I am struggling hard with the decision to have a second child.
I wish I had someone to talk to about this. And by someone, I mean someone who's been here, done that. Someone who has no personal interest in the outcome of my decision.
Let me back up and give a little background. I am going to be 37 in June. I have a beautiful, perfect 7 yr old daughter and a wonderful husband. For the past seven years, I have held fast to my guns that I wanted NO MORE BABIES. But for some reason, in the last couple of months, I've begun to question my decision.
My pregnancy and delivery with my DD was textbook. No problems whatsoever, not even morning sickness. I even went into labor at midnight on my due date. My fear of a second child has nothing to do with this part of the process.
The part that I never wanted to experience again was the whole baby thing. I hated being at the whim of a tiny, helpless little thing. I hated nursing. I hated having to pack a suitcase everytime I wanted to run up the street. The majority of this attitude was due to severe post-partum depression, as I now know, but even now, as I type this, I have tears in my eyes and a knot in my stomach just remembering what I felt like. I felt like the most horrible mother in the world. How could I possibly be any good at all if I cringed every time I heard my daughter cry? Do you know how hard it is for me to even admit this annonymously? I know that most of you have the words "heartless *****" going thru your minds right now.
Don't get me wrong. My daughter is the most important person in this world to me and I love her more than life itself. I would die for her. That's why it even enters my mind to consider a second child. I want a second child so that DD will have a sibling, someone she can hold on to when we're gone, someone she can grow up with and love as only siblings can love each other. I want my husband to have a son, at the very least the second child he's always wanted. And I know I would love another child just as much as I love my first one.
But I'm getting older. And I love the fact that my daughter is becoming so self-efficient. Do I really want to backtrack that far? Do I really want to do diapers and breastfeeding and carseats and baby bags and bottles and sleepless nights all over again? I'd be fairly close to 38 when I delivered, and that's betting I'd conceive right away. Do the math: I would be 60 before this child would be finished with college. And how about the risk of pregnancy at my age, and having a perfectly healthy baby? I'm terrified that I got too lucky the first time.
Back and forth, back and forth I go with this. My husband is no help. Yes, he wanted a second child, but says he's content with one. So he says it's up to me, I'm the momma, he'll support my decision either way. Thanks alot. I've prayed and prayed. Give me a sign, Lord. I wish I would just turn up pregnant so the decision would already be made for me.
I've been doing some research online. Right now I am taking bupropion (wellbutrin) for depression symptoms. The FDA lists this medication as a class B as far as it's safety level during pregnancy. What this means is that it is presumed safe for the developing fetus, but this presumption is based on animal testing only - no human testing has been done. According to my research online (gotta love google), a study monitoring pregnant women on wellbutrin vs. pregnant women on no medication shows that the percentage for birth defects or miscarriages was the same for both groups. However, there were more cases of heart defects in the wellbutrin group than the control group. Furthermore, wellbutrin does affect breastmilk.
Periodically, my DD plays the "I want a baby sister" card. In the car yesterday afternoon, she brings it up again. So I asked her, "What if you had a baby brother?" She said, "a brother would be okay." I explained that the process is not very simple...We can't just run to wal-mart and pick up a new baby sister. (She has a very basic understanding of how babies are made, but beyond that, the whole process is foreign.)
So later on last night, I decided to go for a walk by myself. When I got back, my daughter was distraught (sp?) because she missed me and she really wanted me home (I was gone 20min!) and on and on, hanging on to my legs. I said,"Now, you know that if you had a baby sister, Mommy wouldn't be all yours anymore. You would have to share Mommy." [Pause to let those wheels turn.] Very seriously, she says, "I don't want a baby sister." And that was that in her mind.
Another issue I would face if I have another child is my childcare situation. I have been so incredibly fortunate because my MIL and SIL have always watched DD at no cost to us. There's no way we could afford to pay for childcare. Of course, now, with DD in school most of the time and with me getting off work at 4pm, they only have to pick her up from school and watch her for an hour on most days. But my MIL is aging, she's in her mid 60's and not in the best of health. My SIL just sent her only child off to college and is wanting to travel a little and do other things. Due to some fairly stupid financial choices, we can't afford for me to stay home (and I would love to!!). I can't be so presumptious to think that I could expect my MIL and SIL to watch a new baby.
Wow, what a weekend. Saturday, DD and I went horseback riding with her Brownie troop. SO much fun!! I love this time in her life. We can do stuff together. She did great! No fears whatsoever. I am in awe of my child sometimes.
Saturday evening, the three of us went to some friends' home for a cookout and a little guitar playing (no talent here, other than listening!). This couple are about 2 yrs younger than DH and me, and have an 8 mo old daughter. My DD just fawned all over this baby. Made me a nervous wreck. I was hoping so badly that when I saw that baby, something would jump in my soul. Well, it did. It was fear. It was relief that I was thru that.
I cried during Mass yesterday. I went by myself (dd was not feeling so hot), sat on the front row as usual. (DH usually sings, so it's just habit to sit up front.) Well, Father Ted's homily is naturally about birth and rebirth and the innocence of children. It is Easter season, ya know. So he points out one of the younger kids to come up front. Little Samuel is the next-to-youngest of 11 children. His mother is my age. Father Ted asks us, "What do you want for Samuel? What do you wish for him in the future?" And I just lost it. I felt like the most selfish ***** in the world. DH and I are exactly the kind of people who SHOULD be having children, to raise and love and send out into the world to make it a better place. And the only reasons I don't want a baby are very selfish ones. Am I a self-centered, selfish person?
So I curled up in DH's arms last night and cried and poured out my heart. Can I just tell you that I am married to the most wonderful man in the world? He asked me the reasons why I wanted another child. I said, for DD to have a sibling, for him to have another child, and so I wouldn't have all my eggs in one basket (for lack of a better way to put it). He said, these are all reasons why everyone else thinks you should have a baby. Why do YOU want to have another baby? I said, I don't.
I don't. It came out of my mouth before I knew it. It is my gut feeling. But I have such a bad history with major, life-changing decisions, doing what I want instead of what I should. So naturally, my second gut feeling is that I'm wrong.
DH says I'm too hard on myself, that I'm taking on the weight of the world. Neither decision is right or wrong, he says. And even if there is one right decision, we will never know if we chose the right one because we can only take one fork in the road. You either do it or you don't. And either way, you're still gonna look back and play the "Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda" game.
I feel pretty good today. I went home from work early yesterday, so I had an afternoon to myself to get some grocery shopping done (yes I lead a cutting-edge life). I even snuck in a little nap. It wasn't hard to get out of work, since I looked like total hell after crying all night Sunday. But I feel a sense of peace today.
If I were about 5 or more years younger, I would do it. I would have another baby. But at this point in my life, I am settled in and happy and feel complete. My husband is right - the problem lies not in how I feel, but in accepting how others feel. I've never really been one to consider other's opinions of me, so this was a real eye-opening thought. I guess I'm more influenced by societal norms than I want to admit.
As I said yesterday, DH and I are the type of people who should have children. But there's alot of older children out there who need a home and parents. Would this be an option for us, I wonder? Would we be allowed to adopt even though we don't have any fertility issues? We live in a rural community, and our local children's services agency is always looking for foster parents. Would I be strong enough to consider this as an option??
So my daughter evidently has been polling her classmates about little sisters. When I picked her up from Grandma's on Wed. afternoon, she promptly informed me that she has decided she does NOT want a baby sister, "because Matthew has 3 of them and says they're nothing but a pain!"
Have I said what an incredibly cool kid she is??? I love to watch her when she thinks no one is around. When she got home yesterday afternoon, she was a little miffed because her mid-term report from her teacher was all A's except for writing. So she gets a piece of paper and pencil and lays down on the floor, on her tummy, propped up on her elbows, and practices her handwriting. No one told her to do this. She has decided for herself that she needs practice on handwriting so her grade will be an A next time. My little perfectionist.
Anyway, I sit back and watch her. I love the way she swings her skinny little legs back and forth, curling her toes with their chipped blue polish. I love how her blond hair is pulled back in a disheveled ponytail that she did all by herself. I love that furrowed brow as she concentrates on improving her handwriting. Sometimes I just want to soak her up, to absorb all the little things she does, because I know I'm going to blink my eyes and she'll no longer be my baby girl. She'll be a 14-yr-old who knows everything and hates her mom.
Is this my problem? I'm scared of my baby growing up? Even if I had another baby, that baby would grow up, too. [SIGH.]
But the overwhelming love and pride I feel when I look at my daughter...Nothing beats that incredible feeling. I gave birth to that little girl. I helped make her what she is. I try to imagine what it must be like to feel that way about 2 or 3 or 4 kids. Wow.
I had a profound thought yesterday. I love my daughter, but I hate parenthood, and that's OKAY. I have beat myself up emotionally over this, thinking that I was somehow disloyal to DD, or didn't love her enough because I felt like this.
[WARNING: I'm gonna rant here. Do not read any further if you think you might be offended because I'm getting it off my chest.]
But you know what, I'm tired of feeling guilty. As women, we are constantly bombarded by the media, our family and our friends (and complete strangers for crying out loud!) about the virtues of motherhood, how incredibly enriched and complete our lives will be when we have children (always plural!), and how it will be the best thing to ever happen to us...blah blah blah. I had visions of a beautiful, perfect little family, DH and I falling in love with this little angel, living happily ever after...I poured over "What to expect the first year" and every other childcare book available, and I felt confident that I could handle this new life, and would enjoy being a parent.
Well, I don't know about you, but I felt nothing like any of that crap. I felt like someone had come in and dropped a bomb in my life, then left me standing there to figure out how to pick up the pieces. Everything that I knew about myself changed. I was no longer a person, an adult. I was a MOTHER. I gave up my body, my freedom, my sanity, my sex life, my friendships, my hobbies, my career plans, my spontaneity, my sleep, even my cute little two-seater car (no room for a car seat!), ...basically my entire life as I had ever known it. Where was THAT chapter in "What To Expect"???? Did anyone tell me it would be like that? No, not even my own mother, who is my best friend in the world. People who were already parents would get that "you're-gonna-get-it-now" smile, and they might even tell you that your life is about to completely change. But no one ever tells you what it's really like. You know why? Because we probably wouldn't do it.
And the sad thing is, I suspect alot of parents feel like this (I know most of my girlfriends do!) but we are so conditioned to think that parenthood is the be-all end-all most rewarding thing we will ever do that we are afraid to admit how really awful it really is. And when we do talk about it, we always say, "but it's all worth it."
And to a point, it is worth it. But if someone had given my pre-parent self a glimpse of what I would be like after the baby, I probably would've seriously considered not doing it.
Now, having said this, and before you get all wadded up and start sending me hate mail, I would not go back and trade any of this for my daughter. None of us would!! In the long run, kids really are worth every bit of the suffering and sacrifice. But why can't we be more honest with each other about how hard it is? How bad it can get sometimes? Why are we made to feel guilty if we don't fully enjoy every stinking minute of the process? It doesn't make us love our kids any less, or make us bad parents.
It's six months later and I am still struggling with this. Why can't I let it go?
My brother told me last week that he and his wife are trying again. Their youngest will be 9 in February, the oldest will be 11 in April. The question of having a second child has been in my mind for many months now, and this bit of information just stirred it all back up again.
I tried to talk to DH last night. He refuses to talk about it. He says that I'm wanting him to make the decision for us, and he won't do it. He says it's fine with him whatever I decide. Damn him, so it's fair for him to make ME decide by myself?!? What I can't seem to make him understand is that my feelings on the subject are VERY MUCH influenced by what HE feels!! He says he's beginning to think I do this to mess with his head. He says he's gotten to the point where one child is just fine with him, then I do a complete turn around on him. So much for coming to him when something is bothering me. It's been an issue in our marriage that I clam up when I'm upset and I don't talk to him about things. Well, I go to him for help and this is what I get.
I'm so scared. I feel so overwhelmingly unsure of myself. I feel so alone. I can't take on this decision by myself. I need him, dammit! Don't do this to me, just because you think I will blame you if we make the wrong decision!!!
It would be so much easier if I were just eaten up with baby lust like I was the first time. There was no decision. I just KNEW it was the right thing to do. Why don't I just KNOW this time??