“Mommy, I want a real baby. Emily has a real baby. I only have pretend babies.” My almost four-year-old reminds me of this daily. I never intended it to be this way. My brother and I are 13 months apart. While I never thought I would have two children in just over a year, I love how close I am to my brother and expected my children to be fewer than three years apart in age. But alas, it’s looking more and more probably that dear daughter will likely be in grade school before her “real baby” comes along. And my feelings about this are, in a word, complex.
My girl is, and always has been, a strong-willed child. She was never much of a fan of sleep. I was never a fan of the baby phase. Then, when she was 9 months old, we moved 11 hours away from our families to Baton Rouge. And we built a house. And I went back to work. And we sold that house and bought a new one. Through it all, there was always a reason why I wasn’t ready. There were days, weeks even, when I thought maybe it was finally time. More than once I was jealous of a pregnant coworker, a mother snuggling a newborn, and Facebook pictures of my friend’s children who are clearly BFFs. But I never could commit.
That girl, though. She loves every baby she sees as if it is her own. And her dolls can be found scattered around the house going on trips to the “grocery store” sitting in her toy shopping cart, tucked under the covers in the guest bedroom, and buckled into the backseat of the car so they stay safe. She will make the best big sister. But here I am, with no immediate plan to give her the gift she wants more than anything.
I have the standard fears: Maternity leave is expensive. Daycare is expensive. Diapers are expensive. Babysitters are expensive. Pumping is miserable. What if I never get to sleep again? At this point, do I really want to start over now that I’m through the toddler trenches? We have too much debt. We have too little in savings. Our house is too small. I need to lose weight. I have the patience of a toddler. Oh, and did I mention daycare is expensive.
My vision of my family always looked more like Parenthood (the TV show that never should have been cancelled). I love the idea of having several adult children to laugh with and cry with (and care for) my husband and me as we age. But several small children? Do I have to? A friend recently said to me, “They say you blink and your kids are grown. I keep blinking, but nothing is happening!” I echo her sentiment completely.
I will admit I do miss the feeling of baby kicks. I wonder how different birth and parenting will be the second time around. I dream about Etta Mae fiercely loving a sibling (or two). And I long for her to have a playmate. But so far, none of that has been enough to convince me that I’m ready.