meeting our darling nephew for the first time - I was five weeks along
The first 6-7 months with Lorelei were brutally hard on us. Jason and I were convinced that she would be our one and only, because I didn't know if I could go through what seemed to be interminable infancy again. And then, somewhere around 13-14 months, we realized that we had emerged from the dark cloud and that life had settled into a comfortable existence again - one that we were happy with.
So that left us with a quandary: were we done with having babies?
If you had asked us before having Lorelei, we both would have said that we wanted to have two kids. We are both the oldest children in two-child families and have happy relationships with our siblings - my brother and I are particularly close. But when looking at it from the other side (namely, as stressed-out parents), having one started to seem appealing. Two adults to one kid? Great ratio, especially when someone had to go out of town, or got sick or injured, or when you were tired and needed a break. With another one, as Jason says, we'd be moving from zone defense to man-on-man coverage, and you don't have to know anything about basketball to know that takes a lot more time and energy. Having one was becoming increasingly easier, and it seemed silly to ruin a good thing.
I also had strong concerns about my ability to love two children equally and unconditionally. I could never be married to more than one person - how could I be a mother to more than one child? Lorelei takes up my whole heart. I worried that I would never love the second child enough or that my very special relationship with her would be somehow ruined by the introduction of a new baby.
Jason's main concern? Our marriage. Because of my struggles with some sort of post-partum depression or anxiety (nothing diagnosed, but I eventually put myself in counseling because I was having such a hard time coping), our relationship took a big hit during that first year. We found our balance again eventually, but would we ever get it back after a second child? What if one was all we could handle? Maybe it was most important for Lorelei that her parents have a happy marriage rather than having a sibling to be a lifelong playmate - since that's not something you can guarantee, anyway.
But we had mixed feelings about having just one. It seemed lonely. And overwhelming. Jason and I are both pretty intense personalities - how would being an only child in our household feel? I think Stephanie shared this article a while ago, and I found it to be a fascinating (and fear-alleviating) look at what it's really like to be an only child. We started thinking that having just one might be a good fit for us.
And then a friend of mine told me about something she did to help her decide when her family was complete: she did a visualization exercise where she pictured herself sitting down to a family dinner in the future. Who was there? For her, it was always the same image: three people - in other words, one child. That visualization helped to solidify for her that her daughter was the only child she wanted to have.
So Jason and I tried the same thing. And we both realized that, whether we tried to picture ourselves five years or twenty or forty years down the road, we had two children sitting with us at the dinner table. Two just felt right to us. And we both realized something else: having a brand-new baby is really hard, but it doesn't last forever. The first time around, it feels like an eternity because you have no idea when it will get better. If having children was like having a baby all the time, I don't think I could do it again. Thankfully, it's not - and I know that it will get easier as they get older. This isn't to say that there aren't challenges with every stage, but now that we're almost two years in, we're both feeling like we will be able to get through the tough stuff together in a way that we weren't sure about the first time around.
As for my fears about loving another child, it seems that many other mothers (and fathers) have had the same worries. And everyone seems to say the same thing: when the second child comes along, something in your heart shifts and you have room for two. I still have my doubts, and this pregnancy certainly hasn't been as self-indulgent as the first one in terms of bonding with and day-dreaming about the baby, but I trust that when he or she arrives, I'll have that same feeling I had when Lorelei was born. And I know it will be bumpy and first (and maybe long after) for Lorelei to adjust to having a sibling, but I can't remember a single time growing up when I felt that my parents neglected me or didn't love me as much as they loved my brother, so I'm banishing that worry from my mind.
This post is already long enough, so I'll do another post soon about our decision regarding when to have child #2 - since that was almost as difficult as deciding whether we should have another one in the first place!