The decision to have a child is, by all accounts, an intensely personal one. In fact, many women, especially in my social circles, are so private about this decision that they don’t even discuss the option until they’re well on their way to new-motherhood, or until they hit middle age and it becomes apparent that the baby ship has sailed. And though such privacy is certainly warranted (and, perhaps, even worthwhile), it doesn’t leave many doors open for consultation in cases of doubt. At a time when the average fertility rate worldwide hovers well under 3 children per women, couples who choose to have more than 2-3 children often face judgment from a plethora of sources; grandparents who think that their children are overextended with the children they already have, teachers who think that their students aren’t receiving enough attention at home, employers who are afraid to hire women that may opt to take maternity leave on a semi-regular basis. In contrast, women who can have more children but choose not to seem to struggle with the unspoken pressure of others who are still opting for more, and even more difficult ‘what if’s. What if an unborn child was destined to be the president? What if having another will fix the family’s current gender imbalance (on the other hand, what if it won’t?)?
My baby is turning 1 this week, and through all of the preparations and the excitement generated by the other kids, I can’t help but feel a bit conflicted at the arrival of this pivotal milestone. Perhaps that’s my generally nervous personality. But perhaps not. It may be the realization that since Itiel is my fifth, I’m not actually sure if I’ll be celebrating another first birthday of my own child. It may be the idea that despite my completely irrational desire to have another baby, it may not be the best thing for the kids we already have. Or for our bank account. Or my stress level. (But honestly, is there ever a truly convenient time to have kids? Are these valid reasons not to have more? You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? And thus, the ever-evolving dilemma continues).
Not surprisingly, publishing my inner conflict for all to see hasn’t answered any of my questions. But I hope that it will help others debating this issue to realize that it’s an issue that at least one other person is thinking about, and that perhaps it may be one worth discussing beyond the confines of couplehood. It may even be a good idea to ask for advice from others who have made the decision (or haven’t yet), though I wouldn’t know since until now I’ve been too shy to ask around.