What If We Didn't?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Whew, so I finally have my computer back after almost two weeks of having to beg, borrow, and steal (literally, my sister was about to kill me) to try to get online. I feel like I have so much to discuss, but really there is only one thing that has been on my mind these past few weeks. There was no amount of painting, or re-decorating, that was going to answer the question for me (although it was a nice distraction let me tell you) and even as I'm typing now I am not 100% sure where my head is at.

It all began a few weeks back when my husband sent me this article. He came home and asked the question that neither of us had even considered over the past two years; what if we didn't have another baby. Sure, we have asked, what if we can't have another baby, but we (especially me) had never once considered not having another child, by choice. Until he said those words I can honestly tell you this thought never crossed my mind. Never. For as long as I can remember I always thought that I would have two children. I never once discussed my family without using the plural "kids." I was an only child (until late in my teenage years,) my mother was an only child, my grandmother was an only child, and even my father was for all intents and purposes (that applied to me) an only child (his siblings were much older.) We used to joke that my entire family could fit in a Toyota Corolla, it was funny only because it was true. Because of this I have always craved a large family. When it came to having children I truly believed that I was in some way harming my Little Man if I didn't create a sibling for him. I realize that this is a completely irrational thought, and I know many people, my family members included, who are happy with the fact that they were able to grow up as an only child. I also recognize that just because you have a sibling, this is no guarantee of closeness among the children, and I certainly have seen families where the competition between the 2 or 3 kids, absolutely outweighs any type of loving relationship. I recognize all of this, I understand it, and on paper I can wrap my arms around it, but what I couldn't do is translate this to my own child. I believed (and part of me still does) that my LM would/ will be better off if he had a brother or sister.

I'm pretty sure this is why my husband sent me the article. In short, it gave me an out. An out that I have never once allowed myself, and an out I am now struggling with whether or not I should take. In short, (in case you don't to read it) it says that studies have shown that only children are actually (statistically) better off. It says that they are more successful (depending on how you consider success) and more emotionally secure. This is solely due to the fact that they are the only one. All the attention, resources, and time is given to only them. People used to think this created spoiled and needy children, but studies are now showing that this just isn't the case for the majority of only children. The last thing I want to do here is argue whether that is or isn't correct (take that up with the editor of Time) and certainly having the relationship that I do with my sister, I can see value in my life that was never discussed by the author of the piece. So while I may not whole heartily agree with what was said, reading that really opened my eyes to the fact that we simply cannot have another baby because the LM will be harmed if we don't. What I took away from reading it is that he is going to be just fine either way. So if we aren't having a baby because we have to (remember this was my line of thinking) than why do we want to bring another child into this world?

This is where the lawyer in me kicked in. In my head I drafted a pros and cons list.

Yes, I'm being serious.

The obvious pro is that I love being a mother. I love everything about motherhood, the ups, the downs, all of it. I have never been more comfortable in my own skin, and more in love with anything than I am with my little man. For good or bad, he is my life, and I can only imagine what having two kids would mean to our family. From what I've heard you love your second as much as your first, and although right now that seems unimaginable to me, I know that we have more than enough time and love to raise another child. Also on my "pro" list is that I cannot ignore the fact that I gave up my career to stay home and raise babies, plural. I'm not 100 % sure I would have made the same decision if I thought that in 5 years I would be able to go back to work. In just two short years my little man will be in school full time, and I will have been out of the workforce just long enough to be pretty much unemployable. Yes, I can find something else to do, but when I made the decision to stay home I considered it to be one for the long haul, and I have never regretted it. I guess I'm afraid that if we don't have another baby than maybe I shouldn't have been so quick to give up everything I worked for.

Also in the pro column (and my husband thinks I'm crazy for this one) is that I just can't shake the thought that if we only have one child, and something happens to him, how on earth are we supposed to go on. I know this is morbid, and is certainly not a reason to have another child, but I always think back to this blog I used to read written by a mother who lost her son to terminal cancer, and I am haunted by the statement when she said that the only reason she gets out of bed every day is because she has her other children to live for. I can not even fathom the grief she must feel every day, and how much that would only be intensified if you were to lose your only child. I also think about the fact that there is no guarantee that my LM will grow up and stay close to us, emotionally or geographically. Shouldn't this factor into wanting another child? (I do realize that that there is no guarantee that any of this can't happen with the second child as well.) Of course there are the other considerations, financially, physically, emotionally, etc we can absolutely raise another child and if we are lucky enough to get pregnant than why wouldn't we go for it? (Obviously at this point that is a big if.)

On the other hand there are cons. Cons that I never considered until a few weeks ago. Right now we have a pretty great life. I have a beautiful, energetic, and healthy son, and as my husband likes to say, we've "made it" with him. He is walking, talking, sleeping through the night in a big boy bed. He is fun to be around, easy to travel with, and the three of us just seem to work. If you consider our lifestyle one kid just makes sense. We love to travel, plan on living in the city forever, my husband is very dedicated to his work, and the little man seems perfectly happy being the center of our universe. I also simply cannot ignore the fact that it would be A LOT easier to just stop now. No more sleepless nights, and crying, and teething, and temper tantrums. Having been through that all before, I can tell you I'm not really looking forward to that infant stage again (although the snuggles really are like nothing else.)

I also have been very much swayed by the idea that if we only have one child than we can give everything to him. Not in a spoiled, silver spoon sort of way, but there would be no doubt that he could travel the world, go to any school we wanted, public or private, and generally get all of the time and love that we have. And if I believe, as I do, that we are not hurting him by not having a sibling, than is there anything wrong with being happy with just him. If you add in our struggles conceiving, at what point do we (I) decide the Little Man is enough?

If I'm being honest here one of the main reasons why I have wanted a baby for so long is that I felt like less of a mother because I only had one child. I realize this may sound insane and I don't see other mothers of singletons like that, but internally I have felt like everyone around me is going through the trials and tribulations of raising multiple children, and because I only have one,  I've felt that I'm not working hard enough, that I'm only giving 100% and that they are giving 200-300 percent. A friend of mine laughed when I told her this, and tried to convince me that people can only give 100 percent and the more kids you have that percent is divided rather than multiplied, but even now I still feel like we have it too easy if we just stop now. (To which my husband always says, you do realize this is supposed to be fun rater than work all the time.)

Not to drone on and on, but these are the thoughts that have continually been running through my head for the past two weeks. This is all heightened by the fact that we are about to start another IVF cycle in two weeks so it really is make it or break it time. I know you're thinking we should just put it off, but with my husband's travel schedule for work, and family obligations it's either now or next April, and honestly I just need us to decide one way or another. I feel this is something that has been hanging over our head for over two years now, and it is time for us to come to a decision about our family.

I am putting all of this out there and I honestly don't know where I am at. I am definitely leaning one way, but even typing this I have so much doubt. This weekend I was really okay with not having another baby, even a little excited that the weight could finally be lifted of my shoulders, but then after taking to a very good friend who said, "once you see your second child you will never regret having that baby," I am just so torn. My friend is right, I would never regret another baby, but I could definitely see regretting the choice not to down the road. Really, I don't want to take the easy road out just because it's easier.

So there it is.

I ordered the fertility meds and last night my husband and I decided that we would be stupid not to go forward with the plan next month. I have to admit that I was very angry with him for a while for putting this doubt in my head, but now I am more thankful than anything because if this next go-round doesn't work than at least I know, for the first time, that I could be very happy with out family of three. I really don't know what is right for our family, but my gut really is telling me that if/once we have that second baby (which will 100% be the last) we will not have made the "wrong" choice.

I would love to hear any thoughts that you all have on this. I have received some amazing emails from you over the years on this topic and I am so unbelievably grateful for all of them. I'm sure that some negative commentators will have a field day with this, but as always the positive feedback and support that I receive from you all every day absolutely outweighs any of that silliness.

Ugh, being a grown up really sucks sometimes. Don't you all wish we could just get one quick peek at the future?


Elizabeth said...

What an interesting post! I can say that I see both sides of the coin. I have seven brothers and sisters so I have no idea what it would be like to grow up an only child - and wouldn't want to know because I loved growing up with my siblings...though the younger ones are SO much younger than me that they feel more like cousins then siblings...no real connection with the youngest two. But the games my older and younger brother used to play and the experiences I had growing up with them was great. I have three children (so far) myself, who are close in age and see that real bond they have. It comforts me to know that someday when my husband and I are gone they will still have family around them. I see this with my aunts and uncles right now (9 of them!) surrounding my Grandma while she goes through the diagnosis of cancer and they are a huge support for one another.
I also see my aunt, who chose to have one child, who is now in his early 40's. He isn't real close to them and has never had children and doesn't want them. So my aunt will never be a grandma.
Just sharing my experiences. I am glad that you are getting to the point that you could be okay with the thought of just one child. That is great. But I say that as long as you have the urge to have another you may as well try for it!

EWakefield said...

I sit hear reading your post and find myself nodding in total agreement and understanding.

Having a second or adding any other child to your family is a decision that can be all consuming. I find myself in that dilemma but not from going from 1 to 2 but going from 2 to 3. I too fight the notion that we're good now why go back to the beginning.

I wish is was that easy to just turn off those feelings of adding to our family. I understand the struggle you and your husband face and props to him for having the courage to bring the idea of stopping at one to the table.

Having said that I have to say that being a mother is something I've always wanted to do, even if it wasn't a notion that was shared by many in my circle. As difficult a choice as it was to give up my career there aren't many days that I've looked back and said...I gave it up for 'this'??

I'll tell you what my new pediatrician told me 3 days after my daughter was born. "This is the best thing you could have ever done for your son." I heard those words and all the doubts I had building up inside came out in massive sobs right there in-front of a women I hardly new. I wanted to believe her, truly I did but I wasn't so sure. Yes she is a mother (then of 2 and now of 3) Yes she is a Harvard educated pediatrician with a husband in medical school. This sounded like a sane comment but it wasn't till my daughter was about 11 months old that I finally saw what she told me all those months ago. The love I saw between the two of them is something I can't even begin to describe. Sure..they fight, sure I feel like a referee but they have each-other and nothing can take that away.

Regret is a powerful thing. There are many things from time to time that I regret, but having a second child...never. We wouldn't be the family we are now or the family we'll be 5, 10 or 20 years from now.

Good luck in your decision and the joy of 'the ride'.

Betsy said...

I'm a new reader, but understand what you're going through, having just undergone IVF in June and dealt with a horrific case of hyperstimulation. As our son is almost 3, and after countless other fertility efforts, our decision wasn't whether or not one child was enough, because we both longed for more children. But we had to decide at what point enough was enough and just put the effort (and money) into adoption. We went for IVF and as much as it sucks at times, now that I'm 4 months pregnant, I know it was the right choice. For us. Everyone is different, and you should do what feels right for your family. That being said, I agree with your friend that I highly doubt you would ever second guess having a second child- but might doubt your decision not to. I also know that while I carried our son, and cursed pregnancy every day, I wasn't prepared for it to be my last. Of course, I didn't know it would be even harder to conceive this time around, but I'm really thankful I get to experience, and better appreciate, the good and the bad of being pregnant again. Anxiously awaiting the miracle of feeling those baby kicks again.

You seem like a natural as a mom, and I have had to remind myself a million times over the past few years- how lucky are we to even just have our one? Having gone through this, and being pregnant again, I more than ever feel like I won the lottery.

Funky Mama Bird said...

I have never admitted this out loud, but one of the reasons that I want another baby is the same, "what if something (God forbid!) were to happen to my little boy?" I would have to die, too, unless there was another child to care for. My husband, who has two kids from a previous marriage, does not agree with my thinking.

Chicago Cuisine Critique said...

I think it is great that you are able to share such a personal topic with us readers (aka "strangers"). I am not yet in the stage of my life of having babies and I know that my feelings/thoughts may change once I get there. I am and always have been one to want a big family, multiple children for sure. I think part of my wanting for this was the fact that my brother and I are 5 years apart and I longed for having a sibling closer in age. Once he was off to college I missed him terribly and wished there had been another brother/sister for me to share my family moments with. I'm not sure what LM is like because I would think that if he doesn't know what having a sibling is like, he wouldn't necessarily miss it. I think putting your thoughts (pros/cons) down on paper is good. I do this too. It really does help. Whatever you decide will be the right choice for you. You just have to remember that when your brain starts to drift elsewhere. :)

Anonymous said...

Honest opinion from mom of two boys (ages 6 and 9): You may be able to give your son more right now as an only child, but in the long (and even not-so-long) run, you'll be giving him so much more with a sibling. The material things and time you'll have for him now will pale in comparison to the companionship and shared experiences he'll have with a brother or sister for a lifetime.

I watch my two boys and see the relationship they are developing. They are learning things from each other that I could teach them, but not nearly as well (how to fight and forgive, compromise, form a united front against a shared parental foe...). Sure kids learn from other kids at school/playdates but I think there's no replacement for the intense shared experience of siblings. They may not grow up to be best friends or even close friends, but I'm sure they are already better people because they have each other.

Grace in CO said...

Thanks for such a wide open post. I believe that neither choice would be wrong. I think that in the end we can all choose to accept and love our life as it is, and I don't think that anyone can say that one type of family is better, or more complete than another. And sometimes these choices are made for us. Keep taking care of yourself through this process.

Melinda said...

Thank you for your honest, heart wrenching post. I was in the same situation as you with one child and trying to have a second child. After 2+ years of infertility treatments and two miscarriages in addition to turning 40 we decided one child was fine. He just turned 3 and we have travelled with him over 7 times, some international, and with my demanding career and my husband's career it works for us. It is a personal decision that everyone needs to make but we are at peace with our decision. Yes I worry what if something horrible happens to my son, I also realize there are children out there who need a good family and if, god forbid, something did happen we can adopt a foster child which is also a very real option on how we can expand our family. Good luck and hopefully you find peace with whatever happens

Melinda said...

Thank you for your honest, heart wrenching post. I was in the same situation as you with one child and trying to have a second child. After 2+ years of infertility treatments and two miscarriages in addition to turning 40 we decided one child was fine. He just turned 3 and we have travelled with him over 7 times, some international, and with my demanding career and my husband's career it works for us. It is a personal decision that everyone needs to make but we are at peace with our decision. Yes I worry what if something horrible happens to my son, I also realize there are children out there who need a good family and if, god forbid, something did happen we can adopt a foster child which is also a very real option on how we can expand our family. Good luck and hopefully you find peace with whatever happens

Julie Q said...

LM is the luckiest guy in the world to have you as a mom. I'm jealous of all the fun things you guys do! He'll grow into a charming handsome guy someday with whatever the outcome is. I still don't understand how you are not an A-List celebrity, cos you are definitely one in my eyes (and i know my celebs) :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this blog. I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter and I love her so much and she's a really good girl that sometimes it makes me wonder if I could possibly love the same way or give the same attention to another child. I read the article and it really opened more my mind on deciding on if I should have another child. I feel that I'm very happy to be a family of three :)

Meaghan said...

My husband was an only child and he is the most thoughtful, considerate, caring man I know. But he also loves my big crazy family because its something he never experienced while growing up. We have three kids (ages 7,5,2) and their personalities are all very different, but they are wonderful to each other. The love that these kids develop for each other rivals (and sometimes out shines) the love that they have for us, their parents. No one can tell you what the right decision is for you and your family. My advice is to trust yourself and make peace with your choice. No regrets.

Margaret said...

I love reading your blog but I've never commented before... I can't imagine being in your situation, and my heart goes out to you. I'm sure you've heard all this before, but some advice that was given to me is that the process of relaxing and accepting that it may not happen for you may be what your body needs to straighten out and get pregnant. I had a doctor tell me that a lot of couples start the adoption process only to find that they've become pregnant. There are many ways to expand your family, though I completely understand about wanting it to be YOUR child, one that you grew. Reading about what you're going through for your next baby is incredible, I could never go through the medical side of things. I think you're amazing, and I truly believe that you will be blessed with another little one. Best of luck. :)

Anonymous said...

What a terrific blog - thank you for sharing your thoughts. I had my daughter in 1991 and then I guess "instincts" just kicked in and I automatically started trying for a second. It just seemed the thing to do and to be honest, I really didn't give it much thought at the time. Even thought I was in my early 30's, I still didn't have the maturity to think it through. Having said that, when we worked on the second one, I literally kept my legs in the air, thinking it would keep everything inside and my chances of the 'connection' would be better. IWhen my second daughter was born - even to this day, I secretly think to myself how lucky I am and how potent she is :) because of keeping all the stuff in there. She is a treasure and I can't imagine my world without her. At the age of 51 (and a hysterectomy on Monday) I wish I had more children. Best of luck and good wishes to you. I miss the plane stories....so funny!

Cdn Mom

nmaha said...

This is so brave of you. I have had the ame thoughts over the last two years, since we had our first child. Though we haven't had the tough IVF issues that you are going through, it's still a constant debate at home. I am totally for another child, coz I could never imagine living without my brother and want my daughter to have the same special relationship. All the people in my parents generation at home think we should stop with one since our lives are so hectic.

At the end of the day, I really want a second child, however tough the first few years may be. In my heart it's the best gift I an give my daughter.

However, ultimately this is not in our hands coz the guy up there has to have a vote in the decision.

I've also blogged about this, though not as intensely as you. If you want some company just head over here http://morethanjustmummy.blogspot.com/2010/05/doing-it-all-over-again.html

We are all in this with you. Best of luck and lots of love.

KelliJ said...

Life has a way of working itself out, with or without us worrying about the future. The only thing you have control over is the present. You are only 31. Stop trying to figure out the next year, 5 years or 10 years. Your life will unfold the way it is meant to. When I was your age, I hadn't even found a husband. I wasn't married until 35, had my little girl at 36, and now I'm staring down 40. I could not have predicted my life now at 31. I'm living in a different state, quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom, and am so in love with my husband and daughter.

Also, it took some dear friends 5 years to get pregnant with their first. They pretty never even thought about having a second, until 5 years later, when they found out they were pregnant. They didn't think they needed birth control so they never prevented anything from happening. Surprise! They just welcomed another baby girl into their family last week.

Every thing happens in its own time. Let it all unfold. It's going to whether you like it or not!

Anonymous said...

I agree with KelliJ - I don't want to sound condescending or callous, but I think you're over-thinking all of this. I'm a lawyer too so I understand the inclination to weigh the pros/cons, plan each step, etc....but just let life happen. The Universe (or God, whatever you want to call it) has a funny way of surprising us. Allow yourself to be surprised. We can't control everything (nor should we try) and sometimes we don't know what's best for us, or our families, until it happens. Things will fall into place - they always do...but only if you let them!

LouBoo said...

Hello - really interesting to read what you say here. I can only speak from having 'come out the other side' of having babies. We came very close to just having one child, by choice at the time. As it happened we then went on to have our son - there is a 4 year age gap. I was 'at one' with the idea of an only child at the time but having ended up with two I can safely say it was the best thing we could have done. I think you only know what you have experienced, so I will not experience what it's like to have three children; I couldn't say whether it's better or worse.

For me though, I can see how much we as a family gained from having 4 of us. I genuinely think I would have been fine with just our daughter, she would have had a great life, but I can also see that with her brother there was so much enrichment. It made us all better people. I think she may well have been lonely and it would have placed pressure on my husband and I. It's so tough - after we had our son and I knew that was our family complete I did realise how much agonising I had done for years after my daughter trying to work out if I wanted another child. I feel peace now. I know I have the family I was meant to have. No one can really advise you but just as a reader of your blog I can comment that you have clearly gone from being absolutely consumed (I mean that in a good way) with conceiving and being distraught at the prospect of waiting even one extra month, to having these really complex thoughts about your actual motivations now. I can't help thinking that time gave you that newer perspective and the ability to consider what you actually want and what's right. Phew - sorry for the loooong comment....

As ever - it's a pleasure to hear your thoughts.
Lou xx

Jo said...

I think that your fears, your pros and cons, your "over-thinking," is utterly normal. (And I think it's hard for other moms to relate unless they've traveled a similar path.)
I am an only child, though not by my mother's choice. I was an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy but for unknown reason, Mom couldn't maintain a subsequent pregnancy, despite a decade of trying.
But as someone else said, you don't know what you're missing. I loved being an only child - it was normal to me - and I am incredibly close to my parents.
There have only been two instances in my life when I wished for a sibling: first, at age 13, in that awkward jr high era. I was aloof and desperately lonely...I craved a sibling. Secondly? Right now, as grapple with my father's early-onset dementia. My mom and I discuss it and share the pain, but it's not the same as living it with a brother or sister. Undoubtedly, my father's condition has influenced my own kid-count... my husband and I wondered if we'd ever have a child and now we have 3(!!) All that said, whatever happens with your own situation will work out. Your son will be happy either way. As will you....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous here again - I didn't mean to imply that over-thinking or weighing pros/cons is NOT normal, in fact it's very normal in this type of situation (and as I said, I am the same way) - my comment was simply meant to be a helpful, friendly outsider perspective (one that I myself have desperately needed at times) - no offense intended.

Jodi said...

Ack don't listen to your husband...I think you should keep trying for #2. I am still wanting #3 when my dh thinks it's funny to ask if we can send the two we have back. It will happen for you, although I know it is scary trying to obtain something that you really have no control over. The obsession can get pretty all encompassing.