I had a rough pregnancy. I had an even more traumatic birth. I’m 43 and not getting any younger. We make just enough money to pay our bills. We have three dogs and a chicken. And my son, almost 2, is awesome.
So why would I even entertain the idea of a second baby?
It’s an interesting question, especially if you’ve ever had a conversation with me at any point during this experience. There were days when I’d say, “No way. One and done. I can’t do this again.” And there were other days when I’d lament, usually to myself, “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to have another kid like Landon?”
And no amount of talking about this to other parents has helped, either. Some parents of onlies (only children) wish they had had another. Some parents of onlies wouldn’t have it any other way. And then there are the parents with more than one kid who can’t seem to stop sharing horror stories with me about lack of privacy, lack of sleep, lack of money, lack of sanity.
It really comes down to what we want — and what we’re able to do. And those aren’t always in alignment.
Here’s the thing: Nothing can prepare you for the feelings and thoughts you have once the baby comes. I vividly remember the first two weeks after bringing Landon home from the hospital. I honestly thought we had made a mistake, that I wouldn’t be able to do this, that I was going to suffer from a mental breakdown so bad I’d never recover. I’d be sitting in a corner, embracing the techniques of self-soothing with a pacifier and swaddle the way my son was. It was bad.
But as he got older — and we got better at this — it really did get easier. We figured it out. He evolved. It was starting to work.
And that’s when you start thinking about the next one. You start imagining what it would be like to have another baby in the house. You start packing up — not giving away — your first born’s old clothes and toys, just in case. You start thinking about names and Googling double strollers and looking for where to put the second crib.
And then the inevitable happens. Maybe it’s a new bill you have to pay. Or maybe it’s when you find out how much childcare costs. Or maybe it’s when you hear a parent of two complain about buying a new car to fit two car seats or about how her two kids won’t stop fighting — and they’re already teens.
And then there’s this other thing.
It’s called age.
I’m 43. It doesn’t matter if I look 33 or if I feel 23. My ovaries, my body, everything about me biologically is 43. And there’s no diet or exercise routine or supplement to reverse this.
That means, reproductively speaking, I’m very old. Maybe too old.
I was just talking with a couple of girlfriends — all around my age and dealing with infertility — about how we wish we had listened to our doctors when were in our 20s. You know, that awkward conversation when your OBGYN explains to you that you’re 25, your body is aging, you should really think about whether or not you want to have kids. Back then, we were all, like, “Kids? I’m not thinking about kids! I’ve got a career, student loans, places to travel. I’m not ready to have kids! And besides, with what guy…?”
It didn’t occur to me back then that what my OBGYN was really trying to say to me was, “You’re not getting any younger and if you really want to have kids at some point in your life, you should consider freezing your eggs, which will ensure a much, much higher chance of getting pregnant with your own genetics in the future.”
Why didn’t he just say that?
But that’s done, and here I am, 43 and thinking about having a second child at an age many women are already sending their kids off to college.
Truth is, I probably can’t have another child anyway. The way we would need to do IVF — genetic testing, which isn’t covered by insurance — is too expensive and my chances are bleak, and I’m not interested in finding an egg donor. (Nor can we afford it.) Adoption is pricey, too, and we would probably have to wait years to actually be matched with a child.
I know all of this and, about six months ago, was perfectly OK with having just one child. So much so I gave practically everything of Landon’s away — his car seat, stroller, walkers, toys, bottles, breast pumps, unopened baby food, pacifiers he never used, newborn onesies he never wore.
But there’s this one small box I kept. It has some of my favorite things of Landon’s. And I can’t seem to give it up.
Just like this idea of having another child.
I didn’t think this decision was going to be so emotional, so crippling at times. It’s a void I can’t seem to fill. I’ll never feel a baby kick inside me again. I’ll never see Landon grow up with a sibling. I’ll never have a daughter. It’s heartbreaking in so many ways.
But I have this awesome kid who’s funny and playful and smart and healthy. And he’s been sleeping through the night since he was 2 months old, which I know, from other parents, is probably his best trait. I really have nothing to complain about. And I should have nothing to covet or want.
And yet, there are times, usually when I see brothers playing at the park or a pregnant woman standing in line at Foodland, that I feel a bit of envy and sadness, like I’m letting myself down, like I’m letting Landon down. Not that he ever asked for a sibling. And not that having one will enhance his life. But he’ll never have a brother or sister to talk to or lean on. And he’ll be alone after we’re dead. That part kills me.
This isn’t a decision I made alone. My husband helped. My body chimed in. And the fact that we can’t seem to get pregnant anyway is a sign.
I realize it will take time to grieve what I feel like is a loss. And I know how lucky I am to have one healthy, happy kid. (There are lots of families who don’t even have that.) I just have to accept what is and what will never be — and know that life really isn’t that bad at all.
And reading my journal entries about those first few months of parenthood helps, too.