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.