Four years ago, after a long and winding fourteen combined years of dating and marriage, my husband and I finally decided that it was time to venture down the path of parenthood. Full disclosure here, I have never felt very maternal or had any great desire to have children. My college roommate and I use to joke that while she had always wanted to be a wife and a mother, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to stop at the wife part for me. I would babysit for local families as a teenager for gas and movie money and literally watch the clock for when the parents were slated to arrive home. I had little patience for the children’s constant need for attention or for playing make believe games. I distinctly remember feeling a bit sorry for the frazzled parents and I cringed at the thought of one day joining their ranks.
One night, in our early thirties, my husband and I had the big discussion. Were we ready to start a family? We knew there was no perfect time in life to have a baby, but we felt that we were as close to that time as any. It was with much trepidation at the end of our talk that I announced that I thought we should go for it. Two short months later, the pregnancy test came back positive. Surely this wasn’t so! I thought I’d have more time to sort out how I felt before I saw those two unmistakable pink lines. I felt overwhelmed and so unsure of myself and my abilities as a mother. I prayed right then and there for three things: that there would only be one baby, that the baby would be healthy and that the baby would be a boy. My prayers were answered. My first question at the very first ultrasound was “is there only one?” When the doctor confirmed that there was indeed only one, I felt relief flood my body and I excitedly squeezed my husband’s hand.
I went on to have a fairly rough pregnancy complete with all day nausea, back aches, headaches and sharp pains all over. My weight ballooned from 140 to 220, which neither my husband or I could figure out because I seemed to be eating less than I usually did thanks to the nausea and the food aversions that I developed. The grand finale was a bad case of Preeclampsia that left me extremely swollen and prematurely induced for labor. My nurses were actually amazed at the swelling and swore they had never seen a case that severe. I felt like the character Violet Beauregarde that turns into a giant blueberry in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This all seemed to confirm to me that I was definitely not maternal. Not only had I never emotionally felt maternal, but now my own body couldn’t even seem to handle pregnancy correctly!
During my twenty hours of labor, I had a loop going in my head of a friend of mine who had three children at the time and was intent on adding more. She said that while she was in labor with her first child, she was constantly thinking of how ready and willing to go through the process she was again. The words that kept resonating in my own head during labor were more like “never again.” I truly accepted in those hard, painful moments of labor that this would be the first and the last time. I knew, that for me, this was not a case of forgetting the pain and continuing to get pregnant. This would be mine and my husband’s one and only child.
To say my subsequent hospital stay was unpleasant is an understatement. The combination of a lack of sleep from the complications of Preeclampsia, the long labor, the uncertainty of first time motherhood, the 3 AM trash collections in the hospital room (!) and my type A personality made me want to crawl my way out of the room and to my safe and familiar home with my husband and my new baby boy on my back. I thought back to one of the many tips that I had received while pregnant-to stay in the hospital as long as you can. The thought being that there are people there to help you take care of the baby and a level of service that you won’t receive at home. Good grief! Was I different from expectant and new mothers in every single way?
I rejoiced when we finally left the hospital and made it to the safe harbor of our own home as a new family of three. Things were looking up until our notoriously unfriendly cat Lyla took one sniff of the new baby and promptly hissed. Although I usually rolled my eyes at her anti-social antics, I had to see the irony even as overwhelmed as I was. It felt like I had been hissing at the prospect of motherhood my whole life. I’m happy to report that she came around and learned to tolerate our son.
I’m not happy to report that I spent that first year of motherhood in a desperate, exhausted and depressed state in which I did not seek professional help. Our son refused to sleep, had reflux issues, a hernia and was coded as failure to thrive in his first weeks of life. I found breastfeeding to be difficult and extremely isolating. We all struggled through and things did get better, but I wish now that I had sought help.
All of these things led me to look at my husband incredulously when he asked roughly two years later if we were done having kids. We were still in the middle of the early childhood fog and I reminded him of just how much denser said fog had been just a few short months prior. He is an only child himself and turned out to be pretty wonderful, I reminded him. I have a younger brother whom I love dearly, but we have very different personalities and fought like cats and dogs growing up. I informed my husband that I was actually thinking about saving up for him to have a vasectomy so we could be done with the whole making babies process. It was his turn to look at me incredulously. For some unfathomable reason, he wasn’t ready to run right out and have that done. It’s the kindest snip, I joked. He didn’t find it nearly as humorous as I did.
Fast forward to almost five years later and we are happy with our only child decision. I’m still pitching the vasectomy idea to my husband and he is still not enthused. Day to day life has improved, but the fog is still far from dissipated. I am still and probably always will be haunted by the early days and my experiences. I’ve been able to deflect the “but everyone needs a sibling” line from well-meaning family and friends by reminding them how well my only child husband turned out and reminding them that not all siblings get along. It helps that our son, who seems to have inherited my personality type, has asked me to state out loud that there will never be another baby and that me and daddy will never be anyone else’s mommy and daddy. I laugh and say never say never son, but I am secretly glad that the lack of a sibling doesn’t seem to be a missing puzzle piece for him.
So, honey, your son and I are both on board with the no sibling train of thought. Time to schedule that vasectomy and seal our fate!