For many of us, it’s a question dished out circa the two-year mark. It began for me a few weeks ago, this clichéd pondering about having more children – and even though I thought I’d galvanised my thoughts to have a confident, perhaps witty, response, I managed little better than a teenage “I don’t know” whilst gazing at the top of my shoes.
This woolly answer seemed to do the trick, simultaneously not beckoning forth some knowing wisdom of ‘You’ll change your mind’ had I said no, or ‘Ahh, lovely’ had I said something affirmative. Both of which wouldn’t have shored up any decision-making in either direction, but still I seem to find myself counter intuitively seeking some sort of answer in the opinions of others as we go through this back and forth, and back and forth some more deliberation. Whether we’re ‘One-and-done’, or to add to our little litter. Because the truth is, I don’t know.
I know that for all that being a mother is for the most part, a genuinely lovely thing, it has many dark moments and there is much deep water to get into – and wade out of. Thinking about the recent clamour of articles about regretting motherhood brings a sense of relief: not that I ever resent my son, but that feeling that comes with the tough, bittersweet juggling act that seemingly defines being a mum now. I am so much happier for a world with him in it, regardless for the fact he is mine, but at the same time, over-the-moon with gladness and proud that he is.
One of our arguments for goes something like ‘He is a wonder. He was, in hindsight, a fairly easy baby from around that seven-month mark. He loves sleeping (like his mum). He is sweet natured, expressive and sensitive. His tenacity and inquisitive nature inspires us so deeply. Why wouldn’t we want more of that?’
But then, what happens if the unspoken rule that Mother Nature only gives you what you can handle buckles second time around, and we get a future-raver insomniac with a strong line in grouchiness? This doesn’t just make us fearful for us, but the fact we have our boy to consider now. How will he cope with the ripple effect? Do we dare rock the boat?
I can tell you that whereas I once thought my world couldn’t and wouldn’t carry on without one person – my husband – this now extends to three. The thought of risking putting us all through anything difficult is untenable. I know the worth of my family. We balance each other and when things align, work as a formidable, fun band in our own, kooky way. My husband and I have figured out a way back towards each other, and our son hasn’t come between us, even though it sometimes feels like a tag-team of roles and responsibilities when there’s not much time for care and affection.
At twenty months I worry though that my son is still small, too. Some say having more makes it easier, that they just slot in and before you know it, it’s as if they were always there. We have the kit, and some non-rookie know-how now. Yet I don’t want him to be second-bested or demoted as he may very likely feel if he sees the tiny, noisy helpless thing getting all of the fuss. I worry I won’t be able to make him feel how entirely he is loved. Or that I will miss his introvert cues when he’s overwhelmed. Perhaps I fret most that by having another baby, I will lose my first.
Then an interesting thing happens, and I think I’m onto something. More often than not, solutions come up with more heads than one. Games are miles more fun for the new perspectives and ideas other young, wild minds come up with rather than our jaded, unimaginative adultier ones. We are all better for having someone to lean on: when we’re gone, they would have each other. We see the best in those we love. We don’t pick them apart, but see them transparently. They know if we’d prefer a cuddle and a hot bath or a rambunctious night out and lashings of wine. We happily cheerlead for them, and trust that even when there are lulls in our relationship, we will each be there waiting and ready for things to come back together.
I’m a sister, and I’m so thankful for my big brother. I learnt to climb trees, to like American fiction and vintage fashions via films such as Dazed & Confused because of him. Aged ten, he stood me by our parents Technics hi-fi, popped the enormous earphones on my small head and said something prophetic like “You will be cool” (I’m not, but) before playing me a blend of my mother’s LPs (David Bowie’s Hunkydory, Blondie’s Parallel Lines) and his cassette mix tapes of Blur, Manic Street Preachers and Radiohead. The soundtrack to my life and the records that make me glad to be alive have all stemmed from that afternoon.
And I’d like that for Tennessee. Now, we’ve got to weigh the practical and emotional arguments against the fairly persuasive positive. It’s about more than us; hence, I don’t know. But I’m close.