I am snuggled in bed with Sam – he is drinking milk and playing with my hair before his nap. Downstairs I hear the slow thump-thump-thump of Drew’s steps coming up from the basement – like a slow march towards something inevitable. He is on the main floor now, out the front door, making a right to his car – trunk door opening then slamming. Thump-thump-thump back down to the basement for another load, then marching back upstairs again. I try to ignore how many trips he makes between basement and car and try to focus on the warm little body on my lap, the deep, brown eyes searching my face.
I guess we are not having another baby.
It’s hard for me to put a finger on why this upsets me so much. I never had my life planned out – I never imagined that I would be married, or that I would have even one child. So when marriage came along I was excited, but not ecstatic – it was just a logical next step, not the fulfillment of a life’s dream.
I am sure we talked about having children when we were dating, but I think we both felt sort of “meh” about the issue. It might happen, it might not. Either way, it would be fine. A few years into our marriage I was the one to feel that either way would NOT be fine. Having a child seemed like the logical next step. Drew would have been happy with the status quo, but I definitely felt that something – or rather someone – was missing. It was more of an uneasiness, like everyone around me was in on this joke that I missed completely. So I slowly talked him into it – it was really more of a nudge in the right direction, not really an argument I had to win.
Now here we are with a four-year-old and the basement full of his baby stuff is driving Drew crazy. We are trying to sell our house, so it makes sense to downsize, to get rid of clutter, to take inventory. I get it. But as he slowly carries car seats, strollers, toys, and books up the basement steps, I know that this is more than just cleaning out the basement. Well, for me anyway.
The discussions about another baby started about two years ago. I was ready. I mean, I wasn’t crazy about being pregnant, giving birth, not sleeping for the first year. It was all OK, but I didn’t love it the first time around – I feel like probably nobody LOVES it. But by now we were cruising – easy baby, good nights, good eater, easy potty training. We could totally do it with another one.
I have one brother and we are very, very close – always have been. I am not sure what my parents did to make it so, but it was probably a combination of their parenting, luck, and our personalities. There is an unwritten/unspoken rule between us that everything goes and everything is forgiven. He is my partner in crime, my confidante, my best friend. It’s always been easy to maintain that and always will be. It is one of the few certain points in my life – my brother is always there. Always
My husband has two siblings and he rarely talks to them. He has his reasons – and they are pretty good ones – going back to their childhood. His sister is much older so maybe they’ve never been that close because of their age. His brother beat him up as a child, with quietly complicit parents standing by. They patched up their relationship as adults, but it’s not an intimate, close brotherhood.
So who is to say that my experience with my brother is more valid than Drew’s experience with his family? I don’t know a lot of siblings who are as tight as I am with my brother, so I know that we are not the norm. But isn’t it better to have a somewhat cooler relationship with a sibling than to have no sibling at all?
I think about this a lot, especially when Sam gets into trouble for something. Here he is, just a little boy, with the “wrath” of two parents coming down on him, and no place to go, nobody to complain to about how unfair it all is and how mom and dad got it so, so wrong. I think about what being an only child will feel like as he gets older, all alone in carrying the joys and dreams of his hopeful parents. What will it be like to take care of us on his own as we age? What will it be like when there will be nobody left to recall his childhood, to reminisce, to laugh, to bear witness?
With more and more of Sam’s classmates having siblings, he too asks if he could have one. “I want a little sister,” he told me the other day as he sat in the bathtub. A few days before that, it was a little brother. When I told him that he would have to share his toys and my hair – along with my time and attention – with a little brother or sister, he thought about it for a long time. “Nah, mama, I can’t share your hair!”
Of course, he doesn’t really know what he is asking for. I mean, he does, but not REALLY. I know that growing up without a sibling will seem natural to him, because that’s what he will be used to – just like I am used to having a brother and can’t imagine what it would be like to not have one. I know that as a family we’ll be close, comfortable, and able to afford him things and opportunities that we might not be with multiple children. There are so many things we want to do with him that I don’t think we’d do with more than one child: travel, move to Europe, take vacations, be the jet-setting, cool family I always wanted. How do you place value on opportunities and experiences vs. having a sibling? They each have their advantages
Is it wrong to admit that a tiny little part of me is relieved to not have any more children? It’s a VERY tiny part, but still, it’s there. I am pushing 38 and I do feel too old for a newborn. I am excited about a possible new career just a few months from now, about traveling, about having some time to do things I want to do and still feel like I can be a good mom to Sam with maybe just a tad less guilt. Just a tad. So there is that. And after trying to convince Drew and not succeeding, I realized that I can’t live my life fighting about this. Where will that get us? Definitely not closer to a second child.
But still, the thump-thump-thump coming from our basement is sobering. There is something final about removing all evidence of Sam’s babyhood. I know it’s just stuff; I know that the most important part of Sam is sitting on my lap right now and that holding on to his stroller is not going to make him stay a baby. But I have a strong attachment to his stuff – really, to all stuff. These particular items were acquired after so much thought and research, with so much anticipation and joy – imagining my little boy in his playpen, his high chair, playing with his first toys – even before he was born. It feels like all of those firsts, all of those hopes and dreams are marching right out my front door.
I try to remind myself that nothing is ever final. Drew might change his mind – I still have a few years left when I could have a baby. All of the stuff is replaceable. All of the important memories are tucked away in my heart and in my mind. And there are a lot more memories to come for the three of us.
Drew is done loading his car. I peek out the window to watch him close the trunk – the car is bursting at the seams. It’s a good thing Sam’s crib wouldn’t fit in.
The crib — that’s one item I am not ready to give away.