Having never considered myself a “baby person,” motherhood came to me surprisingly naturally after I had my daughter. Giving birth was the most intense, incredible experience I’d ever had; the bond was instant, and breastfeeding, despite everything I’d heard, happened for my baby and me easily and painlessly.
I did struggle, though, in ways in which I’d never anticipated.
I had taken a year off work, thinking it was what was best for my baby. However, after a blissful first few months, I felt increasingly on edge, at a loss as to what to do with this tiny person all day. The hours between the time my husband left for work in the morning and returned at night felt longer and longer. There were only so many coffee groups, music classes, and walks that could fill the emptiness and banality that lay ahead of me each day. I loved my daughter, but the mind-numbing repetition that comes with caring for a baby was stifling.
It got worse, not better over my final months of maternity leave. My daughter started to wake several times a night, causing sleep deprivation, which only exacerbated my anxiety and depression. Disturbing images of freak accidents would pop into my head at random and I couldn’t control the rage that would burn inside me. Ashamedly, I used my husband as an emotional punching bag during this time and I will be forever grateful he stayed and not only supported me, but still managed to love me through it all.
In hindsight, I was suffocating within the walls of my home — my self-imposed prison — and should’ve returned to work much earlier than I’d planned to. However, I doubted my ability to manage as a “working mum” and seriously considered quitting my job. Well, my husband and I did the calculations, and his salary alone wouldn’t cut it so quitting wasn’t (thankfully) an option.
My daughter settled quickly into full time daycare, and while terrifying, as soon as I stepped foot into work again, I felt like I’d been given a life line after almost drowning – I could breathe again.
While I had always liked the idea of only having one child, I became plagued with guilt for not giving my daughter a sibling, for not wanting to do it all again. I told myself, though, that another child would not only be a huge financial strain, but my mental health would again suffer, the demands of working almost full time with a child would double, and our lives would lose the delicate balance we had worked so hard to maintain. Plus I knew I just didn’t have the patience to juggle multiple children, or the “village” I needed to allow me a break now and then.
In my mind, I simply didn’t have a “valid” reason for only having one child, so everyone would think I was selfish.
Yet, sometimes I believed I wanted another – I would get excited making name lists for our next baby, imagine my daughter coming to the scans, hearing the heartbeat, meeting her new baby brother or sister for the first time. And then just like that, I’d wake up the next morning in fear, grateful it wasn’t the small window in that month a baby could be conceived anyway. Inside my head became a washing machine of conflicting thoughts being tossed around, tormenting me. I would relentlessly bring up the subject with my husband on almost a daily basis, which inevitably burned him out pretty quickly! He had always maintained that he’d be happy with two children but equally happy with one, and had obvious concerns for my mental health and well-being. I wanted him to decide for me, and yet he wouldn’t – and couldn’t, so the choice was mine.
It was a therapist, unbiased and non-judging, who finally gave me the perspective I needed to help me realize that external factors out of my control were the root of my indecision – would my daughter resent me for not providing her a sibling? Would people judge me? I was not someone who had dealt with infertility, had a traumatic childbirth, a baby with special needs. We weren’t struggling with putting food on the table, I didn’t have an important career that required the dedication of most of my time and energy; I wasn’t a single parent. In my mind, I simply didn’t have a “valid” reason for only having one child, so everyone would think I was selfish. Recognizing my fear of how I was perceived by others was a pivotal moment in realizing what I truly wanted, rather than what society told me I should want.
I ultimately knew that my one child was perfect for me, for my family, and she was enough. Being the parent of one child, I was enough. For the first time in three years I felt at peace with my chosen path, and it was only then that the anxiety evaporated and my decision stopped changing. I was able to own my choice, and I stopped feeling guilty.
My daughter may ask one day why I never had another child, why I never “gave” her a sibling. I can only hope though that she’ll appreciate all the things I did give her – and not ever feel that somehow she missed out.
My daughter is almost four now and she is smart, funny, beautiful and kind. No stage of her life so far has been without its challenges, but I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m now in a place where I can approach parenthood with patience, calmness, and resilience. I strive to be at my very best to help my daughter reach her full potential, and for me that means being able to focus on only her when she is with me, and having the luxury of time and space to recharge my energy when she is not.
My daughter may ask one day why I never had another child, why I never “gave” her a sibling. I can only hope though that she’ll appreciate all the things I did give her – and not ever feel that somehow she missed out. I will tell her it wasn’t just one particular reason – that in the end, I went with what I decided was best for our family – and finally, that’s okay with me.
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For a long time, I was on the fence about having another baby. I worried that people would see me as selfish if I only had one child.
The post My Fear Of Others’ Opinions Was The Only Reason I Wanted Another Baby appeared first on Scary Mommy. […]Read More