Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Different Place with Number Two

I was inspired by World Momma to think about the differences in my life, and in my thinking, between babies one and two. Here goes:

My husband and I have always answered the same way when asked how many children we planned to have: Two, maybe three. I think it was usually me adding the maybe three. Coming from a family of eight, anything less than four seems almost unthinkably small. Even at one point when we thought we'd settled on keeping it to two kids, I told him we'd have to be the house to which all friends were invited, so as not to seem too quiet and leave me lonely! Other times I absolutely love the idea of a quiet, empty house, and feel perfectly content to stop at two.

After my OB-GYN started my surgery he told me: Your scar looks great; we can cut along the same line, and then: You're in great shape here--I just wanted to let you know, in case you wanted to have another child. That would be fine.

At that moment I was flooded with joy (even though I hadn't worried -or even really considered- the possibility that I wouldn't be able to have another child, if I wanted one), and I thought I would definitely have another. This hormone high lasted for a number of days and I felt certain I wanted another baby.

The moment ended abruptly one afternoon shortly after returning home from the hospital, while I looked out my living room window. I've talked before about how I live on a steep hill. I looked up the hill, and envisioned myself climbing the hell out of that hill, my body strong, determined and, most importantly -following a long and uncomfortable final trimester of pregnancy, and knowingly heading into both the immediate postpartum period and a CNY winter- my own. My body, my own! There was a flood of joy there, too.

After my son was born I think I expected to know, certainly and deeply, the way I sometimes know that marrying my husband was the right choice, whether or not I wanted a third child. After my daughter's birth, I'm surprised to find that I still don't know. And that I'm okay with that.

Employment. Well. You've caught me at an odd time! But there are professional parallels between my maternity leaves.

When my son was born, I wasn't an administrator yet. I was just a teacher. And the administrators above me were rewriting the grant for our program shortly before I started my leave. I left not sure I would have a job to return to. As it happens, we were rewarded the grant and I returned to the same job I left, only to be offered a promotion a few months later.

When my daughter was born I left assuming we had the remaining years left in the grant cycle we had been awarded during my last leave. And I was both more dedicated to and more defined by my new job. Still, I thought a lot about the possibility of staying home full time, during both my pregnancy and maternity leave. And now suddenly -due to budget cuts- it might be a reality, much sooner than I ever anticipated. I wasn't expecting this at all (my job has always been dependent on federal funding, and thus always theoretically in jeopardy from year to year; I coped by never thinking about it).

I still can't say how I feel about all these changes. This weekend has been a bit emotionally intense (I return to work on Monday), but there are lots of moments when I feel like things will all turn out fine, despite my long laid life plans all going to shit.

In other employment news, I used to work half time as a fitness instructor (in addition to my half time teaching position), before the birth of my son. I anticipated cutting my hours, but before having kids I thought I could reasonably teach one hour a night during the week. After having my son I returned to three classes a week, then dropped to two. After dithering during my pregnancy I resigned altogether after my daughter was born. A big underlying factor in these decisions is the fact that my fitness jobby doesn't pay me enough to afford child care. I can't justify working when it costs me money to do so!

I think in both cases, the difference between number one and number two is that with the first baby, I expected to have a plan, and for that plan to work out reasonably well. This was an expectation that made sense given the context: I'd waited years to have a baby, in order to lay the groundwork for that plan. This time around the future seems much more uncertain. Sometimes that's terrifying; other times it's bursting with possibility.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on the reduced expectations of having a plan the second time around. Perhaps because I realize that no matter what happens, I have these wonderful little people in my life, so it's no longer quite as important for plans to work out as expected.