I’m always surprised when people who I barely know so bluntly ask personal questions. I have a neighbor who lives down the street who I kindly wave to when he walks his dog by my house and my son and I are playing outside. On more than one occasion, he has yelled from the sidewalk, “Hey, when are you going to have another one?”
The first time he asked me, I was shocked and just did a polite smile. But when he kept asking both me and my husband, I started just saying, “We are good now.”
But here is what I really want to say.
I fear . . .
I won’t be strong enough to have another child.
I won’t have enough patience.
I won’t be able to handle it all.
I won’t have enough to give.
I’ll be too tired.
I’ll be too sad.
I’ll be too angry.
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I won’t have time for myself.
I won’t be able to attend to both children.
I’ll be too overwhelmed.
I’ll feel stuck.
My physical health will fail.
My mental health will suffer.
My son’s mental health will suffer.
I’ll go back to that dark place and do things I will regret.
What my neighbor doesn’t know is that my son was born premature, and I fear that would happen again with a future baby.
He doesn’t know that I suffered severe postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD and was unable to function.
He doesn’t know that I spent five weeks in the NICU just hoping my baby would come home soon.
He doesn’t know that I suffered from constant plugged ducts which were beyond painful and pumped every 2-3 hours for four months straight.
He doesn’t know that my son had a tethered spinal cord and required spinal surgery at 14 months old.
He doesn’t know that our life for the first three years was constant therapy from a variety of specialists–feeding, speech, OT, PT, counseling.
He doesn’t know I wasn’t properly treated for postpartum PTSD until my son was four years old. He doesn’t know that my physical health suffered dramatically for a year and a half before I was able to find appropriate help.
And while I haven’t had difficulty getting pregnant or experienced miscarriage, how does he know this hasn’t happened to me? What if I was a mom who had been through multiple rounds of IVF? What if I’ve had miscarriages? How triggering that would be?
What my neighbor doesn’t know is that I ask myself that same question every day, multiple times a day.
When AM I going to have another child?
What would it mean if I didn’t want another child?
Is there something wrong with me as a mother—as a woman—if I want only one child?
Is there something wrong with me if I can only handle one child?
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I know I’m not the only one out there who feels this way. I know my fears are completely valid given my experiences. I know next time will be different because I have learned so much about myself, my body, and my mind. But that still doesn’t make the decision any easier.
Right now, my answer is I don’t know. Maybe I’ll know one day. But for now, I don’t need to know. And I certainly don’t owe neighbors an explanation.