"HAVING ONE CHILD…AND KIND OF, SORT OF, BEING 'OKAY' WITH IT" BY LOURDES DIAZ ISCOVE
I’ve read countless blog posts about why some families choose to be “one and done.” The litany of reasons: They loved being an only child; they have practical financial reasons to consider; they had a difficult pregnancy and don’t want to endure that again. I don’t want to repeat what you’ve probably already read countless times. Instead, let me take you through my thought process for my decision and, why, at first glance, my choice may seem ambivalent.
For me, motherhood does feel ambivalent at times. I can’t encapsulate such a monumental change in my life into one emotion which is why I can’t see being “one and done” as a black and white issue either. It doesn’t feel and probably will never feel like a solid decision for me. Instead, it feels like several opposing forces battling each other.
I’ll start with the dark. Sadly, postpartum depression robbed me of enjoying the first eight months of my son’s life. It was the darkest time of my life. I felt like I was just going on auto-pilot instead of feeling or experiencing the good that comes with being a first-time mother. At first, I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of love for my son. It felt like a new job that I didn’t want to lose, so I became “employee of the month” and worked my hardest to do a good job.
With time, eventually that love came. It took time for me to adjust emotionally, mentally and physically. Thankfully, I had my supportive, loving husband to hold my hand through it all. I finally made it to the other side just around the time my son turned nine months old. Once the irrational, terrifying, hormonal fog of postpartum depression lifted I fell madly in love, and that love continues to grow each second of every single day, and yet I still feel conflicted about having a second.
Motherhood is a roller coaster of emotions. I’ll I give you an example of my Goliath roller coaster called motherhood. When my son was two, he went through a stage where he would hit, scratch, and pull my hair whenever he would fall or accidentally bump his head on just about anything. This one particular night we were getting ready for bed when he slipped and fell. I picked him up to cuddle him but I was greeted with a slap to my face, followed by a scratch to my neck, and finally a hard pull to my pony tail. In an attempt to pull him off of me, I stumbled and we fell to the floor. In slow motion I could see my body about to land on him. I screamed and somehow managed to contort and shift my body mid-air so I could land mere inches away from him instead of on him. In the process I bumped my knee on the side of the crib and my head on the hardwood floor.
When I finally calmed him down, he peacefully went to sleep. I hobbled to the bathroom to brush my teeth. In the two minutes it takes for my SonicCare toothbrush to clean my teeth, I went from being emotionally spent, to angry because he hit me, to guilt for getting angry in the first place, to wincing in pain from my throbbing knee, to feeling terrified that I almost landed on him, and finally crying again because I love him so much. THAT is motherhood for me.
Most decisions about rearing children come with so many questions and emotions all tangled into one well-intended ball. The idea of being “one and done” has been exactly like the night I almost landed on my son with too many emotions fighting for first place.
I always thought I’d have two children. In fact, when I found out I was pregnant, I wished I was having twin boys (being a twin myself.) I wanted to get it done with one pregnancy. And, since my twin brother already had two girls (11 and 5) I thought it would be fun to produce the nephews of the family.
But I ended up being blessed with one. What’s been shocking is that I actually feel fulfilled just with him. I feel like I scored the jackpot. He’s the sweetest almost four-year-old who tells me he loves me all the time. When we go shopping and I’m trying on a top or dress, he’ll look at me and say, “mama, you look adorable.” Perhaps it’s being a family of three that is comforting to me, because my twin brother and I were raised by my mom all on her own.
But here’s where the roller coaster comes into play again. Even though I feel complete with just my son, I also feel guilty. I feel like I’m somehow robbing my son of the happiness of having a sibling. It’s also hard to drown out the comments from well-meaning people who say stuff like, “you’ll never regret having a second, but you’ll regret not having a second.” Or, “don’t you want him to have a best friend for life?” I often wonder if I’m being selfish for not having more children. Then I fall down a spiral of self-doubt and my inner monologue goes something like this:
“You’re not getting any younger, time to close shop.”
“Ohhh, look at that baby!” (uterus skips a beat)
“Shake it off, Lourdes” (looks away, scolds her uterus)
“You don’t have time to write now, imagine with a second?!”
“Who needs to write to be happy?!”
“I NEED to write to be happy!”
This always leads me to the same conclusion every single time I argue with “Evil Lourdes”: I’m sad that I don’t want a second, but I’m not sad that I’m not having a second.
There’s my ever-vacillating explanation on why I’m sort-of-okay with having one. I think it’s important to listen to ourselves even when our minds try to sway us from what feels like the right choice. Despite what society or extended family members believe we should do, the beauty of motherhood is doing what’s right for us, even if it means we’re still not completely at peace with our decisions. Maybe we never will be, whatever we choose, and that’s okay, too.