It was four years ago on Valentine’s Day that I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Hope. It seems like just yesterday even though, Hope has clearly transitioned from a baby to a little lady. We start dance classes this weekend! She’s ready and it’s time. She’s come into her own and the baby stage is over. This means, by conventional American cultural standards, that she, and we, must be ready for a sibling. Predictably, I am often asked the million dollar question, “are you going to have another one?” Then, inevitably, I freeze.
Depending on the day, I can say that we’ve decided one is best for our family with either genuine conviction or an angst-ridden betrayal of my true wishes. It’s a funny question. Funny because the asker usually assumes it’s rhetorical, and consequently, portrays both the answer they expect and the answer they hope I will give through non-verbal cues like leaning in and head-nodding while asking. What follows is an awkward pause before I respond. I use this pause to process the initial guilt I feel for having to disappoint them, and then, to check in with my own uncertainty about having “just” one.
I won’t lie. There is a part of my heart that wants to mother another child. That part wants to see Hope put a blanket on a newborn little brother or share princess dresses with a little baby sister. That part wants to smell another baby’s hair, my baby’s hair. That part wonders, simply what another child would BE like. And at the same time it whispers to me from a deep place of maternal fear, that maybe I should have another one, you know, just in case. This portion of my heart has quite a lot of power to persuade.
And yet, there is also the place within my heart that senses, on a rock-solid gut level, that it’s not that simple. That “can” does not equal “should.” Like anything else, I have to do what is best not only for me, but for my family. This part of my heart rises up to look me squarely in the eye and reminds me that what we have now, works. Then it reminds me of a very difficult pregnancy and weeks of bed rest. And this is all before it starts in on the very real (and unpleasant) risks to my long-term physical health if I were to deliver another baby. In short, it doesn’t fool around with whispering but says very directly, that yes, it could work if we added a second, but that it also could not. It makes lists about how tired me and my husband are at night, how demanding our jobs are, how financially difficult it would be with another, and how we don’t have time for ourselves or each other that we would want to spare. It reminds me, firmly and loudly, that my husband is a giving, honest man who knows himself and also knows he is a recovering alcoholic. That his health, sobriety, and the time for each, are critical. This voice, my voice, reminds me that it’s not just about me. It’s about the heart of my family. This family. Now.
Amidst this internal debate I do know one thing: ultimately, it’s not about the answer. The longer I’ve struggled, the more I’ve begun to see that life is not going to become complete once deciding whether we do, or don’t, have another baby. Life is already happening in this process of loving, growing, being and dancing. There is no right or wrong. There’s just today. So next time, and there will most definitely be a next time, someone asks if we’re having another one, instead of trying so hard to give the “right” answer, perhaps I’ll simply smile and say “maybe, but right now I’m just enjoying being Hopeey’s mom.” After all, when I’m not worried about what might be missing, I find I’m already complete.
Cara is a displaced Texan who is a full time prosecutor for the long arm of the law. It is law and order on the home front too, as she and her police Lieutenant husband proudly parent a bright, sweet little princess sassy pants, 3 year old Hope. When she is not making sweet tea for Hope or teaching her how to properly apply eyeshadow, Cara enjoys quilting, reading mystery novels and playing with Addie and Brandon, her dogs.