I'm the only one left among my circle of friends who doesn't have at least two kids. My son just turned 4, and somehow, I've missed a deadline that I wasn't even aware of.
I'm often asked, "Is he your one and only?" And I smile and say, "Yes," because right now, he is. Though I do still want to have another child, it seems I've fallen behind the curve.
All of my son's friends have younger brothers or sisters. He's been asking me for months when we can have a new baby. He will be a wonderful older brother—he's helpful with chores, and he's a sweet and compassionate boy. He deserves to have a sibling to love and to play with. And I want to give him one.
There's a "but" coming.
I want to give him a sibling, BUT I have to consider myself, too. My own timeline. There are reasons I've waited this long, and those reasons will keep me waiting for just a bit longer.
I'm a little in awe of the moms out there who've already jumped into the unknown, embracing the challenges of raising two kids. A little in awe, and a lot intimidated.
I see other moms out there, making it work with two kids—or more! One of my best friends just had her fourth and she seems blissfully full and content. (Tired, but content.) When I see moms changing baby diapers at the park while their older children play on the equipment, or carrying baby number two on their chest over a swelling baby bump—all while managing to drop their first off at preschool—I am in awe of them.
But I'm not them, and I shouldn't feel pressured by the fact that I have "only" one child. Their situations may be different from mine. Their mental health and their goals may be different from mine. They may have family who live close by; mine live 15 hours away in another state. They may have a partner who comes home from work every night; mine is away for weeks and months at a time. They may have a household to run, or even a small business to manage. I'm keeping our small farm running on my own and trying to make writing a career.
There's another factor in play for me that has had a huge impact: my anxiety disorder.
I worry (thanks, anxiety) that my disorder will be worse with two kids. I worry that it will make for an unhealthy pregnancy, or that it will strain my marriage even further while I struggle to make everything work. I worry, I worry and I worry some more.
Meanwhile, my husband is about to be gone for the better part of the next year. Not exactly ideal circumstances for bringing baby number two into the world.
So for now, I wait. I worry. I watch the other moms out there making it through, and remind myself over and over that if they can do it, so can I. I might be a little behind on that "deadline" for getting pregnant again.
But that's okay.
Because I do not have to do what I'm expected to do. I did not have to raise a child in order to be a fulfilled woman. I do not have to raise multiple children to have a full, happy family. In fact, I do not have to do anything because I may be judged as "less than" if I fail to meet an expectation.
In the last five years, I've weathered a lot of change. I endured my partner's deployment while I was pregnant and working 12-hour night shifts. I birthed my first child. I left my job as a police dispatcher, a job I loved, to become a stay-at-home mom. I have held down the homefront with a deployed spouse three times in the past four years, and am about to do so for the fourth time. I have moved to a new state four times in the past six years.
It's enough to make anybody hesitate before taking on another major life change.
And yet, I still find myself wishing that I could just take the leap. Wishing that I could dive in, instead of hovering around the edges, piling up insecurities and uncertainties, thinking of more ways that I could fall short—more ways that finally trying for another baby could be a terrible decision.
In the end, I find that waiting has given me some space. It has given me time to really come to terms with my anxiety disorder and to seek treatment to help me manage it. It has given me time to watch my friends move forward in their parenting journeys, and to glean inspiration from their struggles and joys.
Hopefully, I'll look back on this season of my life and say that waiting was the right choice for me and for my family.
But if not, then at least I'll know that I didn't fall victim to outside pressures about something that didn't feel right for me just yet.