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I'm Waiting to Want to Have My Second Child

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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 break."

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…

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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.

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But what if…

What if another child became our daughter's best friend and ally for life? What if a family of four instead of three meant more laughter, more joy, more love? What if watching the bond between siblings grow was incredible? What if our daughter never had to face the aging and illness of her parents alone?

People say you will know when your family is complete. But we don't know. And so we wait. For a sign or a gut feeling. To either jump into the river again or not.

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