“So when are you having another one?”
“It must be time to give [insert child’s name] a brother or sister!”
“Now you just need a [insert opposite sex of what your child is].
I know they mean well. The people who ask, “So when are you having another one?” They don’t see the knife turn a little more. They don’t know. It’s not that I don’t want “another one.” I do. I do with every fiber of my being.
In fact, we did try for another baby. Our daughter was almost eighteen months old. It was nine months past when I had told my husband I would entertain the idea of a second child. I jokingly told him it takes nine months to make a baby, please give me at least nine months to recover. I made the appointment with my midwife to have my IUD removed.
We had a conversation about another pregnancy. Carrying my daughter to term was not exactly a walk in the park. We discussed all the details, the past infertility, the miscarriages, and my mental state. Was I really ready to face the possibility of another loss? If we ended up using infertility treatments, there was the possibility of multiples. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I was ready mentally, but I was willing to take a chance.
My daughter was simply amazing. What would a second child look like? What would they be like? The thought thrilled me.
Two months after taking steps to try to conceive, my husband was laid off. This was obviously not the best time to expand our family. I stomped back to the doctor’s office, where I found that our insurance policy had changed. The IUD was no longer an option. We were young, in our twenties, we had time. Then there was that pesky little thing called life.
It was my therapist who brought it to my attention: I was not a new parent anymore. My daughter was now twenty months old, and I should not still feel like I did in those first few weeks.
The diagnoses started piling up. The medications I was taking in order to keep working and parenting were not conducive to a pregnancy. I asked my rheumatologist point blank about a second pregnancy. He said it was possible. He also said, with my past pregnancy history and my current issues, he wouldn’t advise it.
I told myself I was okay with not having another kid.
I think at one point I actually believed it.
When my friend had her first child, I was no longer working. My daughter was now seven years old and in school. It was the perfect fit for me to babysit. Part of convincing myself I didn’t want another one was remembering the worst parts. I had not enjoyed feeding my daughter baby food. My daughter was a very hands-on eater. She would literally spit the spoonful out and play with it, then lick it off her fingers. It was cute to watch, but it made feeding times much longer. Watching my friend’s daughter made me realize how independent my own daughter had become, and that I now had a bit more patience.
The “baby ache” had been awakened.
Everyone talks about the ticking of the biological clock. I guess I had assumed that after having a child, the ticking wouldn’t bother me. It would be silenced no longer. In fact, it suddenly seemed louder. Several friends were having their second, third, even fourth child. The ticking got louder. The biological clock doesn’t care about finances or what your health status is. It just ticks.
I realize my health issues and our finances are big hindrances. Even if finances weren’t an issue, there’s my health. It would be detrimental to my health to have another pregnancy, and it’s hard being a parent with chronic illnesses. I am by far not the parent I had planned to be.
I realized I was experiencing a different type of grief. It’s a quiet grief. It’s a subtle grief. One that people don’t really want to hear about. Truthfully, it’s not something I’m comfortable talking about. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Asking when the next one is coming is just as bad as asking, “Are you done yet?” Maybe it’s time we start thinking more before speaking.
I’m getting closer to accepting I will only have one child. My daughter is nine years old now. It would be like starting over at this point. I understand that. Actually, I understand now what I would be getting into more than I did when I was younger.
I’m still trying to find my peace with it. For now, I’m smothering my friends’ babies in love and attention. The beauty is, I get to hand them back when an unpleasant tasks arrives. Blown-out poopy diapers can joyfully be handed to the mother, with a laugh and an “I understand.”
Erin Fangboner lives with chronic illnesses while also being a parent and a wife. She worked in early childhood education and misdemeanor probation until it became too much two years ago. She has been trying to find her way back since, in part through writing on her blog, Chronically Sick Manic Mother.
Photo credit: Christina Rutz