A Second Child: To Have or Have Not?

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I have written about this subject before, the question of whether or not Anthony and I should add another child to our family.  At the time, that question seemed to loom ahead in the future.   It felt distant and far away.  I said if I did have a second child, I wanted to wait until Rosemarie was somewhat self-sufficient:  potty trained, walking well on her own, and climbing into her car seat, before I had another baby to take care of.

It is clear now that that time is almost here.  It is no longer a decision to be made down the road.  One never knows how long it will take to bring a baby home, adopted or otherwise, and since I would want my children to be fairly close in age if I had another, the time to act is now.

And yet I can act.  I can’t move forward because I still don’t know the best answer.  I still don’t know whether or not I want a second child.

There are times that I do.

When my friend brings over her eleven-month-old little girl, and Rosie bends down to her face smiling ear to ear, calling her “baby”, tickling her and giggling all the while.

When frosty snow covers the ground and Rosemarie stands at the door ready to go out and play.  And guilt fills my heart that she will have to make snow angels all by her lonesome, that she won’t have a partner for a snowball fight.  Of course, I can play with her but let’s be honest.  The older she gets, the less fun it will be to have her mother as a playmate.

When I see my adult friends who are only children with sick parents and the weight of that burden, far too heavy for one person, rests solely on their shoulders.

When Rosemarie grabs my hand as I fold the laundry asking me in her sweet voice to come in the play room to build a tower.  While I’m tempted to finish folding the towels in front of me, I can’t refuse her, for all I see in my mind is her sitting all by herself on the chevron rug, placing the Legos on top of each other, yelling “tada” once she’s done to an empty room.

When we drive away from her cousins’ houses, and her cries fill my ears as she calls their names from her car seat long after we have left their homes behind.

When I realize almost all of the children around Rosemarie have siblings. And no matter now much they love her, no matter how much their parents instill in them that they must love Rosie and protect as if she is their sister, she isn’t.  Believe me, I am not speaking biologically here.  What I mean is they have siblings with whom they will grow every day, siblings with whom they will share bedrooms, parents, and the kind of memories you can only make when you live in the same home.   In this way, they all have sisters and brothers.  But Rosie only has them.

I know I sound dramatic.  I am not claiming Rosemarie spends all her days weeping from her loneliness.

Still, these are the moments when I want a second child.

But, alas, there I times when I don’t.

When I do enter that play room with Rosemarie.  I can sit on the floor and play with her because I have time to do so.  Because I do have to hold the house together and wash the dishes and cook dinner, but I can find the time for it all because there is only one child to tend to.  I don’t have to change someone else’s diaper or help someone else with homework.  I can give her the attention she needs and also give some attention to my house, my husband, and myself.

When I am around my sister (Love you, Kris) and her three children and I see how incredibly busy her day is. When I see how it just never ends.  Because when one child is settled, the other needs juice and when that child’s thirst is quenched, the baby needs a clean diaper.

When I see my own mother with her four grown children (Love you too, Mom) and I notice that sometimes she too is stretched across her daughters.  She babysits for me on Monday, helps Kristen plan a party on Tuesday, visits a college with my niece on Wednesday and cooks dinner for my nephew on Thursday.

And I’m not saying my mother or sister is unhappy with her life. I’m not saying anything for either of them. I’m simply saying maybe I don’t want the the same thing.

Maybe I want to have time.  Time to write.  Time to read.  Time to wrap every Christmas present with ribbon, tree branches and candy canes.  Time to decorate for Valentine’s Day.  Time to see my friends.  Time to just do.  No, I don’t have time to do everything I want to do.  Just yesterday, I got my nails done for the first time in three months, but I think I have more time than mothers with more than one child.

I know what you’re thinking. The list of reasons to have a second child far outweighs the list not to have another, right?  Plus, my reasons to have second are all in the interest of Rosemarie; most of my reasons not to have one are about me.  As mothers, isn’t it our job to put our children’s needs before our own?

When I consider this, two things come to mind.  First, I think of the other major reason I am unsure about a second baby:  my stamina.  I will not delve into this in depth again as it was discussed at length in my other post on this subject, but it’s a huge factor in my inability to decide.

Of course if we adopt another child, I will fall in love again.  All my fears of having not enough time, of feeling too chaotic will pale in comparison to the joy a son or another daughter will bring to my life.

But my stamina will not just magically increase.  My frequent need for a midday nap will not instantly disappear. There will still be times when I feel I can’t keep up as a mother of a toddler or a preschooler or a teenager.  And it’s possible having a second will only make matters worse.  It is possible Rosemarie and this other child will have a less attentive mother, a mother who needs rest more often and who will have less energy to give to her kids.

And what about this other child?  All of my reasons to have him or her are about Rosemarie.  Is that really fair? Is it right to have a second child just for the sake of your first?  Let’s remember.  This is a bit different when adoption is involved.  If I were to have a biological child, that child literally would not exist unless I decided to have him.  But with adoption, the adopted child will exist and will live whether or not Anthony and I adopt him.  Is it right to bring the child home, to make him ours, if I want him mostly because of the child I already have?  Is it right when another couple desperate for a first child or second or third could adopt him instead?

(Sidenote:   To my second child, if you do come into our lives, please know I love you with every bit of myself.  Please know that now that I have you, I can’t imagine life without you.  When I wrote this, I just hadn’t met you yet.)

Perhaps all of this means I am just thinking too much.  Perhaps not.  I know people who have had more children without every really knowing if it was what they wanted.  I also know people who have always wanted two or three or more.

What I don’t know is what I want.  What I don’t know is the best choice for my family.  And what I really don’t know is how I will ever decide!

Some couples leave such a question up to fate.  Some couples can just say “if it happens, it happens.” But others, like adoptive parents or those who need infertility treatments, have to definitively decide if this is what they want.  We must decide.  We must move forward.  I just don’t know how.

 

 


New Year’s Blues

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Is it just me?  Am I the only one who doesn’t feel excited as New Year’s approaches? Am I alone in the fact that the hours spent before counting down those ten seconds until we enter a new year don’t fill me with joy but instead a sinking sense of sadness?

Granted, I do spend every New Year’s Eve watching at least twelve hours of The Twilight Zone, which isn’t exactly uplifting, but it must be more than that.

Because it wasn’t always this way.

Party All the Time

Growing up, New Year’s Eve was one of the most fun celebrations for my family.  Filling the long rectangle of my aunt and uncle’s dining room, we ate and laughed and sang and cheered.  My uncle always brought out his karaoke machine and we passed the black microphone around the table singing Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, and Billy Joel.  I can still picture my little grandmother, the mic in her sweet, wrinkled hand as she sang “Where Or When”, her voice a little shaky, but still filled with the talent of her youth.

By the end of the night, the other children and I always performed some sort of musical number.  Our first ever was “Just a Gigolo”; my sister Kristen wore a plastic New Year’s hat to play the main role.  I was one of the girls on her arm.  But my favorite of all time was “Copacabana.” I can still remember the joy that filled my chest when I picked Lola’s name out of the hat and knew I would be the star of our little show.  A half hour later, I danced around the blue carpet of my aunt’s den trying to move as a showgirl would.  Kristen and Fannie fought over me as Ricky and Tony, poor Kristen falling dead after that fatal gunshot.  Our family exploded in applause.

New Year’s Eve was a blast then and well into my teenage years.

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The More Things Change

I know the change must have begun when my father died.  The first New Year’s after that, we simply pretended it wasn’t New Year’s at all.  We spent the night together but Dick Clark stayed off our televisions and no countdown was shouted out loud at midnight.  Of course we were sad that year.  We were distraught.  Our loss was only four months old.  We hadn’t even begun to grieve yet.

The next year, we celebrated mostly for the sake of the children.  At my aunt’s house, we laid bubble wrap along the floor.  When midnight hit, the kids jumped up and down in glee popping the bubbles with their tiny feet.

But the sadness was still there.  And midnight came with just as many tears as it did smiles.

I suppose every year it got a little bit easier.  As more babies were born, the more fun and joy returned to our New Year’s Eves.   And for the past several years, even though we could feel the void of my father’s presence, we had a good time.  My mother’s house was often crowded with family and friends.  Some years, we munched on fried rice and egg rolls.  Others, we snacked on spicy chicken wings and slathered ribs.  We drank and talked and laughed and cheered.

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But no matter how much fun we had, that melancholy mood still lingered within me.  Each year, at some point in the night, I found my way to the couch in the den, curling up to watch some more of Rod Sterling’s chilling stories.

This year, I didn’t even make the effort to make sure we had any real plans for the Eve.  With Anthony working and most of our normal companions having other plans, we ended up with midnight bells of no more than five people.

I know it’s my fault.  I didn’t plan because I don’t really care about celebrating on New Year’s but I don’t believe my father’s death is the only reason for my aversion to the last night of the year.

Because for me, New Year’s is a unique holiday in this way.  I think of him on every holiday and every day of every year and there are moments when his death hits me all over again, but I am still able to feel the joy of special moments.  I was elated watching Rosemarie make the sign of the cross during Grace on Thanksgiving, seeing her press her small palms together as she said “Amen.”  I felt true joy on Christmas morning as she ripped the wrapping paper off her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and yelled “Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse!”

But New Year’s still brings that pit in my stomach, the kind you feel on a Sunday night as a child when school looms the next morning.

 

What is it about New Year’s then?  I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  I have friends who also admit to feeling down on December 31st every year.  And these friends don’t all have a loss they consider to be life-changing in their past that could be the reason for their melancholy.

Is it just the fear of getting older?  Is it the unavoidable pang of sadness we feel when we realize how quickly our children are growing?

 

Let’s Get This Party Started

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided it’s time to shake that sadness off and bring the joy back to New Year’s.  I don’t want Rosemarie growing up with a New Year’s celebration that’s tainted with her mother’s sulkiness.

Next New Year’s, I have to find a way to cheer myself up and jazz up our night.  Maybe I need to fill the night with more friends and family.  Maybe I need to plan activities ahead of time.  Maybe I just need to psyche myself up for that night.

The good news is that I have a whole year to figure out how I can make this change.   And there I have my first resolution for 2014.  Somehow, someway, I will give Rosemarie a New year’s Eve that’s filled with the fun and joy that I remember feeling as I danced around with yellow feathers in my hair, as I counted down with a sparkling sip of champagne in a plastic glass.  Rosemarie will have New Year’s celebrations to remember.  I resolve to make it happen.

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