It seems like as soon as people knew that I was pregnant with my first child the questions started rolling in about when we were going to have our second or third and how many children were we planning to have anyway? It was easy enough to play this off for a while, "How about we see how this one turns out, first?" I would joke, while my little boy was still camped out in my uterus.
Truthfully, my husband and I didn't plan our first pregnancy. We had just bought our first home, were finishing out the last moments of our 20's, and by all intents and purposes turning into responsible, gainfully employed, 30 somethings, who could probably handle parenthood (or so we thought). So when the news of an unplanned pregnancy hit us, after the initial shock, we were excited. We mused that we were as ready as we would ever be. And that was probably true.
My pregnancy remained a rather quiet affair until I was around the 6-month mark, and there was no more hiding the baby belly. Then things started to get real. And so did people's opinions. In general, it's shocking some of the things people will say to pregnant women. But these questions, regarding when I was going to get pregnant, AGAIN, were especially interesting to me. Perhaps it was because I had no idea how to answer them, as I was focused on getting my first child safely to term. Did I want more children? Theoretically, possibly. Did I like the idea of my baby having a sibling? Sure, I guess. Did I think "only children" were inherently destined to be poorly adjusted? Nope, not really.
Or maybe it was because I considered it to be such an intimate question, requiring consideration of so many facets of our life. Did we have the money, time, or energy to have more than one child? What was one child going to do to our relationship, let alone 2 or 3? What if we were unable to conceive a second child? Had I entered that magical time in a woman's life, like many generations before me, where my sole worth was connected to how many babies they could pop out?
As the unsolicited opinions continued, my head would spin. Well meaning friends, coworkers, family members, acquaintances, strangers all seemed to have an opinion, of often contradictory and mostly anecdotal advice:
"You should have them as close together as possible, then they will be best friends."
"Wait until your first is out of diapers to have your second."
"2.5-3 years apart is the magic age range"
"18 months apart is best."
"You don't want to have an only child..." (with one eyebrow raised)
Our midwives even asked this question, advising giving your body at least a year to recovery from the first pregnancy. Seems logical--and thank you--at least one person was telling us not to rush it.
Before I continue, I have two things to admit here: firstly, I have been that dopey friend that has asked this question (sorry guys); and secondly, I let this question bounce around in my head for WAY too long, before I really grasped why it was so bothersome to me. I found myself stressing about my postpartum body and weight (what if I get pregnant again, before I've lost the first round of baby weight), saving and organizing each size of baby clothes my son outgrew (for the next one), juggling our new financial situation paying for childcare (do they have a family max or sibling discount).
Ultimately, I needed to come to terms with the fact that if I were to have found myself pregnant during this first year with my son, I would have been mostly disappointed and overwhelmed at the thought of having a second child. And at this time, I am nowhere near ready to emotionally, physically, and financially take on the responsibility of another child. This was a hard realization for me at first, why wouldn't I be overjoyed at the thought of expanding our brood? My pre-pregnancy MASH playing self had imagined kids close together in age (and in a mansion for that matter), what had changed?Was I a bad mom? But as I let it sink in, I realized that no, this does not make me a bad mom, and furthermore, it is OK if I don't want to have another child now or ever. I am inherently different now. Motherhood has changed me.
So what did I do about it? Well, one night as I lamented on the difficulties of two parents with full-time jobs and finding the right childcare solution, I found myself somewhat accusatorily "asking" my husband about what his plans for more children were. Naturally, the question hadn't been asked of him as often, and it didn't have an ever present place in his mind. I was surprised by how matter of factly, he was able to say "not anytime soon," as this was my own gut feeling but I hadn't quite come to terms with.
We found ourselves taking the question off the table entirely for the time being, and I couldn't be happier about it. I've found myself being more present and more thoroughly enjoying my already limited time with my son. No more thoughts of what my already crazy evening routine would look like juggling two of them. Or how my son would react to a sibling, good or bad. Or how I was going to undoubtedly screw him up by giving or not giving him a sibling--Now I am free to just screw him up in the normal ways.
I know that as time goes on and we evolve further in our parenting journey, that it is possible our thoughts will change, and we may want to consider having more children. But, we also may not, and again, that is OK. For now, I want to enjoy my son and soak up the time I have with him. This first year has been an absolute whirlwind, and time keeps going by faster and faster as he changes and grows and learns more quickly from one day to the next.
My son has made me a mother, and never again will I go through these "firsts" in quite the same way. I am almost certain that stopping to slow down--to be present and mindful--is going to be an ever present theme in my journey of motherhood, because after all, we are all so busy. But for now don't ask me when I am having another child, or how many I want. Quite frankly, I don't know. I do know that I love my son and my husband, and I want to enjoy these fleeting early years, as a family of three.