This morning, the period tracking app on my phone informed me that I was eight days late. Six months ago, this notification would have made my heart pound, and would have sent me running to the drugstore for a pregnancy test, but now, it just leaves me frustrated. I’m not pregnant — I already know that — I’m just experiencing yet another long, drawn-out, irregular cycle. And even though I should have known better than to turn to Dr. Google for some answers, today I caved and searched online for some clues as to why my formerly-regular periods were now all over the place. According to my search, I could be anovulatory, or my fertility could be declining, or I could have some kind of health issue like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or a thyroid problem. I knew that I shouldn’t put too much stock in these suggestions, that I should bring my concerns to an actual medical professional, but in that moment, the voice in my head began screaming you might not be able to have another baby, and I started to panic.
My husband came home shortly after, having just dropped our 3-year-old twins off at daycare, and when I saw him, I could barely get the explanation out before I burst into tears, burrowing myself into his chest for comfort. He sighed, and I knew what he was thinking — we’re going to have the baby conversation again, aren’t we? — but he tried to be loving and empathetic. The truth was, we had had this conversation before many times, the one in which we debate the merits of adding a third child to our family over and over again until we just give up and agree to lay it to rest for the time being. Matt, after all, feels pretty confident about being happy stopping at two children, but for me, it’s much harder. I’m not sure whether I want another baby, and it’s weighing on my heart more heavily than I ever expected it to.
I look at both of my kids, and think, you are even more than I dreamed you would be, and then I wonder how having another child could be anything but more of that.
I could say that part of the reason I’m not sure if I want another child is because I had an extremely complicated pregnancy with my twins, a terrifying delivery, and a traumatic NICU stay that lasted more than three months. And that is true, in a way, but it isn’t what’s making this choice so hard. One thing I do feel very certain about, after all, is that, unless our doctors feel our chances of having a full-term, healthy pregnancy the second time around would be reasonably high, I absolutely would not be willing to try again. In my head, the debate is really more about whether a third child would be too much of a gamble, whether it would be asking for too much, ruining our already-beautiful family dynamic that is more than I could have ever asked for or deserved. My husband always points out that we already have two beautiful, healthy children — children who we once weren’t even sure were going to live — so why would we possibly want to tempt fate by asking for more? And I completely agree with him.
Except I want another. I just do.
It's not about thinking that babies are cute (even though I think they are), or about longing to relive those beautiful infant days over again that have now long-passed with my twins. It’s about knowing full well now what it feels like to have your entire heart cracked open by a tiny human, about feeling the purest possible kind of love and hope for the life that child could lead. I look at both of my kids, and think, you are even more than I dreamed you would be, and then I wonder how having another child could be anything but more of that — more love, more joy, more slack-jawed wonder and awe at the ways in which having a child changes absolutely everything in the best possible way.
It means putting my heart out there again to potentially be smashed into a million pieces, if something goes wrong, if someone gets hurt.
I am a mother motivated more than anything else by the deep desire to create for my children the kind of family I felt I never had — one that is secure and loving and accepting and safe at all times. And while I often struggle day-to-day feeling like I’m not doing enough, not being enough, now and then I’ll get a glimpse at what I think life must look like from my children’s eyes, and think, look at what we are building. We are doing this right. And, in those moments, I think we could totally handle having another.
But, I also have two children already. Two busy, active, energetic children. And that means I know exactly the ways in which motherhood is more than all that, more than just the swoony, dreamy stuff you envision when you are pregnant. I know that it means sleepless nights that are more challenging than you could possibly imagine. I know that it means losing the independence I’ve gained now that my children are a little bit older.
I know that it means putting my work and my own dreams on hold. I know it means tantrums and stress and colic and diapers and terrible twos and a minivan and even less financial stability and maybe postpartum depression or second-guessing my choice to make what was formerly a really great thing much more complicated.
And more importantly, I know that it means putting my heart out there again to potentially be smashed into a million pieces, if something goes wrong, if someone gets hurt. It's the harsh reality you learn when you become a parent that absolutely everything you hold most dear in the world can be taken from you in a heartbeat and you’ll be powerless to stop it.
I hate that I want another baby. I don’t want to want another baby. But I do.
The truth is, I want another child. I want another child deeply, terribly, in the most heartbreaking way. But do I want to take the risk, knowing acutely what’s at stake if it doesn’t work out how I’d hoped? Can I take the risk? What I’m afraid to tell my husband is that I agree with him. I know that he thinks having another child wouldn’t be a wise decision, all things considered, and I actually do think he is 100 percent right in that assessment. But unlike him, that logic doesn’t comfort me. I hate that I want another baby. I don’t want to want another baby. But I do.
As usual, our conversation today led us no closer towards actually making a decision. Sometimes I resign myself to the fact that not making a decision is kind of like making a decision, and I let myself mentally try on the idea that one day enough time will have passed of this back-and-forth conversation that having another baby won’t even be an option anymore. Maybe, if Google’s estimation was right, that day will come sooner rather than later. But when, or if, it does, I already know I’m not going to even sort of be ready. That I probably will never be ready.