One and TBD: Second Thoughts on a Second Child

I remember it was morning. Or, I think it was morning. Was it morning?  Time is a very fluid and abstract concept during those early days of motherhood. Nights and days sort of spill unto each other. The passing hours, minutes, and seconds seem to tumble into one giant melting pot, boiling them down to utter irrelevance.


At any rate, I’m pretty sure it was morning.


I was waiting in the lobby at my son’s pediatrician’s office. The unforgiving lights overhead prodded my headache like bulbous bullies, taunting me with their garish luminescence. Beside my feet was my son—not even two weeks old. He was sleeping soundly, of course, the way most newborns do—the very sight of which made me salivate with envy. Sleep was gradually becoming a foreign concept to me, or one doled out in small, sporadic morsels—30 minutes here, 60 minutes there.


As I sat there envying my son’s slumber, another mother walked into the lobby. In one hand she gripped the car seat that nestled her own newborn child, and in the other she held onto her little girl—three years old perhaps, at the very most.


With my tired, burning eyes (which now sported craters beneath them), I analyzed her look and movements. She appeared tired, yes—but not distraught or disheveled. She even managed to smile and read a book to her daughter while rocking the car seat with her foot.


I studied her in anthropological amazement. How does she do it? I wondered. How does she take care of her newborn while ALSO caring for her older child? I quickly concluded she’s either Superwoman, or insane. (I would later learn that most mothers are actually both.)


After watching her, I felt stupid and ashamed. There I was, six days in, ready to wave my white flag at any moment. I had nursing pads in my bra, soaking up my leaky nipples; an enormous maxi pad in my granny panties, soaking up blood and god knows what else from down below; and a big box of tissues in case I burst into tears at any moment (which I was known to do those early weeks).  Basically, I was leaking from every orifice. Sometimes I wondered if my brain was leaking, too—my sanity slowly unspooling from my head. I felt like big, sloppy mess. And that fierce, undeniable love that I now have for my son was still taking form. Most of the time my feelings toward him vacillated from mild vexation to modest affection.


At the time, I felt completely certain that my son would be an only child. I knew I would probably grow to love him, and I could potentially keep him alive for the next 18 years. But a second child? No way. Nope. This birth canal was now closed for business, thank you very much.


And yet here I sit, typing this post.


Maybe it’s defensive amnesia of those early months—sort of an evolutionary erasure of memories to preserve our species—or maybe it’s simply the salve of time and experience, how they both seem to soften the sting of broken hearts, bones, and now apparently, new moms. Whatever the reason, here I am, two and a half years later, genuinely contemplating the thought of a second child.


Am I ready? I don’t know. Do I want to? Maybe. Yes. I think so.


To be honest, I don’t have an answer. But, I do know this: I am stronger, and more alive, than I ever thought I could be. Motherhood turns women into warriors. The battle scars are many—ay, but so are the rewards. You get screamed at, shit on, puked on and pinched (and that’s just before breakfast). But damn, those big brown eyes. And that dimpled smile. The cadence of his laugh and the scent of his chocolate brown hair. The way his limbs fold into mine when he’s tired or sick and needs snuggles from mommy. Every day is a roller coaster of emotions and experiences, but that view from the top? Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking.

And if I have managed to find the strength to not only raise one child, but also revel and relish its many gifts, then having a second child would be more than a choice. It would be an honor. And a blessing. I’m not sure what my body, or my God, has in store for my family. But if a second child is part of the plan, then bring on the spit-up and stretch marks. 🙂

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