Sunday, February 10, 2008

I have one and I'm AWESOME

What's been eating away at me lately is this feeling that I, for some reason, "should" continue trying for a second child. I had thought it was because eventually I know Eli will ask why he's an only child and I wanted to be able to tell him that we tried everything we could. I wasn't getting that settled feeling that I normally do when I find the root of my discontent, so I knew there was something else at the heart of it, and I finally think I figured it out.

It's this: If I only want one, I feel like I've failed. It's not at all that I think families with one child are somehow "failed families." It's that I had always been on autopilot, thinking I wanted two, and now, if I only want one, what does that say about me? Again, this has nothing to do with families who want one and have one and are happy. I really, really want to stress that because it is SO about me and so NOT about anyone else. But the point is, if I wanted two, and I got one, and now I don't want two anymore, does that mean I don't like being a mom? Or that I don't think I'm enough of a mom?

I know (on the logical, intellectual level) that of course the answers to these questions are "Of course I do" and "Of course I am." It's just there seems to be some guilt about saying to myself, "I don't want any more of this. Thanks anyway."

I think the reason I separate myself from other families with only one at this point is, well, first and foremost, I have these tendencies toward self-imposed (and unwarranted) guilt but, more importantly, it's this changing-of-my-mind aspect. What changed my mind? Why is one enough? I wanted two. Why don't I feel like I want that second one anymore? It's convenient to say that over time I've just kind of lost my enthusiasm, but in the grand scheme of infertility, we've been trying for NO time at all, so if the true desire was there at the outset, I think that a year and a half later it should still be there.

We're continuing to try for a bit longer, but I'll admit that it's half-hearted. I rarely chart; there are no more "let's do it one more time just to cover our bases"; sometimes a new Project Runway is just more interesting. You get the picture.

I am very much the type of person who has to have some psychological peace before I can let something go, and half the battle with that is finding the root of my discontent. I think I'm on to something with this one. I've got more to think about.

Before I go: I think I made my point but I feel very strongly about making absolutely certain that I'm not misunderstood: I am not not NOT saying that mothers of only children are not "enough" in some way. The ridiculousness of that idea is what led me to this revelation in the first place, because no one should think that, including me. What I'm trying to do here is just sort out my convoluted, confused feelings.

Friday, February 1, 2008

My one and only

Lately I've noticed a subtle but significant semantic shift in my life, one that followed a more dramatic one. When Eli was tiny, the common question was "Is he your first?" Easy question to answer. Once he reached a certain age (maybe 18 months) the question became "Is he your only one?" Also easy. Lately, the question has become (pay attention here because this is the subtlety) "Is he an only child?" A little more complex.

The reasoning behind the first question is obvious. The reasoning behind the second question, in my estimation, is that people want to know if he's an only child but he's still so little that if even if he is, he may not be destined to stay that way. But now, at almost three, the minor language change speaks volumes. The etching of his identity into the proverbial stone has begun.

It doesn't really bother me, it just gives me potloads of food for thought. These days, everything gets me thinking about Eli as an only child. I meet grown only children and study them, their comments, their thinking, their ideas. And, if I know them well enough, I ask them about it directly. I watch TV and think things like, "Well, Little Bear is an only child and he seems happy. Mother Bear doesn't play with him much, though, and Father Bear is quite serious. Little Bear must be lonely. And yet he seems happy. Thank goodness for Duck. And Cat. And the others. Who will be Eli's Duck?" (Dora used to be another only child role model but I found out recently that she has twin baby siblings. Why'd they have to go and ruin a good thing? I liked her. So spunky, that one.) So it's only natural that as people have started asking directly whether Eli is only child I have found myself mulling it over (and over and over and over). Each time I say "Yes, he is," I try it on for size. I wonder, "Will that feel natural for the next twenty years?" "How will it sound when they ask him and he says, "Yes, I am."

As you might have gathered from all of this, I'm still not pregnant. I don't expect to be. As sands through the hour glass, so are the months of our TTC. We're giving this another few months and calling it quits, and we feel pretty good about that. Soon I will be 41. At that point, a baby conceived would be exactly four years younger than Eli. More importantly, at that point, I would like to get on with my life. I think because I had always "planned" to be done having children by the time I was 40 (which then became "done getting pregnant"), my 41st birthday just seems like a nice cut-off. And, more importantly, an age difference larger than four years seems so big -- too big for us.

At first I resisted having a set cut-off (and of course I reserve the right to completely ignore it when the time comes), but I look at it as giving myself the gift of freedom: freedom to embrace what we have and make it extraordinary; freedom to stop thinking about what might be, and start celebrating (completely) what is. David would be content to stop right now. I'm not quite there. I'm almost there, and every month lately as I'm waiting to blow a few bucks for the privilege of seeing just one lonely line appear on that stick, I tell myself "Yeah, this is the last month." But then I can't quite follow through with it, and we try again. But I do think it will happen once and for all, very soon. There are too many wonderful things about raising an only child, and too many fantastic things about taking our life off hold.

So obviously this wasn't our choice at the outset, but I feel good about the fact that it's our choice now. I feel good about deciding when enough will be enough. I feel optimistic about our future as a threesome. I feel optimistic about Eli's future as an "only." Even without Dora as his animated counterpart.