Today I experienced my first baby-#2 pregnancy announcement since we have (kind of) agreed on our tentative plan. I had assumed that baby-#2 stuff was bugging me before because I didn’t know when I could have that myself and that therefore when I did know, it would stop bugging me. Turns out I was wrong.
As I digested the announcement, I tried to pay close attention to how I was feeling. In successive, and sometimes overlapping, waves I recognized joy (for the person), anger, frustration, incredulity and eventually grief washing over me. In the past I would have chastised myself for these emotions: who am I to feel anger or grief over the joy of others, especially when I haven’t actually been denied that experience myself? Normally I would berate myself for my selfishness and force myself to move past the unacceptable emotions.
Today I did neither of those things. My new focus is on being honest with myself, on listening to what my body, mind and heart are trying to tell me, and on be accepting of whatever that might be. Today I brought that mindset to my reaction.
Instead of judging myself harshly for my feelings I was honest about them, and then I became curious. Why was I feeling all of these things? Why does learning of others’ success in building their families still conjure a negative reaction in me? Why does it prompt me to grieve over my own situation when I am more sure now than I’ve been in months that I’ll probably have that some day too?
What I came to understand from my soul searching is that my sadness about building my family is not just about when and how it happens. While I do lament the fact that our children will not be as close in age as I’d once hoped and I will forever mourn the chance to try to conceive without crushing anxiety, there is something else I’m grieving, something that was just as dear to my heart as either of those dreams.
The greif I felt today when I read that pregnancy announcement was inspired by the lose of another dream, one that is so basic I hardly realized I’d had to let it go. It was my dream of the contented, conflict free partnership forging tirelessly ahead, united in their desire to bring life into the world once again.
Of course I know that no relationship is always happy nor can they be entirely devoid of conflict. But I did hope to have a partner who wanted to build his family in the same way I always had. I did dream of approaching the idea of a second child with equal measures of excitement and expectation. I never imagined that building my family would require struggle and loss followed by strife and conflict and finally dictated by negotiation and compromise. I never dreamed my partner and I would approach having another baby with as much fear and trepidation as enthusiasm or joy. I always assumed we’d be so blissfully happy with the first child that having another would be seen as nothing but a blessing.
For us, in our lives, having another baby is a financial and emotional uncertainty. We’re not sure we can make it work, in any sense of the word. Not only do the fiscal responsibilities threaten to overwhelm us, but the emotional obligations do as well. I never expected it would be this hard. I never thought we’d struggle with it all this much.
When I see other families celebrating a pregnancy that will result in children less than two or three years apart I feel jealousy. I’m envious that they can make it work financially, that the woman can probably stay at home or makes enough to afford child care. I’m jealous that their relationship is strong enough to withstand the turbulence of two young children, that they have such confidence in their own foundation so as to entrust it with such an incredible and precious weight. I’m incredulous that their addition didn’t require negotiation or anger or anxiety or resentment. I’m apprehensive that they are strong enough to face the uncertain future with the grace, determination and resolve they are projecting.
It’s true that Mi.Vida and I are on the way to a decision, one we’ll both agree on. But it won’t be what either of us wants, not really. It won’t be born organically of our mutual desire to have another child. Our plan will have been painstakingly crafted over months of turmoil and ambivalence. It will be agreed upon because there is no other choice but to agree upon it. It won’t be in any way organic or natural; instead it will be an amalgamation of our wants and needs, welded together in an attempt to create the impossible union of our divergent dreams. While it will be mutually accepted it will never be celebrated by either of us, separately or together.
In the end I’ll probably get the family I’ve always wanted, at least some version of it. In the end I’ll probably have everything I need to be happy. Mi.Vida would argue that it’s the result that matters, not the circumstances under which that result was achieved. For him, I’m sure that’s the case and I accept that. But for me, it’s more complicated and there will be a part of me that is forever saddened that my family was forced into existence rather than born of two people’s unquestioned love for each other and their pure and unadulterated desire to build a family.