Know that line from the old Bonnie Raitt song, “Sees babies everywhere she goes, and she wants one of her own”? For the past few years, I see babies everywhere I go. Strapped to their mom’s chests in town. Cruising in their strollers at the malls. Snuggling with their moms at friends’ homes. I am that woman who squeals, “He is so cute!” I am that woman who asks, “Can I hold him?”
I definitely want another baby. The question is, do I want another child?
The baby lust blinds me. I am a sucker for them, and have been for as long as I can remember. I started babysitting at 10. As a teen, I was more prone to ogling infants than cute boys. In my twenties, I was the Office Baby Whisperer, renowned for being able to amuse and delight any visiting tots. A doctor once told me babies are fascinated by the contrast of my dark hair and light skin, but with my round face and high voice I suspect they think I’m an overgrown one of them.
I had two very different experiences of babyhood with my children. My son, Max, had a stroke at birth (yes, babies can have strokes). Doctors told us he might never walk or talk, and that he could have cognitive impairment. We got him therapy up the wazoo but nothing gave me comfort like inhaling his sweet baby smell, tickling the rolls of flesh known as his thighs and nibbling on his pudgy cheeks.
The winter he was born was one of the coldest, snowiest ones on record, and we couldn’t get out much. I cried a lot during those gray days, and worried about Max’s developmental delays. While other moms at the playgroup I was in chatted as their babies sat on the floor and played with toys, I held Max in my lap and hugged him tight; he didn’t sit up on his own till he was 15 months old, right around when we got the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. Max’s deliciousness was my only therapy.
When my little girl arrived two years later, the grief about what happened to Max had receded; he had progressed, and so had I. Sabrina was also a chubster, a feisty baby with chick fuzz for hair and a crack-level addiction to her pacifier. I watched in fascination as she figured out how to grasp objects and feed herself on her own, thought it was miraculous when she started babbling without anyone showing her how to.
Max is 9, and Sabrina’s turning 7 this weekend. And so now, Third Child: Yes? No? My husband is equally on the line.
Living in New York gives you a deluded sense of your ovary power; so many women here decide to have babies later in life. The waiting room of the high-risk ob/gyn I go to is filled with fortysomethings. “We have pregnant women in their fifties!” the nurse chirped at my last appointment. The midwife who did an exam told me I still “looked good down there,” a lovely compliment to get when you’re in your early forties. But Dave and I would like to decide soon. We want to be around for our kids for a long, long time.
The pros come easily: Another child to live, love and laugh with; I have good pregnancies; another sibling to inspire Max and also share the responsibility of looking after him when my husband and I are gone; we don’t want to someday regret not having a third child. Heck, we have the minivan. The cons come easily too: I already have a pretty hectic life and this could tip it into insanity, less attention for Max (who’s doing great but needs extra help), another little person to support and send to college.
Whenever I meet a mom with three kids, I inevitably ask about how that’s going. There’s no consensus, just two totally different camps of thought. Camp A is all “Ah, once you have two kids, it’s all the same!” and Camp B is “It changes everything, because you’re outnumbered.” One mom recently described it to me as going from playing amicably on a team to playing defense. Two years ago, I threw out the question on my other blog, and the resounding answer was “Go for it!”
Some days, I wish I could just borrow a baby for a couple of months and see how it goes—you know, like RentTheRunway loans designer dresses for a fee. Of course, RentTheBaby wouldn’t quite give me the full childhood experience, but it might help.
I don’t want to be one of those couples who plays Russian Roulette with birth control and “sees what happens.” I don’t want to let nature make this decision for us. I’d like to commit one way or the other—I just don’t know what’s going to get me there. Today, I’ll see another adorable baby somewhere and I’ll want another kid NOW, rationale be damned. It’s really hard to think clearly when you’ve got baby goggles on.