My first pregnancy, though entirely planned and welcomed, was the most miserable time of my life. Far from feeling glowing and gorgeous, I felt like I had contracted a terrible chronic illness and counted down the days for it to end. My son had a mind of his own when it came to what I was allowed to eat, and anything not on the list would make me queasy. I was queasy pretty much all the time, come to think of it. That’s not to mention the constant need to pee, the painful twisting in my ribs, the incessant heartburn (not aided by my strict diet of ice cream and cheeseburgers), the painfully swollen feet, insomnia, hips that hurt so bad I had to grip the walls while waddling to the bathroom in my last trimester, and a delivery that left me with a third degree tear. It took almost a year for my lady bits to stop aching. And those were just the physical effects! I also experienced complete emotional chaos and crippling anxiety about impending motherhood, which wasn’t helped by a high-risk pregnancy and frequent doctor visits for which I had to travel out of town and was treated like a science project rather than a person. For the last month of my pregnancy, I planted myself on the couch every night after work with a bowl of vanilla ice cream with homemade chocolate syrup and binge-watched How to Get Away With Murder. So you can make a few deductions about my mental state.
The newborn phase might have been even worse than all of that. My husband and I vowed to never go through it again. We even went in for a vasectomy consult, but never followed through.
The upside of all the torture? I get to spend every day with my now 20-month-old son, who is my favorite person ever. He still doesn’t sleep through the night, but he has made my heart complete in a way I never knew I needed. My husband and I are filled with joy each day when he does something sweet or funny or learns something new, and we can’t wait to discover the person he becomes. He is intelligent, helpful, has a great sense of humor and loves to cuddle. At 20 months old, my son is completely mobile and the kinds of outings that are impossible with a newborn are now enjoyable as a family. He has developed the independence to be able to entertain himself while I cook a meal for all of us, or finally get a much-needed shower. We are finally getting a taste of freedom from the baby phase, and I must say it’s very sweet.
On the other hand, now that he’s a little older, I can’t help but reconsider whether I am willing to deprive him of the precious experience of having a sibling. I love him more fiercely than I ever thought possible, and I want to give him everything in the world. Does “everything” include a brother or sister? Will he be lonely twenty years from now and wish he had memories of sharing childhood hijinks with a pal? Or would adding another member completely destroy the beautiful family dynamic we already have?
It’s not an easy decision, but thankfully we don’t have to make it right now. While my biological clock is ticking and I am very much aware of the risks associated with pregnancy after age 35, I turned 32 just last week. And I recently found this article, which states that 34 is the perfect age to have a baby. That means I have at least another year to try to forget how horrible pregnancy is, because I think I would suck it up and go through all of the pain and misery again if I knew that a sibling would make my son happier in the long run. However, I also don’t want to ruin his babyhood by dumping a new baby into the mix when he still really needs me. And as it turns out, children spaced about four years apart are happiest. That degree of spacing allows both kids to have a true bonding period with their mother, and also gives mom enough of a breather to recover both mentally and physically between births.
So for now, my answer to whether to have a second child is to put off the decision for a later date. When I have an independent preschooler running around (who is hopefully potty-trained), I might just decide I’m willing to take the plunge back into nausea and ice cream. Or maybe I’ll see how happy and well-adjusted he is and realize the three of us are a perfect family just as we are.