How do you know?

I envy people who confidently say, “one and done!” To all those staunch parents of one: how do you know that you’re done having kids? Is it something that you feel in your bones?  I’m in the strange position of being pretty sure that I’m done having kids. In truth, I had no idea for most of my life that I even wanted one kid. I didn’t enjoy being pregnant and I sure as hell never thought about doing it more than once. But I’m still not tie-your-tubes sure.

When people ask me “are you going to have another?” and I say “I don’t know”…..it is a MASSIVE UNDERSTATEMENT. Two children is a hell of a lot more work than one. But am I sure that our family is complete? Once you squeeze the toothpaste out of that tube, there’s no putting it back.

There is no guarantee that my second-born will be like my first. Just because the first pregnancy went well and was without complications doesn’t mean that there aren’t days and weeks of hugging the toilet ahead of me. There’s no evening nap or Saturday morning lie-in with a busy first-born running around. And that is if I don’t run up against the concrete wall of secondary infertility.

My advancing maternal age, as well as my genetic background, point to a high chance of having twins. Then I don’t have two kids, I have THREE. And three kids for a person who isn’t sure whether she wants two is just….so, so many kids. Toss in a couple of stepkids and OMG.

There are also a million things that can go wrong, that are pretty much out of one’s control – premature birth, a whole array of birth defects, and after birth? How does one wrangle a baby and a toddler? Am I ready to raise a special needs child? I don’t want to exaggerate the challenges of raising a child with special needs, nor do I want to deify the people who live with these challenges on a daily basis, but it isn’t an issue that should be treated lightly. Special needs children generally need more of pretty much everything – money, time, energy, equipment, patience, and so on. As a first-time parent, I didn’t think of these things. I hadn’t found a niche for myself as a mother yet and I couldn’t even begin to understand all of the “what-ifs” that having children bring. What if she needs a wheelchair? What if he needs to go to a special school? Am I prepared to learn sign language? Will I be able to get time off work for so many appointments?

And daycare? $$$$$$$$$$$$$ I cannot even fathom how daycare for two could be fit into our budget.But should money be the deciding factor? Lots of people make it work with far less money than me.

Nina and I had our struggles. Breast-feeding was a huge fail. Ditto with sleep-training. But there were two of us. It was a ratio that I could handle. Now that I have a couple of years of parenting under my belt, I have a clearer understanding of how little time there is in a day. When I was just starting out in life, the whole pie was mine. When I got a full-time job and got married I had to start slicing. As my life changes, I have to divide the pie into smaller and smaller pieces…and if I have a second child, will there be enough left for them? What about for me?

How important is it for a child to have siblings? I know that only-children have been unfairly shoved into a box labelled “selfish”  and “spoiled” but my own life experiences have shown me that it isn’t that simple. Plenty of only-children grow up to be hardworking and well-adjusted. The built-in-playmate benefits don’t start until the littler one is old enough to engage, and how many years does that take?

I mourn the things that Nina has outgrown, and that I might never get to enjoy again. No more fuzzy baby ears, no more tiny baby feet, no more wee hands and no more gummy smiles, no more sweet baby smell. But….is that enough reason to have another baby? How long is it ok to mourn these things before I start missing out on the cool “big-kid” stuff that my already-born is doing?

I feel as though I was so unequipped when Nina was born. I had no idea about the awesome parent community right at my fingertips. There are literally thousands of parent groups, websites, blogs, books, and chatrooms. I feel like now that I have been armed with these resources I could do everything so much better this time!

All of this to say, I still don’t know. I could sit and make a list of pros and cons. I could read a hundred articles. But it is a question that is bigger than all of that. It is talking about a whole new human being. So, how do you know if you’re done?

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