*This is a guest post
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 that second child…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 a second 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