksgiving with your in-laws is one thing, but agreeing to care for a human life for a minimum of 18 years is another. You need to figure out what you want to sign up for in your life.
To be quite honest, we were ambivalent about having kids. (Leah and Number Two: When you are old enough to read this, please don’t take this ambivalence personally. It was before we knew you!) We decided that if it was meant to be, it would happen but we were not going to go to any great measures to procreate. Well, it happened and it’s been wonderful. Sure, it’s been hard, stressful, exhausting and so on, but a life with our 18-month old Leah is much better than a life without her.
So that gets us to the matter at hand: whether or not to have #2. I remember three conversations that led to our decision. The first was with two friends who are only children. While they lamented not having dedicated playmates as children, they believe it’s harder now as an adult. No matter how much your spouse or your friends care about your own parents, at the end of the day, the ultimate responsibility lands on the offspring. And without any siblings, that leaves one person in charge. Families are messy and a sibling is no guarantee of any sort of support system, but it certainly increases one’s chances. The second conversation was the first in which I tossed out the idea of having another baby to my husband. I think the exchange lasted for about the two blocks and the conclusion was yes, we were open to it. Sometime between that conversation and Leah’s first birthday we talked about it again. This time we discussed the fact that there was no guarantee that our siblings will have kids, so not only could Leah be an only child, but an only child without cousins. There is a lot of love in our family and channeling two parents, four grandparents, an aunt and an uncle’s worth of love all on one kid seemed a bit intense. Why not distribute the love across at least one more person?
In the end, it came down to gut and timing. The thought of Leah being an only child made me sad. I don’t know why, but it just did. And I try to trust my gut. Also, the decision was kind of made for us. I think I was off the pill for about five minutes before getting pregnant with number two. That’s when any remnant of wavering (and there was quite a bit) turned into rationalizing. (On another topic: could ambivalence increase fertility?)
Name an emotion and we’re feeling it right now: fear, anxiety, excitement, dread, hope, joy, anticipation, submission, surprise, love.
The thought that there is a decent chance we might get another kid like Leah is reason enough to be over the moon. But if we just had one Leah, that would be okay, too. Again, no wrong decisions can be made.
I am due in January and there is no doubt that 2012 will be a dark year. There will be a lot of things we will not be able to easily do, life will be more expensive, and sleep may be nonexistent. But it’s easy to get caught up in the baby years because that’s all we know. At some point in the not so distant future, we exit the hazing phase and start to experience a more “normal” life as a family: movie nights eating popcorn on the couch, art projects, hand me downs, giggle fits at the kitchen table, fighting in the back seat of the car, playing house/school/monster invasion/whatever they can imagine. At the end of the day, the decision was simple: Most things come in sets of four, not three. Therefore, I thought our family should, too.
photos courtesy of Deborah Kelson. Read more of Deb’s experiences with motherhood on her blog.