In my experience, if a decision is hard to make, you’re probably choosing the wrong thing. High School Emily agonized for months over choosing a college, creating pros and cons lists, asking everyone for advice, even throwing three markers (representing the three schools) into a bag and picking one out (had I actually gone with that method I would have ended up at Notre Dame. Which was the “official decision” for about a week. That mistake would have been even more expensive than Marquette!) I still made the wrong choice, changing majors after a semester and transferring colleges after freshman year. College Emily interviewed for nanny position after nanny position, trying to find the best summer job—only to select a family beleaguered by drug abuse and lies.
My best decisions, on the other hand, required almost no thought at all. I accepted The Engineer’s proposal before he finished asking the question. I didn’t hesitate when offered my first teaching job, even though the school, grade, and town were the opposite of where I thought I would be. My best friend and I booked plane tickets to Spain to visit another friend on a whim, despite the fact that I was broke and had a wedding to fund. Some of the biggest decisions of my life took less thought than getting dressed this morning.
I have to clarify, I don’t regret any of the aforementioned decisions. Had I not changed schools, I wouldn’t have been assigned to transfer dorm at UW-Madison and I wouldn’t have met my husband. That first nanny position showed me that every family has things happening beneath the surface (as well as the importance of setting boundaries).
Deciding to have Little Darcy was a mix of easy and hard. Over Thanksgiving, I remember settling into bed with The Engineer and announcing I wanted a baby. He went white and the subject was tabled. Fast forward a month and he made the same announcement around New Years. This time, it was my turn to panic. (Remember the Friends episode where Monica tries to make Chandler panic by saying she’s ready for kids? And then she panics when he agrees, because no one had ever wanted to make a baby with her before? Relatable.)
I thought deciding to grow our little family from two to three was the biggest decision The Engineer and I would ever make.
Until the topic of having a second baby came up. Teary-eyed after reading Little Darcy’s baby book, The Engineer announced he was ready. Given that this happened within days of me finally feeling back to “normal,” I couldn’t imagine starting over. We were approaching our original “timeline,” though, so we continued the conversation and it’s still ongoing two months later. But I can’t tell if the decision is easy or hard, because I can’t actually land on a decision.
Which probably means it’s hard. Is that foreshadowing that it’s wrong?
I don’t know if I’ll ever not be scared to have another baby. Could I ever be confident enough in the timing, in the circumstances? Is a little fear okay? How much fear is normal and how much is too much? When does worry become anxiety?
A long, long time ago I came across a paper my mom wrote in college—it was all about the decision to have a second child (what class that was for, I have no idea). Her biggest concern was that she wouldn’t have enough love for another child—she loved me so much, how could she possibly have enough left to give to another?
I’m pretty sure Dry Mama is her favorite child, so that wasn’t an issue. Although Dry Mama would argue the opposite. And my Mama, the infamous middle child with fairness issues, would declare that she could never, ever have a favorite.
The truth is we’re both loved. I don’t think there’s a limit to how many children you can give love to. And after teaching at a very Catholic school for the last five years, I can cite many, many examples of big families with an abundance of love and care.
But I digress. I’m not worried that I won’t love another baby, I know that I will. I’m scared that I’ll lose myself, that I’ll jeopardize my relationships, my marriage, my job, my health. Again. That I won’t be able to care for two children the way that I want to.
Basically, I’m terrified of a recurrence of postpartum depression, of prenatal anxiety. Which I’m never going to be able to control completely.
Continue to Deciding (Getting Pregnant After PPD: Part 2).