At least once a week my husband, Mr Something Wonderful Happened, and I engage in a ritual of sorts.
It always begins like this: “Thank goodness we only have two,” I’ll say.
“We are almost finished with nappies and it is so manageable taking two children out now that they are a bit older, the ratio of adults to children is perfect,” I’ll continue.
Sometimes I add in a sentence or two about how difficult it would be to convince extended family to babysit if we had any more children. Mr Something Wonderful Happened will chime in with some solid points of his own, usually something about package holidays always being for two adults and two children. Sometimes I exclaim over the cost of educating two children, let alone three.
But the ritual always ends in the same way.
“Still…” I say
“Still…” he says.
Because you see, ever since my almost-two-year-old turned one, I have been thinking about how nice it would be to have another baby.
It is not exactly that I want to do another pregnancy, at least not all of it. I am very happy to live out the rest of my days without ever again experiencing morning sickness. I can live without the way I gain 5 kg about 2 minutes after I conceive and just keep going from there. I’d happily skip the varicose veins, the bursitis and the need for a crane if I want to roll over in bed during the third trimester.
But I’d rather like to feel the excitement of seeing two lines on a pregnancy test one last time. And Facebook ultrasound images make me long for the exhilaration of seeing my baby’s heartbeat on a grainy black and white screen just once more.
Still, I can convince myself that it is thoroughly irresponsible to have another baby (who will eventually become another child and then another adult) just because I want to experience the highs of pregnancy again. But I love the idea of a three child household. Of course in the fantasy I have created, my children never fight, and we always have a baby sitter when we need one. And we sail through winter with never so much as a cold.
I want my children to grow up as one of many (ok realistically, one of a few). I am the oldest of four children, a big family by western standards. I look back now and think that my mum must have been exhausted for two decades. But every Christmas, as my siblings make the journey home from their various locations and our house fills with them, their partners and the next generation, I ponder the gift she gave us.
Then I think about the bills and how crazy-busy our lives are. I think about the school fees to come and how, at some point before my youngest turns 10, I’d like to sleep through the night. I think about the post-natal depression I experienced after my second son was born and I wonder if it is selfish to subject my family, whom I love deeply, to another possible episode. I think about the postpartum haemorrhage after my second labour and wonder if it is irresponsible to risk the possibility that a third labour would leave my children without a mother.
Before I decided to have Master A, I wasn’t sure if I should have children. I wrote a mental list of pros and cons. The planet didn’t need another human being, consuming and depleting resources. Terrible news stories would make me wonder how I could justify exposing a child to the ills of the world. What if they were hurt or harmed? And was I brave enough to make myself vulnerable by loving someone so much? My work hours were not family friendly and pulling back from them would invariably mean pulling back from the career I had worked so hard to build. What if I wasn’t a good mother? On the ‘pros’ side, there was really just one thing:
All the love we had to give. So much love, it seemed too much for just the two of us to contain. I thought of all the smooth rocks on sandy beaches, all the trains steaming down tracks, all the sunsets in this world and I knew I wanted to share them with people I loved. I knew there was enough love. And in the end, that single item trumped all the reasons I had listed for not becoming a mum.
Who knows where I’ll end up this time. Maybe that single word will be enough once again.