Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Go forth and multiply

When my sister was pregnant for the fourth time she gave my mother a frame with places for five pictures as a christmas gift. I was standing directly next to my mother when she opened it, and I noticed before she did that the first three mats in the frame corresponded to my sister’s first three children, and the other two mats indicated that two more were on their way. At first my mother thought that her oldest daughter had miscalculated the size of her own family, and as she was pointing this out the frightening reality hit her like a brick in the face, “But you don’t have . . . THIS DOES NOT MEAN WHAT I THINK IT MEANS.” The frame was my sister’s creative way of saying that she was trying to populate the Earth by herself.

My sister’s house has always been a suburban recreation of Lord of the Flies, except her version has always had a little more cannibalism. When my mother processed the fact that my sister was going to be bringing twin boys into the mix her face became a physical manifestation of The World Ending. It’s not that she wasn’t joyous about the prospective new additions, it’s that she knew one would be hard enough. But two? TWO MORE? JUST IMAGINE THE BLOOD SPATTER.

My sister’s twins are now five years old, and since their birth she has been harassing me to do my part in expanding the family. I always thought I would have three or more kids. I guess it’s because I have two siblings myself, and that’s the kind of family I’ve always wanted. But after the experience I’ve had with this first one, with my precious Screaming Leta, I’m not so sure I’m the type of person who could handle three kids. And that has been hard to accept. I see other mothers who have that many kids, and deep inside I am envious of them simply for the fact that they seem to be handling it even if they think they aren’t handling it at all.

I am frequently asked if Jon and I plan to have any more kids, and the answer to that is long and winding:

I finally feel like I have a handle on the responsibilities of this family, like I know what I’m doing, like the role of Mother makes sense. Finally my instincts have kicked in at the right frequency, and I don’t go around all day thinking what is this creature that runs through my house and why won’t it stop making that noise?

Only recently have I started to have that baby itch again, have I wanted to put the shiny, bald heads of infants in my mouth. I think that’s a good sign because it means I’ve been able to forget a little bit of the sting of those first six months and am now at a point where I would even consider going through it again. I’m the one at the neighborhood party grabbing the babies off their mothers’ laps because the urge to bite their nubbly ears is too overwhelming. Wanting to eat babies is a good indication that I have healed.

But the decision to have another baby is so complicated. What if when we try it doesn’t work? What if when we try I end up like my sister, pregnant with twins? Can we afford to have another child? Because now our insurance is such that we have to cover the cost of the delivery. Is our house big enough? How will I continue working and supporting my family if anything goes wrong?

Add to that my history of postpartum depression and the fact that I am now more likely to to experience it again because I did the first time around. Am I ready for that? Is Jon? Should I even risk putting him or Leta though that again? Should I risk destroying the peaceful home that I’ve spent the last two years building?

I don’t know.

  • salmonday

    You opened this topic up for discussion? You’re braver than I, that’s for sure.

    I believe that there should be a law that you are immune from prosecution if you punch the face of someone who asks you when you’re going to have a(nother) child. My wife and I needed extensive infertility treatments to have our first, and we were hoping that we would have “righted” ourselves as a result of the first, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We secretly recent anyone who “decides” to have a baby and can just fire up the oven because there are days my wife comes home from work nearly in tears because so many of her co-workers are pregnant with their second or third child and asking her when she is going to “join the club.” I know this doesn’t help your thinking any, but I just want to warn people that asking that question, even if it’s family, toys with face-punching.

  • I think the fact that you’re now considering ti speaks volumes. Often with the hardest decision, it’s already made. You can see under the surface of your post that you’re going over the ins and the outs because you want it to happen; self-justification and all that. I can’t imagine you would dwell on this and then not. This is my personal opinion that I did consider not giving, please don’t take it to hard.

    And crazy people, don’t yell at me!

    BG

  • klk

    My daughter just turned 2 and we are starting to entertain the same thoughts about a second child. When we do decide to go for it we have decided that we will adopt. I dont want to risk having another serious bout of postpartum depression and put my life, and the functioning of my family at serious risk. Something to consider…

  • I know, God! I know. I have a little boy Leta’s age, who was a very high-maintainance little boy. Due in Feb. born premature in Dec. life was very rough for the first 6 months. We decided we’d like to have about a four year gap…didn’t happen. I am due with baby number two in Sept. and scared to death. I am just hoping that things will fall into place somehow. They always do, right?

  • Windy

    My biggest fear in having a second child is that I’ll poop in the delivery room again.

    Shudder.

    I took Zoloft every day while I was pregnant, and I nursed my son for a whole year. He’s very mellow, and he has a tail, but other than that he’s completely normal.

    Of course, since he’s been born I’ve been added lithium and Niravam to my drug regimen, but whatever. I’m sure that has nothing to do with months of sleeplessness and thinking about my boobs every five seconds for a year. Nothing at all.

  • Amazing. I was just talking to my John last night about this very thing and a lot of the same questions came up. My biggest fear is going off my meds to get pregnant and John reminds me that there was a time before I was diagnosed bipolar that I was able to have relationships and raise a daughter and now that I have a name for what I feel it might be easier to go through.

    My pregnancy was a breeze and Sophie has been a really easy child…but what if it’s not like that the next time around. This would be a whole other genetic soup I’m dealing with, so who knows? That’s incredibly scary to me.

    Then there’s the question you raised: am I the kind of mom who can handle having more than one child? I don’t know. But then, how CAN you know? A woman I was friends one told me that having a family is like having an apron. Just when you think the pockets are full, you find another pocket. It’s a shitty metaphor, but I’ve always thought it was a sweet way to look at the availability of maternal love.

    I think the healthiest way to consider this issue is: when you know you’re ready, you just do. You know with your husband, you knew with your daughter. If you think now is the right time, then you can make the other bits fall into place. They’ll have to fall into place.

    And as far as the post-pardum goes, I can’t comment on that, but at least this time, you know to expect it and treat for it, which should add some comfort.

  • tonya | adventure journalist

    I’m with Heidi – if you’re gonna do it, do it knowing you’re going into it more experienced and “settled in” to that role than you were first time. But wait a few years ’til Leta can change a diaper and fetch a bottle faster than you can 😉

    (And then strategically spend a few months before the baby comes telling her how “she can only help with the baby when she’s a BIG girl!”.. and she’ll spend the next several months waiting in maddening anticipation.. so that when the day comes she’s like a wind-up toy wound back to full tension and ready for release. You can ride that wave straight out til the new baby’s in kindergarten).

  • Amazing. I was just talking to my John last night about this very thing and a lot of the same questions came up. My biggest fear is going off my meds to get pregnant and John reminds me that there was a time before I was diagnosed bipolar that I was able to have relationships and raise a daughter and now that I have a name for what I feel it might be easier to go through.

    My pregnancy was a breeze and Sophie has been a really easy child…but what if it’s not like that the next time around. This would be a whole other genetic soup I’m dealing with, so who knows? That’s incredibly scary to me.

    Then there’s the question you raised: am I the kind of mom who can handle having more than one child? I don’t know. But then, how CAN you know? A woman I was friends one told me that having a family is like having an apron. Just when you think the pockets are full, you find another pocket. It’s a shitty metaphor, but I’ve always thought it was a sweet way to look at the availability of maternal love.

    I think the healthiest way to consider this issue is: when you know you’re ready, you just do. You know with your husband, you knew with your daughter. If you think now is the right time, then you can make the other bits fall into place. They’ll have to fall into place.

    And as far as the post-pardum goes, I can’t comment on that, but at least this time, you know to expect it and treat for it, which should add some comfort.

  • Scary, yes.
    The fact that you are thinking about it carefully and being open to possibilities shows your a good mother, and will be if you never have another kid, or if you have 5 more kids.

    I wish you and your family the best no matter what you and your family decide.

  • It’s a tough decision and one that only you and Jon can make. But whatever you decide, it will be the right thing for you.

    Besides, every pregnancy and every baby is different. But it does get easier each time. Good luck!

  • trublu76

    Someone once told me that if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never do it. Now, to be completely honest, that was in reference to getting a tattoo, but I think the message works in this situation, too.
    I have two, thinking about that third, but the questions is less of do we want another (YEA, we do) and more of how (hubby had vasectomy after #2).
    Knowing what you know after Leta’s first months, you have the benefit of hindsight, dooce. You and Jon learned so much during those months that could help diffuse the problems after a 2nd child.

    Sometimes we humans just think too much. Stop thinking about the negatives and just do it…

  • I wish more people would take the time to ask themselves the “questions” before just having lots of hot sex. Wait … now that does sound like a good idea. Oh yea, back at the ranch, more rabbit sex or not in order to procreate?? My vote is no, but then again I only have one kidlet, and I voted for Kerry.

  • I thought I was going to be the mom of 2 kids– that’s pretty much what I thought I could handle. When my oldest boy was 2 1/2 my twin boys were born.

    It was a ROUGH first couple of years, so I took lots of pictures because I was fairly sure i wouldn’t remember much of it. (I was right). Now, with a 10 year old and 2 7 year olds, there’s been tons of blood and screaming, and OH! the mud! and laundry! but we’re doing ok.

    Three kids is a lot, though. I know there are supermoms out there with more kids who make it look easy, but I’m not crafty and I hate reading books aloud to kids so I’ve maxed out.

  • I wish more people would take the time to ask themselves the “questions” before just having lots of hot sex. Wait … now that does sound like a good idea. Oh yea, back at the ranch, more rabbit sex or not in order to procreate?? My vote is no, but then again I only have one kidlet, and I voted for Kerry.

  • Squeaker76

    Someone once said to me that you have to think of the first four years as baby prison. You can give yourself parole and take a couple years off once they are four, extend the sentence and have another kid right away, or be released permanently and decide to not have anymore. That has really stuck with me. I don’t know if I can handle a two year old and being pregnant. I also don’t know if I can handle a five year old and a two year old later down the road. Part of me wants more kids; the other part wants to be done with all of the stress a small child brings to your life. I think the decision to have the first kid was much easier….

  • Mygaera

    I always thought that the hubby-thing and I would have three kids– my daughter Rhi, and a precocious pair of fraternal twins or something.

    Then I had Rhi, and took a year or so off of reality to shake the post-partum depression thing. On my own. Without any medical insurance or anti-depressants to fall back on.

    Now that Rhi is seven, she’s just past the age where I wanted to have that second (and/or third) bundle of joy, to mimic the age difference between my elder brother and I. No way in hell I’m strong enough to do that, though.

    I’m so happy that the motherhood roll has finally started making sense to you, and envy you at the same time. I may always wonder whether its just going to click into place for me, or will I always have to struggle with figuring out what I’m supposed to be doing now…

    Good luck, Heather – you’re a great mom, with Jon as a great dad. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

  • Yes. I know you will eventually, it’s just a matter of time. Take your time deciding to have another baby… Maybe this one will look only like you and nothing like Jon? That would be both funny and bizarre.

  • Heather, while you have a very “normal” life (or at appears to be on this blog), you seem to be totally okay with the very “abnormal” parts of it.

    Have another baby if and when you feel damn good and ready.

    I’m too chicken to have even one, and I always said/thought I wanted four. We grow up different than our fantasies/delusions. So what.

    It’s all good.

  • All of these questions are wise, of course. It’s a smart thing to examine the situation, to evaluate. Trouble is, too much of the thinking about it and you’ll never just do it, the go forth and multiply thing. Go with your heart. The rest will sort itself out.

  • Erin

    I was just wondering the other day if you and Jon planned on having any more kids. I don’t know why, I don’t usually spend my time thinking about people I’ve never met before. Actually, that’s not true at all. It’s good that you are looking at all the complicated factors, but maybe only time will tell. Maybe one day the decision to have another baby or not to have another baby will make absolute sense to you. Whatever you and Jon decide, it will all work out and I wish your family the best.

  • SAHM

    After having a baby I assumed that anyone that CHOOSES to have another is out of their mind. I promptly made the appointment for a 10 yr. IUD, (love it btw) thinking that I am 110 percent sure I never want to go through that again. Now, it’s more like 75 percent. Our son is 2, our dog doesn’t get the attention she once did, and our family feels pretty full.

    When I start to think about those fuzzy little heads I quickly remind myself of the woman at the swimming pool, 8 months preggers with the stretch marks down to her ankles. Our son was 5 weeks early so he saved me alot of that end bit—-but still, who wants to get up in the night to pee a thimble full every two hours?

    Was it Woody Allen that said, “Just because you can have them doesn’t mean you should?” That’s my mindset for the moment. I shudder when I think of the generation that squirted them out EVERY YEAR because there was no such thing as birth control. Damn!

  • Children are a beautiful thing, and I have absolute faith that you and Jon will make the right decision (whichever that will be). Best of luck (and I hope you have another)!

  • For me the second time around has been completely different than the first time. DD#1 was considered a “difficult baby”. She was a screamer, didn’t like to be held, generally was pissed off most of the time. She had gross motor skill delays that required a lot of therapy. Of course all this made me love her even more but it was hard to get through all that stuff. When we decided to try again I found out I was broken. We ended up needing a little help from a specialist and 2 years later I have one of the easiest babies I could ever imagine. I think it’s a combination of babe being mellow and me being even more mellow because I’ve been there and done that. When I see the bond form between my two girls I know that it was meant to be. It’s truly a beautiful sight to see.

  • MadMonk

    Do it for Leta. This is a bit morbid, but when you are gone, who will be her best friend? A brother or sister would be a better replacement for when you are gone than just some person she discovers for a friend by random chance.

  • obritany

    I think go for it. Chances are your next baby won’t be as difficult as Leta was. My baby slept through the night at 2 months and hardly ever cries. My brother was a lot like Leta as a child, but I was completely opposite. I think you have gotten your difficult infancy out of the way and the next one will be completely opposite.

  • If my kids were as cute as Leta, I’d want a million of them….okay fine, at LEAST one or two more. 🙂 Besides – you’ve got help this time. Big sisters ALWAYS want to hold little brothers or sisters. Leta can be your nanny……….. 🙂 What’s one more car seat in the Honda?

  • twinsmom

    My twins are now 18 months and we thought we would be trying again at this point. HAHAHA right. It depends on the day I am asked if I want more or not. It is a hard question to answer. I don’t think anyone is ever really prepared for children – no matter how many it is! I have loved watching you raise Leta and Chuck and I would love to see more 🙂

  • jams

    i just wanted to thank you for posting these types of things
    i dont have kids yet and i dont know if i will
    your blog (save for a few of my closest friends) is the only thing that makes me feel sane for not knowing if i want kids or not
    i am hugely afraid of failing, and have spent a great deal of my life waiting for ‘perfect’ moments. the right time to do X,Y, and Z. there is no perfect time, i know this in theory of course.
    i read through your archives and i just feel so much more NORMAL for not knowing, and for being totally scared at the thought of creating a human being.
    most women act like i’m a alien if i’m not dropping eggs at the mere mention of the word ‘baby’

    thank you so much heather
    whatever you decide for your family, you have shown how strong you are and how much love your family has for you, and you will make it through

  • I have these kinds of thoughts (and many more) about whether to have children at all. Whether a child would fit into our lives, and how; whether we’d be ok with that much change; whether I would psychologically be able to handle the body changes, the lack of sleep, the anxiety.

    Right now, all things considered, for me the answer remains a clear and firm, “No” (even though Baby Head Smell clouds my thinking at times). That may change; but I am open to the possibility that it won’t.

    There is a lot of pressure to have children, and then to have more children; but no one can decide for you what’s right for you and your spouse. Incidentally, you and I are the same age (both valedictorians, Class of ’93 – woot!), and, relatively speaking, we’re quite young. There is time.

  • iamjenlindsey

    my partner and i have the same struggle debating back and forth on the should we or shouldn’t we question. she takes meds daily to help control her bipolar rollercoaster and most likely would need to come off the meds in order to conceive. it’s a tough dilemma.

    you should consider the fact that you made it this far and you survived (dare i say thrived) as did your marriage. you’ll know what you’re up against ahead of time the next go round which seems to me like a kick ass advantage for dooce.

  • Those are really big questions. I wish you luck in finding the answers.

    Meanwhile, I’m taking a moment to celebrate the fact that you’ve healed, and that you know it.

  • Kat

    I’ve been struggling with this exact issue for at least a year. My son is two months older than Leta and I’ll be 35 soon…but I also had PPD and the thought of subjecting everyone to that again makes me queasy. Every time I think I might be pregnant I panic; every time I know I’m not pregnant I get weepy. I keep wondering if I should wait to have another one until I feel as 100% sure as I did before becoming pregnant the first time. But now that I know what pregnancy and parenthood really involves, I’m not so sure I would ever feel that blissfully naive again. I envision Christmas morning or Disney World vacation in, say, 2012, and I see two kids there; I’m just not real clear on how to get there from here without leaving my sanity at the side of the road. Good luck in your decision, Armstrongs, and thanks for sharing your ambivalence….it’s good to know I’m not alone.

  • Heidi

    If you decide to have children, I think it will be somewhat easier next time. You both will be more prepared and know what to expect. Also if you wait until Leta’s 13, she can babysit 😉

  • John

    I thought for sure you would say at the end of the post that you’re preggo.

    Anyways, the way I look at things [as a gay male who obviously has ALL the knowledge on this matter] is that if you think bringing another child into this world, more specifically your household [a very loving and nurturing environment], and it’s something you are excited about, then do so. You said yourself you are in mom mode, which might detract from many of the scary situations that occured in the first experience. Leta is still alive and well, as are you and Jon. I think that’s a positive.

    Plus, you’ve got a bigger support system than most. How many readers? 35,000? And if anyone comments or emails negatively, you can just erase or delete them, which is a privilege very few have.

    You made it through once, and now you’re better off for it.

    And imagine the blog fodder.

  • It’s good that you are taking the time to think all of this through. So many people don’t put that much time into planning their last meal of the day let alone family planning. I know that no matter what you decide, all will be well. Good luck!

  • I won’t be so bold as to suggest how many children you should or shouldn’t have, but I will say this: know your limitations. Mine are such that I have two children and a still-healing vasectomy. The one-to-one parent-to-child ratio is the only set of odds I’m willing to accept. Beyond that, fuggedaboutit.

  • I wake up every morning praying I’m not unknowingly pregnant. My beautiful five-month-old is more than enough. Sometimes I try to remember what it was like to function before the baby.. when I still had a half of brain to focus on things like work and drinking.

    Do these thoughts of yours mean you’re thinking of PLANNING a pregnancy. Do you know anyone who’s planned them? I can’t figure out how they do that. I say OMG, holy effing fertility, and Hooray! if babiness happens again, but planning one is sheer insanity.

  • ripplebliss

    I really admire you for stepping back and taking time to consider this decision!
    It is a HUGE thing!
    The decision to have one child is as beautiful as the decision to pump out a small army of progeny, despite what some may say.
    It’s all about what decision suits your life and your comfort level.
    If you know you have enough “mom” for two, and crave more spark in your life, then pop that Folic Acid !
    If your lifestyle, home and personality are made to accomodate. a happy little threesome, then enjoy the extra time, money and relative peace!

  • kidsmom

    Ummm, how about adopting a two year old? 😉

  • Mack’sMom

    From experience…your Dr. can keep you on something like Prozac while you’re pregnant and/or nursing. Once you are done with that step you can go back on your regular stuff.

    It was a hard adjustment at first…but my body got used to it and I did pretty well.

  • kidsmom

    Ummm, how about adopting a two year old? 😉

  • Good for you for asking all of these questions and really thinking things through before jumping right in and trying again. You are feeling the urges, you are analyzing all of the issues/factors, and trying to be responsible about making this decision. *patpatpat*

    That said, you could totally overthink things here. Having had NO kids, and not even being married, I am in the supreme position of authority to say . . . you never know. While I would never wish your ordeal those first six months on anyone, they do put you at an advantage now in that you’ve been through the worst (or almost) and you know how to recognize those signs, Jon knows how to recognize them, and you can take care of things before they get out of hand.

    I don’t know what the statistics are on recurrence of postpartum depression/anxiety, but since you have been through it once, and sought treatment (you should not underestimate what a big step that was), the chances of it being as bad as last time are pretty slim to none, IMHO. I just don’t think it’s possible for the ordeal to be exactly as it was last time because now you are going into it with your eyes open, are aware of the risks and the signs, and are prepared to do whatever is necessary to treat it promptly and fully so that you can take care of your family.

    As for whether your house is big enough, financial issues, etc., I always feel those things just work out. Then again, I’m the one who hasn’t actually HAD a kid . . .

    You don’t need luck in making the decision. You’re well-equipped to do the right thing for you.

  • mousejockey

    I do. Don’t. If you have all of these doubts put the idea, at very least on hold. Enjoy the people in your life. If you feel the need to stick baby’s heads in your mouth become a candy striper in a maternity ward. Personally, if I knew there was a chance of twins, I would immediately get a hysterectomy. My cousin had a toddler and then had twin boys and she says she doesn’t remember the first two years of their lives, it was a blur. Enjoy Leta and John, life is short. Is the only thing you want to experience is midnight terror screams and changing diapers? YIKES!!

  • Michelle~in~Memphis….ugh

    I don’t know why the question of “when are you going to have another?” is so uncomfortable. My son is almost 7. I still feel like he’s my baby. I don’t know when I will be ready to open my heart to a new child. I too went through post-partum. It’s a scary thought to do that all over again. I don’t know if I could handle letting my son see me in that state. It’s frightenting. My grandmother had post partum with number three of her 4 girls. I know she made it through. I know we could do it. It is just the unknown that is so creepy. Some say it gets easier with each one. But not for anal retentive people. It is just as spastic as the first.

    You’ll know when you are ready.

  • Your fears are totally understandable.

    You are stronger now and you have learned a lot through your experiences. You will be better equipped for whatever decisions you and Jon make.

  • Ah, the old Mormon announce-the-pregnancy-with-a-cheesy-gift technique. I spend every Christmas morning in a state of permanent cringe in anticipation of one or more of my nineteen-year-old cousins giving her mother a baby rattle. Gah.

  • I’ve got three kids. Hell, if I can do it, you sure can! Throw caution to the wind! Breed your little heart out!

  • snowshyn

    Birth control fails. Condoms fail. God will decide when it’s time for you to expand your family.

  • It seems that you are more ready to have another child than you are willing to admit. You are asking all the right questions, have all the right concerns.

    There are no guarantees.

    You have a good thing going. A beautiful daughter, a loving husband. Bringing another baby isn’t going to spoil that.

    But it might complicate it.

    It will definitely change it.

    Listen to your heart and Jon’s, too.

    You have time. Whatever decision you make will be the right one.

    P.S. I have a stepson who is 15 and a daughter who is 5. I happily drove my husband to the doctor when Margaret was 6 weeks old to get a vasectomy (even though he would’ve been happy with a litter of kids).

    I’ve never looked back. But I knew was I was pregnant that she was the only one for me.

  • ChristyD

    I don’t know either, but it sounds like the things that are stopping you are temporary. The first 6 months, the post-partum depression, the money, insurance. We had a surprise baby last year and I was terribly worried about similar issues. I am so thrilled that it worked out the way it did because I never would have had another on purpose, and I think we all would have missed out on so much.