Thanks to Oakland mom and non-profit executive Chantal Laurie Below for this guest post. We met through our shared babysitter a few years ago. When she sent me this post and I was so excited about it, I wrote on Facebook that I love when people send us an excellent post just because they have something to say and need a place to say it. Some readers thought I was being sarcastic. I was not. I’m truly happy to share your writing. You know, as long as it’s pretty good.
Iâ€™m 70% sure having a third child is a good idea. And Iâ€™m seven months pregnant. With my third kid.
My husbandâ€™s also 70% sure, but 30% uncertainty doesnâ€™t send him into a tailspin. It appeals to his, â€œWeâ€™ll figure it out. Whatâ€™s the Ninerâ€™s score?â€ mentality that tempers my over-thinking and drives me batty.
With the first and second, it wasnâ€™t a question. I wanted the joy and heartache of raising a little one and wanted our first to have a sibling. Getting pregnant wasnâ€™t easy, but it was an unequivocal decision.
With the third, it felt different. I wanted some Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test with 25 questions to reveal my â€œtypeâ€ and tell me what to do:
- â€œYou value fun, adventure and challenge and youâ€™ve got more love to give. Go for it.â€
- â€œYour age, need for order, concern over finances, and investment in your career say two is plenty.â€
Without a Magic 8 ball, we did what any responsible, highly-educated adults do: played it fast and loose and left it up to some determined sperm to make the decision for us.
Iâ€™m still 30% unsure itâ€™s a good idea.
Having a third seems impractical. After that additional shoelace is tied and snack is packed, itâ€™ll take 20 extra minutes to get out of the house at any given time. Weâ€™ll be perpetually late to everything. And, we live in the San Francisco Bay Area which is prohibitively expensive; Iâ€™m dubious we can provide for three kids the way we want.
It also seems excessive. Are we the â€œDuggar Family of the Westâ€ as we challenge the prevailing ideology of our peer group: two and through? Weâ€™ve got two healthy kids and the quaint set up of a boy and a girl, why tempt fate by relying on my â€œadvanced maternal ageâ€ eggs?
A third delays our dreams. Aspirations of traveling abroad in the near future get stifled when imagining a newborn addition. Nap times cramp the style of a hike to Machu Picchu or a Habitat For Humanity trip to Honduras. And starting the clock again from the beginning means paying for more years of childcare and pre-school, real money thatâ€™s never channeled towards that kitchen re-model.
Thereâ€™s the identity piece. A third seems to imply Iâ€™m more â€œmomâ€ than â€œprofessional.â€ I imagine getting so swallowed up in permission slips and breast milk that Iâ€™ll forget how to code switch from the language of â€œsweet peaâ€ to â€œwhatâ€™s the dial-in for the conference line?â€ And, I fear colleagues will predict that Iâ€™ll temper any semblance of ambition I can muster up when not sleep deprived. Do I have the wherewithal to resist succumbing to subtle â€˜opt-outâ€™ expectations?
Will I recognize myself or my husband after a third? My son and daughter unapologetically transformed me from a C to an A cup. Will a third indent my boobs into my chest cavity? With the additional laundry to fold and whining to endure, will I be constantly on the emotional brink? Given the complexity of orchestrating the lives of three, I envision rarely seeing my husband over the next 15 years except to high five him while I take two to soccer and he takes one to a birthday party. Can our marriage withstand the responsibility of another kid?
Then, thereâ€™s 70% of me thatâ€™s sure.
When I look at family pictures (the two where everyoneâ€™s vaguely staring at the camera), I wonder if Iâ€™m in that Back to the Future scene when people start slowly disappearing from the photo. Itâ€™s like thereâ€™s meant to be another kid showing up in that picture, on my lap, bringing more joy and chaos.
When Iâ€™m out in public, I look for families of five. I feel initial relief when I see theyâ€™ve left the house fully clothed and seemingly bathed, and then I feel envy. I want the chance to create a romanticized, rowdy, Thanksgiving dinner table where my kids talk over each other and recollect traumatizing family memories with laughter and a hint of gratitude.
I also have this hopeful vision that I can be a mother of three and an ambitious professional. I respect women in my field who leapt (or maybe fell) into the messiness of three and seemingly thrived in their careers. They reassure me that I wonâ€™t descend into some Gymboree, Frozen abyss when my husband and I are outnumbered. â€œIâ€™ve got this,â€ I convince myself as I elbow my way onto their elusive team.
And I realize that while my career matters to me, the â€œabyssâ€ which I judgingly reference is where I claim tremendous joy. I love a good Music Together class and take pride in those baseball cupcakes I baked and iced for my sonâ€™s second birthday. I belt out Let It Go and revel in the chance to explain, to my four year old, what the lyrics mean as I build her feminist identity. Being involved in the meaningful and mundane gives me purpose.
And I want to multiply the fun and love. When my kids crack each other up at the dinner table for no reason, I want a third to share in the delight. When we initiate a spontaneous family dance party to the Jackson 5, I want another one to show off their moves. And when my son grabs my cheeks and shouts, â€œI love you, Mama,â€ Iâ€™m ready to procreate until the end of time.
In my darkest moments, I want a third because I fear losing a child. In an irrational way, a third feels like an insurance policy. Itâ€™s another layer of protection over my heart. If the unimaginable happens, Iâ€™ll have two remaining kids to fill the house with enough noise and love to possibly make life bearable.
The reasons for the 70% seem less rational. Theyâ€™re more emotion and gut and, to me, sound simultaneously compelling and irresponsible.
Thatâ€™s why I cringe when asked, â€œWas it planned?â€ It seems Iâ€™m being asked, â€œIs it wanted?â€ Confusingly, it was sort of planned and of course wanted. And, when asked, â€œAre you excited?â€ I respond, â€œI think so.â€
These nuanced answers feel lacking when referencing my unborn kid. But, theyâ€™re honest. In addition to anticipatory joy I also have anxiety and apprehension. I want to feel those concerns without thinking Iâ€™m a terrible mother. And, I want reassurance that when my child arrives, Iâ€™ll know that having a third might only be 70% a good idea, itâ€™s 100% worth it.
Thanks, Chantal, for sharing this piece with us.