Well, it happened. My son is about to turn 6 years old, and I finally got enough space from the nightmare of postpartum depression that I want to have another child. Part of it is the biological clock ticking. I just turned 29 this week. I always planned on stopping having children at 30, but as I approach it I'm coming to realize that I'm still not quite ready, and probably won't be for another 5-6 years. Following my predictable pattern of torturing-myself-about-things-I-want-that-I-can't-have-right-now, I have been having a hard time with this. Ash is going back to school this fall. His current plan is to complete his bachelor's at UNCA and then apply for graduate school (Doctor of Physical Therapy).
This will take 5 years total if everything goes according to plan. After that he will get a job and I will be released as the sole breadwinner. Until then, I am the sole breadwinner. We cannot afford to pay for childcare on my salary alone. At all. Unless we cut EVERYTHING including leaving the house ever, which I don't think is a healthy, sustainable option. So that means I have to wait. I have to wait at least 5 whole years to have another baby. I have to wait until I'm pushing 35. I have to wait until my husband can work full time. I have to wait until there's a 10 year age gap between my kids.
Anything worth having in life is worth waiting for and worth working for. But that doesn't change how much it hurts. So, I decided to share with you my inner dialogue; I'm hoping it can help those of you who are in a similar place:
I want to have a baby. More than anything else.
Ok, so have one!
Well... it's more complicated than that.
Why? If you want it literally more than anything else, it should be easy to sacrifice anything to get it.
Ok. I guess I want some things more than I want a baby. Or rather, I need some things more than I want a baby.
I need to be mentally healthy and free from anxiety and depression. I need a healthy marriage. I need that much more than I need another child... and especially if I do have another one.
Can you have those two things AND have a baby right now?
I'm not sure.
Ok, let's think through it.
Oh, um... ok. Well, I have a full-time job and I can't leave it.
You can go on maternity leave.
OK. Well, I live in the United States, so it's going to be unpaid leave beyond 6 weeks. So I'd need to find childcare full time after that.
Alright. How much does childcare cost in your area?
*Looks it up* Holy burrito! That ain't gonna work.
Ok. What about family or friends who could do it for less?
*Puzzles, asks, schemes* Nope.
What if you worked from home for a couple of months after the baby was born?
That's possible, but I work in support so I need to be able to answer the phones. I can't imagine nursing and caring for a baby while home alone AND working full-time hours, including phone calls where the baby would be miraculously quiet.
Ok. What about an in-home care situation? Isn't that much cheaper?
*Asks locals* Wow! Yes, much cheaper. Like half the price.
Ok. Can that price fit into your budget?
*Calculates*. Uh, yes but just barely. I mean... not realistically. Only if we have zero unexpected expenses and have no car trouble and stopped saving for retirement. Bummer.
Can Ash take a break from school to stay home with the baby?
*Talks to Ash at length* No. He is really eager to finish his degree as soon as possible since he's already in his 30's. We can't go much longer as a one-income family and he needs to get done and get a job, pronto.
And he made another good point, which is that part of what caused the PPD last time was having the bread winner responsibility AND being the sleep-deprived mommy. That wouldn't go away if he was a stay-at-home parent. I would be up all night with the baby and then back at work each morning. The stress of that would make preserving mental health really difficult.
When I think about finding outside care for a 6-week-old baby, I feel immense heartbreak. That does not sound like what I want at all. I don't think I can do that.
Ok, so I wait until Ash is done with school. ... so Luca will be 10 years old when he finally gets a sibling? They will be practically part of different generations. Will they have anything in common? Will they even know each other?
You can't know the answers to those questions. It will be different from what you grew up with, in good and bad ways that you cannot possibly know until you're living it.
*Talks with Ash* Ash is an only child and he says he would rather have a sibling ten years younger than him than have no sibling at all. Ok. That's a convincing argument. Alright! So, what to do for the next 5 years? Well... I can make sure Luca and his cousin Redford (and his new cousin Moishe inherited through marriage) all know and love each other and grow up being close.
That sounds great!
Yes, it does. And I can use all my time and energy for things I could not do if I had a baby. I can help others I know who have babies. I can be creative and start all those sewing projects I want to do.
Yeah! Take a quilting class! Compose music! Go see live theater!
YEAH! Also, I've been gaining weight lately so I'd like to get back on track with diet and exercise.
Man, that's so important. It's important now for your quality of life, and it's especially important if you're going to have a baby or two as a woman 35+.
Ah yes. Because of the increased risk, and the lack of possibility for another home birth in this area, I'd like to be as healthy as humanly possible if I get pregnant again.
OK. Get to work.
OK! I'm going to use the next 5 years to become the best possible me, so I can be a healthy, happy, financially responsible parent to my children.
THAT'S THE SPIRIT!
What if five years comes and something has happened? What if I have health problems and the window for baby-having has closed? What if Ash changes his mind and doesn't want to have a baby? What if he has trouble finding a job that pays well? What if I hate being a stay at home mom? What if I hate being a working mom again? What if I...
Stop. You're "What ifing". It's good to be prepared for the future, but the future is literally full of INFINITE possibilities. You can't possibly prepare for all of them, so stop trying.
But what if these next couple of years are my last chance to get what I really want more than anything else? What if I blow this opportunity trying to have my cake and eat it too? Am I being stupid by waiting and possibly missing my chance?
You don't know that it's your last chance. What if your house burns down and you get cancer and WWIII breaks out? You. Can't. Control. Everything. Life throws things at you and you just DEAL with them, because you have no other choice. You've already decided that having a baby now is NOT what you want more than anything, because what you really want more than anything is to not get PPD again. Waiting 5 years is actually your best chance at creating the circumstances in which having a baby would be different than it was last time. Less hellish. More enjoyable.
Right. My goal isn't just to be a mother again... it's to be a good mother. I wouldn't want to do it again if it was like last time. I want to be a GREAT mother who loves her children and enjoys having a baby. And to give myself the best chance at that, I need to wait.
*Facepalm* what now?
If I accidentally got pregnant right now, we could deal with it. We could make it work. We would have to make it work, and so we would.
True. You would spend the next 5 years doing your best to survive new parenthood while also working full time. You would love your child but have to leave them 5 days per week. Things would be so tight financially that you would be unprepared for emergencies. Your kids would love each other and you would love them. You would not have a spare dime to spend on physical therapy, couples therapy, or a babysitter so you would have to cross your fingers that you wouldn't need help.
Yeah. That really does not sound super great. I could do it if I had to, but it seems really stupid to choose it on purpose. It's one thing to have stress thrust upon you, it's quite another to do something so stressful on purpose.
It wouldn't be the most responsible choice.
Yes. It would be like last time... I had a baby because I wanted one, and I was not ready in so many ways. To be a great mother, I need to make the choices that are best for my existing children and future children. That would include not trying to have a baby right now. It would be a bit selfish to get pregnant right now only because I want it, without any thought to what kind of quality of life we would all have. I think it's much more responsible to prioritize my mental health first and having a baby second.
I think so.
I think so too.
Ok. So, the next 5 years... get in great shape. Build healthy eating habits. Be creative and use my excess energy. And if five years come and the stars don't align... I've got my husband and my son and my creative pursuits. Not the same as having two beautiful children, but still a wonderful and amazing life full of things to be extremely grateful for.
Nice. Add that to your list of things to accomplish in the next 5 years. Be grateful for what you have. Let your gratitude live alongside your desires for the future. Let it be stronger than anything else.
Yeah. I know that when I'm experiencing gratitude for what I have, life is really really good. Even when I don't have what I want. Even sometimes when I don't have what I need! So no matter what happens, I need to make that a priority.
Being grateful for what I have is not denying that I want something else. It's just choosing to be happy while I want something else.
I think that would be wise.
I think so too. I kind of feel like I'm going all in on a poker game. I either win it all or I leave empty handed. If everything is good to go in five years I get exactly what I want... and if not, the window has closed so I can't even have a consolation-prize version of what I want.
But it's not really like that... by waiting, you're making it possible to have what you TRULY want. And if you don't get it, you also get to walk away from the poker table with an arm full of chips. You win either way.
That's true. I certainly wouldn't call my life now "walking away empty handed". My life is full and wonderful.
That's how gratitude works. Even when you don't get what you want, you feel full.
Wow. That's really nice.
And nobody can ever take that from you.