The Specter of the Second Child
If I thought I felt pressure as a thirty-something child-free woman about having a baby, it was only because I did not know the reality of being a late thirty-something woman with one child.
One child needs another dontchaknow?
The idea of having another child after my daughter's birth was unthinkable and it actually terrorized me for a while. I had actual thoughts that someone would make me have another child and I would have to go through it all again. This was fear, postpartum, and obsessive thinking talking, but it felt really real. Infants until recently made me feel sweaty and panicky, and I know, deep in my heart, that I will most likely not ever birth another child (but I have learned in life never to say never - mostly because my 8th grade teacher told me that I would probably have children after I said I never would and well howdy, look where we are today!).
I often think about the fact that if any woman knew what it meant to be a mother, like if it was listed out for you or you had to watch a 7000 hour film of someone saying "mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy" straight (while surrounded by meconium-filled diapers), they would pause and give it some real consideration. I am not saying that women don't think about it - I certainly did on and off a great deal as I approached the reality of 35 - but that if women could really know what it means to be someone's mother, the pause might be a little longer before taking the leap (if the leap is ever then taken). Regardless, the reproductive system in our dominant culture (now I sound like a conspiracy theorist), and maybe as part of humanity and its continued existence as a whole, relies on naive first time parents who, I can only assume, have more children because they are already knee deep in the shit in any case.
Of course, I am being knowingly obtuse, but honestly, I think the biggest thing that keeps me from wanting another child (besides not really wanting another child) is that I believe that I took what it meant to be a mother lightly before I had my daughter, and now I can never go back to that naive state. Being her mother consumes me even while I try to maintain some kind of life balance which seems like is never going to be possible again, and I literally cannot imagine being someone else's mother simply because being someone's mother IS SO MUCH WORK and so much love and so much wiping every surface of your house and sometimes your pets. Like, so much. For real.
Which brings me back to why I apparently "have" to have another. Like my family is not a REAL or TRUE family until there are four of us. Until we achieve the slam dunk of the boy and girl mix (don't even get me started on the "million dollar family") or until I get over my selfish preference for one child and put my daughter's needs first and give her a sibling so that she will BE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING THAT IS ABLE TO SOCIALIZE WITH OTHERS. Someone actually told me that they knew an only child that wouldn't wish that experience on their own worst enemy. They said this to a woman experiencing postpartum depression right after they accused me of being too scared to have another baby. They laughed like it was the most ridiculous thing they had ever heard that I didn't want a second, like that wasn't a legitimate choice, like no one would would elect to have one if they could have more - unless of course, they were scared.
Well maybe I am scared. I mean, I was plunged into the darkest experience of my life after having my child. I am still recovering almost two years later. I sometimes don feel like I can care for her on my own. I always struggle with what's normal to feel in relation to her. That's scary. It's painful. And it means frankly that I am allowed to elect - to choose - what is right for me when it comes to growing another life inside me and having what it takes to see that life into adulthood and beyond. I'm allowed to take a big long pause at the thought, the specter, of the second child and simply refuse. I'm privileged. I'm autonomous. I'm strong.
And I know that I can only give the best of what I have to one. Right now and maybe forever.