When all my friends were getting pregnant the first time, I was desperate for a child of my own. I watched them become mothers with a mixture of joy and heartache. I held their newborn babies and I imagined what it would be like to hold a baby that I didn’t have to give back. When my son was born I felt like I had finally joined the club.
Now that my son is a year old it seems like all the other moms I know are getting pregnant again. People keep asking me when I’m planning to have another. Even the pediatrician is handing out literature with headings like, “How To Prepare Your Child For The New Baby.” And me? Well, I’m really happy for my friends. I’m in awe of the way they are able to care for and love both a new little person and the slightly older little person they already have. But I’m nowhere near ready to try for baby number two. Not by a long shot.
I’ve decided to wait until my son is at least five before having another child. I’ve got lots of practical reasons for making this choice: my older child would be in school so I wouldn’t be caring for two small children all day. I wouldn’t have two kids in diapers. My son would be more able to understand what was going on and help out with the new baby. The list goes on.
But, the truth is, those aren’t really the reasons I’ve decided to wait. For me, it’s actually very simple, and a little bit selfish. The real reason I’m waiting is this: I’d miss my son too much.
Having a newborn is hard. At least, it was for me. I’m not one of those people who loved the newborn stage. There were days when I really wasn’t sure if I had any more to give. When my baby wasn’t crying he was nursing, when he wasn’t nursing he was pooping, when he wasn’t pooping he was spitting up. Sleep was something he dabbled in but wasn’t interested in enough to really devote his attention to. My husband and I slept even less. On one particularly bad night I remember asking my husband, “Can you die from being tired?”
It’s not that I think I couldn’t do all that again. I hope to one day. It’s just that the attention I would need to give to a newborn belongs to my son right now. Not for his sake (although I’m sure he would say he appreciates it if he could articulate something as complex as that) but for mine.
In the months and years to come I want to leave the stroller at home so I can run across the grass with my son. I want to give my full attention to the leaf he hands me, or the dragonfly he notices, perched on the lamppost, it’s wings trembling and iridescent. I want both arms free to lift him into the swing, or onto the see-saw. I want to kneel in the sandbox with him and show him how to make sandcastles. I want to hold his hand as we walk home together and have the other hand free to carry his treasures – a rock, two sticks and a red-gold leaf.
I want my lap to be free when my son asks me to read to him. I want to say yes when he asks me to read the book again. And again. And again. I want all my attention fixed on that page when he points and tells me what he sees. I want the energy to do silly voices and pull funny faces. To answer the same question a million times until he’s satisfied. I want to know there is nothing to take me away from this moment.
I want to chase my son around the room roaring like a monster while he squeals like a little boy without having to say “Shh, the baby’s sleeping.” I want to build block towers and knock them down without worrying who it might startle. I want to play loud music so we can dance together and bang on the piano to make music of our own. I want to fall on the floor in a pile of giggles.
I want the luxury of time. Time to hug him for as long as he’ll let me. To carry him when his legs get tired. To spend long afternoons baking cookies or playing with playdough. To listen to his stories and quell his fears. To be fully there.
I worry that this makes me selfish. A sibling is a friend, a confidant, a partner in crime. What if he’s too old to feel that way about the brother or sister that eventually comes along? What if he’s too wedded to his only-childness by then to accept this change and the change between us that it would necessitate? Those things could happen. But I’m not changing my mind. I can’t.
I’m not ready to let go of what my son and I have. Our insular bond. I want him all to myself. I want myself all for him. If that makes me selfish, so be it. I’m not ready to let go. Not yet, at least. Not yet.