My daughter Sabrina, at 16 months, is so stinking much fun right now. I am loving this age. Yes, she has terrible two tendencies already, stamping her feet and shaking her head no to assert her opinions, but she is growing and changing with every second that passes by. Every day is a new adventure and I love sitting back and letting her grow into whoever it is that she is going to turn into as she grows older and more independent.
Her independence is as endearing as it is frustrating. Though I get irritated when she arches her back and grunts her displeasure with different situations, I also remember that this is the daughter I wanted. One who thinks for herself, one who isn't afraid to speak (grunt, shriek, scream, etc) her mind. One who would rather do something for herself than have it done for her. And while some things that she'd like to do just aren't feasible at her age, I am insanely proud of her for wanting to do them.
My parenting journey hasn't always brought me this much joy, to be honest. It has been a long, hard battle to this point of comfort and enjoyment. I was ill prepared for the changes that motherhood brought. I thought I was mentally (and physically) prepared, but that was far from the truth. While many women have traumatic birth stories, Sabrina's birth was mostly comfortable, about 1 hour of excruciating hip pain, and a begged for c-section which ended a long 17 hour labor. That part I'd do over again in a minute. I had a couple rough days after my c-section, but once I was up and walking around and gaining my strength back, my recovery really was smooth sailing. Getting my staples out was scary and stressful, but the truth is I didn't feel a thing. They were out before I even had time to squirm. Easy peasy, right?
Sabrina is heading towards that 18 month point at which most couples start discussing planning for baby #2. Or baby #2, child # 3 in our case, as I have an almost 16 year old stepdaughter, my husband's daughter from his first marriage. The thought of having another baby crosses my mind each and every day, for one reason or another. But the truth of the matter is, I don't know if I want to.
I'm sure there is a collective gasp coming from society at large right now. How dare you not be chomping at the bit to have another baby? That's what you do in today's society! You have a baby, then 2-3 years later you have another one. It's just what you do. Well, guess what. I'm not feeling it at this moment in my life. So why do I feel a huge, overwhelming sense of guilt about that? Why do I feel like I am less of a mother because I am not charging headfirst into baby #2?
I've blogged before about most of the reasons that I am not rushing to have another baby. This isn't new territory. But what I haven't blogged about is the crushing guilt that goes along with it.
First off, I was not someone who loved being pregnant. While my pregnancy was pretty low-key, I slept horribly almost the entire time (you'd think that would have prepared me for the sleep deprivation to follow!), had terrible issues with heartburn, and just generally was uncomfortable. I had no pregnancy glow about me. I was simply just a woman who wanted to have a baby, and pregnancy was a means to an end. People would ask me "Don't you just love being pregnant?!" to which I would snort and reply with some sarcastic comment to signify that NO I did not LOVE being pregnant. I couldn't wait to NOT be pregnant, as a matter of fact, and I can't say that I have ever really missed that feeling since Sabrina was born. I am happy to see my feet, to be able to paint my own toenails, and to down caffeine by the gallon if I so desire without feeling guilty or being judged.
Already mentioned how birth was no big thing for me, and honestly wouldn't be moving forward. My doctor mentioned a VBAC to me, but if I ever do decide to hop on the mommy train again, it would be on a one way track to the operating room for a scheduled repeat c-section. Why mess with what already has worked? I don't know that I would elect for major surgery, but since I already had to with not much of a choice, and I know what to expect, I'll pass on the sitz baths and the fear of using the bathroom in favor of a sore abdomen and temporary lifting restrictions. Judge me if you like, but I have NO guilt about that part of this conundrum I find myself in. C section or bust.
But seriously, this is the point in this story where things get dicey. Pregnancy, eh. Birth, whatever, I'll deal. The aftermath of birth, life with a newborn, AGAIN? That's where I have my biggest dilemma. Newborn phase. Up every 2-3 hours. While recovering from a c section. Only this time, WITH A TODDLER! Oh my. It gives me palpitations.
My Sabrina wasn't and isn't a good sleeper. Still, at 16 months old, she gets up at least once at night. A vast improvement from the innumerable sleep issues we've overcome in her life, which my sanity and I are immeasurably grateful for. But still. I've had a tough track record with her thus far, generally only getting 2 hours of sleep at a time between feedings in the early months, and with her getting up twice at night until not that long ago. Forgive me if I'm a little gun shy about going down that path again. I never again will question why sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic. I would have given any military secrets I had, along with my left and my right arm, for a good night's sleep. With Sabrina, I didn't know what I didn't know. But now, I KNOW. I know what I'd be in for. Yes I survived it once, but at some points barely.
My biggest and most real fear in having a second baby is opening myself up to the possibility of having postpartum depression. Again. For the first 3 months of my daughter's life, maybe more, I lived in some sort of drug-like fog. I felt everything and nothing all at the same time. I felt more like a bystander in my life than a participant. I had a physical, visceral fear of nighttime. Because nighttime brought the hardest hours of the day for me, the hours from 12-6 when my saint of a husband went to bed and I was left on my own with a baby that they told me was mine but I had very little attachment to. This baby that ate and cried (a lot) and slept (a little). This baby that I knew I loved somewhere deep inside of me but that I more often than not felt annoyed with. What the hell kind of a mother was I? One that was just going through the motions, I can safely say now on the outside of my fog. One that knew what she was supposed to do and did it, but not because of some deep seeded motherly instinct. My husband, my parents, they tried to pull me from my fog, but the truth was I just had to heal, whatever that meant. Time, I think, was the healer. It healed my body, healed my hormones, and eventually, after a long while, started to heal my mind. But there were days that were so dark, so unhappy, so scary, that I wasn't sure how I was going to make it.
There's no guarantee it would happen to me again. But there's also no guarantee that it wouldn't. Only this time, it wouldn't affect just me and the new baby, but also my Sabrina. My Sabrina that has already been negatively impacted by her mother's battle with postpartum depression once in her short life. Could I really do that do her again?
I keep telling myself that everyone seems to have a second baby. It can't be that hard, can it? Every day I see stories in my Facebook feed about friends of mine with one baby adding to their family with baby # 2 on the way. I am honestly overjoyed for them. I know that having a sibling adds something to a child's life. Teaches them to share, teaches them that sometimes others come first, gives them their first friend. But right now, I am not in a place where I am ready to make that decision for our family.
There are many practical implications to the decision to have a second baby. We technically do have a fourth bedroom that we could turn into a nursery, but it has significant drawbacks. It is a tiny little room that has no heating or cooling vent in it. In the winter, it wouldn't be hard to run a little space heater in there; in fact, we still use a space heater in Sabrina's room and it works just fine. But cooling the room is a more difficult feat. It has one mini-window that cannot hold a window air conditioner. So in the heat of the summer, I honestly do not know how that room would be temperature controlled. Another downside is that room happens to share a wall with my teenage stepdaughter's room. Our house is old, has little insulation, and certainly isn't sound dampening. A teenager and a newborn aren't really meant to share close quarters like that, as teenagers are up til all hours in their rooms and newborns are doing the same... in far different ways. I just don't see that dynamic playing out well. Finally, turning that room into a nursery takes away our guest room, which is used when my parents come to visit but mostly is used as my dog's room. Yes, Baby has her own room and sleeps on the bed in there every night. Previously she slept in the bed in Sabrina's room. She obviously made the move to the guest bedroom when that room turned into a nursery. If our guest room were a nursery, she'd be out of luck, and so would I, as my dog does not do well with change. She'd be forced to sleep downstairs, which I don't really see going over too well.
We often go to Pittsburgh to spend time with my parents there, visit extended family, and watch our beloved Steelers and Pirates play. Traveling 6 hours in a vehicle with one child is painful enough, but throw in a newborn and a toddler? Those palpitations I mentioned earlier are back. I do everything but stand on my head to amuse Sabrina on those never-ending rides, but throw in a baby to boot? Mama might opt to stay home instead.
I know there are always difficulties in life if you look for them. And yes, I admit that I am not a glass half full kind of girl most of the time. But the decision to have another baby is one that is life-changing, and I am not willing to make that decision based on societal pressure, real or imagined, or just because "it's what you do". I may never be fully ready, but the fear and the guilt that I feel is enough to know that I have to trust my "gut" (as Leroy Jethro Gibbs would say) and just wait. And if, in the end, our family doesn't add Baby #2, I hope that people won't judge me or think less of me. It isn't a decision that I am taking lightly, that's for sure.