“You really should have another baby. It would be amazing to have a girl.” She pointed to my 3-year old son bouncing around the room.
It’s true, experiencing the joy of my son sharing his life with a sibling and seeing how both of their lives would be transformed through the interaction would indeed be powerful. Yet, having another child could have a profound impact on our lives. It does for any family. In my case sleepless nights and added stress could have a dramatic toll. It’s not just because I’m an older parent, turning 40 this year, but because of my past experiences.
I am a survivor of post partum trauma, not post partum depression but deep and wounding family trauma. I say this because post partum depression was not what I had and saying so negates my experience with my husband and our collective experience of what happen after my son’s birth.
I did however have pretty severe PTSD after it happened. I have worked hard to embrace the joy of parenthood, to slow time, and to hard wire emotional experiences to my brain of the power of my child experiencing life. As he connected new neural pathways mine fought hard to heal, to survive for myself, for my marriage, and family. I have managed to do that and yet I am reminded on a regular basis by friends and strangers of what I lost. I never got the chance to learn to be a mother without managing the chaos of our lives during those first precious months. It’s something I can never regain. Yet, I am urged by friends to try again. To embrace parenthood the second time around, for the joy and because things will be different and easier since surely we know what to expect.
What they don’t realize is that I know exactly what to expect and the possibility of how damaging it could be for all of us. I have guilt, survivors guilt, not for living but because I am not open to the possibility of a life that isn’t even created.
Doesn’t mean I don’t want it to be different, that I don’t wish I could experience what I have lost. This isn’t a selfish choice, it a necessary one for the collective good of our family. That’s not an answer people want to hear. They don’t understand how wounding the continuous pleads for parenthood can be. I thought I was numb to the comments but I have discovered the more it is said the more it plunges me back to the days when trauma was fresh.
The most painful part of this is my son asking for a sibling. Several times this week he has bounced around the house saying, “ Mommy I want a baby. I want to get up in the middle of the night and feed the baby. Mommy can I have a baby for my birthday pleeeeaaaaase.”
He doesn’t mean a baby doll, he means a sibling. He longs to play, take care of, and have companionship with a living creature that is his size or smaller. Part of this is because his pre-school has had a baby boom and he has seen a gaggle of new babies both from his teachers and fellow classmates, flood the school.
I say he wants companionship from a living creature because in the same breath he mentions a baby he also asks for a dog. “Mommy I want a black and white dog because I have this toy dog for him to play with.”
He seems to also be exploring what I can only describe as the concept of “pairs;” two mammals belong together. He has been asking why a range of animals such as birds, ducks, squirrels, and people are paired.
“ Mommy why are their two [ insert living creature] of them. Mommy why does that [insert living creature] only have one,” asking additional questions with each question I answer.
We have had long conversations about why some animals and people have a partner and why some don’t. Why some families are made up of two people, three people and some have four or more. We talk about how all families are different and that no matter how many people are part of our family we all love each other. These have been challenging and complex conversations. Ultimately it has been a healing way to explore not only my own feelings but also my son’s desires for a sibling.
I don’t have easy answers for him and only hope he will be happy with his life when he gets older. The best response I can come up with so far is,
“It’s not easy to have another baby and sometime even if we really want something we can’t have what we want. Even if we don’t have another baby to play with we can always visit other friends that have babies. When you get to be a big boy you can also help babysit or become a baby doctor. Just because we don’t have another baby doesn’t mean you won’t have a big family. Family is made up of cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors and lots and lots of friends from school, synagogue and places you have fun at.”
I may not be able to give him a sibling but perhaps in the future we will consider getting a dog. When I asked him if he would also feed a dog and clean up the poop he said, “ Yes mommy they have those nice poopie bags.” My son always has a solution to everything. I hope he finds one for life without a sibling.