Today Isa and I were at the Discovery Museum, a place I avoided like the plague during our struggles to get pregnant. If you’re hoping to refrain from seeing pregnant women or growing families, DO NOT go to the Discovery Museum.
Today was not the first time I’ve been to the Discovery Museum since I’ve been pregnant, but the only other time I was feeling quite sick and there was a huge event that day and it was insanely crowded. Plus Mi.Vida was around to distract me. Needless to say I didn’t have much time for deep thoughts. Or any thoughts at all.
This time I was alone with Isa. There weren’t many people there and I found I had a lot of downtime to sit and watch other families as they drifted in and out of our shared space. While I’m sure there were some single child families, the two situations that I noticed over and over again really me struck me in their highlighting of two very conflicting emotions: how broken I still feel and how scared I still am.
The first family I saw a lot of was the hugely-pregnant-woman-with-the-barely-walking-toddler. I must have seen six or seven women like this! And yet I didn’t see one that was pregnant with a child as old as Isa. All those children has siblings already out and about, playing with (or at least beside) them. When I think about it rationally, a 3.5 year gap seems very normal, and yet we don’t know anyone who has kids spaced that way and we don’t seem to see many either. All the people we know who have kids Isa’s age (or younger) already have their second babies. There is something about always seeing everyone else doing something a different way than you’re doing it (especially when it’s the way you wanted to do it) that hurts. It’s also a constant reminder of what we couldn’t do, despite increasingly desperate attempts. Seeing all these families with their obvious (secondary) fertility makes me feel broken. I doubt I’ll always feel this way, especially not after the baby is born, but right now it seems to slap me in the face. (And I can’t imagine how much it stings for women whose first child is much, much older than my daughter).
The second kind of families I saw were those with the still toddling one year old and the very new baby, commiserating with the toddler/preschooler families about how hard it is. The families who have been doing this two-kid thing for at least a year or two (or more) try to reassure the families coming after them that it DOES get better, but they don’t seem very convincing. In fact, they seem downright weary.
Last week, Mi.Vida got an email from a friend of his congratulating us on our good news. After exchanging pleasantries, the friend said, very bluntly, that he felt he could share something with us now (I still wonder if he meant now that his second son is one and his first son is three or now that we’re finally pregnant). This is what he choose to share: “having two kids kinda sucks.”
The thing is, it didn’t even piss me off in that self-righteous, I-dealt-with-infertility-how-DARE-you kind of way. Actually, it kind of scared the crap out of me. And I kept thinking about it as I watched those weary parents of a toddler and preschooler trying miserably (and probably failing) to assuage the desperate fears of the sleep-deprived, half-crazed parents of the newborns and toddlers.
Because the thing is, my struggle does not blind me to the fear of having another child, at least not all of the time. When my daughter screams a blood curdling, furiously defiant NOOOOOOO! in that way she has now of asserting herself and making known her frustration, I wonder how my patience will grow to encompass two tiny, needy beings. When she wakes up at 5:30am on a Saturday morning having peed through her diaper, pajamas and sheets, unable to fall back asleep, I wonder how I’ll manage twice the sleep deprivation. When I hear the more seasoned mother of two agree with the newer mother of two that sleep, along with personal time, is something you just have to give up for a good five years, I fear for the health of my relationship.
I try to tell myself that the parents of two under two, or even two under two-and-a-half, have a different experience than I will with 3.5 years between my children. I try to convince myself that my experience will probably be different, but how can I know? Maybe those first years are just insanely brutal, no matter how old your second child is.
So I sit there, stewing in that fear, until the hugely pregnant woman with the drooling one year old waddles by and my fear quickly morphs into jealously and longing, for that thing that they have, that I couldn’t manage, that thing that scares me shitless.
The prefect juxtaposition of desire and dread; I want it so much and yet I fear I won’t be able to handle it.
I guess at this point all I can do is hope. And have faith. And stop going to the Discovery Museum.