“We’re done” he tells people, “I mean, we have one of each. If there was a third kind then maybe we’d go for another one. We’ve got a son and a daughter and they’re both healthy. What more could you ask for?” Sometimes when he tells people this (often perfect strangers) he’ll enthusiastically add “Time to get the big V” using his hands like scissors to playfully ‘air snip’ at his crotch.
And he’s correct. We have one of each. They are both fantastic and healthy, and I’m not getting any younger. These facts coupled with a friend’s baby being diagnosed with a terminal illness when our daughter was six months old pretty much sealed the deal for us. We’re done.
But this idea, this thought of “being done” is just a bit too much for me. So I tell him, “Stop telling people we’re done.”
“But we are” he says.
“Yes, but what if we changed our minds. All these people you’ve told would think we didn’t really want another baby.”
“I don’t want another baby” he says.
This is where I start to feel irritated and resentful of his assuredness. I too am 95% sure but there’s something about his absolute ‘sureness’ that makes me unsure.
So one day while driving in the car I say, “Hey, please stop telling everyone we don’t want anymore children.” Sensing that he thinks I’m trying to tell him I want another baby I have to quickly add, “Look I’m not saying I want more kids. I’m 95% sure I don’t want anymore kids. I’m just saying, there’s no rush to make any permanent decision. It’s just that as a woman, well, being able to have children, to still be young enough to be fertile, to give birth, to be the mother of a nursling. It just feels like once I close the door on all that, I close the door on being young. The next thing you know you’re going through menopause. This society totally devalues “old women.” This baby thing, for me is all wrapped up in my mortality. And for as much as I complain about what a pain in the ass it can be to care for small children all day, what assholes preschoolers can be, this is the most fulfilled I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I’ve never been this happy. I truly really enjoy being a mother.”
He takes it in. We continue on our errands. We never talk about it again.
A few weeks later we spend the night in a hotel without the kids for the first time since our daughter was born. We drink cocktails. We spend $186 on a steak dinner at 10 o’clock at night. He jokes with the waiter about how he’s going to get a vasectomy. We go back to the hotel and have sex while the snow falls outside. We wake up feeling hung-over and old. We go to brunch.
And then over eggs Benedict he says, “So I’ve been thinking about it and I’d love to have more children, but you realize if we do that you’d probably never go back to work again. You’ll never have a career.”
I’m sure we had a coherent conversation that followed about the pros and cons of having more children. CHILDREN! Plural. But as I sit here a month later I can’t remember what we discussed. And now that having a big family has been presented as an option, essentially being a stay-at-home-mom (a housewife, a homemaker, whatever you want to call it) forever seems kind of appealing.
Dare I admit it?
I was once destined for a PhD in literature. Headed for a career as a college professor. I had dreams of studying 20th Century American Lit at Tufts. Could I really be happy as a housewife? Is that all I would be? Would there be resentment and feelings of unfulfilled potential? And even if I was content, do I want the world to see me as just another suburban, white woman in a minivan?
Days and days go by and it consumes me. It is practically all I can think about. I look at my children and feel security in the idea of having more of them. It wraps around me like a warm winter coat. As though having more would some how safe guard my heart. As if I would have spare children incase the worst were ever to happen. But this is not how love works. You don’t simply divide your love between your children; as though you have a finite amount to dole out in equal percentages. It is not this way. Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies. You’re only opening yourself up to more heartache. Instead of two little people walking around with your heart in their pocket there are now three, or four, or five.
I talk to a friend. I make a pros/cons list, which of course is of no help for these sorts of life decisions. I know having more would be irrational, but choosing to have children is never a rational decision. I search Google.
I try to give myself a year to not think about it. “Just wait until Lids is two” I tell myself.
But my heart. My heart has other ideas . . .
**Endnote: I wrote this nearly a year ago. A few months back I made the definitive statement that I was done. Guess who came home from work the next day saying he wants another kid? The indecision continues…