I got one of those comments on a Facebook post last week, on a random Timehop picture I'd shared of Amelia: "So when is she getting a little brother or sister?" Let me go on record and say I HATE THIS QUESTION. For so many reasons. I bit my tongue and replied with, "Maybe when she sleeps all night and we win the lottery." But the friend couldn't leave it alone. "If I'd waited for those things I'd never have had my second kid." To which I replied, gritting my teeth some more, "Well, the good thing is everyone gets to decide what's best for their own family. *smiley face*" Some other comments ensued, and I considered a new status that told the truth about exactly why I hate that question, but I didn't. I chickened out, because I feel the things that I have to say on that subject are not things that anyone wants to hear. Because I feel like saying them in a public forum makes me vulnerable, and ruins my credibility as a "good mom." And because I'm not sure I want to share some of those feelings with my beautiful daughter, at least not when she's young. So I'm going to say it here, even though I have said some of these things here before.
What I wanted to say is that before Amelia was born, I loved babies (and most kids, really). I wanted to hold every newborn I could get my hands on, and I didn't even care if they cried. I had always thought I would like to have three kids, though I thought two might be ok. I wanted nothing more than to be a mom. Then I became one, and everything changed. I loved my baby. And I do not ever, EVER want her or anyone else to think otherwise. But the first year of her life was hell in so many ways. I know all mothers (and fathers) face an adjustment period where they realize their lives have been turned totally upside down, and they struggle to find a "new normal." But it wasn't just that for me, for us. She had colic and reflux and UTIs, and she never slept. Every time I heard about other people's kids taking three hour naps, I wanted to cry. Ok, sometimes I did cry. My baby took 20 minute naps. And she cried so much. I could never put her down or the crying started again and I never knew when it might stop. It didn't last for a week or two, it lasted for months.
I Googled the symptoms of PPD several times because I felt so lost and desperate and exhausted that I felt there had to be something clinically wrong with me, because there was no way what I was feeling was normal. I relished every second of every trip when I could run to the store alone for more ($30) formula. But the symptoms didn't really match up with what I was experiencing. So I suffered, and my marriage suffered too. I became the mom and wife they say you shouldn't become - I put my child first, all of the time. There was no room for me to give any time or energy to my husband when this tiny little person who I had wanted more than anything was consuming my every waking moment and making me question my sanity.
Things got a little better as we approached the one year mark, but A was still napping twice a day for 40 minutes and waking up 2-3 times a night. So there was still no "me" time. I could hardly do two loads of laundry, let alone sit down and eat a meal and read a book or catch up on DVRed shows. I was always tired. When I was away from her, I missed her. When I was home with her, I felt like I couldn't give her enough time and energy. It was a vicious cycle. Of course I relished those beautiful baby smiles and giggles and her first steps, and when I watched her sweet face as she slept I was in awe that she was mine. That I was someone's mom. But somewhere in that year, something inside me changed. When I read pregnancy announcements, I of course was happy for the mothers in the abstract sense. But I was no longer excited. I didn't get the twinge and longing to have another baby of my own like so many of my friends with children A's age described. Babies to me were no longer cute little cuddly beings who I wanted to hold and coo at. They were ticking time bombs, a source of constant stress and worry and endless need. And that made me so unbelievably sad. And it still does, as I am fighting back tears as I type this.
Amelia is now 2 1/2. I will be 33 in two months. And the baby clock, it's a-tickin'. I know the odds of a high risk pregnancy increase at age 35. If we're going to have a second child, I don't want them too far apart in age. And with my work schedule and no paid maternity leave, there are only a few months where we could TTC in order for that to work out. And all of that is if we are able to have a second child. Which is the other reason I hate that question. So many couples deal with losses and infertility, including secondary infertility, that you just never know what is happening in someone's journey.
I have a beautiful, smart, amazing daughter who I love more than anything in the world. And while I think there is nothing wrong with having an only child, there is a part of me that desperately wants her to have a sibling. There is a part of me that thinks yes, I do still want another child, but that part of me is in constant conflict with the part that fears next time I could totally lose myself. That I could do irreparable damage to my relationship with the beautiful child I already have if a second time were like the first. Coupled with the other common fears of how could I possibly love another child as much as this one/what if a second child had a major medical issue/how would I ever get two kids out of the house alone/my 2 1/2 year old still doesn't sleep all night/we can't afford two kids in daycare/what if I'm really sick during my pregnancy this time around... It's a constant battle in my head. So yeah. There's the answer. I wish I were brave enough to share it with the rest of the world, but right now I'm not. So if you do get to read a pregnancy announcement from me in the coming year or two, know that I realize it is truly a blessing, but it's one that comes on the heels of a serious internal struggle I never imagined I would face.