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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Being of Two Minds

Perhaps it is because I am closer to 40 than 35 that my body is becoming desperate. I don't know. It is certain that desperation is somewhat excessive, given that I already have two healthy, joyous, mischievous, chattering children. And yet it is the simple truth: my body wants me to get pregnant again.

For a while, my mind and heart wanted this too. Or at least toyed with the idea. I thought and considered, did a lot of soul searching and wondering. Because I have two sisters very close to me in age, three seems like a reasonable number of children to have in a family.

Husband's logical arguments against this are, impeccably, logical. This is not to mention his irrational fear of my accidentally getting pregnant again, a dread so deep-seated that I think if I offered him an ultimatum option: another child or we turn our (small) backyard into an elephant sanctuary, he would choose the elephants. But irrational preferences for pachyderms aside, the logical reasons not to have a third include that our family is so nicely balanced at present: one girl/one boy, two children/two parents. There are enough hands to go around in a parking lot, enough laps to go around on movie night. We can tag-team at bedtime and, in years to come, at soccer games and trombone recitals. We can afford the children we have, and in doing so, we can imagine (assuming the Dow doesn't actually hit zero) retiring before we are completely shriveled.

To hear Husband tell it, another child would not simply be another set of diapers and another child to help through college; it would be an assault to our equilibrium. In fact, there are days when I completely agree with him. To be sure, those are days on which my equilibrium is pretty far gone anyway, thanks to the incessant repetition (by the little darlings) of butt jokes and the "let's play bonk booty" game, and the endless refrain (from me) of "put your shoes on; we're leaving." There are only so many times a mother can ask, insist, demand, shout, and threaten over the lack of coat wearing before she thinks to herself, "Why ON EARTH would I EVER think having another was a good idea?" This excellent form of birth control occurs in our household at least once a day.

I only have one close friend who has three children. She lives in Boston and is a professor like me. It typically takes me at least two months of phone tag to pin her down for a conversation. Sometimes I think about that when I find myself sighing longingly for a third sweet little muffin of a baby. And then I wonder whether the little heartfelt tugs towards a third aren't really more a manifestation of our family's particular brand of insanity; we suffer from a congenital condition called BiteOffMoreThanYouCanChewitis.

By and large, then, I have found myself agreeing with Husband that perhaps we are "done." And yet I cannot bring myself to sell the baby gear. There are covered bins of neatly folded, tiny little infant outfits in one closet, a bouncy seat, a bumbo, infant carseat and strollers, a pack and play, swaddling blankets, all those items that my own two children so recently -- oh! so very recently -- were using every day. Outgrown, patiently waiting, these items remind me of the infanthoods that passed so quickly, and something within me thinks: perhaps we should give these things one more go around the block before our family is really ready to go on a more "grown up" vacation.

And then I realize that right now, we could put life preservers on our children and take them kayaking in a bay (assuming there were a bay anywhere nearby that wasn't frozen over), and I wonder if bringing an infant into this mix doesn't just upset our trajectory more than I am willing to juggle.

But here's the thing: my BODY doesn't care at all what my mind, heart, and husband think. There are some months when I think that my body has actually grown a second mind which lives in my uterus. This mind is very carefully calibrated to sleep 25 days a month, quietly amassing secret reserves of intensity and persuasion, and then when, with an imperceptible ping!, the timer goes off in my ovaries, Uterus Mind wakes up screaming.

The egg! The egg! It's coming soon!! the mind shrieks. It begins to shake me out of my stupor. Time to get busy, woman! You can do it!! Seduce that husband of yours! Don't waste the opportunity!! The egg will be ready any day now!! C'mon, you can do it!! I SAID NOW!! This could be your last chance! You aren't getting any younger you know!!

And then, finally, Uterus Mind runs out of its allotment of exclamation points and tries a different tactic.

Mmmmmm.... it purrs. Just think how nice tonight will be. A little wine, curl up and chat, close the door to the bedroom tightly so the children won't wake up... Just you and the man... Mmmmmm.... it's been a while, hasn't it? Just think how good you look in those pants now that you've been working out. I'm sure he's noticed. Why not make it worth his while to notice even more tomorrow? Here, I'll help get you in the mood...

Uterus Mind is nothing if not a powerhouse combination of intimidation and smooth talking.

For the next few days, Uterus Mind keeps up the endless stream of chatter. Whispered seductions, insistent demands, cajoling, berating, pleading. Requiring, in short, that I satisfy its empty longing with the one little thing it asks from me. Such a small thing. A tiny little favor. Just one more fertilized egg for the future. So small, I'll hardly notice the difference.

It is so persuasive that my real brain actually believes the promises of Uterus Mind. "Oh," I think, "having another baby, another sweet, soft, snuzzly baby, would be so delightful!" Nowhere in the patter from Uterus Mind are the words diapers, teething, college funds or daycare. Uterus Mind doesn't care about the marital discord that would be caused by an unexpected pregnancy. All it cares about is the furthering of the human species through the process of procreating as much as possible before this ain't-getting-any-younger host of a woman dries up inside and becomes incapable of bearing fruit in her womb. Uterus Mind, I am convinced, is an evolutionary innovation that turns otherwise sensible, professional women into something akin to dogs driven nearly wild by the scent of a female in heat hiding somewhere around here. It makes us want to impregnate ourselves. Desperately wish we could impregnate ourselves.

And then, of course, it shuts up again. After three or four days of tyranny, intimidation, and crazy successful efforts to raise the libido almost past the point of human tolerance, Uterus Mind sighs quietly, Well, I tried, and goes back to sleep.

My real mind takes over, usually with a stunned moment of silence to appreciate the full force of what has just happened, and then it sighs too, Well, at least we dodged the bullet this month. Of course, the intensity of Uterus Mind's pleas always leaves room for a little doubt in that regard, and then the next two weeks are alternately laughable (how could I possibly listen to that fool, UM?), panicky (what will Husband say if UM won this round?), and soul searching (how do I really feel about having another child?).

There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but slowly I come to the inevitable conclusion that if we BOTH aren't ready, then our family isn't ready for another. I marvel over how strongly this urge has manifest recently (I never felt this way in my 20s or early 30s), and I chuckle over biology through a few weeks of relative calm and happiness.

And then, ping! Uterus Mind wakes up screaming again.


Steph said...

Here's my perspective - going from one to two children is a big deal, but not as big as you think it'll be. Going from two to three? Doesn't even compare. I don't know what it is about that third kid, but it is a MUCH BIGGER DEAL than you expect or for which you can really prepare.

I, too, had a Uterus Mind, and we gave in to it. I haven't ever been sorry about it - I love Tricia with my whole being. However, there are days when I ask myself if I was completely and totally insane for starting allllll over with a newborn. I mean, the first two could make their own sandwiches and take themselves potty and bathe themselves and all sorts of stuff.

But she smells so good, even now. And I can't imagine life without her. And somehow, we always find enough hands to go around. (It helps that my oldest is 15 and can take some hand duty. :grin:)

calicobebop said...

Though I secretly long for another baby I can't help but wonder what effect it would have on my current situation. Like your family - mine is in balance. One mama + one little girl. Another baby would really mix it up.

Not to mention the fact that I swore I would never do this alone again! So, I guess my mind is made up. Too bad the solution can't be as easy for you!

3 Crazy Irishmen said...

I have three boys: 5, 3 and 1 and we just PLANNED FOR and found out I'm expecting our fourth (girl or boy is yet to be determined). I, too, am a professor, and it really is crazy. My husband and I switch off work days. I do all my classes in 2.5 days and the days I have to go in, he works from home and vice versa. It works for us. There is extremely little free time (he's also in grad school at night!) but I wouldn't change it for the world.

Most of my friends would jump off a bridge if they had to live our daily life (and make no bones about admitting this to me!) but we don't seem to be tearing our hair out (yet!) I'll let you know how it goes when #4 arrives. Maybe I'll be eating my words then. But when you add chaos to chaos, it's still just chaos, right? And fun chaos at that! I SWEAR this guy or girl is my last though. I am getting older and poorer by the minute!

Rachel said...

I have to disagree with Steph. The transition from 2 to 3 was MUCH easier than from 1 to 2 for us. And from 3 to 4? Even easier.

Yes, our life is busy. I get only a few broken hours of sleep each night. I eat bread crusts standing over the sink. Alone time? What's that? Baby gear, laundry, toys as far as the eye can see... Constant noise and chaos. Everything you can imagine about a house with 4 kids? We're it.

Know what? I will never EVER look back and regret any of it. If I hadn't had my fourth - she was planned... kind of - I would have always wondered, and wished I had. Many days, I feel the same way about a fifth.

You may retire comfortably, but will you look back and WISH you had a third? That seems like a better indicator than the impeccable logic. And husbands can be easily convinced, can't they? Mine has been. Twice. :)

Domestic Goddess (In Training) said...

I second those emotions! I actually have three kids that live with me, but one is my stepdaughter. I am dying to have a third, but really a fourth, but my mind is screaming at me saying "SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE ONES YOU HAVE!!!" But, try telling that to my uterus!

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Trust me, I feel this one since we're about to go from 1 to 3 in a few months.

Follow your heart, then your uterus. :)

Fawn said...

hahaha! Love this post!

Even though Halia is only 4 months old, I'm also having this internal debate. In our case, though, it's the hubby who REALLY wants a third child (always has) and I'm the one asking myself if it would be too crazy-making.

I think my blog might make for good birth control some days...

Fawn said...

Me again. The thought that always comes back to me is, "Once you have that little baby in your arms, would you REALLY regret it?" Somehow, I doubt I'd regret it.

OHmommy said...

Love this post!

I'll add my thoughts on my situation. We sold everything after the 2nd because we "felt" balanced and then my uterus started twitching, aching, begging for a 3rd.

The transition form 2 to 3 with nothing as difficult as 1 to 2 or even to just 1. In the end, I didn't want to live with any regrets. And wondering... "what if... what if we had the third child... what would they be like."

OHmommy said...

"was nothing like..."

was, not with.

sorry. working on dinner and popped in online. typed too fast.

Heather of the EO said...

Here's my two cents...for what they're worth (which is two cents and that doesn't buy much.)

A gazillion different people can tell you it's totally nuts to go from two to three, and how you have to be ready because it's so hard. Then another gazillion people can tell you that going from two to three was no big deal because having kids is having kids, blah blah.

Then your brain can tell you a gazillion different things, sometimes as Uterus Mind and sometimes as rational mind.

It's all so damn confusing.

But you've got it figured out lady! You have to be open with your husband about what's tugging on your heart and mind. If he suddenly looks up and says, "Yeah, me too," you've got your answer. Sometimes we KNOW things far longer than our man, who chews on things for a gazillion years.

I'm having this struggle too, and it's because I think about the future. sure, having more would be super hard, especially physically in the first few years. But I'm fully aware how FAST it will all go and that I'll never REGRET having that person join our family. But I might regret NOT having more.

Ugh...Let me know if you find the magic answer :)

Aimeepalooza said...

Oh, my uterus has a mind too. And I'm still in my early 30's. I think I'm in trouble!

E... said...

We are there. Some days, seems crazy, since I'm de facto single parent for much of most weeks when my husband travels. Other days, seems so sad to let a crazy couple of months/years when they're small keep us from having the family I'd like to have when they're older.
We're "balanced" here too, but sometimes that's what makes me want to have the other - don't want us to get too restricted/nuclear.

Jane said...

My youngest is over 1 now, and I have occasionally insane thoughts like yours. Keep in mind that when you think those thoughts, you are, like me, completely irrational and not remembering your history of pregnancy, childbirth, and sleepless nights.

On the other hand: they are cute little bundles of blessings. So cute!

anymommy said...

Great post. I don't know if I have anything to add (since I'm pg with our fourth), except this: Up until this one, we knew we weren't done. Now, I know we are and I also sense that I'm still going to struggle like this a little. I know there are going to be hard months when this baby is a toddler and I'll think, is this really over, am I really moving on and letting go and living it as a mom to preschoolers/midschoolers, teenagers, etc.

I guess it just never completely goes away? Or perhaps I'm just insane!

Marinka said...

Your uterus is very chatty.

I knew that I was done at 2. I desperately wanted 2, but then I didn't want anymore. I don't love the newborn phase, I find it terrifying actually. Good thing that I'm getting a 15 year old stepson soon, eh?

Heather, Queen of Shake Shake said...

I'm 35 and this has been happening to me for several months now. And don't think I have missed the coincidence it started around the same time my youngest started kindergarten.

But my husband has a vas years ago and unless I'm going to carry the 2nd messiah, my uterus can keep on screaming.

Aimeepalooza said...

PS another giveaway at my blog you might like.

cy said...

i love the toddler stage but not the infant stage. i think if you are not a big fan of the infant stage (or pregnancy) it makes it easier not to listen to UM.

also for me i turn into such a cranky person when i am sleep deprived that i know my marriage takes a hit for about a year after each child. don't think i can do THAT again either :P

Momisodes said...

I can certainly relate on so many levels. My uterus grew a mind of it's own in the past 2 years. We're all on the same level, it's the rest of my body that isn't listening.

It really is never an easy decision. I always say, "follow your heart." But it isn't always quite that simple when there are 2 hearts to follow.

Melanie said...

See, my take is to only have ONE child. That way, when you hand off the child, there is still a moment of peace again. If there are two children, there is no rest. Not one moment.

My mum had four of us, and she said that 3 children was the hardest, but four was easier, since at that point we all started caring for each other. I still think she was crazy for going past one.

When you only have one child, if an oops happens, then at least you still have a little bit of a hold on things.

Of course, I'm still wondering what on earth made me want to be a parent AT ALL. Some days, I look at DINKs (double income, no kids) and sigh wistfully....

Swistle said...

I agree with Rachel: we went from 1 to 2 and it was REALLY HARD, but then we went from 2 to 4 (twins) and it was a way easier transition.

McMommy said...

I found this post so interesting....I feel torn about going for a third, too.

My husband says WE.ARE.DONE!

I say...are you sure?
Because I'm not so sure about that....

But then I have days like today...where the kids are so independent and life is easy...and I think to myself, do I really want to start from square one all over again???

I just don't know.

McMommy said...

p.s. I don't know what happened but your POW link is broken?? When I clicked on it, it takes me to a blogger page that says "Page Does Not Exist" or something like that.

supertiff said...

i had to set up a meeting between my uterus mind people and my bank account people.

the bank account people won.

for now.

bernthis said...

Okay, I loved this post. I have uterine mind all the time, except mine doesn't want another baby so much as to get laid and whatever happens after that, well, so be it.

Ree said...

I used to have Uterus Mind, too. The problem was (or maybe the saving grace was) that I had already had my tubes tied.

LceeL said...

We have three. Our only regret is that there are seven years between the second and third child. Essentially, #3 son grew up as an only child. The older two are two years apart - and they've always had each other to be with, play with, etc. Not so for #3 son. That said, we wouldn't have it any other way. Oh, and by the way, #3 son was totally unplanned.

the mama bird diaries said...

I'm dying for a third.

MommyTime said...

I wrote many of you back via email (where I could; darn Blogger), but I wanted to say a public thanks for your thoughtful perspectives and responses. It is so helpful to know how others have thought about this issue -- and that I am not alone in this feeling that there is almost a biological imperative for more that is not always in line with other forces that make these decisions. Many thanks for sharing this conversation with me.


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