2012 is the last year for…
Having babies. Being pregnant. Pushing a living being out of myself. My body being a food source. Sleeping in two or three hour stints for months on end.
The chapter in Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman that most resonated with me was the one on abortion. I plan to write a post detailing my thoughts on the subject, but what she said about women not needing to have a better reason for not having a child than not wanting one struck a huge chord. Somehow it is okay for women who have not had children yet to not want children. But for a mother who has and cherishes her own children to say no to yet another seems to be a possibility people are loathe to grasp. So much so that I’d wager many mothers have trouble admitting it to themselves, let alone articulating it.
But like Moran, I am completely sure that I am not physically, emotionally, or mentally capable of bearing and raising another baby. When I went to get my tubes tied, the doctor refused to believe I knew my mind and asked me to come back in a year if I felt the same way. My husband refuses to believe it and asks me now and then if I would consider another. It appears that there is something to men wanting to spread their seed, made easier I am sure by having the least demanding role to play in that spreading.
I have turned the possibility over in my mind and I am certain. I do not have it in me to love another infant of my own. I have always been a person whose bonds of affection are tightly wound. Historically, I have found it hard to be physically affectionate with more than one person at a time. I was never the huggy-kissy kind to start with – I famously requested my mother to skip the goodbye kiss after she dropped off my lunch box in primary school – but somewhere around my adolescent I would cuddle with my mother. Then, I got a boyfriend and all the platonic cuddling with the parent stopped. My mother remarked on it and I shrugged. I can only channel physical intimacy – platonic or romantic – one way. After I had Benji, I stopped hugging V. So you can imagine what happened after Mimi. The state of my sex life should not be a surprise to anyone, leave alone me.
I feel emotionally stretched to capacity with two children. I have always wanted two children and wondered a bit about parents who choose to have one. Now that I have two, I understand completely. As a parent of young children, I am probably most suited to just one child. This is not to say I stint on Mimi. Just that I can feel the stretch. Like dedicating enough time to both, making sure both have enough physical and mental presence of me. I am torn two ways, the husband struggling to make up the third, and I don’t have the space for a fourth person in my life.
I think of my grandmother and her seven offspring with horror. I am not imagining this horror; she has alluded to it and I see it in her late neuroses. Women who were breeding machines with no choice paid a price in so many ways. Let us not even speak of the children. My mother says she cherishes growing up amid such a large brood and I love having so many cousins, but between the siblings there are seething tensions and they are more marked in the children at the edges – the oldest and the second-youngest. I just read Anne Enright’s The Gathering and this comes across so clearly, singeing the portrait of the large happy family. This is not to say large families cannot be happy – there was a slew of programmes on Discovery featuring ever-expanding families of 19 kids at last count and they seemed happy enough – but that the number of children should be a thought-out choice of both parents for it to work out.
So, yes, the next person that asks me when I am having the next one – and yes, people do ask this now that they are over the startling appearance of Mimi right after Benji – will be told it straight. I have as many as I want, as many as I can love to the fullest. No more.