Tanya Sweeney: A part of me feels like wanting a second child is being plain greedy

I’m already missing the newborn phase even though it felt like someone was very nicely pushing my head underwater

To experience that kind of love twice over is barely believable

To experience that kind of love twice over is barely believable

 

When you eat your way through a pandemic in the manner of a Viking gatecrashing a wedding, you can expect a few physical changes. And now, I’m officially carrying a food baby. I’m not pregnant, though… unless you count, to paraphrase someone much funnier than me on Twitter, getting knocked up by Mr Kipling.

When I meet up with friends I’ve not seen for months, they eye my abdomen with The Look. That “something-to-tell-us-then?” look. I don’t blame them; my belly now turns street corners several seconds before the rest of me does. And besides, it seems to be the appropriate time for . . . all that.

The women I met in my pre-natal appointments or at infant massage classes are pinging me on WhatsApp, with happy news of their second pregnancies. It rarely fails to surprise me.

Where are they getting the time to make babies? The energy? More pertinently, where are they getting the libido? And the more I look around, the more I notice families with children a couple of years apart in age. People are definitely doing this a lot, libido or no.

The wonderment you feel when you pick up a human being and feel their lightness and fragility under your hands

When you have a toddler, it’s assumed that you’ve officially found your sea legs with this parenting lark, and you’re ready to get right back on the Buckaroo all over again. “You gonna go again?” is casually dropped into conversation with alarming regularity, as though we’re talking about a trip to Aldi. I have no idea how to respond to the question, even within myself.

It’s true, we’ve caught our breath a bit. I’m already missing the newborn phase, even though it felt like someone was very, very nicely pushing my head underwater half the time. The wonderment you feel when you pick up a human being and feel their lightness and fragility under your hands. This, and the constant hum of overwhelm. Am I ready for this again? Would I be any better at it the second time around, knowing all that I do now (which is to say, not a lot)?

I brought it up with my fiancé a while ago. “I’m not sure I want Isola to be an only child,” I venture. “You can’t have a baby just because you don’t want the one you already have to be an only child,” he counters.

Can’t you, though? I’d wager that many people have a second child for that very reason. I suspect plain old social convention has a part in it, too. “When Number Two Comes Along” or “Next Time Around” are used frequently in everyday conversation, as though the idea of stopping at one child is plain inconceivable.

I look at Isola, laughing at our dumb jokes, ebullient songs and geeky dances. That’ll hardly last for long, will it? That guileless appreciation? Imagine being stuck with just us two eejits in your immediate family. She’s going to need someone else around to roll her eyes with at us.

Some friends attest that being an only child is great. They’re still being brought on lovely family holidays in their 30s. Growing up, they were rarely treated like The Kids in the way those of us with siblings were. They missed out on The Scraps. They’re socially astute, loved and well-adjusted. Certainly, they’re a strong exhibit in the case against having another child.

Another part of me feels like wanting a second child is being plain greedy. To have had an uncomplicated pregnancy and healthy child is luckier than I ever dared to expect from life. Two healthy children seems like an outrageous fortune.

I may never smell the top of a newborn baby’s head again, and I can’t yet tell if I’m okay with that or not

Yet the work of being a parent.... oh heavens, the work. Being the parent to a baby is like being a cabin crew-member on a long-haul flight, every day. You perform. You smile. You dole out heated towels (or toys, whatever). You are prepared for turbulence.

It can get complicated, what with the stag parties and the air ragers and those fond of breaking into the Duty Free. Once the flight is over, you survey the blankets tossed here and there, the magazines, the tiny Coke cans under the seats. There’s barely enough time to refuel before you have to do it all over again.

We’ve given away the baby clothes and the newborn accoutrements, of which there were an embarrassing bounty. As each one left the house, I felt the dull pang of finality, and of timing slipping through my fingers. I may never smell the top of a newborn baby’s head again, and I can’t yet tell if I’m okay with that or not.

Someone asked me once if having kids is worth it, and my truthful gut answer was, ‘absolutely… just about’. There are days when my love for my daughter fills my heart right into the dusty corners. Others, I wonder how much I’d get for her on eBay. Today for instance, she is sick and I’ve cried twice over her. To add a second child into it all seems inconceivable. Yet to experience that kind of love twice over is barely believable.

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