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"The first year was hell," a friend said, as she watched her
two and four-year-old-daughters serving "lunch" to their stuffed animals. "But
now, it's so much easier," she continued. "They play together, so we don't have
to constantly entertain them."
Another friend with two young sons rolled his eyes. "Not so
much in our house," he sighed. "It's not like it's twice as much work to have a
second kid. It's ten times as much work! We're exhausted. No one ever gets a
My husband and I looked uncertainly from one friend to the
other. We had been debating the idea of having a second child for months, going
back and forth, without coming to any kind of consensus. Our daughter was nearing
her second birthday. The total, life-changing upheaval that is your first child
had stabilized a bit. And while the idea of going back to the beginning with a
newborn wasn't unthinkable anymore, it still made us tremble… and hesitate… and
What if the delivery was terrifying and complicated again?
What if nursing was a huge challenge again? What if we couldn't handle the
sleep deprivation, the colic, the witching hour, while caring for two children?
What if our daughter regressed into months of jealous tantrums? And worst of
all, what if the precious moments of alone time we had finally carved out for
ourselves and for our marriage disappeared—for years? Would our happy,
functioning little family of three become a four-way disaster?
Deciding to have our daughter was nothing like this. I had always
known that I wanted to be a mom. And the minute I turned 30, I began to
have the most stunningly intense physical longing for a baby. It was like an
ache in every single muscle at once. Watching a woman cradle an infant on the
bus or a family playing together in the park seemed to suck all the air out of
my lungs. I had never wanted anything so clearly and so much—except maybe the
man who would become my baby's father.
It also feels like jumping into a river when you can see the scary rapids in front of you, but not the calm water downstream.
That longing vanished as soon as I saw a plus sign show up
on a pregnancy test, and it has never returned. My arms don't ache to hold a
tiny creature anymore. They are strong from lifting my 30-pound toddler a
hundred times a day. I don't sigh over the angelic little faces of
preschoolers. Instead, I watch my daughter's incredible face grow and change and
gain new expressions every day.
This decision feels more like conducting a sociology survey.
I should probably type up a report: "38% of respondents affirmed that a second
child had impacted their lives in a positive way. 17% expressed nostalgia for
the days of one child when they could have an adult conversation once a week and
maybe even some alone time at the supermarket. 23% simply stared into space with
exhaustion and then asked the interviewer to repeat the question."
It also feels like jumping into a river when you can see the
scary rapids in front of you, but not the calm water downstream. With our first
child, we had absolutely no idea what we were getting into. Does anyone really
know? Would anyone actually have a baby at all if they knew in advance how
mind-blowingly hard it could be?! Probably not. But we survived. We reached a
place where our fragile, frustrating, miraculous infant turned into a walking,
talking human being who plays and laughs and makes up songs. We know now that
this place exists. We also know how tough it is to get there.