"I think of the times I've felt — let's face the facts — superior because I was doing well. Because I adjusted so quickly when I had Anna two years ago. "This is easy! I don't know what people are complaining about," I remember gloating to a friend. I think of the times when I've judged other parents, or used their problems to make myself feel better. I am ashamed."
This I am quoting from an online journal, Anna, Clara, and Me, at parentcenter.com. (I hope I'm allowed to do that!) This quote is taken from the last entry, in which the author, Evonne, is discussing her slow descent into depression after the birth of her second daughter. She talks about how it took her by surprise, how it took a concerned call from her ob-gyn after her six-week post-partum checkup for her to even face the fact that her daily crying jags and reluctance to get out of bed in the morning might mean something wasn't quite right.
As I read her bravely honest confessional, I felt my worst and usually unspoken fear being yanked out into the harsh light of day. So, here it is: Sometimes I am really, really afraid of having another baby. I am afraid that I, too, will come undone when we take the plunge and go from being a young couple with a baby to being... a family. Sometimes I wonder if one more child will be what tips the scales and turns my dreamy, playing-house-come-to-life experience of motherhood into a full-blown nightmare. I worry that all my smug self-congratulating- "Yes, she's been sleeping through the night for months now!," "Oh, yes, she's always this easy!"-is going to come back and bite me the second time around. And sometimes, as I am happily contemplating visions of growing our family and watching Adelay with a younger sibling and all that... well, sometimes this creapy shadow of doubt begins to darken those visions, and I have to put them away.
What the shadow does, is it erases the happy visions of four shining faces around the dinner table and replaces it with two screaming, messy faces, two strained, exhausted faces, and spaghettios thrown all over the table. Or the shadow will smudge out my little image of the four of us singing songs in the car on our way to the park, and it will show instead me, by myself with two hot, cranky kids on our way to the grocery store. And when we arrive there, I am steering two carts, one with a twisting toddler in the front and a baby in the carseat in the back, and the other one filled with diapers and formula and the Ramaan noodles Jim and I will be eating in order to afford the diapers and formula.
Reading that aforementioned journal entry this morning... well, it brought to the front of my mind this demon of fear that tells me I am tempting fate to desire another child. I am facing it now, forcing myself to imagine (and not turn away from) the worst possible scenarios involving a nearly two-year-old and a small infant- the fifteen diaper changes a day, the toys and fingerprints and Cheerios all over the house that I won't have time to clean up because I'll be attached at the breast to a hungry newborn. The conflicting nap schedules and midnight feedings which will ensure that I never sleep more than three hours at a stretch. The ordeal of two carseats, two coats and hats, two bottles to pack before we can leave the house, which will pretty much guarantee that I never do leave the house except for some sort of out-of-diapers emergency. The way that the eager offers to babysit always seem to thin out more and more with each child you add to the equation.
So there it is, out in the open, my big ugly secret. I long for a large, happy family, but I in equal measure fear messiness and exhaustion and that constant, needy chorus of "Mom, mom, mom." Most of all, most particularly, I fear that expression of hollow, blank joylessness I so often see on the faces of those women in the grocery pushing their two carts. The way you can see in an instant how the million daily demands put on their time have slowly chipped away at their ability to take pleasure in their children. Where I, the mother of one, might see the delight in my child's face as she eats ice cream, these women, three kids later, would probably just be seeing one more mess to clean.
Maybe my "visions" are wildly exaggerated, but there they are, cruelly taunting me whenever I start feeling excited about maybe having another baby pretty soon. It's because I'm a control freak, of course, or maybe because I'm superstitious and think that by having had an easy go of it the first time around, I'm doomed to give birth to a demon seed the next. Or something like that.
But even as I say all this, baring to you the shameful part of me which puts high value on things like quiet and tidiness and and time to myself, I am well aware that these fears will not keep me from delving deeper into parenthood. We will have another child, I am sure, and then another, and another, God-willing. Because the only thing I fear more than a house full of Cheerio crumbs and chatter and toys underfoot is a house without those things, a house filled with only the loud silence of all that time to myself.