When asked when we plan on having another child (which is about as often as couples in serious relationships are asked, “When are you going to get married?!” or married couples are asked, “When are you going to have a kid?!”), most often I give a pleasant sound bite through a polite smile:
“Oh, one is enough for now!”
“This little guy keeps me on my toes enough for two!”
“Who knows? Maybe someday!”
Close friends and family (and now you, dear reader) know the truth: we are only having one.
Typing that sentence, committing it to paper, is difficult. I always envisioned myself with a large family; mama of many, applier of vast amounts of Band-Aids, wiper of countless snotty noses. I worked as a nanny for years and cared deeply for the littles I took care of; yearned to have children of my own to nurture and love. So what happened? Why such a drastic change in perspective?
My husband only wants one. When kids were an abstract in our relationship we were on the same page, wanting two babes at least. I still remember when he brought up the idea of only one. It was during my last weeks of pregnancy, lying together on our bed, with my huge belly between us. The reality of how our lives would change once we introduced this new person into our world felt more tangible, yet was not something we could truly grasp. He leaned over and asked me in a whisper – tentatively, nervously – “What do you think of only having one?”
In the two years since then, he is absolutely confident in his content with our family of three, and I am absolutely confident I don’t want to pressure him on it. His resoluteness, in a way, is a relief. It frees me from the burden of such a weighted decision, of the “should we or shouldn’t we?” battle within myself.
I waded through postpartum anxiety and depression, and the idea of reliving that experience fills me with dread. “Waded through” feels like an accurate description to me. Like trekking neck deep through a never-ending marsh, pushing myself forward against the muck inch by inch because, well, what other options are there? Luckily, the marsh did end – and I am thankful.
I know the next time around may be different. I may not be affected by PPD as intensely, or at all. I now know where to turn, and what resources are in my community to help me. I know these things, but I am still unwilling to risk it.
Financially, one is manageable. In preparation for our little guy, we saved and spent extremely carefully. That trend continued during the first year when I was home full time. Now that I have been back at work for a year and we have somewhat bolstered up our savings, I know it would be possible to make our finances work if we decided to grow our family. But I’m tired of keeping track of every dollar. I am ready to splurge on the fancy mocha caramel thingie from Starbucks, the day at the zoo I know my son will love, or even a weekend away with my husband. I don’t want to worry about putting every penny away to prepare for baby #2.
Motherhood is infinitely more difficult than I ever imagined. Early motherhood is a world of contradictions. It is feeling so alone and isolated at times, and at other times feeling an intense connection to this little person I have created and to the family and friends who love him fiercely too. It is feeling tired at a level I didn’t even know existed, yet not being able to sleep because of a primal need to check if he’s breathing, if he’s warm, if he’s safe. It is wanting so much to be close with this baby every moment of every day, yet craving time, space, or a minute to myself so I can PEE IN GD PEACE. It is exhausting. It is beautiful. It is exquisitely complicated. I don’t have the energy to do it again. Not right now.
My current reality does not match the one I spent countless hours daydreaming about for years before it happened. Right now, in this life I am living, I only want one. I tell myself that things could still change, that maybe both my husband and I will feel differently in one, three, five years, and that is absolutely possible. But right now our reality is that we are only having one. This decision carries guilt, sadness and relief in the same breath. I certainly have days when letting go of the life I thought I wanted is difficult, but, for the most part, I am at peace.