Although I still call her the baby, technically it’s a bit of a stretch to continue referring to her as such. Koukla is twenty months old now, walking and climbing, singing and talking. She’s in classroom T-3 at school, where the T isn’t short for Tiny but for Toddler, and all of my baby-calling has distorted her understanding of what a baby is to the point that she now uses this word to describe even the grown men playing soccer at the park. I have finally reached that point when I’m beginning to miss having a baby.
And it kind of sort of makes me want to have another. Kind of.
At night I squeeze her into too small footed pajamas because everything in the next size up looks like something a little girl would wear. At meals I spoon feed her beans and veggies while she’s occupied with finger foods, even though I know she is perfectly capable of eating independently. I took away the pacifier but let her keep bottles on the condition that she drink them only while snuggling in my lap, and I know that when this too goes the way of nursing, I will miss it more than she will.
But missing the baby stage is only minimally to blame for this feeling that it might be nice to have another one, because as much as I have enjoyed these first months with Koukla, I also understand that it would be much easier to miss having a baby than it would be to actually have another baby. No – what I’m experiencing now isn’t so much a decision to be made as it is a primal call to action, more a strong tug on my ovaries than a thought running through my mind.
I don’t want to have another child, but oh how I want to have another child. There is barely room in my life for the three of us, but oh wouldn’t the number four be just so lovely? Clearly this is that post-post-partum moment in which the biological clock starts ringing again, and there may be nothing logic or exhaustion can do to stop the noise.
I see it happening to the other mothers in the classroom. First Brianna’s mommy had a baby, then Mia’s mommy started to show, and now even Levi’s going to be a big brother. The only kids in class who don’t have a sibling on the way are the few who were in second or third place from the moment they sprouted as a branch on the family tree. Apparently having an only child is simply no longer something people do.
And why would anyone choose to have an only child? This is not a rhetorical question – if you’ve made this choice, please tell me all about why it’s okay! I loved growing up with brothers, and can’t imagine what it would be like to live as an adult without the company and comfort of at least one sibling. I never imagined I would even entertain the idea of creating a family in which my child wouldn’t experience the comradery that develops among brothers and sisters, but I also didn’t realize how difficult it would be to have even just the one. Then I brought the Koukla home and realized what a miracle it was that anyone anywhere had siblings – I couldn’t understand how anyone had managed to survive the first year of their first child only to turn around and volunteer to start the madness all over again.
But then just like that, a shift. Now something inside of me is saying that it’s time, and now something outside of me too is calling out the same message – the Koukla herself.
As if to confirm the urgency of this sudden need to procreate, my daughter has recently started exhibiting early signs of only child syndrome. A couple of weeks ago, for example, when my friend was visiting along with her infant son (her second, of course), anytime I appeared to be paying even the slightest bit of attention to her son, my Koukla went crazy – dancing, stomping, singing, counting to ten (repeatedly) as loudly as she could, calling out for praise and for attention. And the same behavior surfaced again last weekend with another visitor – we were a room full of adults, plus one child insistent on being the centerpiece of the entire conversation. She’s still young enough that this might pass for cute, but will it still be cute in few years when she doesn’t know how to share toys or the teacher’s attention at school? Will it still be cute when she’s going off to college to study musical theatre and breaking into spontaneous improve skits on the street?
I mean no offense to all of you only children out there. I know that whether or not my child grows into an attention-addict has more to do with how much I spoil her and not whether or not she is the only one in line for the Spanos family crown, but I don’t see how it’s possible not to spoil her unless my attention (and discretionary spending budget) is somehow divided. But the again, do I really want to intentionally deprive my daughter of attention, love and resources? Maybe she will end up more spoiled if I am constantly playing catch up, overdoing it because I have divided myself too much, spread myself too thin. Maybe the answer is to refocus the attention rather than to reduce it.
Do I believe I could be a good mother to more than one child, while continuing to pursue other aspirations? Do I believe my husband and I could nurture a healthy marriage with the time and financial strain of another child? Or, as was the case with the Koukla, do I believe the joy of a growing family be enough to balance out all of these other concerns?
Maybe someday I’ll count myself lucky to have lived the answer to these questions. Or maybe I’ll just breathe a big sigh of relief for having realized that good things come in threes.