I want to have another child.
For so long I’ve wanted to write those words. This post has been an internal struggle for months– maybe even a year now– but each time I start to fill up another blank page, I find myself pressing ‘delete.’ I am forcing myself to keep going this time, if only to be rid of this feeling that these words are trapped inside me and I’m the only one who knows the pain they cause.
For most couples, having a second child is an expected part of life. But, when your first child was the miracle, it seems as though you’re not allowed to ask for another. Only if the first came easily is it acceptable to hurt over the absence of a second. But long before Ross was born I ached over this child too. All along I have carried the hope of having another, each day it weighs down my thoughts, but I never feel the freedom to express it. I know what the general reaction will be because I’ve already started to receive it– that I am being ungrateful, maybe even selfish. That I should consider my family already complete. That I should just accept this additional loss as the fate of my own infertility and move on. That I am asking too much.
Over the last 18 months, I have carefully packed away each outgrown baby item, knowing that no child of mine is likely to use them again, yet still praying with everything in me that I am somehow wrong. The odds are stacked so highly against us, but I can’t bring myself to let go of this last tiny ember of hope. I can’t imagine selling or giving anything away, so the baby stuff piles up in storage instead, untouched and gathering dust.
As Ross continues to grow, strangers seem to feel more entitled in asking when we are having a second child. The first time it happened Ross was barely 4-months-old and not even sitting up on his own yet. Now that he’s an active toddler we are being questioned with increasing frequency, and each time it hits me like a very familiar punch to the stomach. “You have to give him a little brother or sister. You just have to give him a sibling!” insisted a woman at the baggage check-in no less than three times as we traveled home from Thanksgiving. “And he’ll become spoiled without one anyway, you know,” she added with a smile. We get questions often enough now that I know there is never an easy answer, but the few times I’ve dared to be honest I am generally encouraged to “just adopt” (we can’t) before finally receiving the unsolicited advice that I should just be happy with one. Any response other than a fake smile makes everyone uncomfortable, and so again, I remain silent.
For the record, I am happy. Ross has taught me how to enjoy life again, something that once seemed like such an impossibility. He has shown me the beauty in a million little things, and I love seeing the world fresh through his eyes. Wanting another child doesn’t take away how grateful I am for him. This is a pain that is completely separate; it involves the piece that is still missing from our lives and our family, not the piece we were able to find. I know that there is meant to be another child and my fear is that I will never know that person. After all, who would be missing from your family if there was only ever one child?
Yet, even in the best of circumstances, I am always aware that there is still only one road left for us to travel– and the cost is exorbitant, the risks high. Frankly, I was far more naive when we started the surrogacy process for Ross in June 2014 than I am now, and it terrifies me to know what could be ahead of us. Having been down this road before means nothing in terms of what we can expect; each time is so different. And even if we had the ability to begin tomorrow, the soonest we’d be able to have a child is at least two years away. Two years of invasive testing, endless appointments, expensive lawyers, confusing contracts, and the pain of knowing that we are missing out on experiences we can never get back.
Again, we find ourselves at a strange standstill as we watch other families who had babies around the time Ross was born already expecting another or having welcomed a younger sibling. Everyone else seems to be making plans or feels content in knowing their family is complete. In contrast, we can do nothing. In place of options and choices, we are staring at a dead end.
I wish we had wanted to stop at one; it would be so much easier. We’d be done, I’d have surgery to get rid of it all, and I could finally move on from this phase of my life that so often revolves around my reproductive organs. It has been so many years that I don’t even remember what it was like not to think about my fertility, and I am tired of fighting for it.
But it’s that tiny —what if?— that haunts me.