As regular readers of this column may have noticed, I try to keep it light over here. The thought of a total stranger glancing over my personal angst and soul-searching in the checkout line just hits me wrong. Nothing personal, you understand. I'm fine with sharing the funny stories, the childhood milestones and the personal triumphs with you guys all day long. The deep thoughts, though, I tend to keep to myself.
That's why, when my Esteemed Editor asked if I would want to do a column about whether or not The Boy might have any siblings on the horizon, I politely demurred. As big questions go, that has been one of my biggest over the past four years. It's not something I talk about outside of a small circle of trusted friends. It's not a topic that I could sum up very easily in 800 words, either. And, most important, it's not a topic about which I feel particularly light or amusing or conversational, and I try to keep this column all of those things.
Lately, though, it's been weighing more heavily on my mind. Mostly because I know that I am in the autumn of my child-bearing years, and that the luxury of saying "We don't know — we're still thinking about it" is not a luxury I will have for very much longer. If I even still have it at all. And that's a hard thing to ponder in front of an audience. It's a hard thing to ponder alone in the middle of the night. I speak from experience. I'm sure some of you understand where I'm coming from — which is why I decided to go ahead and write about it.
I didn't make my first grab for the mom ball until late in the game to begin with. I was 36 years old when I finally felt "ready" — or, more accurately, finally admitted that I would never feel ready and that I'd better just get on with it. And, again, some of you may sympathize when I say that when you start trying at 36, you need to expect some biological surprises. Those surprises delayed us for another year, and by the time The Boy showed up on the scene, I was every bit of 38. When I came in for my six-week checkup that September, my doctor said that if I wanted another baby, I should aim to get pregnant again in April. And she said this with a perfectly straight face.
There I was, freshly stitched and barely mobile, clutching the adorable little bottomless pit of wants and needs who consumed my every waking moment — and pretty much all of my moments for the past six weeks had been waking ones. Did she seriously expect me to just up and make another one? Now? Without even going into the process of making one and how that wasn't getting done, just the thought of having anyone other than The Boy to deal with anytime soon was terrifying and completely unthinkable. So we didn't think about it.
We didn't think about it for a couple of years. Well-meaning relatives would ask, and we'd laugh uncomfortably and change the subject. I did keep the maternity coverage on my health insurance, not because I was planning to use it, but because I knew that if any surprises happened and I didn't have it, the financial fallout would be catastrophic. Cutting back to one income when The Boy came meant tightening our already-cinched belts even further, and even the thought of a fully insured pregnancy looms threateningly large on the financial horizon.
Lately, though, I have been thinking about it. A lot. The thoughts aren't always happy ones. The Boy is 4 now, and even if we successfully summoned a sibling tomorrow, he'd be 5 by delivery day. I mentally follow them through life: 7 and 2, 10 and 5, 15 and 10. Too far apart to play together. They wouldn't have interests in common, wouldn't cross paths in school halls. It feels sad to think about, like I have already cheated The Boy out of something important without meaning to.
So is The Boy doomed to be an only? Possibly, but please don't ever refer to him as a "singleton." Recently a mother I know made a long and pointed blog post about how parents of "singletons" have no room to complain about anything because their gigs are a piece of cake compared to parenting more than one child. It was the first time I'd heard "singleton;" it sounded like "simpleton," and it smacked as elitist and bitchy as the term "breeders" for parents. It led me to coin a term of my own for her: "former friend."
Sorry. I warned you it was going to get angsty in here. Next month will be lighter, I promise.