Tuesday, April 8, 2008

my case for sticking with one

For years I was pretty nonchalant with those tiny pills in their foil, pop-out packaging. Miss a day? Two? Three? Oh well, I’d think- what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll get pregnant.

Once bouncing boy later, I take them Every. Damn. Day.

How many kids do you want? My family and friends ask. One I say. We’re stopping. They shake their heads. You’re just saying that. Give it time. Everybody wants more!

They could be right – neither I nor anyone else has any idea how I’ll be feeling about this subject in say, five years, when I may or may not still be within The Baby Makin’ Window.

But all in all, I am as sure as I can be that this is it.

I don’t have a very socially acceptable reason for acting as if my own son has scarred me for life. There’s been nothing traumatic. During pregnancy, I did not vomit or have to go on bedrest; I just lumbered around with an extra fifty pounds. I even enjoyed never being cold (I was pregnant in the winter). And though the birth was no picnic (lots of labor, then an unplanned C-Section), my recovery from the C-Section was quick and the dreaded PPD never came. And my son himself? Took to nursing like a champ, never had colic, is consistently good-natured. We even took him out for movies at night until he was 7 months or so. I’ve had tremendous family and on-the-job support; while I’m working, my son is in my building at daycare and I see him all the time.

So basically, I have nothing to complain about. I know this, and truth be told, I like being a mom a lot. My son is (of course) the funniest, most touching, loveliest creature I’ve ever known.

But he’s not getting a sibling.

I come from a huge family by today’s standards- three brothers and one sister. I loved it, and I still do. As a child they were my respite, my retreat: no matter what went wrong at school or who wouldn’t play with me, there was always my family to play and talk with. Our fights weren’t much and even the nastiest only lasted a few hours – then you’d get bored and need someone to play Legos with. Nowadays, I live down the street from one brother and twenty minutes from two other siblings. I see them all the time. I bake with my nieces and nephews; they’ve taught my son some of his first words. Watching my sister with my son is incredibly life-affirming. My older brother even put me (and my husband and baby) up for a while. Almost every day, I enjoy the fruits of my parents’ decision to keep on breeding. They’ve enjoyed it too. I watched my father’s face at the last giant gathering: I can’t imagine anyone ever looking happier, Publishers Clearing House winners included. We have given my mom the unconditional love and acceptance that she’s craved her whole life.

But (sorry) my parents are also the reason I’m stopping. Having five kids made my mother pretty close to crazy. Twenty years in, she looked at me and said I’m done. I am tired of being a parent. You and your brothers and sister have taken up all of me and I have nothing left. But the thing was, she wasn’t. I was twelve, my brother and sister were ten, and the worst of parenting us was yet to come. I wish I could say my mom was just being dramatic. But I know it was true, and not just because she repeated it often. We came to overwhelm her and the effort involved in us left her – at some critical times – tired and frantic and very, very angry. And then my dad was left to care for not only his crazy children but his wife. Three years ago she bought a house across the country to winter at by herself, leaving us all (including our dad) behind. Strange but, these winters have been good for her – I think they've let her finally be her own person after so many years of being our mom.

Of course, in order to operate through this world I must, like all women, pretend I am Not In Any Way Like My Mother. But even if I didn’t drown out my father’s refrains of “you are SO much like your mother,” I’ve got my own, selfish reasons for depriving my son of the siblings that I enjoyed so much.

One – man, baby you take a lot of me. I knew it would be hard. Who doesn’t? They practically have billboards across the country that say MOTHERHOOD IS HARD and MOMS NEVER SLEEP. But the relentlessness of it is a surprise.

Two – and this is tricky – I need to do some serious, way-more-than-40-hours career stuff. I’m going to try and save the world in four easy steps, after all. And while some people could certainly do that with more than one child, I’m not even sure I can do it just with our boy.

Three – my husband. He is a wonderful guy. Smart, inspiring, creative, hilarious, loving, sweet. But he is also one of the least household-oriented people I’ve ever known. That stuff is misery to him. I don’t (usually) have a problem with this – he does a lot of other stuff, like work like a dog, do our bills, make me laugh till I snort stuff out of my nose. With one kid (or without kids), I am able to pick up the slack, and do the vast majority of the cooking/cleaning/grocery shopping kind of stuff. Two or more, it’s either me going crazy or us both going crazy from me nagging him all the time. Or our house falling down from the mountains of garbage piled up along the walls.

Four -- Because I’d like to keep on pretending I don’t have kids. While my life has changed considerably since having B., it seems to me like you have to make a lot more adjustments for #2. That’s when apartment living, small cars, public transportation, city outings, restaurants, etc. get a lot harder, if not impossible. Yes, I know I cannot continue to live my student-urban life. But at least with only one kiddy I can make a stab at attempting it a few times a month.

Will these always be enough? It’s a fairly compelling list to me. Maybe I should post it as a reminder to take those pills...

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Yeah, the second kid ends a lot of the "baby on the go" lifestyle. Suddenly you have two schedules to contend with, often meaning instead of downtime during a nap or preschool you shift from two kids time to one-on-one time.

Then again, graduating from babyhood also cramps that mobile mama style for awhile, I found. The loud toddler who wants to run around all the time and grab things can't always be taken to a restaurant. Suddenly he won't sleep in the stroller, only act sleep-deprived and crazy. People stop being tolerant of the crying and some even dare to give you a weird look for shutting them up with a boob. The 3-hour trips I once took to Target with a cuddly infant in a Bjorn or the cart turn into a mad dash with the toddler struggling against the cart restraints or dashing around the store pulling things off the shelves.

OK, sorry! I've said too much! Then they turn 2 and you can where ever again, just with tantrums.