Generally, over the past two years, parenting Lily has gradually become more fun and more manageable. Yes, there are still bad, bang-your-head-against-a-wall times occasionally; but she’s more self-sufficient than ever, sometimes amusing herself with sidewalk chalk, her kitchen set, or something completely random like a broom, thus leaving me and Joe with tiny stretches of time to take a breather and steal a glance at a newspaper or magazine.
Which is nothing short of bliss. I’ve missed these small pleasures desperately and have been anxious to have them back – if nothing else, so I can go back to being conversant in something other than the ways in which giving a moose a muffin is probably a bad idea.
But in addition to these tantalizing stolen moments of freedom, we usually all sleep through our nights peacefully. Plus, taking Lily to the zoo or the park these days is a joy, and we now have a routine that works pretty well, despite the fact that our schedules are often packed. Joe and I trade off time to exercise; we get a babysitter for an occasional night out; and Joe takes over Lily-duties on the evenings when I have to work, while I cover for him when there’s an evening event he’d like to, or has to, attend.
So a kind of equilibrium has been established within our cozy little family, and the promise of greater liberties for both Joe and me shines like a beacon. Why on earth would we do something to disrupt this delicate balance and have another child?
A good question – one I’ve neurotically obsessed over, and wrestled with, for months now, and yet I’m no closer to an answer than when I started.
The problem is, of course, that life gets harder in every conceivable way when you add another child into the mix. The cost of having two kids in full-time daycare, while not permanent, would eat every cent of my take-home pay each week; everything from a trip to the store, to meals, to vacations become chaotic production numbers; and for me, staring down the possibility of starting at square one all over again is a truly terrifying prospect. Constant feedings (and consequent soreness and exhaustion); sleepless nights; lugging a pump to and from work; middle-of-the-night runs to the ER when the croup strikes; and the inability to do basic things like take a shower or eat a meal (other than a sandwich wolfed down while standing over a garbage can) on any given day all make me wonder how Joe and I got through it all to begin with.
The answer to that probably lies in the fact that the two of us could focus all our efforts and attention on Lily, and give each other breaks when needed – not so easy to do when a second child comes on the scene. Plus, the inevitable jealousy and hurt that Lily would feel at losing a considerable chunk of her parents’ attention breaks my heart so profoundly that I can barely stand to imagine it. (Even the tiny little things, like lingering and playing with Lily at daycare each day, and allowing her to sit and have a snack before we leave, will become nearly impossible, I know.)
Yes, I realize that Lily might be crazy in love with the baby from the get-go – that’s a possibility. And Joe points out that having a sibling who’s shared, and been witness to, your early life experiences is something that sustains you over the course of your lifetime. Not to mention the scientific research that touts the myriad benefits of having a sibling.
But there could also be years of constant sibling bickering that I don’t wish to referee; and it’s possible that Lily and her hypothetical sibling would never learn to get along with, and respect, each other. There’s just no way of knowing any of this – which is why the choice feels so ludicrous and impossible.
Yet the same was true of deciding to have a child at all, of course. For years, I’d voiced hundreds of reasons why I’d never, ever had an interest in having a child, most of them perfectly valid. The only thing working in its favor, really, was the idea of creating a person who combined (hopefully the best) elements of myself and Joe – my best friend, and the most big-hearted human being I’ve ever known – and the excitement of seeing who that person, a living manifestation of our partnership, would become.
Ultimately, after months of privately talking the subject to death with Joe, these romantic notions beat out my well-reasoned objections – to everyone’s surprise, including myself.
So although we may indeed choose to just ride into the future with the happy little family we have now – which would be enough – we still might also decide to try and have a second child, and we’d likely have to arrive at this choice in a similar way.
That is: while flying in the face of a billion things that could go wrong, we’d just have to close our eyes and jump.