New Mom Dispatch: Doubling down
Learning the parenthood ropes one month at a time
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
At a certain point — sometime around your kid’s first birthday, definitely by the second — people start asking if you’re ready for another baby. It’s not a crazy question; I ask it too. But I do wonder what kind of crazy people unequivocally say yes.
OK, crazy might be too strong. But it does seem to require a bit of temporary insanity to confidently say, yes, we’re maxing out our time, energy, love, money and space on one little person, but sure, let’s double down and just hope it works out for the best.
When I think about having a second, a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald drifts to mind: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” It’s not so much that babies and toddlers are in opposition — at least hopefully not (though I think of a friend who recently reported that things were improving because now her son actually tells her when he’s going to hit the baby before doing it). But their needs are both great and entirely different, and when I try to imagine caring for a baby and a toddler simultaneously, my mind stops functioning a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong: my husband and I definitely want two kids, maybe three. We both come from big families and love and value our siblings and how they’ve shaped us. And it’s impossible to overstate how much joy, fun and fulfillment 2-year-old Fiona has brought into our lives. She’s the best part of our every day. But maybe that’s just it: deep down I can’t help but feel that when you’ve been blessed with one amazing child, it seems almost greedy to expect another. Or somehow slightly reckless — as in, let’s take our happy little family, roll the dice and just cross our fingers we get so lucky again.
I’m guessing most parents feel this way, along the lines of the age-old question, when your heart is so full with one child, how can it fit another? And the answer, as I’ve often heard, is that it just does — the heart can infinitely expand. As can, presumably, one’s patience, energy and equanimity. (Or you just go a little crazier, but it doesn’t last forever.)
And bearing that in mind, I guess all that’s left to do is close our eyes and take the leap. Which, dear readers, we’ve done. If all works out, baby #2, another little girl, is heading our way in late February.
We felt jolted by excitement upon first learning the news in June (not to mention a funny sense of déjà vu). Then for a few nights I could hardly sleep, thinking about how we were going to fit two kids into our small apartment and whether I was crazy to be starting graduate school in the fall. And then there’s the fact that I’d always pictured us moving closer to my family for kid #2, but that’s not currently in the cards. These worries are still present — it’s safe to say the second pregnancy is more pragmatism, less magic — but burning lower. Talking to experienced parents helps, as does the knowledge that we’ve figured out a version of this before. This time, the great unknown is much less so.
And what I keep reminding myself is that, as with the first time, all we can do in the face of great change — be it a second child or anything else — is have faith in the process. In the fact that countless not-crazy parents have done this before. That Fiona will come to appreciate her sibling even if she doesn’t at first (though I think she, who hugs even the mailman, will). That the initial adjustment will probably be bumpy but will smooth out eventually. That I’ll figure out a balance with school somehow. That our families will show up like they always do. That we can get lucky twice. And that we will find the space in our home and, undoubtedly, in our hearts.