My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Why I Have Two

2006-05-22

I’ve been reading some discussions here and there lately about whether or not, now that many people have the whole parenting-one-child thing down pat, to have a second child. It’s not a decision to make lightly and requires some serious thought, just as “should I marry him/her” did and “when do we (or should we) have a child” did. If you’ve gotten that far along, my congratulations because you’re halfway there. And no doubt the world of busybodies has been monitoring your every move since you met The One.

“So, when are you two getting married?” they ask.
“So, when are you two going to have a baby?” they ask at your wedding.
“So, when are you going to have another?” they ask when they meet 3-week old Junior.
“So, do you plan to have any more?” they ask over the phone while you deal with Junior’s tantrum and try to breastfeed Junior II at the same time.

When exactly did my body become public property? Do men get this much grief?

I am not Queen of the Universe or Advice Madam Bar None but I can tell you my story, which may not mirror yours at all. In fact, it probably doesn’t in the least. But, my story is all I have to offer. I can’t possibly hope to do this subject justice but I’ll try (without using too many more clichés!).

Let me start off by saying that I have ALWAYS known I wanted children. Children in the plural, meaning two. Since high school, I’ve kept an ever-changing list of names. For a time, my favorite girl name was Ivy. If you like it, you can have it. I don’t need it any more. I also like Chloe and Phoebe and other names that would probably be hard to spell – not just for the kid but for every teacher from infancy to college. I mean, if the world has trouble spelling my name, there is no hope for any of us.

I have a lot of friends in various stages of their lives, friends who’ve made various decisions based on what’s right for them. I have a friend with four children. I have friends with none. I have many friends who stopped at one – some intentionally, some due to life changes or problems encountered during the first pregnancy that they did not want to risk repeating.

But, like I said, I’ve always wanted two children and I planned my life accordingly. I’m lucky – very lucky – that the plan worked out pretty much as I intended. Because anything could have gone awry at any time. When I worked at a university that allowed us to bank our vacation and sick days, I began doing that, taking few vacations so that I’d have plenty saved up for maternity leave. Three years later, I had Dusty and was able to take 8 weeks off at full pay. I then began saving up leave for the next one. When I left that job for my present one, I was six months pregnant, and got a nice check that helped cover the measly 6 weeks I was out after Red’s birth. Fortunately for me, both deliveries were without incident so recovery (though, frankly, I think I’m still in recovery from Red’s arrival) was swift. Sleep deprivation was a whole other issue.

So, here’s my List Of Musing over the Big Question:

Why You Should Not Have Another:

1. Money. Really, so many things boil down to this. Can you really afford another child? Will you need to put both in daycare? You like that you can afford to put Child One in this particular program but you’re not sure you could swing it if you had another. Who suffers most for this decision? Diapers are expensive, another mouth to feed (eventually) is expensive. Maybe you gave away all your baby things – now you’ll have to buy them all over again. I have a friend with grown children who once told me not to wait to have children until I could “afford” it but that’s easier said than done and, really, none of anybody’s business.

2. Age of Current Child. Since so many of my friends are my age, and had their first in their mid- to late-30’s, there is a feeling of let’s to this now! No time to waste! Which might mean having an infant and a toddler to care for at the same time. My hats off to those of you who can do this. I spaced mine 3 ½ years apart on purpose because I really wanted the oldest to be somewhat self-sufficient and at least potty trained. Some parents say it’s easier to have two in diapers because there’s not much different in changing one than in changing two. Frankly, that would have driven me over the brink. Plus, have I mentioned that diapers are expensive? And don’t even mention cloth to me (not really an option for those of us with kids in daycare – they will not accept anything but disposables) because I’m already up close and personal with poo…and that’s a little TOO personal. I get my fill as it is. I’ll talk more about what’s good about this spacing later.


3. Life Style. Tied to #1 but encompasses things like having a routine that works for everyone. Having a child disrupts everything. That nice life you and your husband have? The way you two can just leave, spur of the moment, when a friend calls and invites you out to hear a band or go to a movie? Forget it. But, out of that disruption comes a new routine, a new life that fits all three of you. You know what’s possible and what isn’t. It takes awhile but you finally have a rhythm. But, add another body to the mix? What if it’s a bad new change? What if everyone’s losing sleep and the older child begins to regress and your bed is filled with tossing and crying children and never mind going out to a movie. All you want is a night of sleep. Even four solid hours in a row would be the Best Mothers Day Present Ever! And there’s more laundry to do, more food preparation, more dishes, more mess, more everything! God, I need a drink!

4. The Day-to-Day. Remember that really horrible poo explosion or the time everyone had stomach flu or the trip to the emergency room? Yeah, do you really want to do that again? Not bloody likely. With another child, you’ll revisit all those old horrible times, all those dark days, all those crying jags and the sleep deprivation and the post-partum depression and maybe the same awful reflux that kept the mop wet and ready, and there’s always a chance that something newly horrible will occur like a full body cast or the baby might fall down an abandoned well or be eaten by gophers. Why take the chance?

5. Personal/Medical. This one is really too big and overarching to get a complete handle on here but the older we get, the harder it is to conceive. Some friends had difficult pregnacies and difficult births and they aren’t game to spin the wheel of fortune again. For some it might just be that Child One was enough of a handful that they’re not willing to tempt fate and see whether the next one is the same level of difficulty, better, or worse. Then there are all the things that can go wrong. If you’ve suffered miscarriages in the past and finally had the child you had worked for for years, maybe you’re willing to just call it a day. This is the end of the line. Sometimes the decision is made for you – loss of a job, whether intentional or not, loss of a spouse through divorce (death is a whole other issue I won’t get into), housing issues, etc. There are more reasons to stop at one than I could possibly list. So I’ll stop here.

6. But I like my girl/boy. What if I have a boy/girl? I can’t help you with this one. I have two girls – exactly what I wanted. And my husband’s happy, too. When we went in for Red’s “sex revealing” ultrasound my husband held his breath until he heard the words, “Looks like a girl!” “Whew,” he said as we left the doctor’s office, “That was close!” So, I don’t have any experience with different genders and I know nothing about boys. You’ll have to figure that one out on your own. But, basically, you don’t have a lot of control over gender (yet) and I’ve never met a mother (or father, for that matter), who wasn’t perfectly happy about the gender of the children they got. Personality is a whole different matter.

Reasons to Have Another (there are not in any particular order):

1. I feel strongly about siblings. It took many years for my sister and I to get along (we were born 5 ½ years apart) but now I’m so grateful to have her. It’s so nice to not be alone in the world, dealing with our particular crazy parents alone. Especially after my father’s near fatal bout of cancer in 1998 (which played a role in my decision to have Dusty now rather than later) and my mother’s increasing residential hoarding mania. I would hate to have to shoulder the burden alone of making big decisions about them as they aged. Fortunately, my father’s married so his wife and my other two sisters will probably play a bigger role in his fate than I will. My husband is an only child. His parents are in their 70’s and not in good health. His mother’s had breast cancer; his father’s had prostate cancer. They could have another twenty years to go or they could die next week. But, he’d pretty much have to deal with funerals, estates, etc., alone (I mean, there’s me but you know what I’m saying). I didn’t want to just have one child if I could help it. While the decision to have one or two or three children hinges so much on what’s going on in ours lives now, the repercussions go on into the future and we need to consider that as well. This isn’t just for us but for our child. For their grown up selves.
2. I can’t tell you how interesting life is with two. It’s twice as hard some days, but the rewards are ten times that. I love watching different kids hit the same milestones in different ways on their own timetables. All those wonderful firsts get experienced again: first smile, crawling, walking, destroying your books again, discovering the taste of sand and dirt and ladybugs. It’s been so fun watching Red make connections – those “ah HA!” moments, learn to speak, eat with a spoon, pee in the potty, pour water from one cup to another in the tub, throw a ball, say “ball,” jump on the sofa with her sister with such glee (before falling off head first).
3. Watching Dusty become an older sister. Only children don’t really get a chance to learn a new role: mentor, teacher, guide. Dusty’s gotten such a kick out of teaching Red to say words, recite the ABC’s, be a role model. She’s been able to view herself as something other than someone’s child. She’s a big sister and her self-esteem is tied to her success in instructing Red, in being a helper. And, she’s taken some of the pressure off me. With one child, you’re it. You have to teach them everything (unless you do the preschool/daycare thing). There are some things I haven’t had to “teach” Red because Dusty’s gotten there ahead of me. And sometimes, she does it better. They’re comrades and they speak a similar language.
4. With the second one, you don’t freak out as much over every little thing. You are more likely to recognize behavior for what it is and not lose sleep over whether the child should or shouldn’t be doing this or that. You recognize signs of illness more readily and can determine, in a calmer fashion, what needs medical attention and what doesn’t. You just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Spills and messes – no big deal. Poo explosion – you’ve got the tools (and the bleach) to handle it (whether you want to or not).
5. It really is possible to love another child as much as the first. Think of your family as a balloon. It was about this big when you got married or paired up with your significant person. Undo the knot and blow some air in there. It’s bigger but it hasn’t burst. That’s your family with one child. Now, untie the knot again and blow some more air in. That’s your family of four. It’s bigger and the sides are stretched out a bit, but it’s not going anywhere. If anything, it’s more buoyant than ever. Bouncier. It doesn’t fit through every opening, but you didn’t want to go there in the first place, did you?

Okay, no more soap box for me this week. I’ll be back later this week with more mundane things to talk about.

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12:38 p.m. ::
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