Scared and Hopeful Over Second Child

Young Mother Weighs Rewards of Going Through it All Over Again

By Sarah Wildman

Published November 01, 2011, issue of November 11, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

I am terrified of having a second child.

There, I said it. Terrified. I’m totally breathless. I’m in a tailspin, a panic, a freak-out. Let me contextualize: I woke in the night, several times in recent weeks, panicking that I might be pregnant. My thoughts racing, I found myself staring at the ceiling — 2, 3, 4 a.m. What if I’m pregnant and it’s twins and I can’t write anymore? And what if, what if, what if…? I get it. I’m acting irrationally. Worse: spoiled. I should be so lucky that it’s that easy to get pregnant, again.

Having my daughter, Orli, now 2.5, is the best thing I’ve ever done. I once thought that kind of statement smug, annoying, a signal from someone who didn’t want to think back to the life she lost. But honestly, it’s pretty much true. No story I write, no trip I’ve taken, no job I’ve held has lived up to growing a child and watching her mature.

So why aren’t I ready to do it again? My partner, Ian, would like to know. Right now he’s sitting in the other room, reading, seething.

I’m unhappy with my career, I say. I’m not ready to give up the time again, those late months of pregnancy, those early months — that all-encompassing first year — of a child’s life. I breastfed Orli for more than two years; I’m just returning to myself. I like our life, our downtown apartment living; I’m happy, finally, once again, in my body. I’m traveling again.

Even to my ears it sounds shallow, and I’m the explainer. In part, I was scared off: I have two friends who have confessed to me regretting having their second. Oh, both are quick to say: “Of course I love him/her. But I miss the time with the first. I have no time. I have no time. I have no time.”

One, who asked to remain anonymous, told me that she still envies women who have only one. “Until my older son was 4 and his brother was 2, we were in survival mode,” she said. She gave birth the first time in 2005, just a few months before Hurricane Katrina; the family lost everything to the storm. Her second son came two years later, nearly to the day; he was unplanned. “We had not dealt with our PTSD” from the storm, she told me. “I felt I had such limited resources; I did not like how I was parenting. I had little tolerance.”

It is only very recently, after a lot of therapy, that she has come to feel great about her kids, now 6.5 and 4.5. But she still doesn’t know if she would have chosen to have two. And she doesn’t believe it all has to do with Katrina. Her elder son, she says, “had terrible impulse control. I kept thinking if I had just one child, I could have gotten myself under control sooner. If I wasn’t balancing and juggling I could have focused better on him. I kept thinking, “I’m putting him in this impossible situation.” What I was ignoring was that our older son was growing into an empathetic caregiver for the younger.”

Is my friend’s story unique? Or just honest? Washington, D.C., real estate agent Kim Privor, mother to a girl a shade older than Orli, told me: “I’d like to have a second; my husband is less on board. And it can’t be two maybes; it has to be two yeses. So that’s the conundrum. He feels that our kid is amazing and perfect and why risk changing that? But I am going to be 38 this year. I feel more of a sense of urgency due to my age. And even my daughter asks, ‘When are you going to have a baby?’”

There is a not-so-subtle social pressure in the Jewish community for a woman to have more than one, be fruitful not withstanding, Orthodoxy not withstanding. My aunt once told me she’d had her three — my first cousins — partly because of the Holocaust. She felt an obligation to create more lives after so many were taken. In Israel, it seems everyone has three, or even four (though there, the subtext seems to be, “for better or worse, a modern race to raise the demographics”). My friends there sound like Ian: Two is a given, the third is the negotiation. Are we trying to repopulate our people?

Caron Gremont, a Bethesda, Md.-based mother to Avital and Oren, said she’d always known she’d have another. “I can glimpse how it will be in a year or two,” she said, meaning once things calm down. They entertain each other; it is lovely to see them together. It is definitely getting easier. That said, it is much harder than I could have thought.” There is no extra time for YOU.

During one of the fall holidays, after going to synagogue, Ian and I met a bunch of Orli’s preschool friends and their parents to take a walk. All her friends are siblings. One is an older brother; the others are the youngest of three. I mentioned my terror to the other mothers, and I quickly found myself at the center of a one-woman re-education project. “Your family dynamic isn’t complete with one,” the most vocal said. “You won’t be less busy. You won’t be less neurotic with one; you’ll be more neurotic. You need another to make you into a parent.”

And for some reason, watching them all there, 10 kids, aged 8 months to 10 years, eating yogurt and cheese sandwiches and edamame in the scrub brush of the National Zoo, I believed her. The parents looked somehow far less stressed than I did. Sure we can’t afford it right now, sure my career isn’t where I want it to be, but maybe Orli, all of us, would be somehow more complete with another. I’m sure she’d be fine alone, but I love my own sister, don’t I? Do I want to deny Orli that relationship?

And then, two days later, I discovered I wasn’t pregnant, after all. And despite my terror, I was sad.

Sarah Wildman writes about the intersection of culture, politics and travel for The New York Times and for the Guardian.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.