Should we have a second baby? Tough call. I wrote recently about some of the many varied and valid reasons for single-child families. (Incidentally, it occurred to me following publication that I could have included quite a few more reasons for families not having a second baby; for example same-sex parents; IVF families; single-parent families…the list goes on and on; I hope I did a reasonable job of covering the most common situations.) It was my most viewed piece on day one, racking up more than a hundred facebook shares by the first afternoon. I suppose you could say it resonated with a few people.
I didn’t disclose my personal situation in the post, and had no real intention of doing so – mostly because I thought doing so may detract from the power of the message I wanted to convey:
For many, tragedy is at the heart of their so-called decision, whereas my own circumstances are not tragic.
But this week I stumbled across a message in a facebook group, in which somebody appeared to be describing very similar feelings to my own. And it made me realise that far from discounting my attitude as irrelevant next to other heartbreaking scenarios, I really shouldn’t be comparing at all. If others are feeling similar, then I should be using my blog as a platform to open up this discussion. Even if all it leads to is an acknowledgement from each other; validation; support.
So I’m breaking my silence. Suffice to say, the title of this post is lifted directly from my own relationship. Allow me to explain…
I’ve coined ‘The Second baby Mating Dance’ to describe the (arguably juvenile) attitude towards contraception taking place in my own home. Essentially, it’s where postpartum birth control looks a lot like this:
Months One ~Nine:
We are not having another child right now. Absolutely not.
Okay, Pixie needs a sibling, so should we have a second baby? Maybe we should start thinking about it. After her birthday perhaps.
Wow, how did she turn one already?! Should we have a second baby now? After Christmas maybe…
As soon as she starts sleeping through…
Praise the Lord – she’s sleeping through! Let’s give it a shot!
Month Fifteen (following a regression in sleep):
Not pregnant. (Is it wrong to be totally thrilled about this?) Perhaps we were being a little hasty…maybe we should wait just a little longer… Yep, let’s definitely take a break this month.
She really does need a sibling though… We’re back on – let’s do it!
Feeling broody around new babies, deffo up for this! Alas – not pregnant. Actually a little disappointed… Cue Pixie’s worst night in months. Through the dense fug of sleep-deprivation, I’m seeing more clearly than I have in weeks: what in God’s name have I been thinking? I can’t have another child right now! ABSOLUTELY NOT!
Husband is adamant Pixie needs a sibling. Jesus Christ. Off we half-heartedly go again… (Pretty sure these are not the emotions I should be feeling about trying to create another little person. Oops.)
Not pregnant – HURRAH! (This is definitely the wrong attitude to have about extending our family. I need to give some serious consideration to precisely what is going on in my head…)
Should We Have a Second Baby?
Given the success of the initial post and my own confusion/penchant for Baby Roulette, I’ve decided to share my complicated feelings about having a second child. Here’s a candid breakdown of my reasons for wavering:
A Second Baby = A New Baby
This is the easy bit to write, because in many ways I’d love another baby – of course I would!
Pixie will (one day) be a marvellous big sister, and I agree with my husband that she seems to bumble around at home missing something someone – she would adore a sibling, I’m quite confident in that.
And the idea of holding another baby in my arms? Delicious, of course! Even the pregnancy itself – I actively miss being pregnant sometimes. My first was blissful (yes, I know how lucky I am).
So yes, I am broody. And I can even accept that second time around I’ll be far better prepared. I’ll know what to expect; I’ll be more confident in how to take care of a newborn – and how to take of myself as a new mum (equally vital!). But the fear is there, threatening to overwhelm and engulf me…I’m so apprehensive, about so many things.
It could be fabulous and complete our family. And yet…
I wrote about this in the first post, and it is true for me: within ten minutes of giving birth, I told my husband I’d never be doing it again. And at the time, I meant it – unequivocally.
However, several months later, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to discuss my horrific experience with a hospital midwife. And while that obviously can’t change what happened, it has validated the awful delivery I had, and allowed me to make peace with it.
Every medical decision taken from for me was sound; despite feeling completely out of control, I accept that those who were making calls which affected my body and my baby made every judgement based on our health and welfare.
Yes, I wish it had been a different experience, but we both came out of it alive, and for that I must be thankful.
My Daughter’s Well-Being
This is another reason from the first post, which is also relevant to me: my daughter is high-needs. You’d never believe it when we’re at our sing and sign class – I regularly receive remarks about how confident she is (I think they’re compliments, but I do worry she may just be a little annoying to others who don’t adore her as I do!).
Yet at home, she craves almost constant affection and attention – she doesn’t play well by herself; she wants to be held all the time; she’s basically very needy of my complete focus. And while I’m in the fortunate position of being able to provide that for her, I want to continue doing so. After all, (though not everyone will agree with me), my personal view is that you cannot spoil a toddler with too much love.
This one’s a biggie. I’ve spoken about it many times on the blog.
It’s a surreal experience – with hindsight I can liken it best to a year long episode of living under water. Life becomes a wash of tedium and pressure and exhaustion, as though submerged, the movement is hindered and sound is distorted. The ability to effectively communicate becomes diminished, along with rationale and patience.
My memories are hazy, and it’s easy to forget the depth of my struggles during that time. But I cannot overstate the relief I feel to be through the other side.
So on each (rare – thank GAHD) occasion we regress to a bad night – I just know in my heart:
I. Can’t. Do. It. Again. (Yet.)
My Mental Health
One more point which cropped up in the original post: I did suffer from PNA. I have no doubt an incredibly difficult relationship with somebody closely involved with our family attributed to my anxiety and agitation. Having now come out the other side of a desolate year, I’m fearful of returning to that immense strain. It was not good for me or my daughter, but most of all for my marriage.
I want to protect us all from it recurring and the simplest way is to avoid a similar situation. And sadly the trigger for this person’s behaviour was my daughter’s arrival…
I was spoiled for space in my childhood home. That makes it sound like I come from a rich family, but if you knew the full truth of our circumstances you’d appreciate the irony in that. Suffice to say, we had plenty of space, but otherwise very little.
The point is, I’m used to not living on top of other people. I’m used to a ‘minimalist’ home, quite simply because there was a ton of storage space to keep things neat and tidy and out of sight. See, clutter stresses me out. I wish it didn’t, but it’s one of my foibles: chaotic environment, chaotic head.
I cannot relax in a messy room; I crave visual order, because for me it equals ordered thoughts.
So – in an ideal world, we’d move to a slightly larger home before having a second child. Today, our wardrobe is in the second bedroom due to space-constraints. And absurd though it may seem, I feel a need for my own wardrobe in my own bedroom before I’m ready to commit to another baby!
This feels so arbitrary, or whimsical, or…something. But it’s immensely important to me right now, and hugely significant. Since my daughter was born, I’ve been working hard on turning this blog into a way of generating income while not having to forfeit being a full-time mummy.
So, it may seem trivial – selfish even – but there are layers to this reason.
This blog is an ongoing labour of love, which I’ve poured my heart and soul into; which is coming to fruition; which I am proud of and passionate about; which was a vital part of helping me climb out of that bleakness; which is actually beginning to benefit our family – financially and in terms of wonderful opportunities; which allows me to look after my baby girl myself.
(Here’s yet another layer which has been added since I started writing this piece: I’m in the running to win an award. For the BiBs. That’s blinking HUUUUUGE! It validates the time and effort and desire to succeed.)
And it could all be jeopardised.
If I get the timing wrong, or if I have another Devil Pixie who refuses to sleep, it could all go to ruin. (If there’s any justice, our next one is due to be an Angel Fairy, but there’s really no telling, is there?)
After all the hours and dedication I’ve devoted to my little blog, the thought of it failing at the last hurdle is simply too much to bear. That may sound melodramatic, but my confidence and sense of worth are all bound up in this project. To suddenly lose that will feel like losing a big chunk of myself.
Neatly tied in to the above point – I know we could cover the expense of a second child with some tweaks to our lives – but wouldn’t it be wonderful if I was in a position to meet any additional outlays with income from my blog? That’s my idyllic vision and what I’m striving to achieve.
I mentioned this in the previous post, and actually, it has been relevant for me. Our daughter is now nearly twenty months old, but it’s only very recently even become possible for us to extend our family. I attribute this to extended breastfeeding, but whatever the underlying cause, physically it’s not been on the cards until now. Probably. (Naturally, I’ve not been foolish enough to assume we were 100% safe, because that would have be akin to sending a gold-embossed invitation to Sod’s Law.)
And if I’m very honest, that’s been a blessed gift – because I’ve simply not been ready. I think perhaps it’s why this whole subject has suddenly come to the forefront of, well, everything.
The fact that it’s now a viable prospect means it colours all of my thoughts and plans – it’s always there, hanging over us like a rainbow. But, though I know there truly is a pot of gold at its end, there’s no clear route to it.
That rainbow is such a beacon of hope – a tantalising guide to Elysium. And time alone will allow me to navigate my way to that utopia.
So When Will I Be Ready?
I find it very difficult to pick apart all of the reasons I’ve listed above and neatly sort them into lists of those which are for my benefit, and those which are for my child. It’s a fine balancing act between putting my daughter first, and ensuring I am mentally and emotionally stable/healthy/positive enough for her. The biggest difference my blog will make to my daughter is not in terms of material loss or gain, but in my general well-being. I can’t help but wonder if I should be putting her need for a sibling above that…
Ultimately, here is my truth:
I want to be pregnant once more; I want to have a second child; I want to experience the newborn phase again – knowing what I know now. I do want all of that…but without the complication of a toddler running around:
I’m broody for the baby who has grown into my little girl.
And I’m not quite ready to return to the chaos. Luckily, I’ll have nine months to get used to the idea. Mental stamina is required to combat the fatigue a child brings, and I’ve spoken before about how I prepared for it in much the same way as I would a long run.
Is it time to push through that metaphorical wall, and finish this marathon I’ve started? Should we have a second baby yet?