I got this question today:
Could you post this anon? I am writing because I’m curious (if you’re willing to talk about it) if you knew from the beginning that Iz would be your only child. If so, how did you come to that? Most days I feel like that will likely be the choice we make too, but I’m always curious how other people get to that place. I always thought we’d have two. Or more. But time. Money. Emotional fortitude. It’s a lot. I’d love your insight. xo
I have no insight.
I have nothing except questions and what-ifs and thoughts that creep up in the night as I’m lying in bed. I think about it at the grocery store when I see siblings fighting and I think about it at the park when I see siblings playing together. I think and I do more thinking. I think I know how I feel and I know that I’m unlikely to change my mind, but still. The thought is there.
I actually almost wrote a post about this last week but I changed my mind about posting it at the last second because I was getting frustrated about my ability to verbalize my very complex, very uncertain feelings about a topic that I know a lot of people feel strongly about. I hardly ever shy away from posting things that I know people will feel strongly about, but this is so personal and real to me, to Brandon, to Isobel. And although having or not having another child is a family decision, I can’t ignore how strongly this falls at my feet and my feet alone. This complex, nuanced, larger-than-life decision falls to me and my uterus—and this isn’t even taking into account whether we might have difficulty conceiving.
Yet, even though I’ve just said that I’m having a hard time finding clarity on this, I do know deep down what is right for right now. That’s hard to admit, since so much of child-rearing and parenting means sacrificing all for the sake of the child(ren). We are in a place culturally that requires parents to weigh so many potential decisions by the impact they could or will have on their children. We move to different cities so they can go to better schools. We change our budgets so they can go to summer camp. We alter our work hours so they can attend the best extracurricular activities. Even pregnancy (and childbirth) are overwhelmingly outcome-oriented with relatively little attention or honest discussion paid to the mental, physical and emotional health of the mother. (Well, except for when she is watched carefully to see that she passes her glucose test and is within the weight guidelines her doctor specifies.) In this prism, having one child is confusing. As someone with a sibling, even I am unsure how to navigate it. (I used to say, “I don’t really want kids, but if I do, I want at least two. Maybe four.” Maybe four! That came out of the mouth of someone that didn’t know anything.) Anyway, I get why having one child is still somewhat uncommon and why people have strong feelings about it. Having multiple children implies companionship, camaraderie, success, completion. I think that’s what I must have thought back when I believed having four children might be a good idea for me.
You mentioned time, money and emotional fortitude as concerns for having another child. These are very important factors. Money especially. I have been told many times that “you always find the money.” And yes, perhaps. Maybe you do. But the thought of spending over $3,000 a month on daycare makes me ill. Staying home and choosing not to work? That’s not even on the table. Work is, for me, a non-negotiable. I will work. I will always work.
So—emotional fortitude. That’s a concern too. I view the first year (or so) of Isobel’s life through as realistic a lens as I can, seeing as there is such a veil of nostalgia and contentment that has grown over the more difficult and frustrating memories. The further I get away from them, the less clear they are. And it is vital that I do not forget. It is vital to my emotional and mental health, to my marriage, and to my ability to parent Isobel the best I can. I have struggled with mental health issues—depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder—on and off for years. I have been medicated, though I am not currently. I freely admit that I am unsure whether I have the strength to do it again. If you have ever taken medication for depression, you will know that (most of the time) it does help. But, for me, it also numbs. It numbs everything, including the way I feel about the people I love. On medication, I am not sleeping 18 hours a day, but when I am hugged, I feel nothing. So I am scared to wake the sleeping giant. I am frightened of the unknown about myself. How far can I go? How far would I go? I’m not sure. But the risk is there and it is real. I am not alone in a vacuum with this, either. I have a daughter that depends on me. I have a child. And we are so happy right now. So very happy. She hugs me and says she loves me and I feel a warmth, a deep, painful love that I have never before experienced. It is a beautiful thing that I have to cherish and keep safe. And so, you see why I must think about these things.
But I still don’t know the answer. I don’t know the final answer, anyway. I think I probably know, but I am young and there are unknowns.
For now, as we walk to the park as a family, the three of us, I feel that we may be complete. My daughter! She is so independent, so feisty, so funny. When I look at her, I do not see the hazy outline of another standing beside her. I can’t fathom it. It doesn’t make sense. It may not ever make sense. For now, I see only her. Friends who were pregnant around the same time as me are having second children. I think, “How nice,” but I know that I do not yearn or desire or need that yet.
Isobel is so many wonderful, frustrating, indescribably beautiful things to me, but mostly she is enough. I think about all the things I want to do for her and do with her. I can give her those. We can give her those. That is enough for now.