Monday, October 17, 2005

My Eternal Self-Doubt

Incrediboy has a cold. When I went to get him from his crib Saturday, he greeted me in his customary way by excitedly calling out “Mamma!”– but with his nose stuffed up, it just came out as a slightly listless, “Bahbah!”

It was the most pitiful thing. And it made my heart practically bubble over like a root beer float.

Not long ago, I didn’t think I wanted children. Not because I disliked them – but because I didn’t want to sacrifice the years and tears required for raising them. I had things to do, places to be, and miles to go – none of which allowed for the albatross of parenthood.

A busy, flitting butterfly –
Always moving, that was I.


Okay, so it’s no mystery why I’m not a poet by profession. (shrug).

The hub has always wanted children, when the time would be right. That time never arrived until I did – but the time for me trailed further behind. I pulled out every excuse I could. First, I exclaimed we couldn’t take a little baby out on a 70 mph, skipping like a flat rock speedboat. So he sold the speedboat and bought a family style sport cruiser. (Not in that order – a man needs time to let go of such a powerful symbol of his glorious, hair-on-fire youth). Then I insisted that we needed to be more financially stable. We both worked hard, switched jobs, advanced, doubled our income. Drats. Then I claimed that I wouldn’t be ready until I was thirty. The hub patiently waited, and in time I reached the big 3-Oh.

Which rhymes with “D’OH!”

I was out of excuses. But that’s all right, because by that time I’d sort of warmed up to the idea.

I’ve already mentioned the turbulent journey we had weathered in our quest to have a baby. Months of disappointment, followed by several miscarriages. It drained us both to the point of exhaustion, not to mention exasperation.

Along this rugged path, I joined a miscarriage support group, where I found comfort and solace with other women who had suffered the loss of a pregnancy. Together we mourned, and healed. And here I met a woman who would be my best friend ever. Except for the fact that she had already had two beautiful children previously, we were so much alike. It seemed as if we’d known each other our whole lives and were now just getting around to meeting.

We met after only a few losses, but would bear many more, not just collectively but individually.

After so many blows, I reached a breaking point. I felt that I couldn’t bear another loss. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for us. My friend, however, though having much more invasive and traumatic situations to process in her quest, never lost hope. Never lost the desire for a baby.

I admired her deeply. I couldn’t wrap my head around how she could continue to draw the strength to never give up, when I could barely draw strength to think about it anymore.

In so many words, it was simple. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Incrediboy came along literally as we were giving up for good. The day of his arrival was the happiest, scariest, strangest, most surreal day of my life.

But I’ll be honest with you. The months that followed were less than happy.

I am not saying I didn’t love my little baby. I did, more than I could have ever fathomed. But pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding play a game of atomic ricochet with your chemistry and emotions and thought patterns in ways for which you can never prepare. I was an absolute wreck for months. The hub didn’t know what to do with me. I was terrified of every decision, every situation. There were times I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake – not wishing the boy never existed, but pitying him for being cursed with a completely inadequate mother, and wracked with guilt that I couldn’t seem to do better.

I don’t know how or why I thought what I was doing and how I was handling could have been improved. Babies don’t come with an owner’s manual, and in hindsight everything and everyone has turned out all right. He's a sweet, bright, funny little boy. I couldn't have asked for more. Still, I have been worn from the stress. I have never been so consistently wrecked for so long, and grace under pressure was not my middle name. On the outside, yes - but on the inside - far, far from it.

The Hub wants more children. I have always seen myself with two if I would have them, but I don’t think that will be the case. I doubt my capacities. I barely could handle the stress of managing one baby – could I handle another on top of a busy toddler? They say the second one is easier, as you know more what you’re doing. But I’m not comfortable with the challenge.

I worry about the decision, though. Especially with our life in the boonies. Shouldn’t he have a sibling? Someone to grow up with and bond with? Won’t he be lonely?

Ultimately I have to come to the conclusion that any choice I make will have its pros and cons. The best I can do is try to make the decision I feel is best for all of us. For now that means Incrediboy will be an only child. I have people in my life tell me I’m selfish for this. I also have people who are well enough off to afford to live on one income look down on me for continuing to work. (Actually, we could, if we'd give up a few luxuries. But we enjoy a few finer things, and must pay the subsequent bills. For this I'm selfish too). It’s easy to make decisions for others when everything’s so simple for you. But I am not out to impress anyone, or care what anyone but my son thinks of me. Kids manage to make friends no matter what the circumstances are – the Blessed Lord will bring peers into his life in good time. And while he may not know the special relationship that can only be created and felt with a sibling, his father and I won’t miss a single moment of his incredible magical life at the hands of being spread too thin, wanting for sleep or time.

There is nothing more important to me than being all I can be for him, and not letting one single one-of-a-kind moment slip by.

7 comments:

Bainwen Gilrana said...

Dearest, you know best what your baby needs and what you need. People truly need to mind their own business. If continuing to work is right for your family, if having Incrediboy be an only child is right for your family, then so be it. The only people who have any right to make input on these decisions are you and your husband.

I do totally understand what you mean about feeling inadequate for motherhood in advance. I have experience with the "technical" aspects of babies, what with having a much-younger brother and cousin whom I helped raise. I know how to change diapers, how to warm bottles, and just how to bounce a baby to make it giggle. But the idea of being ultimately responsible for the little one's well-being and upbringing.... well, that can be frankly terrifying! This is not likely to be an issue for me for several years yet, but it still pops into my thoughts now and again.

But with the way you write of your Incrediboy, I know full well you will do what's right and be just exactly the mommy he needs. :-)

Nicole said...

Clew...have you read any of the comments you've left for me? I will leave a similar one for you.

You can only do the best you can do. And your family will love you for it no matter what your decision is. I have had others judge me, point fingers and say "You should never have had a child if you were just going to have one." or the ever popular "You should have never have had a child if you couldn't stay home with it."

But you know...they don't know me. They don't know you and they certainly don't know how happy your baby is.

Guilt is a part of motherhood. We are our own worst enemies. The insecurities, always being unsure of what we're doing and if we're doing it right.

It took us three years to conceive Bailey. Three long years. We had given up and started fillng out adoption papers when the news came that no, I did not have a summer cold...I was having a baby. It's taken another 3 1/2 years for me to maybe admit that I may want another child but I'm still on the fence...how could I love another as much as I love her?

Well...that was the long way around...but what I want you to know and what I want you to feel certain of is...whatever your decision, it will be the right one for you.

I've asked friends who are parents of a single child if they felt their child ever felt inadequate or lonely. They all said they had worried about it but in the end their kids had so many friends, etc running through the house they never felt alone.

You are never alone either...and your doing a great job of mothering that beautiful boy.

Rebecca said...

I too, thought my son would be an only child. I was very happy and content with him. We had our own perfect little family. (This is the simplistic version, but you'll get the idea). Then - I got pregnant on birth control, didn't find out until 10 weeks - then adjusted to the idea and subsequently miscarried at 13 weeks. Talk about emotion swing! Then, I was on a mission. And fortunately, my daughter was concieved. Not without a complicated pregnancy though - due to my miscarriage.

Where you struggled and suffered so much before Incrediboy - I think it's awful if people pass judgement on you. I know what it feels like to have people say "You're only having one?!?!?" with this incredulous expression. You do what's best for you and your family.

Ask a million only children and get a million different answers. I ran that gambit... it doesn't matter what anyone told me - it mattered what was best for US.

Incrediboy is a miracle....if you are blessed with another, then so be it. If not - then it wasn't the plan and you shouldn't feel one iota of remorse or guilt about it. Sometimes, you don't have the choice to make in this area - and sometimes people just don't get that.

echotig said...

Hi! I just wanted to chime in. I'm an only child.(I grew up in the boonies too...) I loved it/hated it. Just as I would have if I had been the oldest/middle/youngest. I think being an only is a positive in so many ways! I take my friendships pretty seriously. My friends are my family. I think in part that was due to being an only. There are many benefits to being an only. Don't let naysayers tell you different!

And don't let anyone dare tell you jack about being selfish!! You're reproductive choices are certainly not their business! (It sounds like you have concluded that by the last paragraph anyway.)

This was a moving post. (Been there in your situation as well.) I enjoy reading you.

Echo

martie said...

Clew....you are doing a fine job. I have always thought so:D I have learned that guilt is wasted
energy. No one needs it! If one child is right for you and your family then so be it! It isn't anyone's decision but yours and hubs. I have 3 birth children and 2 acquired children and am very happy with them all. I tried to quit having them after the first two.....the first one was conceived while I was taking birth control and the second one was planned; the third was a miracle after having had a tubal ligation. The good Lord sometimes steps in and blesses families with what He thinks is best. If that happens, accept it and if it doesn't, it was never meant to be.

I'm sure that if you ask an only child or all children from one family, they will all have had times that they wished they were an only child or wished they had a sibling. That's just life!

Just follow your heart and do what's right for you and your hubby and Incrediboy! You can't go wrong.

Lori said...

Clew,

You have to do what's best for you and your family. YOU and your husband are the ones raising your son, no one else. Nobody has the right to try to tell you how many children you should have.

After my son (my second child) was born, I went through a rough few months as he would NOT sleep. It took a long time to recover from that. Things did eventually level out and once they did, having both my son and daughter was exactly right for me. They are extremely close; the best of friends and I can't imagine my life or theirs any other way.

Whatever you decide, go with that choice and don't look back at "what if's". The most important thing you can give a child is love...and I think you've already got that covered, my dear!

Hugs!

clew said...

Thank you all for listening to this rant, and for your kind and compassionate words! Sometimes it seems that the world just doesn't care what you think and you couldn't possibly know what's best for your own life. I'm strong enough to not let anyone make my decisions for me, but it occasionally does get me down. Thanks for reassuring me that everything is as it should be. HUGS to you all! XOXOXO :)