This is a post I’ve been sitting on for some time. Originally, I had decided not to write it. It was too personal, and I hadn’t sorted through all the many, many thoughts I had on the subject. Also, I try not to be too serious here. This blog is a fun outlet for me, and writing about serious topics is not that. But, it is an outlet, meaning “a means by which something is released”. Sometimes taking some burdensome stuff that’s crammed “in” and putting it “out” can not only be cathartic but can provide new perspective. Also, I think this post is clogging up the post-idea pipes, preventing more jovial fare from getting through.
When Gill and I first married, we were in no hurry to have children. We wanted to take our time and enjoy being newlyweds. Also, having kids was a new frontier and a scary place. The Langstons avoid both of those like the plague. So, we enjoyed and evaded for five years. Around the fourth year, I started to wonder what it would be like to be a mother. To have a baby. I didn’t have “baby fever” or an overwhelming need to reproduce. I just wondered. Was curious. I imagined what our baby would look like and what he or she would bring to our lives. I thought maybe I would enjoy being a mom. Maybe I would even be good at it. Slowly, Gill and I started seriously discussing it. The more we discussed it, the more I started to want it. Eventually, we were both ready. We decided to start trying in August. We figured September or maybe by Christmas.
Bam. Pregnant. Holy moly.
When Evie was born, she changed everything. For the first time in our lives, we really and truly put someone else ahead of ourselves. Not a thought passed through our brains that didn’t have Evie hitched on the back for a ride along. Now, I can’t imagine life without her. I mean that literally. I can not remember what my life was like before her. What did I do with my time? What did I think about? How did I see the rest of my life? What was I as a person like? And she settled herself so completely into every corner of my life, wrapped herself so firmly around who I am and filled me up in a way that made me wonder how I ever felt whole without her.
I felt complete. Our family felt complete. We didn’t feel the need for anything else, including more children.
And then the questions started. When are you gonna have another? Don’t you want another? What about a sibling for Eve?
I could answer the first two questions easily enough: We’re not. No, we don’t. It’s the third question that gets me. And has been getting me for some time now.
There are many nooks and crannies to this issue for me, lots of different ingredients to the problem all boiling around in a huge pot of indecision. But when all those ingredients are reduced down, one question keeps bubbling to the surface: How can I deny my daughter something that I can obviously successfully provide and that I value so much in my own life? How can I do that to someone whose happiness is my happiness?
I’ve searched deep within my heart, trying to determine if I want another child. I’ve discovered there’s a lot of societal pressure lurking in that search. Why wouldn’t you want another child if you could have one? You’re a mother now, and every mother wants more children. What’s wrong with you? How can you be so selfish as to deny your child a sibling? Not only will your only child be spoiled, self-centered and narcissistic, but what happens when you and your husband are gone? Your child will not only have to handle your deaths without any siblings to lean on, but then she’ll be all alone forever? How can you do that to her? And look at the relationship you have with your own sisters! Don’t you want that most special of bonds for your child, you selfish, selfish woman?
Well, shit. Okay, okay. I get it. Not having at least two children is selfish. Point made, society!
Oftentimes I’m told, “You’re such a good mom. It’d be a shame for you not to share that with another child.” I appreciate that well-meant comment, and you can go ahead and keep the “good mom” shit comin’ because I thrive on constant validation like it was air, friends. But I just don’t get the logic there. How does my good momness warrant my having another child? What’s wrong with being a good mom to just one child by choice? Also, what if I’m a good mom because I do have only one child? At 35, I’ve learned some things about myself, and one of the things I’ve learned is that I’m a person that needs quiet and calm and order to be my best self. Having just one child goes a long way toward achieving all of these. And isn’t my best self the most important thing I can give any children I have?
Still, I kept searching for any desire I might have for another child. There must be something there. I tested myself. How would I feel if tomorrow I found out I couldn’t get pregnant, that this whole ordeal was now a non-issue?
Readers, I’ve kept my honest answer to that question to myself for a long time. I feel ashamed of it because so many, many couples have been told this very thing, resulting in crushing devastation and supreme sorrow. But the truth is, if I was told that, if the decision was just taken out of my hands all together, I would feel relieved.
While we’re talking about things I’ve admitted are true, let’s go ahead and address the sibling issue. You know how it feels when you know something is true? That despite all the Internet searches and wringing of hands, that you’ve realized a truism for yourself that clicks into place like a locked door and doesn’t come unlocked despite all the contrary voices ringing in your head? Here’s one: A child should only be had if it is wanted for its own sake, not merely as a sibling for an existing child. Folks, this truth is so deep in my bones that it feels like it was put there.
So, if I put my ashamed relief and my bone-deep truism together, I have my answer. Maybe. I guess.
You may be wondering what my husband has to say about all this. From the moment we met, Gill has always wanted me to have what makes me happy. Even if he doesn’t want what I want, he’s always been willing to at least discuss it until we can meet in a place in which we are both not unhappy. I believe that’s called compromise. I’ve asked Gill if he wants more children, and he said he’s satisfied with what we have. But he’d be willing to discuss it if I decided I felt differently.
You may be wondering what Evie has to say about all this. Because you know me, dear readers, you know I’ve tried to have a serious discussion about this with a four-year-old. Bless my heart. When I brought it up the first time (okay, several serious discussions), Evie said she wanted a sister. She really, really did, Mom. I told her I couldn’t guarantee a sister, and she might have a brother. Evie wanted no part of that. End of discussion.
Other than when I bring it up, Evie doesn’t really talk about having a sibling. She’s always really sweet and playful with her friends’ siblings (which throws my conflicted ass into a tailspin of ambivalence every. damn. time.), and there’s no denying she’s a very social child. But, at the end of the day, she seems to find comfort in coming home to a quiet house where it’s just she and her mommy and daddy. I can’t tell you how I know that, I just feel it’s so, which happens to me a lot since knowing Evie.
You can probably tell from the length of this post that someone’s been to Rumination Town. I have a condo there, actually. And I’ve talked almost every person I know to death about this. Half of my friends reading this post are thinking, “Wait, I thought you decided you didn’t any more kids!””, while the other half are thinking, “Wait, I thought you decided you did want more kids!”, and they’re all thinking, “Jeezum crow, lady, you flip-flop more than 10 politicians on a pancake griddle!”
The decision not to have any more kids may be a mistake. If it is, it’s a well thought out mistake. But, hey, I could get lucky. I had a visit from the Perspective Fairy the other day who banged on the top of my head with her wand and hollered, “Hey, Captain Broods-a-lot! Did it ever occur to you that Evie may have a perfectly happy life in spite of not having a sibling? That maybe one day she may understand your decision? That she may want you to have what makes you happy, too?” No, that had not as of yet occurred to me, Perspective Fairy. Now get the hell out of my car.
Also, there was this discussion:
Me: Evie, are you sure you don’t want a sister that lives at your house?
Evie: I’m sure, Mom.
Me: (dubiously) Oookaaay.
Evie: I’m sure, Mom! I’m really sure! Why do you keep asking me that?
Me: I just worry, Evie.
Evie: Why do you worry?
Gill: ‘Cause that’s what mommies do, baby.
My friend Kelly had this advice to give: “Just keep in mind, whatever decision you make, everything will be fine.”
Sometimes the simplest advice is the best.