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:
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. 🙂