The number of times I’ve eaten my words since becoming pregnant, and a mother? Too many to count.
Most of the time I’m simply embarrassed by the silly things single me said or believed about motherhood, but I realize that you only know what you know, so I give that single girl some grace and move on.
But having more kids? Never did I ever anticipate the level of absolute agony over this decision.
With a healthy 22 month old, we are making the decision to stop at one or go for a second. And I have never ever been so torn over a decision in my entire life. The thought of being done simultaneously gives me HUGE relief, but incredible sadness. The thought of having another gives me crippling anxiety and unbearable fear.
It’s literally all I think about every single minute of the day and it’s driving me to insanity, and tears at very inopportune moments like while watching moms with 2 or more at the park, wondering why they all went for it and I just can’t do it. I constantly want to ask them, “but HOW are you doing it??” Follow that up with a little girl at the zoo seeing three turtles and exclaiming to her mom, “look! It’s a whole FAMILY of turtles!!” I wanted to bawl because - yes! A family can come in any number of people – why am I agonizing over this so much? Why am I trying to do things based on what I see others do?
Physical pain in pregnancy led to mental drain and depression in pregnancy, followed by PPD, PPA, and my therapist even labeled it the other day, which shocked me, as “some post tramautic stress” around my whole experience. Needless to say, I’m petrified, PETRIFIED to go through pregnancy and postpartum again. I really don’t know if I can do it. *Could I, yes. With optimal outcomes for me and my family? Not so sure. My husband’s biggest concern was my mental health, and if I could handle it again.
I then follow it up with, but do I even WANT a second child? Are my plans based on ridiculous societal ideals and family and friend pressure? Grow up, house with a white picket fence, 2 kids, a dog, and we all live happily ever after.
Tossing a coin in the air doesn’t seem like the most responsible thing to do, but it seems like the best option right now to make this turmoil end. It’s so all encompassing.
My husband and I both said we were 95% sure we were one and done, but the turmoil continued. I was crying myself to sleep nightly, one night because I was sad we were done, the next night out of fear of what was to come if we had a second.
It was this constant turmoil that led my husband and I to see a couple’s therapist. We’re weren’t fighting with each other on the decision, we were jointly completely confused and lost, and felt it was time to bring in a neutral third party to bring a fresh perspective and set of questions to the scenario.
It was honestly the BEST thing we’ve ever done as a couple, and I can’t say enough great things about our experience with Erin from Kindred Counselling.
One of the things Erin, our therapist, asked us was, "what you do envision for the Hendersons? What does the future look like?" One night when my husband and I were talking about it for the 1,382nd time and we stated, “we’re done”, I burst into tears. My husband responded with, "Christmas dinner?" and I just nodded, “yes”, because I have always pictured Christmas dinner with more than one kid at it. When I asked my husband about the picture in his mind of the future he said, "I picture two kids in full length jammies looking out the window for Santa." Wellllll, fuuuuucckkk. Hah!
The timing is so hard in so many ways. We have regular date nights, I’m feeling like myself in the gym again, and while a toddler is far from easy, it’s SO much easier than the first year postpartum – sleep is solid, I’m not tied to feedings, she has childcare twice a week, the list goes on… To think about going back to that place is petrifying.
When Erin asked what we could do differently the second time I rattled off a list of things that we could do to help each of my fears. But when she asked if that made me feel better or gave me hope, my answer was, “I’m just so SCARED to go back there.” I hear moms say all the time, “oh you just forget and have more!” That does not hold true for me.
Where did this land us? We realized our decision to stop was 100% rooted in fear. Another exercise our therapist had us do was write out a Pros vs Cons list, then weight it. The Cons side was a mile long, the pros side a few items. Once weighted though, it was very clear which side won. Not only that, the pros list carried through our LIFETIME. The cons list, was very “short” lived – 2.5 years if everything went exactly as it did the first time for us. Less if things go better.
To come full circle, it was this realization that led me to asking for medication for my postpartum depression. I booked an appointment with my doctor and when I told my husband I was going to see her he asked what the appointment was for. “To start the conversation now for medication in case we have another kid.” His response, “what about even if we don’t have another kid? You’re sad more days than happy.” Ouch. Truth hurts sometimes, but without his concern and honesty that day to push me, I wouldn’t be sitting here feeling the best I’ve felt in 2 years right now.
So…The next time you go to ask someone, “when are you having more kids?” remember there are layers upon layers upon layers that that person may be dealing with.
For Calgary couples reading this, you can find Erin’s contact information on my resource page, as well as other local therapists for mom only or dad only sessions: rawfitnessyyc.com/resources.