Saturday, September 18, 2010

Never Look Back

Jo wrote this really fantastic post about wrestling with the decision of having more children. In addition to all the logistical and emotional wrangling there was also a really interesting twist involving how changing the punctuation of "No more, kids" several times can easily sum up the entire thought process.

I have had a lot of similar thoughts over the last month or two. My pregnancies are miserable. They are not dangerous or high risk to anyone, I don't find it especially challenging to become pregnant, the birth process is fairly straightforward and I recover as well and as quickly as could be expected but the pregnancy itself is a long, forced march through just about every really annoying pregnancy symptom What To Expect might put on offer. In short, if I really wanted to, I could easily pull a Dugger and pop out a healthy baby every 18 months or so but I wouldn't be all that pleasant to live with. By my 3rd month of pregnancy this last time, I vowed I would never do this again. But now, the fuzzy haze is descending and I keep wondering if we shouldn't have just one more baby (friends have assured me this is the best way to conceive far sooner than you planned and with twins to boot). I feel a twinge every time I know I will be seeing a first for the last time- Noah started smiling about a week ago. It's mostly at lights and fans but every once in a while I get a gummy grin as well. There is also the existential crisis of facing your mortality via leaving a stage of life behind if I close the door on childbearing.

I can see that things really do get a little easier once you get over the hump of 2 children. The learning curve with Charlie was hella steep. While Megan was a slightly easier baby, we didn't do ourselves any favors by spacing the children 20 months apart (a spacing I now adore but the first year is a humdinger). Noah shares a number of the characteristics of both children that made them challenging but we know a lot more strategies for coping with them now. Noah is generally happy only when being held. Since we've been doing this for a while, we now have 4 baby carriers and are well versed in their use. We gotten the hang of the evening baby handoff and I've learned how to do the essentials to keep the household running in the 1.5 hours I have to cram it all in (as well as anything I might need to do for myself).

We've hit the point in parenting where we simply do what works. Noah will only sleep at night if he is nestled into the crook of my neck so we co-sleep. There is no parenting philosophy or theory behind the decision beyond the fact that we have to be rested enough to care for two other children in the morning. Noah's eating habits are erratic. Sometimes he goes several hours and sometimes barely hits the hour mark. Happily, after nursing 2 other children my milk is plentiful, my let down fast, and my apprehension at nursing in public non-existent. I can adapt to what he needs much more easily than I could with Charlie, when I was chained to the couch for hours at a time and I'm inclined to simply feed him instead of worrying about hind milk and fore milk, which side we did last, etc. The important elements of breastfeeding are pretty automatic at this point and I know what needn't be worried about. In short, I can see how families with 5 and 6 children can add another child with minimal fuss. At the same time, I'm not sure I want to have 5 children simply because it will make the 6th so much easier!

I have this twisted logic that says that if I enjoy my children and motherhood in general so much; if I really loved children, I should just keep having them. After all, if I liked them so much and enjoyed things so much, why wouldn't I want MORE? I know that it doesn't actually work that way. I know that simply having more siblings doesn't make an automatic big, happy, Weasley family. I know that I have gotten to a point where, for me, with my particular quirks and foibles and my tendency to have the rather high maintenance (come by honestly!) children, 3 is probably my upper limit. I know that I do love them beyond reason, smile daily at the many wonderful little things that happen everyday and adore listening to their interactions. I know that I show my children that I do love them and motherhood and wiping tiny heinies by doing it, every day, every night, every week. I know that having another child would prove nothing other than that I apparently never want to sleep for 6 hours in a row again. I know that having another child would likely do the opposite of showing my current children how much I love them- I would be stretched slightly thinner, wound slightly tighter, have sightly less in my already slightly anemic store of patience. With another child, there would be yet another 6 months of no mommy cooking, another round of "not while I nurse/rock/bounce/soothe/cry with the baby," another round of maybe once I've managed to get a little sleep. I know that I can love my children and being their mother without always enjoying the nitty gritty. But, there is always a nagging in the back of my mind saying that "if I really loved them..."

I keep reminding myself that I never tend to like to look back. I had no significant wish to go to my high school or college reunions other than to fulfill passing curiosity. I look back on the passing of Charlie's infancy with nothing but relief. I seldom re-visit my home town. I'm one of those people who mostly likes to look ahead. I have various mementos and reminders but I appalled my mother in law by not saving baby teeth or first curls and I am a disaster at scrapbooking. I am making a conscious effort to spend more time experiencing the present and letting the future sort itself out. Having another baby would be many things but a big one would be clinging to a present that is quickly becoming a past and that just isn't the way I tend to operate. Once I've said "good bye," I prefer to quickly turn to the next thing. I hope I can remember that I can have an identity beyond my fertility. If I can just remember that there are no motherhood merit badges. I hope I can simply remind myself that I don't need to prove to anyone that I love my children. I hope I can simply remember all this the next time I think "No more kids?"

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