“Is it your first?” everyone asked when I was pregnant. And my last, I thought. “Is he your first?” asks the Otha Motha at the supermarket. And only, I think. Her 10 month old girl smiles up at me; I cringe at her eczema encrusted limbs.
“How about you?”
“Oh no, my other daughter is 3 and I’m done. Are you having another?” she asks expectantly.
I candidly express my reticence: my age and the difficulty of the first year in particular.
“Oh you don’t look your age,” she butters me up (I had bathed and was wearing massive sunglasses) and then pithily dishes up: “Well if you don’t, he’ll grow up and hate you.”
Hate me, why would he hate me? He gets daily showers of ‘I love you’ and doesn’t have to share with any one save the cat. He might feel pressure, but hatred, I think not.
“Are you going to have another baby?” Mieke asks me over coffee in the park.
“Are you nuts? I don’t even know where this one is,” I answer, looking around until I spot Mister Baby stealing a tricycle. “I seriously doubt I could keep track of any more.”
“But everyone says the second one is so much easier,” she says as her daughter clambers onto Mister Baby’s back to get at the bike.
“How much easier can it be? Do the math, there’d still be two!” I counter as Mister Baby drags her daughter off the tricycle by the hair, steps over her and rides away.
I tally the pros and cons of having another child as babyhood slips from Mister Baby’s body. I conclude that it would be great for him and suck for me. I’d like a house filled with life and noise and activity, but what I miss most about life before Mister Baby is reading and having an attention span longer than it takes to make toast (and that’s generous). ‘They play with each other so you can do other things,’ so the argument goes. Like what? Climb Mount Everest of a morning? What they mean is that I can clean and cook some more. And while I love my siblings now we’re older - most of the time - the thing I remember most was the constant squabbling. The ‘she’s-on-my-side’ whine from the back seat followed by the bellowing of: “Don’t make me pull over!”
Perhaps it isn’t fair to create another spoiled only child but on the flip side is my sanity. I piously think of the environment, natural resources and all the unwanted children. But more importantly, I barely made it through Mister Baby’s first year in tact so what might happen the next time? Granted, that first year also included an international move and my mother’s prolonged, near death hospitalization among other traumas.
I would love to wake up and find another couple of delightful, potty-trained kids, a big house and garden and a fulfilling career, and a dog, maybe even some chickens. This seems possible if I have twins quickly followed by a nervous break down and emerge from the mental institution when they’re four.
Let’s face it, as older parents, if Mister Baby waits as long as we did to have kids, we don’t have a prayer of seeing any grandchildren while we’re compos mentis and cataract free. According to actuarial tables, the Pater and I will be checking out early on in Mister Baby’s life. I don’t want him to be lonely; I want him to have a family of his own. So I have devised a twofold plan combining forced marriage and teenage pregnancy. I have proposed marriage contracts to the parents of his more attractive playmates. Failing this (and unsuitable dowries), I have decided not to mention birth control. I’ll be one of those cool moms who lets Mister Baby’s girlfriends stay overnight, and in his room, no less. I hope to still be ambulatory so I can baby-sit. If I happen to be in diapers, I’ll still be an expert.
Mostly I wish I had met The Pater five years earlier and started on this journey sooner but I can’t rewrite history. An essential part of growing up is hating your parents, so the question remains: will Mister Baby grow up to hate me because he’s an only child or for some other crime?