Pregnancy and motherhood brought with them many unexpected thoughts and surprising ponderings, like choosing to keep the gender of our baby a surprise until the birth. I just wanted to keep every step as natural as possible; meaning minimal intervention and letting nature take its course. To me, finding the gender from a medical device felt artificial and unromantic but I wasn’t confident I’d have the patience to wait 9 months either. Then my husband and I had a thoughtful conversation and I didn’t want to know anymore, I wanted to wait. He shared with me that he didn’t want to have any preconceived notions about the baby based on gender; that wasn’t fair to the baby. He wanted to have a clear slate, a fresh start from the moment he met him|her. I had never thought of it this way and this notion hit home hard. I didn’t want to prepare his|her room (not that we did much to the nursery), buy his|her clothes, and inadvertently, get attached to the idea of him|her I created in my mind. I, too, wanted to start completely fresh when I met him|her, so waiting wasn’t hard at all; I felt it was the only right thing to do. Plus, it was fun and kind of poetic to keep it a surprise.
Being the youngest of 3, I often imagined having 3 kids, too, but I knew that would be difficult in more ways than one; so as a convenient compromise, in my mind, I always wanted at least 2 kids. This was before I had Mina. Now, I’m not so clear. A part of me wants another child, to experience one final time the phenomenal feeling of carrying another life in my womb, and most importantly for Mina to grow up with a sibling; but I’m realizing that it’s not that simple, it’s far more complicated a reality with layers of convoluted thoughts, desires, and doubts. At least for me. So I needed time to unravel and examine the intricate mess in my mind.
Before having Mina, all I had was my imaginary world, those hopes and dreams I’d carried for years. Simply an abstraction. After having Mina, everything is real, everything is consequential. Completely concrete. So there’s this other part of me that is all too aware of the difficulties, challenges, responsibilities, and risks that come with having another child. Some days, I feel adamant that Mina should have a sibling. Other days, I feel content with Mina being our only child. Then other days, I just feel really sad.
Then, I had an aha moment. It dawned on me that I need to stop forcing my desires from an imaginary context onto this current reality. My desire to have 2 or more children existed only in my mind, without any context, but I was free to dream in my mind. It’s different now. This is not a dream, we exist; and in this existence, there are certain truths I need to face and embrace.
Truth #1, our financial reality. I want to be able to offer Mina all that she needs (and some that she wants). I don’t think we’d be able to do that for Mina and another child. My heart aches just to imagine having to say no to something she wants to do like taking ballet or piano lessons. If we can’t live comfortably as a bigger family, if we have to struggle month to month, counting the pennies, then I don’t know…I don’t know if I could be truly happy.
Truth #2, my husband’s age. He’s in his early 50’s and with that comes higher risks for complications with his health and the health of our next baby. He’s also had 2 kids from his previous marriage (they’re both in college now) so Mina’s not the only child for him. Deep down, maybe he doesn’t want another child. Maybe it’s unfair for me to force this desire onto him. I also have to face the possibility of raising Mina and another child all on my own. This thought scares me.
Truth #3, my age. After 35, risks for genetic mutations increase exponentially (for both men and women). If I’m going to have another baby, I have to be ready to face this reality. It may be a very small percentage, but that possibility still exists and to disregard or ignore this elephant in the room would be irresponsible and unthoughtful. If it happens and I’m not ready or able to accept it, then who do I have to blame but myself?
Truth #4, my doubts about being as good a mother when raising not one but two kids. Honestly, I’m not confident I can be as patient and compassionate with 2 little ones (I already feel my patience being tested with Mina alone).
“Oh, everything will be just fine!” “Everything will work out, don’t worry!” So easy for people to say and I know they mean well but when everything is not fine or everything doesn’t work out, then what? We’re the ones living our own reality; nobody else. To think that everything will be ok and magically work out, I think is naive and irresponsible. I know this is a very personal decision, a decision I need to make together with my husband, and nobody else can make it for me. I just wanted to share.
In the end, I recognized that being stubbornly attached to my desires was not only immature but also probably unhealthy; unwilling to let go of the fictional future I longed for, created, and invested in over many years, I was simply fleeing from reality. This moment is all that truly exists, is all that I have. I needed to take a hard look at this context, my reality, and reassess what I really want for Mina, for me, and above all for us as a family, because our happiness depends on it. I know we can’t have it all. Everything is a give and take. If I want another child, I have to be willing to take risks, face challenges, and make sacrifices as well as compromises. How badly do I want a second child? Is it solely for Mina to have a sibling in her life when we’re gone? Then, aren’t her half-siblings not enough? What am I willing to give up for a second child?
I never thought I’d be in this position to decide between onlies or siblings. Before Mina, having an only child was out of the question for me, but as Pema Chödrön says, “This very moment is the perfect teacher,” so I need to listen, pay attention, take notes, and learn. I don’t have an answer yet; all I know is that I never want to regret this decision we’re going to make, so we’ll take our time, turn over every stone, ask questions, wander and wonder, until we can say we know what we want.