Deciding to have or not to have another child can be an emotional roller coaster with the ride often lasting for years. When you have one child and struggle with the idea of having another, your thinking can easily become clouded by the only child stereotypes and by friends and relatives who offer advice as if you hadn’t entertained the pros and cons yourself.
In this guest post, Ashleigh Wallace, openly discusses her difficulties, revealing painful feelings about herself and her needs. Whether you are on the fence or already know what you want, you’ll relate to aspects of her indecision. Ashleigh’s journey may help you make the family size decision that’s best for you…or add clarity, perhaps affirmation, to the decision you may already have made.
After reading Ashleigh’s story, you will understand her choice:
Having never considered myself a “baby person,” motherhood came to me surprisingly naturally. 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, just in ways in which I’d never anticipated.
Maternity Leave and Motherhood Not as Expected
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 parental 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 I should have returned to work much earlier than planned. 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 into 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 lifeline after almost drowning – I could breathe again.
Deciding to Have or Not to Have Another Child
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 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 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.
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 wellbeing.
I wanted him to decide for me, and yet he wouldn’t – and couldn’t, so the choice was mine.
Am I Being Selfish?
It was a counsellor, unbiased and non-judgmental, who finally gave me the perspective I needed to help me understand 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.
An End to Feeling Guilty
For the first time in three years, I felt at peace with my chosen path, and it was only then that my anxiety evaporated and my decision stopped changing. I was able to own my choice, and I stopped feeling guilty.
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’m 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 that she’ll appreciate all the things I did give her – and not ever feel that 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.