GUEST POST : Under pressure – the second child conundrum

Sometime after your child passes the one year mark, those standard issue questions – so when are you having number 2? thinking about the next one yet? – start trickling into your life. For sure, some women are right there, ready to get on with popping out numero duo…but for others…things aren’t so straightforward. And so it is with that sentiment in mind that I welcome guest writer Leslie K to share her inner struggle with that pressure to knock out her next…

I’ve never been one of those baby-crazy women, yet I’ve always loved children. I was a Counselor In Training at 12 years old for a toddlers’ day camp. I worked as a babysitter that summer and then as a mother’s helper throughout high school and continued to work as a camp counselor at overnight camps for years after that.

Yet still, I wasn’t the one at family functions racing to hold the infants. I preferred to hang out with the kids that I could hold a conversation with.

During my dating years, I found myself shocked by a reoccurring nightmare I was having. With every one of my boyfriends, over the course of 10 years, I had basically the same dream. The dream was shocking and confusing; Despite my contraception, I somehow had become miraculously pregnant. I would then spend the entire dream chasing opportunities to terminate the pregnancy, but for many random nonsensical irrational reasons, it was impossible.

Then I met my husband. We fell in love at first sight and shortly after I had my first wonderful pregnancy dream; I had lovingly carried and birthed his baby. I was thrilled in the dream and even more relieved in reality. I figured that in all my previous dreams the unwanted pregnancies were symbolic for my relationships and a deep-seeded, subconscious feeling that I didn’t want to make a life-long commitment to any of these men. I wasn’t the woman who yearned for children to the extent that if I hadn’t met the right man to marry, that I would become a single mom. I only want to birth and raise a biological child with my soul mate.

From early on in our relationship, I would day dream about having his baby. I would see other pregnant women walking down the street and rub my belly, hoping one day to have a large round, love nest hanging over my hips. When my husband I talked about our timing for pregnancy and even when we made that the priority of our intimacy, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to create a child in this vein that we would love and cherish forever. A year and half after we got married we welcomed our son to the world.

My pregnancy, delivery and child’s first year were (knock wood), pretty much complication free. I feel blessed and grateful for such a healthy smooth experience. As discussed in the Motherhood Burnout post, many of the same reasons women “burnout” also plagued me and since my son was born, 18 months ago, I have not had any desire to have another child.

I can perfectly understand why there is rise in one child families, and I champion the women who listen to their hearts and heed their guts to keep their family’s small and well-equipped. I could list for you my top 20 reasons for wanting only one, but moreover, what’s bothering me, is spoken and unspoken pressure that I feel to have another child. At this moment, I really believe a one-child family is the best way to produce the happiest, emotionally healthiest and well-adjusted human being (and family) free of unnecessary emotional influences that siblings (or more children) bring.

My husband’s disappointment weighs even heavier than the own immense shock and devastation of my feelings. I used to tell him, (before we had our son) that I loved him so much I wanted five babies with him. Hence, now he takes my current preference, to only have one child to imply that I don’t love him as much as I used to (which of course, is not the case). His parents ask incessantly when will we have number two, and my mother reminds me that, “an only child is a lonely child” and that I’m selfish not to give my son a sibling.

When people say to me now, “Is he your first?” or, “is he your only child” or, “are you ready for number two?”, I feel like the truth will disappoint them. I feel pressure of the implied expectations behind their questions like the weight of getting into a good college. I feel I failed my husband, my family’s and society’s expectations by not delivering on the “perfect family.” You know, the classic American family in all the TV sitcoms and commercials, with the white picket fence, two kids and one dog.

This issue of childbearing and childrearing continue to weigh on my mind like an avalanche. I keep hoping that my perspective will change completely – and another bulbous belly and 15 months of sleepless nights and its consequential brain damage will one day (before it’s too late) be desirable, but really, if hindsight is 20/20 it still sounds hellish to me.

It may be because of my circumstances around my natural (drug free child birth) or the hyper active, highly alert son that I have who took his first steps at 9 months and said “hey” just a few days later. My motherhood experience has been more like a never-ending gym class where every so often you get a high five, or a smile from that cute boy across the way that momentarily distracts from the exhaustion of burpees and jumping jacks.

I’m not sure how to respond when people ask me if I’m ready for number two. I used to enter a tirade with my litany of reasons “why not,” but then I became vulnerable and the recipient of judgment. I now feel that having children and the decision to have them is not only the greatest risk one takes with their life, but also one of life’s most personal life decisions. My perspective, that one child is sufficient to create a happy, thriving family appears unique compared to the billions of parents around the world who thought a two child minimum equated to the best quality of life.

I’m not sure how to deal with the pressure or guilt I feel, my own shock and disappointment in myself and the dialogue with strangers, acquaintances and friends about “just one.” My husband says, “let’s just take it one month at a time and worry about when our son is two or three,” with the hopes that my feelings will change.

Right now, having another child seems like my greatest nightmare, as proven by the return of my previously dormant dream that reappeared last night. One of my best friends handed me her newborn son as a gift, “He’s yours now to love, nurture and nourish for the rest of his life.” I spent the entire dream trying to return Wade to her, but she wouldn’t accept him. She thought I needed to have two children.

By Leslie K 

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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19 comments

  1. Oh I really wish people would just butt out and mind their own business! Those comments used to drive me mad! No one knows what goes on in a marriage, in a family – these kinds of decisions are personal and private. I hope that you and your husband can come to some understanding. My husband and I are having the opposite ‘discussion’ – I would like another one but he thinks we’re done at 2. We’ll see 😉
    #brilliantblogposts

    • I totally agree – people need to butt out! Actually this was a guest blog post and I’m stuck on the other side of wanting another (we only have one atm) whilst my partner does not! Not sure we will ever meet in the middle but what will be will be…that’s a whole other post another time! Hope you guys manage to come to an agreement too! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  2. A really moving post. I hugely sympathise with the pressure you’re feeling from others, your husband and your self. As above, if only others would leave well alone. For many having ‘only’ one is not a choice and therefore is enquiries are insensitive and you are under no obligation to justify your personal family decision to others. When my first was 18 months we agreed to wait at least another year before trying again as we couldn’t fathom another whilst still in toddler sleeplessness. I absolutely wanted another but the agreement to not consider it for a set period of time helped my husband deal with his ambivalence for a second. He wanted 2 as he has a brother but was not hugely happy about going through babyhood again!

    • Yup I’m currently in the “let’s not talk about it for a while” stage – I have to say I’m totally in two minds. On the good days I want another, on the bad days I’m like – hell no. It’s so hard sometimes to figure out the last thing you need is other people adding to the confusion. I was so moved by this guest post so glad you were too!

  3. I completely empathise with your post…I have felt this pressure ever since my daughter turned one…she is now five. As Sonya says, having one is not always a choice. I always thought i would have two children, but it hasn’t worked out for us. I’ve spent the past 2-3 years feeling really bad about not giving my daughter a sibling & I’m finally coming out the other side of this and accepting having one child. It’s wonderful, the attention you can give them, the bond you develop. I have even changed the URL of my blog to reflect our life as a family of three. I guess I’ll probably always wonder ‘what if?’…but my daughter is happy,well adjusted, doing fantastically at school, very sociable & just a lovely child to be around…so we must be doing something right! #brilliantblogposts

  4. What a lovely beautifully written blog post. What is about pregnancy and parenthood that people believe your personal life is their to influence?
    Interestingly we are having an opposite issue and are debating 3, we have had an equal amount of comments of – really, they’ll be expensive, hard work, are you mad etc… It is our decision to make just as this is yours.
    You should not be apologetic for what you wish is right for you and I hope you and your husband find peace over this issue x

  5. I was never really in to having children but now I have two Im more broody than ever! My career always came first then one day I suddenly wanted to have a baby. I didn’t have my second until my first was almost 4 and I like this gap. We worried about having a second and felt guilty for our first born. Even late in to the pregnancy we wondered if we had done the right thing! But I am so glad we took that plunge and gave our first a sibling to love. Sometimes we talk about what life was like with just the 3 of us and how easy it was, but I wouldn’t change anything now x

  6. You need to give yourself a break! Phew, you are all right, really you are! My children are 7.5 years apart. And for me it is perfect. They each got to be only children, they weren’t lonely, and they love each other.
    Both my kids were a surprise, I was on birth control with both. I realized that there was a plan for them, as well as for my husband and I. I am a believer, so no matter what I wanted or took precautions for, God had there names written down to be born when they were. And although I was crazed, both times, I am so thankful that I did not have to make the decision to have them, I never would have.
    So stop holding yourself to blame for your decision. You may change your mind. Or you may have the decision taken away from you, like I did. Enjoy today. You won’t get it again.
    Perhaps when people ask if you are ready yet for #2, maybe let them know that right now you are content to enjoy this one. End of discussion.
    Best of luck to you.

  7. This is a really interesting post, I am currently in that strange place where I am thinking baby number two could be a good idea, and then thinking are you kidding baby number two a good idea, you still haven’t caught up on sleep from Boo yet!!
    I am weighing up what would be best for Boo, siblings or no siblings – it feels like a difficult impossible decision to make!!

  8. What a beautiful post and story. Thanks so much for joining in, but can you make sure the post you link are lists, or have a couple of list points in them, sorry to be pedantic. Thanks for joining in x

  9. I totally understand where you’re at and could relate to so much of your post. I’m not getting the questions (yet) but I ask them of myself. Should we, shouldn’t we, over and over and over. It’s exhausting. Argh 🙂

  10. I have three children. It’s hard! The boys who are the younger two are very energetic and tiring. My elder son is the middle child and he used to be so calm as a child that I often say he tricked me into having a third and then turned into a monster lol. I love my children and my husband and I wanted 4 or 5 together but we got to 3 and decided there will be no more. My youngest is a difficult child and I honestly think if he had been my first child, I would have stopped and not had any more – just one. I love him, and I wouldn’t change him now I have him but he’s very demanding and energetic and tiring. I’m exhausted! A good friend of mine struggled to have one due to a medical condition and is completely content with one child. They have such a strong bond and she can devote her time to her child and it’s beautiful! She too has had comments about only having one and maybe if she can’t physically carry a child due to her condition, she should adopt, but she just wants her beautiful daughter and is completely happy with just her. People can be so insensitive because it would put her in great danger to have another and she is happy! I think it’s hard when your husband wants one and you don’t. The thing is having a child is not something to be taken lightly and if even one of you has a doubt then you shouldn’t have one because it’s not fair on the child. I get why you want one child, and I get why others want more than one. It’s something that you have to be completely sure of. You have changed your mind about having children so you might change your mind again but don’t feel guilty if you don’t – your husband sounds like your perfect match and you will work it out together. 🙂 Sending much love! #BloggerClubUK

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