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"Oh, now you'll have one of each!"

This post has been in the making for several months, but a conversation with my awesome (childless!) midwife and a long read about young fathers has given me the final push to attempt some kind of personal statement on the quantity of children one (=me) should/would have. The decision to have children as well as how many of them is exclusively personal so nothing I say is meant to be a general rule, although I do reserve the right to have an opinion, which qualifies things one way or the other, whether you agree or not.

We are expecting a second child now and inevitably the question "why?" comes up... several times a day, especially when my back hurts or the thought of spending another minute with a toddler seems scarier than watching "The English Patient" back to back. I am still a little puzzled by my own confident answer, because frankly, I don't like SO MANY things that have to do with raising children. Not that I don't find them cute or amazing or interesting, but ... come on! Child-related tasks are so repetitive, no amount of cuteness in the world can really hold your wonder that long.

It took me a while to understand why I felt a certain disconnect to some mothers in my MOMS Club until I realized the main difference between us. They had been wanting to be mothers and everything that that entails for years before they had children and the actual child just made their world finally right, whereas me, I wanted the children and motherhood kinda came along and so did all the other things, like bassinets and blankies and socks etc. I can't say I didn't find it cute, but the amount of it all was overwhelming and really I never quite got into it... to the fullest. So having another child for me certainly has little to do with continuing to revel in baby shoes and poopy diapers. I feel misunderstood a lot when people ask me about having children, just because what I really think is never quite asked and I suppose can't really be discussed in small talk.

At the end of the day I still feel like I did before I had Veronika... I wanted children for the people that they are/will be. It was a natural consequence of what marriage meant to me, what loving my husband meant. I always pictured my family to be a group of people, who belong together, who are there because of each other. I realized when these "people" started showing up that there is much more involved for me than the philosophical notion of loving reproduction and while the philosophy of it I always see clearly, the practical part is a mess. I know what has to be done on a daily basis, but the lofty feelings elude me... strange, no? Motherhood is a hard job, not that I need to repeat that, but there is still some sort of unwritten rule that when you mention it, somehow you also have to follow it up with "I love my kids," otherwise... who are you, a monster? The longer I have kids though, the more I really don't understand how those two things are supposed to be at odds. Why does the love for my child have to be displayed in equal devotion to pushing a stroller, buying diapers and lugging around 27lbs up and down the stairs all day? Those are two separate things and blessed are the women who love both the same because their life is so much easier than mine!

Apart from those, who love the baby gear and baby smell there seems to be also another group of people, who maybe never particularly felt called to parenthood, but decided to go ahead, among other reasons, in order to "have the experience." You know what I mean. Those people will have one or two children usually and while their parental love doesn't differ much from anyone else's, the whole childbearing thing is only ok in their eyes if they don't succumb to the boring "having-kids-is-awesome/I-have-totally-given-up-on-me"-type of parenthood. Instead they will go through the same motions, but with a more analytical and intellectual approach. Their child is somewhat of a project and they have a new experience of themselves in the process, which seems to be in the foreground. For that you really don't need a lot more than two children (well, one is enough, really), because with #1 you've been there and done that and having more is just more of the same and why would you want to do that to yourself? There is so much more left to experience in the world (like having diarrhea in India!*). More children? It smells of breeding. They often feel another child would also distract from the incredibly new and exciting relationship they have with the first child and again, why would you want to disrupt that and... devalue it by repeating? I guess I'm sounding cynical and harsh, and yes, it is somewhat of an exaggeration that I'm presenting, but how else would you get my point, huh? Huh?

What I'm trying to say is that when I ask myself, why have more children from the perspective of an outsider, I get a little reluctant, because (I am so special and so are my thoughts! Swoon.) I can hear the preconceived ideas buried in the questions and I know I can't really subscribe to any of them fully... which obviously brings me back to that "reasons to have (several) children are personal", but also reminds me that I'm having a hard time identifying with my surroundings. What adds to the situation is certainly my belief that having another child is not entirely in my hands... ever, which is a very weird thing to say in the age of (seemingly) absolute human control.

The secular world seems to think you have lots of children, because you are either crazy/ignorant or just plain loooove kids (= here meaning every single stereotype describing "child," not kid as in "developing adult") and the religious world sort of implies that you have lots of children for the "glory of God" (I don't really know what that means) or because your selflessness knows no limits or something like that. Both leave me cold. The truth is a mystery lying somewhere in the conscious or unconscious collaboration between people and God and has a lot of practical reasons to it as well as completely divine interventions. I suppose all I'm asking is to be able to feel about it one way or the other without being classified.

Just because I'm (supposedly) having a boy now...
... doesn't mean I must be ecstatic to have "one of each" (Each what? Each species? Each human collectibles? Cereal box give-aways?) without having to reproduce 13 more times!
... doesn't mean I must be "done" now, because my family is "perfect."
... doesn't mean "your husband must be overjoyed" (Yeah, he was really bummed about that girl, you should've seen the tears of despair....)!

Just because I'm having a second child...
... doesn't mean I must have enjoyed every single moment of pregnancy and motherhood so far.
... doesn't mean I will have more and more children indefinitely.
... doesn't mean I don't know how to prevent "that".

Just because I'm occasionally having a hard time being a full-time mother...
... doesn't mean I don't like being one in general.
... doesn't mean I regret anything.
... doesn't mean I won't have more than two children.

* My apologies to India... I only mentioned it because these days India seems the place everyone goes to in order to "find themselves."

Posted at 12:49 PM on January 15, 2006

I wonder if life was less complicated when we did not have the option to choose how many and when our babies came...

Posted by Pansy at January 18, 2006 2:08 PM

Dani, I've thought of that... Imagine there was a number assigned to each couple and you couldn't do anything about it. If you think it's true it's a nightmare, but otherwise it sounds nice. Nobody could make stupid comments about one's choices regarding the # of children.

Posted by dinka at January 18, 2006 7:05 PM

Fantastic post, Dinka! I discovered you via Jabberlingual. I am also pregnant for the second time, with a 20 months boy trotting around and i have been going through exactly the same type of thoughts. Wonderfully written and explained! I look forward to coming back. Hang in there for the last weeks, wishing you a speedy and happy delivery!


Posted by Clo at January 24, 2006 9:42 AM