Four years ago I gave birth to my first – and so far, only – son, Raya. Like any other moms, being a mother is a sublime experience for me…but I’m not sure I’d do it again.
After I had Raya, for a while I was certain that I didn’t want to have another child, because I was shocked at how tough pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and raising a kid actually were.
Parenthood was far from what I had had imagined, though even before I was pregnant, I was already aware that parenting would be hard. I had suspected it wouldn’t be as pretty as those Instagram-mommies’ posts, but that it would be bloody instead, both literally and figuratively. So when I got knocked-up, I educated myself for the “real” side of parenthood, not just the “cute” side.
My suspicion was proven correct, but the first hand experience still feels shocking.
In short, after experiencing motherhood myself, I became uncertain about having another child and going through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and child raising all over again. However, my son will soon pass toddlerhood, and he now seems so grown-up. His emotions and thinking become very complex and mature, and his verbal skills are beyond excellent, so he can express himself perfectly. His life skills are also increasing rapidly, and he’s become a more independent human being. He’s now so much easier to bring to wherever I go, from business meetings to Europe.
Unsurprisingly, my husband starts bringing up the topic of having another child.
At first, I always said, “Definitely not this year! Or the next! Or probably ever!”
But then I became hesitant. And before I realized it, the idea grew on me and I begin to imagine the presence of another baby. To the point that some days, I want to jump on my husband and yell, “Inseminate me NOW! Let’s procreate!”
But on other days (read: days when Raya is being very difficult), I just want to sterilize myself.
It’s still undecided for me, but when (and if) I decide to have more kids, it has to be for the right reasons. I’m not sure yet what they are, but I do know a couple of “wrong” ones, a.k.a. reasons I cannot justify.
The first one is “I’m a woman, I just have to have kids. It’s my destiny.” Aw, c’mon, girl. There’s gotta be smarter arguments than that.
The second one is “I want someone to take care of me when I am old.” This is such a typical Indonesian thinking, and IMO, a very selfish one. No. I believe our children owe us NOTHING. They didn’t even ask to be born. Besides, what would we do if our kids fucked up? What if they abandon us in our old days? We invest years and years of emotions, tears, sweat, blood and money, and they just leave us just like that. Would we turn crazy?
During this vague baby-fever period, I contemplate a lot, and aside from the two “wrong reasons” I’ve mentioned above, here are some of my thoughts on having a(nother) kid.
* Indonesian thinking is very Mormon-like: Every woman MUST marry and MUST have kids eventually. Being a wife and mother are non-arguable roles for every woman to embrace.
One of my girl friends is considering NOT having kids, IF she ever gets married someday. I understand this, as I always try to accept the reasoning of women who decided to be childless. But when I tell this to some people, they gasped and pitied her heavily. Surprisingly, I’m not comfortable with this reaction.
I understand that one of women’s primal roles is to procreate—after all, procreating is the key of human existence, but shouldn’t we respect a person’s choice, whatever it is, as long as it doesn’t harm others?
* The more advance a nation is, the less its people want to have kids.
First-world countries’ populations have been declining since years ago, and my guess is it’s because women in those populations are knowledgeable and critical enough to be aware that having kids is not easy.
They’re probably also harder to persuade to believe that they need to have kids just because “they have to.” I imagine they like to challenge the conventional role of a female in society.
Yes, in a way, intelligent women in first-world countries’ are probably more selfish, because they have bigger desire to be productive, to fully exploit their expertise, and to contribute to the society without being weighed down by kids. But they are also are more aware of themselves and their potentials, instead of believing that their main purpose in this world is childbearing.
* When people decide to have kids, the main image that usually pops into their heads is holding a baby, or cuddling with a young child. They rarely imagine becoming parents for teenagers and adults, which I’m sure is harder and lonelier.
So before we decide to have kids, why don’t we visualize ourselves with our child in every stages of age – baby, child, teen, young adult, and adult – and see how we’d like it?
Sometimes, I even imagine myself becoming a parent of children with certain “challenges” – gay, autistic, disabled, Indigo, a child who eventually hates me, and many others. Just to see if I’m 110 percent ready.
* The firstborn child is usually the result of emotional decision, but the second child is usually the result of intellectual decision.
When I decided to have my son, I almost didn’t think. I wanted to have a child because my heart ached for a child. But when contemplating for a second kid, I consider it a lot with my head, not just with my heart.
My friend’s son was born with a Congenital Heart Disease. Though the dear boy is now relatively healthy and happy, his heart problem makes my friend wary to have another child. She’s worried if her second child also have health problems, since it will be emotionally, physically and financially draining for the family.
She told me that she keeps a note in her cellphone, as a self-reminder when (and if) she wants to have another kid. The note says things like, “If I ever have another child, I have to be ready for… I have to be mentally prepare for… I will not be bitter if my child…”
I was inspired by that, and have started keeping a similar list myself. It contains things that I need to be ready for when (and if) I have another kid, from shallow ones (“I have to be ready to be fat again,”) to deeper ones (“I have to be more active in keeping my marriage alive. I have to be ready to be responsible for another human being, probably for the rest of my life.”)
At least for me, having a second kid is full of intellectual considerations instead of emotional ones.
I’ve chatted with a lot of moms, and read many mom-written articles about the woes of parenting. I’ve concluded that although motherhood definitely not a walk in the park, no mother ever regret having her kid, including myself.
Yes, despite my complaints, no other feeling can compete with my love for my son, and I would still lick the sole of very dirty shoes for him if I need to. Moreover, there is no such thing as “the ideal time” to have kids. Either we take the plunge while we can, or put it off forever.
So, yeah, I may be afraid of having another child in the near future, but I’m also afraid of missing the opportunity, and then crave for that non-existent child for the rest my life.
Ah, the never-ending dilemmas in a women’s life. Will it ever dwindle?
Laila is a mom of a son who lives in Jakarta, adores dancing, travel planning, amusement parks, horror stories, and engaging conversations. A true introvert, she will literally fall asleep if she has to interact with people in real life for more than one hour straight.