I was at a training for work last week and the presenter went on a long tangent about how the word “ambivalence” is often used incorrectly. It doesn’t mean feeling, “eh, I could go either way”. Instead it’s about having intense and genuine feelings on both sides of an issue.
And that’s how I feel about the idea of having a second kid.
The first few months of life with Tad were so hard. Moments of intense joy, but also moments of intensely wanting to throw the baby out the window. Moments of intense grief at how much our lives had changed. This difficulty was a surprise to me. Of course I expected the newborn period to be hard. But somehow I just wasn’t prepared for how hard it turned out to be. I don’t know if other people tried to tell me about it or not. I probably wouldn’t have listened. I’m someone who has gotten through lots of parts of my life fairly easily. My brain happens to do well with standardized tests and following rules and all of the other things needed to do well in school. I come from a background with a lot of privilege (and all of my complicated feelings about that are a whole ‘nother post). So I’m used to things that were hard for other people coming relatively easily for me. I think I imagined that having a newborn would be like that–hard, challenging at times, but not overwhelmingly intense.
One of the ways I made those first few months with Tad harder on myself (go me!) was thinking about how hard it would be to go through this again, with a second kid. It just seemed impossible that we would put ourselves through that again, and do it on purpose this time! Roo and I had always imagined ourselves a family of four, but maybe that just wasn’t going to work.
Roo and I have continued to ponder the idea of a second kid. I feel so torn. On the one hand, we love Tad to the moon and back and think about how wonderful it would be to have that kind of relationship with another little person. And we want Tad to have a sibling–someone at whom he can roll his eyes when his moms burst into song in the grocery store and with whom he can make decisions about putting us in a nursing home. But the idea of doing the newborn period all over again seems too hard, too much to ask of ourselves. And yet, it would be so sad to not experience the joy of baby giggles in our house again. But wouldn’t it be even harder to take care of an infant this time, given that we would also have a toddler who needs our time and attention? But maybe some things would be easier the second time around because we at least know a little about what to expect and have a few tricks up our sleeves? But even if we survive those first few months, do we have the resources (financial, emotional, time) to devote to a second kid? Back and forth and back and forth we go.
Somehow, in the past six months or so, the balance of these feelings has shifted. Part of it, I know, is that the intensity of those early memories has faded. I remember that things were really hard, but the memories are hazy, more like a story that I have read rather than the visceral pain/frustration/grief that I felt initially. Part of it is that Tad is a little more independent, demands a little less of us and our lives have settled into a more manageable routine.
But mostly we just keep coming back to the sense that we will be really sad if we don’t do this. Even knowing something of what we’re in for this time.
I placed an order for sperm yesterday.