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It's a Baby, Not a Root Canal

It's a well-known fact that the moment you have one child people (friends, strangers, family, etc.) will immediately ask if you are having another.

On more than occasion, I have expressed ambivalence over having another child. While in theory we would like another child, we are unsure of when the right time will be to have a second. To which people respond, "Oh, well if you want another one, you should just hurry up and get it over with."

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Get it over with? Like its a root canal or an oil change? People who say this are mostly people who have themselves had children one right after the other, so I will not question their authority on the subject. But I wonder, are they implying that having young children is so hard that we should just hurry up and get out of the, "OMG DO NOT PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH" phase?

I definitely see their point. But what if I am just holding on to my sanity with a child who is 22 months and our step-daughter who is with us on weekends? What about the fact that some days I'm so exhausted from the pressures of work, home and life that I just cannot fathom having another little person in my life? Do I wait a few years in the hopes that I will feel differently? Or should we, indeed, just get it over with?

As you can tell, I'm hypersensitive and over-analyze everything.

Not too long ago, we were packing baby items to donate, and I felt pangs in my stomach at the thought of letting go of stuff we could pass on to this third baby.

This is where I insert a disclaimer: I love my child deeply, in a way I couldn't have imagined loving anyone. My soul warms when I'm with him. I am patient when he is frustrated, and motherhood has made me better. I love my blended family. I love my partner deeply. He is a great partner. We aren't perfect, but we try our best every day even on the hard days.

This is where I also tell you how our first child was conceived. It was one of the first times in my life I threw caution to the wind. I did not anticipate that I would get pregnant so quickly, because I was close to 30. I knew people who were actively trying and weren't getting pregnant, so I took a gamble and went off birth control. Eleven months later our son was born. It all happened very quickly.

Talk about just "getting it over with."

Nonetheless, I feel that "just get it over with" implies there is an obligation to have another child, and so rather than waiting to feel prepared to add another child to our family, we should get pregnant already before our "window" expires.

I suspect some of this "just get it over with" mentality is also linked to the idea that it is better for children to be closer in age, because they can be friends, share milestones and you can re-use baby gear. My nieces are 2.5 years apart and are thick as thieves on most occasions. My older siblings are 14 months apart, and they are closer to each other than they are to me for a variety of reasons—age possibly being one of them. My partner and I do not have siblings close in age, and so we personally cannot attest to whether or not it's best for children to be close in age from an emotional standpoint. This is where we must also consider that the longer we wait, the wider the age gap will be for the new sibling and my step-daughter.

Of course, "just get over with" and age difference among siblings isn't the only thing to ponder. What are the financial implications of having a third child? Already we are looking at the cost of school, extracurricular activities, college and wondering how we will afford these costs. A recent Boston Globe piece explored that in fact multiple children are becoming a status symbol. We also know that where you live determines the type of income you will have at age 26 and that upward mobility is all but impossible in many parts of the country, including Los Angeles County where I live. If you look at it like that, it seems radical that I even had any children at all even though, according to this Fusion wealth calculator, my income puts us in the top 5 percent of millennial income earners. In these times of economic uncertainty "getting it over with" might also be a reflection of your income and how you choose to spend it.

Before I had children, I always wondered if people started off knowing they wanted a certain amount of children, and if they would make it work no matter what happened. Or maybe they decided as they went along based on how their financial situation panned out. Now that I have a family, I wonder if ambivalence is a sign that maybe we shouldn't have another child? At least not any time soon, since the rational side, at times, leans towards not having more children. Not too long ago, we were packing baby items to donate, and I felt pangs in my stomach at the thought of letting go of stuff we could pass on to this third baby. I also get flashes of a future that includes holidays with our son and stepdaughter, and inevitably I wonder if there should another person there to open gifts with us and sit at the dinner table.

I don't have to have the answer right now because, in fact, there is no obligation to "just get it over with."

I had dinner with a friend recently and she asked me if we were considering having another child. I took a sip of wine and expressed the intense trepidation each time that question was brought up and that I didn't quite know how to answer. She said, "Why are you putting so much pressure on yourself to know the answer now?" Her simple response liberated me from the chaos of my own mind. I don't have to have the answer right now because, in fact, there is no obligation to "just get it over with."

In the meantime, people should start considering that asking this question could be an emotional minefield for some. I'm not pointing fingers. After all, in the context of young families, that question isn't so far-fetched. And I have even asked others that question myself.

But we should do so with an understanding that this question can be uncomfortable for some and painful for others. When we have children is not always under our control. Having children is part biology, part financial risk assessment and mostly quite personal.

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There's so much pressure on parents at this moment in time. Every decision is subject to intense analysis by the media, the internet and by those in our inner-circles. We judge each other based on the type snacks we give our children, and we brag about how many words our toddlers can speak.

Lets not add more pressure to our very full plates.

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Image by Twenty20/marine.fonteyne

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