Why Do I Want Another Child?

Now that we’ve been trying so hard to get pregnant with #2, I’ve been thinking a lot about why it is that I want another child so badly.  After all, many people are perfectly happy with one child.  Some people never planned to have children, but then it happens, and they are content with the one child.  In other cases, some always planned on one child.  And then there are those who struggled to conceive, and ran the gamut of fertility treatments, IVF, and/or adoption.  For those, they are grateful for even having their one child.

I don’t have time these days to keep up with all of the Lenny newsletters (compiled by Lena Dunham and crew), but this recent one did pique my interest.  The author, Garance Doré, gives a vivid account of her struggles with IVF, and how it sucked her soul and made her into a miserable version of the person she used to be.  She talks about the enormous pressure on women to be mothers; this concept of needing a child to be complete.  In the end, she came to terms with being happy just as she is:

http://www.lennyletter.com/health/a956/garance-dore-failing-ivf/

I feel selfish wanting more, when I already have a beautiful, healthy child.  Not to mention, it’s been a struggle adjusting to life as a working mom.  I think it’s hard for me to accept that everything is a struggle once you have a child.  Going to a restaurant these days is exhausting, since WZW is so active and often defiant at this age.  Maybe some toddlers have the kind of temperament where they’re a little more open to following directions, but my son certainly isn’t.  Regardless of personality, a toddler is a toddler, and they can only sit still for so long.  So I can never fully enjoy my meal or get into great conversations because I’m constantly having to make sure WZW isn’t going to cause a colossal mess or break something.

At home, I’ve struggled to come to terms with the lack of alone time.  Since I’m introverted, I need the quiet time alone, whether it’s to take care of things on the computer like bills, or just doing frivolous things like plucking my eyebrows.  I feel like I never have enough time to feel settled and restored.  Especially given how stressful work has been, I crave more of this time.  Once he’s down for his nap, there is a flurry of things I need to get done.  And then once he’s awake, forget doing much.

As it is, I tend to have a hard time multitasking.  I need to focus on one task at a time.  Of course, with a toddler, there is a lot of time spent focusing on his needs- getting him fed, battling him for poopy diaper changes, and playing with him.  During the times he’s able to play on his own, that is great.  But I can never do too much, because I have to make sure he stays out of trouble.  Plus, if I try to do things on my own, he’ll want my attention.  So my own attention is always divided, and as all parents know, productivity is diminished.

I also think just based on my personality, I’m unfortunately not that flexible in going with the flow.  I tend to get frustrated with the lack of focus and productivity.  I miss him during the workweek since I barely get to spend any time with him.  But once I do have a chance to spend more time with him, I honestly find myself exhausted after a short time of toddler defiance and tantrums, and wish I could be alone and do the things I need to and want to do.  I sincerely appreciate that my husband is aware of my needs, and will do what he can to have WZW stay with him while he’s doing things around the house, or take him along to Costco.  Even if that means dealing with a fussy kid and the crowds.

Given all of the above, why would I want to add yet another child to the mix, which will only make things more difficult?  I have wondered that- whether I can handle it.  Ultimately, the decision to have a second child is in part wanting the best for WZW.  I want him to have the inevitable social interactions that come from having another child in the home.  It’s one thing for us to tell him to stop being selfish.  It’s another to be living with another little human who is just as attention-seeking and needy.  Having a sibling would take the pressure off of him, vs if we had all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak.  Even though I tell myself now that I don’t care about WZW getting into the best colleges, or being an elite athlete, I am a high achiever myself (and my husband is, too).  So I don’t know if I’d be able to avoid inadvertently putting pressure on my son.  Hopefully having a sibling would help disperse that a bit.

When we get older, I want him to have a sibling to share in the responsibilities, rather than having no choice but to shoulder them alone.  And then there is my biggest fear- what if something happened to him?  One of my colleagues lost her 3 yo daughter in a car accident.  It hits close to home, reminding me that nothing is promised.  I realize that I could have 5 children, and losing one would still be unthinkable.  But on some level, I tell myself that losing my only child seems even more painful.

By no means is there anything wrong with having an only child.  Ultimately it’s each family’s decision.  After thinking about it a lot, I feel this overwhelming sense that our family would be incomplete without another child.  It’s something that’s always been important to me and my husband.  Despite the challenges of parenting, our son brings us such immense joy.  The tantrums may be a pain, but his laughter is so pure, and thankfully abundant.  It’s rewarding seeing how he’s learning constantly (even if it’s how to unlock doors and sneak outside).  These days, he’s all about “choo choos,” cars, trucks, etc.  His presence brings a sense of fun and play that was missing before he showed up.  A woman with adult children once mentioned to me how despite her children being grown now, she never lost the sense of perspective her kids gave her.  She looks at the world through different eyes now.

I have patients who already have children who are older, then decide they want another, but have struggles with infertility.  It’s common for them to have a new partner this time.  Sometimes I’d think to myself, “But you already have 2 children.  There are so many people out there with no children.  Do you really need to have another?”  Now I understand better.  Everyone has different goals and desires in life.  I do remind myself to be grateful of what I already have.  But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to still want another child.

I won’t lie- it’s been difficult so far, and I haven’t even done any fertility treatments.  Much of it has to do with the stress of my job, and physician burnout is a whole other topic that I won’t get into.  I have chronic fatigue syndrome secondary to motherhood.*  There are so many shoulds- I should be eating better, I should exercise more, I should meditate more, I should be less stressed.  It’s a lot of pressure I’m putting on myself, and it doesn’t help that the acupuncturist is reinforcing the clean eating and decreased stress.  It’s a balance of doing what I can, but also being kind to myself and accepting that I am only human.  I often feel like I’m failing miserably to find that balance, but I’m still willing to continue to try for #2.  Sometimes life doesn’t work out as planned, and if I went through the struggles that Garance Doré did, then I’d come to peace with where I am.  But thus far I seem to have time on my side.

Here’s our almost 2 year-old, looking very pleased as he breaks up his Swiss cheese.  Oh yes, and he just “cut the cheese” as well.  Apparently one learns early in life that farts are funny.

*Not an actual diagnosis, just one made up by me and shared by parents everywhere. 🙂

IMG_4912

Pulling Out All the Stops

Since WZW was born, I never went back to being strictly on the Paleo diet.  Initially the sleep-deprivation made a huge impact, but even as that improved (thank goodness!), other factors continued to affect my lifestyle.  Time is the biggest factor- no longer could I leisurely exercise after work and come home at 8 pm.  Nor do I have the energy to prioritize meal prepping.

Instead, I’m spent after my work days, and feel like everything else goes towards dealing with a nonstop toddler.  I’ve grown accustomed to eating lunches made by Trader Joe’s, or eating what’s offered at work.  On Mondays, which are the busiest for me and my husband, we get dinner delivered by Munchery.  While we can choose options that aren’t totally carb-laden like pasta, the meals usually involve a starchy side.

A lot of it was my mindset as well- with the stress of work, and dealing with a toddler, I just felt like prioritizing eating was something I didn’t have the capability of doing.  So I got used to comfort eating, and not trying so hard.

But I started realizing that it’s expensive to be half-assing the Paleo lifestyle.  We spend extra money getting things like Paleo crackers and gluten-free bagels from Whole Foods.  It would be one thing if I was really following the diet, but since I haven’t totally been, it’s kind of a waste of money.  It’s like buying organic produce, and then eating Hot Cheetos.

A workplace “Biggest Loser” competition has also motivated me to focus more on my eating habits again.  One of the ladies at work decided to start a Biggest Loser challenge for those who are interested.  Her intent is to promote healthy living, so although there is a cash prize for the winners who lose the most weight, the contest will last 6 months, and among other rules, no fad dieting or other unhealthy methods of weight loss are allowed.

I decided to participate, not with the intention to win (because hopefully I’ll get pregnant during the 6 months), but as a motivator to eat better and also exercise more when I can.  I also wanted to help motivate and educate our staff participating.  So far we’re one month in, and I have been better about avoiding dessert, and being less lax about the carbs.  My husband has been monumental in doing the bulk of the cooking.  The exercising is more difficult due to time constraints, but I’m doing what I can.  Sadly, at the one month weigh-in, my weight still hadn’t budged, but I’m trying not to let that get me down.  I need to focus on the fact that I’m taking better care of my health by eating better.

In addition to the lifestyle improvements, I also decided to get referred to the fertility docs, the REIs as we call them (reproductive endocrinology and infertility).  After 6 months of trying, given that my age is over 35, I qualified for referral.  At that point, I asked my doctor/colleague to check my labs.  We checked my cycle day 3 FSH, which if elevated would indicate age-related infertility.  I was concerned that’s what the issue was, especially since my mom went into menopause on the earlier side.  The FSH was in the normal range.

So that’s a relief, but then what’s the issue?  It’s hard for me not to blame myself for not eating better/being at a healthier weight, and for being under too much stress.  Ultimately, I’m doing the best I can with the situation I have, and logically I tell myself not to get down.  But it’s hard not to beat myself up.

After another 2 months passed for a total of 8 months of trying, I decided I shouldn’t waste too much time and went ahead with the referral.  I have yet to meet with the REI doc- we have to complete our labs, and then schedule the consultation.  In the meantime, I decided to look into another modality to help me with fertility- acupuncture.

My first exposure to the concept was the episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte gets acupuncture to try to help herself get pregnant.  I don’t know much about it, and hadn’t thought about it recently until one of my patients mentioned using it to get pregnant.  That reminded me that one of my OB/Gyn friends had said she used it while doing IVF, at the recommendation of her REI doc.  She wasn’t sure if it helped, but at the very least it helped her destress.

Once I started asking colleagues and friends about it, there were all these mentions of, “Oh yeah, so-and-so was having a hard time, and finally got pregnant after doing acupuncture.”  Of course, it doesn’t work for everyone, and one of my colleagues said it didn’t work for her (she later succeeded with IVF).

Given that my insurance has coverage of acupuncture, I figured I didn’t have much to lose.  I still don’t know the data regarding acupuncture and fertility.  And I’m not sure how best to find a trustworthy practitioner.  But so far, I completed my first session.

I filled out a health questionnaire with some different inquiries than you’d find on a Western medicine form- things like the color and consistency of my menstrual flow.  The practitioner checked my pulses (done for a different purpose than in your usual medical office), and my tongue.  Then she proceeded to do the needles and left me for 30 minutes, during which I started to drift off.  It was similar to what people probably experience during a massage or savasana at the end of yoga.

Though I didn’t think I fell completely asleep, I did end the session feeling more energetic.  I’d also been feeling more anxious from my general stress, and that feeling improved as well, which was a pleasant surprise.

Interestingly, she said that she recommends eating in line with the Paleo diet more or less.  Her list of foods allows quinoa and buckwheat, but mostly everything else goes with Paleo.  She recommended eating lots of eggs.

One big difference is that based on the Chinese medicine recommendations, she advocates eating only cooked foods- that means no salads, no yogurt for breakfast.  That is going to be hard- especially avoiding raw fruit.  Now, these recommendations probably aren’t for everyone trying to conceive.  It’s based on my particular constellation of issues.

In my limited understanding of Chinese medicine, I know that there are various organs that are different from the same organs in Western medicine.  My acupuncturist said my “liver” is too strong, and the “spleen” is weak, which is the reason for the dietary recommendations.  My friend said that they generally work on the “kidney” system for fertility issues.

So we’ll see how it goes.  Hopefully between the healthier eating, acupuncture, and eventually seeing the REI doc, we will finally get pregnant.