Background: So, I have this one kid, right? And sometimes people ask me when I'm going to have another kid. The short answer is, "I don't know. Possibly never."
The longer answer is as follows: Nathan's babyhood was very, very hard for me. In addition to the usual trials of raising babies (the interrupted sleep, the endless laundry, the breastfeeding), I just felt this overwhelming grief about the loss of my independence. (Truth be told, I occasionally still feel pangs of that loss. Like when I work out at the gym in the evening and I see the young, childless people heading home to an evening of zoning out on the couch, and all I can think about is how I have to drag my tired ass home and make dinner, clean up after dinner, do the whole bedtime routine, and then try to get my kid to fall asleep.) Furthermore, my husband and I had a lot of new roles to work out in terms of how to divide up the parenting, which is something I know all new parents have to deal with, except that we had the additional issue of my husband's extreme night-owlness, which resulted in a lot of resentment on my part when I was always the one getting up with the baby early in the morning. Oh, and after Nathan was born I had a problem with my thyroid, which resulted in extreme fatigue and depression. And just when I figured that had been straightened out for good, I had some real, stand-alone depression, which led me down a very bad path of trying to find the right meds and pull myself out of it all. And I really didn't feel like I had truly beaten depression until Nathan turned 2, and at that point I had also had made some serious career choices (namely, quitting). And I just thought, if it took me two years to finally feel like something of a human again, and to work out all these issues with my marriage, health, and career, then why in the hell would I even think of throwing a wrench in things by having another baby?
And honestly, that's the attitude I still take now. I have finally reached a point where I feel like my family is cruising along pretty well (knock on wood). Bill and I have our roles figured out, and I've made my peace with being a single parent before 10:00 a.m. Nathan is becoming less and less of a baby. No longer do I have to worry about timing my life around naptime, or feel like I'm trapped in my house with a baby. I feel like I have enough freedom to shower and go to the bathroom without freaking out about my child's safety. He isn't eating food that comes straight out of my body anymore. He can talk and tell me what he wants. He's almost reliably potty-trained.
I know, I just know, that the time isn't right for us to have another baby. And if the time is never right, so be it. I've made my peace with it.
Until somebody calls and tells me she's pregnant.
And then it just guts me. I know this person's pregnancy has nothing to do with me. The very fact that my mind turns somebody's pregnancy announcement around to make it about me just makes me feel awful. Nobody says, "Hey, let's get pregnant to make Shannon look bad." And yet, if I'm being totally honest, my first thought after everybody's pregnancy announcement is, "If they can do it, why can't we?"
So, such was the situation I found myself in this evening when I got a call right before dinner. The dinner was a gourmet meal of pancakes, which is a fact that becomes relevant later in this story. Anyway, while I was making the pancakes I was on the phone with my brother, because it was his birthday, and my cell phone rang. I let it go to voicemail, but checked the voicemail right after hanging up with my brother. "I have news!" said the friend in a sing-songy voice.
Well, we all know what that means.
So, I called back, offered my congratulations, and apologized that I had to go eat dinner right then.
What followed was one of those situations that occurs frequently in a marriage, wherein Person A is angry about something, but Person B has no possible way of knowing this, such that Person B is stunned when person A totally snaps in response to some minor, mundane request or comment.
So, Person A had just gotten off the phone, and was plunging into an emotional spiral where she was questioning every facet of her very existence. Why did I decide not to have another baby? If everyone else can have two (or three, or four, or seven), what's wrong with us? Why am I so weak and pathetic? My life doesn't amount to anything. I'm kind of sucking at raising this one child. What's wrong with me? I am fat. No wonder I suck at running.
Person B, meanwhile, was looking for pancake syrup.
And so the conversation went like this:
B: Hey Shannon, have you seen that pancake syrup I bought?
A: NO! STOP ASKING! I DON'T KNOW.
B: I mean, seriously, I bought this syrup, and I don't know where it went.
A: Why don't you use this other syrup [points to syrup on table]?
B: But I bought this other syrup so I could have two kinds of syrup.
A: Yes, that sucks. I am truly sorry that when you pictured your life, you always imagined that you would have two syrups, and then circumstances didn't work out as you planned, and now you only have one syrup. And then your friend called to say that she and her husband were getting another syrup, and you want to be happy for them, but really you're just sad that you can't have two syrups.
And then I shoved approximately 75 pancakes down my throat, in a pit of carb-fueled despair. Because I missed the point of Women Food and God.
I want to be happy with the miraculous child I have. I want to feel secure with what I have chosen, and to be happy for other people's choices, too. I want to stop mourning for the second child I always pictured myself having, even though that child was never wanted or conceived, and to stop feeling sorry for myself because there are actual people out there who have lost children who were wanted and conceived, and sometimes even born. I want to stop being angry at depression for what it took from me. I want to love myself.