by Dezi Hall
This weekend I started picking out furniture for the guest room in my new home. When I sent my mother a link to a nightstand I was hemming and hawing over, she responded with "Wow, so… you're really not having another baby?"
We have a four-bedroom house. For a while, the rooms were labeled, Master, Nursery, Office and TBD. But after some careful thought, TBD is now Guest Room, even though everyone was assuming it would be Nursery #2.
As soon as you have one child (especially one who rocks), people begin asking when the encore will arrive. Even worse than asking, some people (really, most) just go right ahead calling your child your "first," implying without hesitation that there will be seconds or- God forbid- thirds. The idea that your family is truly only complete when you have two children is so ingrained in the American Family psyche that it is a shocking affront to all that is holy when you politely correct people that, no, this is not your first, but your only.
Before I got pregnant, throughout my pregnancy and even after my daughter was born, I also assumed my husband and I would have two children. I hadn't put any real thought into it other than, well, I love my own brother and it's just what you do.
I found the newborn phase of my daughter's life very high stress. My husband and I were used to sleeping a luxurious 8-9 hours a night in our pre-baby world. We were also used to living in a world where we pretty much did whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. This world no longer existed. As the weeks went by I fell more and more in love with my daughter. But, anytime someone mentioned the next go-round, my adrenaline would spike. I would feel a fresh wave of terror and anxiety as people said innocuous things to me like "You're going to want to save that Rock N' Play for the next one." I felt like the newborn phase was a dark grimy tunnel, and I had finally crawled my way out to the bright land of baby smiles and slobbery kisses. This rosy place was worth every second in that newborn hellscape, there's no way I'll be dragged through again for round two.
My pregnancy itself was hard. It was filled with emotionally fraught trips to the E.R. that left me terrified and on edge for all three trimesters, bookended with debilitating morning sickness, sciatica and fluid in my feet that left me unable to walk much less enjoy my morning runs. The thought of doing that again, while also having to take care of what would then be my toddler was suffocating. I loved my daughter more than anything, and the thought of having to be (far) less than my best self for her for basically a year made me feel immensely guilty and sad.
But, even with the near-drowning feeling that overcame me each time I thought about starting over two years later, I never really considered that I had a choice to do anything but forge ahead with this second child. My husband and I tentatively talked about this next kid, feigning enthusiasm, sharing weak encouraging smiles, folding up the newborn clothes and putting them in the back of the closet for "the next baby."
And then one day, something miraculous happened. My husband opened his mouth and very carefully, very quietly, mumbled the most amazing words I'd ever heard.
"You know… I don't think I really want to have another one." The lights went on. The cabin depressurized and dropped down my emergency mask. I could breathe again.
As soon as I told my husband that, "Oh my god, I don't think I want to either," we began almost giddily imagining and talking about what life would be like as a family of three. And you know what? It seemed pretty damn amazing. Far better than my dusty image of a foursome held over from my middle school musings about adult life. We could travel. And we wouldn't have to wait for a second one to be age appropriate for a plane. We would have enough money to send our golden child to whatever college she wanted to go to. We would still have enough time and money left over for ourselves.
But beyond all the big picture benefits, what really got me was bath time. We would never have to split up bath time- one of us shakily sponge bathing a newborn while the other played with rubber duckies with our daughter. We've always given her a bath together, and now we wouldn't have to put an end to what is one of my favorite family times of day. Just the three of us, soapy, smiley and content.
Not only won't I lose time with my daughter, but I won't have to lose time with my husband either. And this image- the image of my daughter between my husband and I, holding one of each of our hands- this is the new picture of my family. Forget the American Dream. This is beyond even my wildest dreams.