Sunday, March 10, 2013

is my family complete? // on deciding to have another baby

I wanted to take a minute to write about our decision to have a second child, in large part because the decision-making process was difficult for us and I wished that there were more first-hand accounts out there. Ultimately, of course, the decision is intensely personal - but I hope this is helpful to someone, somewhere!
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!


  1. Oh congratulations Courtney! I'm excited for you and your family. I had lots of concerns too and waited 7 long years before I was 100% sure about number 2 and things felt right in other parts of our lives. I think I actually wrote an anxiety filled post while I was pregnant about how it would affect our family dynamic! Anyway, 4 feels so right for us and we feel like we're a complete family now. I was one of 5 kids and actually didn't mind just having one at first but that urge came back with a vengeance later on! Look forward to hearing more of your story. :)

  2. I am so SO happy for you guys! I can't wait to read all about the newest addition to your family. More importantly, your family will finally be whole, and that will be such an amazing thing!

  3. We were so set on being a one child family for about three years after Noah was born and then we both simultaneously changed our minds. We went from wanting one to three. For us that just feels right. It's weird how such a crucial decision can boil down to a gut feeling. That darned timing is a whole other issue though! :)

  4. Congratulations! It looks like you really did have a lot to think about, but I'm so excited that you have decided to grow your family. Can't wait to find out what this little one will be, a little sister or brother.

  5. As you already know, I struggled with the decision to have more than one child as well (despite Bennett's intention of surprising us and throwing all of my hard decision-making out the window :P) and we've had conversations about this before. It really is one of those things that you absolutely are better off going with your gut, and I am so happy that your gut (and Jason's) said to have another baby. I, like you, struggled with PPD and still struggle with anxiety, though mainly surrounding Jacob (I wonder what it is about the first born that causes them to receive the brunt of the anxiety), and I worried how that would manifest itself the second time. I also worried about splitting up my love and affection for two children, how could I possibly love someone as much as Jacob? But it happens. You do, and you don't love your first any less, but I will say that it is different. Just...different. And the feeling of it being different was scary for me in the first few months, but we've come out of that transitional period and now I see how much these two boys love each other and how much Jacob has had to deal with this change and I have a new perspective on him. He drives me insane, no question about it, but the relationship we have has changed into something that is a work in progress on the road to becoming something wonderful. It just takes time for the entire family to adjust, which you all do.

    Anyway, that's my very long winded way of saying that you guys will be amazing parents to #2 because you are amazing parents to Lorelei, and that everything you are feeling is normal. The great thing about baby #2 is that you might go through similar challenges but you see how you came out the other side, so it's much easier to slow down and enjoy the baby stages. I never enjoyed Jacob as a baby, I was always anxious for him to get older and for things to *hopefully* get easier, but now, especially since we might be done procreating, I am loving every minute of baby time. I think you will, too :)

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  7. You know what's funny is that I've heard about that visualization trick before, too. A neighbor of mine said that it was almost subconscious for her: when packing up to leave places, no matter how many times she counted heads and bags, she had a nagging feeling that she was leaving someone behind or leaving someone out. After her third baby, it never came back and she knew her family was complete.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all of this, too... I'm glad to have an arsenal of things to think about for whenever we start having those conversations.

    I know I'm going to sound like a broken record - but we are so happy and excited for all of you! You are both amazing, loving parents, and I'm sure your love will just stretch and stretch and stretch. All I can say is that another member of your family added to this world can only be a good thing!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this! My husband and I are currently going through the same dilemma...we go back and forth every day we say yes we need another baby, the next day we say our family is complete. We also had a very very very rough time the first year with Ellie...and I too, am scared about what stress it will cause on our marriage, and my own sanity. Ellie had extremely bad reflux and MSPI, and the chances of our second baby having it as well is 70-80%!!! That scares the heck out of me!! Currently, we are still undecided...but I"m not going to lie...I obsess and stress about it every single day!! sigh
    ♥ Kyna

  9. I'm beginning to believe that those blurry early days go by even faster with the second child. Life with two is full in so many ways (some better than others). We definitely feel much more complete with little Bertie on the scene, perhaps because I unintentionally visualized our family as four. I'm very excited for you all!

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  12. Well written! We have two kids and love it. They play together and are a strong support for one another. I think even numbers work well :)

  13. CONGRATS!! I'm right there with you about the post partum anxiety etc. It's been....a struggle. I'm happy to hear first hand that one day the fog does lift and you feel like you can "go on," and have more babies.

    So happy to see this wonderful news on your blog:)