Ian bought me a pair of $200 Coach sunglasses for my birthday. For the last eight years I’ve been wearing shades he scored on St. Marks Place for $5 after significant haggling (and then an identical replacement set I snapped up on eBay for $11, including shipping). I’m terribly excited about these fancy new glasses which fit my face perfectly, come with a glam case, and, oddly enough, don’t have bits of plastic peeling away from the sides. But I’m also concerned. I mean, can they really be worth $195 more than the ones I’ve happily been sporting? And what message does the designer logo convey to passersby? I’ll obviously keep and treasure them, but . . . still. It’s not the sort of ambivalence that leaves me torn in any way. I know I love them. There’s just a little hesitance there, a recognition that their benefits do have costs.
A similar inverse-of-the-silver-lining-on-a-dark-cloud feeling kept me from publishing a post announcing the arrival of our third child until now. I just haven’t been able to muster the entirely unbridled enthusiasm with which one normally treats such news. “Yay! A baby! A miracle! The gift of life! We’re thrice blessed.” I think and feel all those things, but they aren’t the only thoughts and emotions at play.
Having Vivi was a no-brainer. We knew we wanted to be parents. Deciding to welcome Stuey into the world also didn’t take much thought: we both enjoyed growing up alongside siblings and wanted that experience for our kids. (We also had such a rough go of things during Viv’s infancy that we were eager to get a do-over of sorts.) But deciding to try for a third kid took quite a bit of deliberation.
Everyone, every website, every book told me that upon giving birth to a second child, my heart would simply expand, creating more love to go around; my adoration of Vivi would remain the same only accompanied by a new brand of love specifically for the baby. Um, I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on that. I will never love Vivi the same way I did before Stuey came along. When I left for the hospital, I said goodnight to my baby around whom the earth revolved; when I returned two days later, I greeted a massive child exerting cumbersome gravitational pull. During the first few weeks postpartum I actually grieved for the loss of Vivi as my baby. It’s not that I loved her any less, just differently.
Moreover, the same amount of love certainly doesn’t translate to the same amount of attention. As Gavin deBecker writes, “In parenting, as in physics, everything we give energy to takes energy from something else.” Which is why I know that if we have a third, both Stuey and Vivi will lose a little bit of the mommy they’ve known. There will be less parental attention and fewer demonstrations of affection available, and I fear that Stuey will suffer Vivi’s fate as the baby instantaneously becomes our baby.
But that’s okay, because parental attention isn’t the only variety. In “The Happiest Toddler on the Block,” Harvey Karp writes: “Please set aside any guilty worries about your baby not receiving the same undivided attention from you that your first baby received. What your new baby doesn’t get from you, he’ll get five times over from his big brother or sister.” Though I’m concerned about the statement’s contrapositive, the principle holds. I’ve already seen it in action: when I start “quiet time” each day, they make up for the loss of my focus by engaging one another. They “read” each other books, play pretend games, argue, negotiate, and generally create the coveted distraction. (As of late, they’ve repeated the following scene: shortly after I hand them their “quiet time treat” designed to take the edge off my unavailability, Stuey turns to Vivi and whispers, “Hey Sis, want to go say potty words?” They then clasp hands, carefully shifting their popsicles over to their outside arms, and saunter off toward the bathroom where they sit on the floor and consume their spoils amidst a Tourette-type storm of “poo poo, pee pee, toot toot, fart fart” interlaced with uncontrollable giggles.)
Moreover, the kids absolutely love babies. When I was pregnant with Stu, we had a hunch that Vivi would welcome a sibling because she took to continuously kissing my pregnant belly. Then again, at around the same time, our pigtailed two year-old stopped walking along the sidewalk in order to introduce herself to a shrub – and then proceeded to give its fronds a series of loving smooches. Stuey is now showing similarly ambiguous signs of welcome: carrying around “My First Disney Princess Baby Cinderella,” calling her “Sebastien,” whispering sweet nothings (like, “Daddy will change you diapa”), and purposefully running her/him over with a bulldozer. Still, they both routinely fawn over infants in what Billy Crystal calls “that babyspeak that adults use on kids and people from other countries.” Stuey, in a perfect imitation of his big sis, recently leaned over a four month-old at the rec center and said, “She’s just so key-yute. She’s just a teeny little tiny little thee-ing.”
But still, they will have to deal with another competing claim for the most important resource in their little worlds. Also, we like sleep. And kids are expensive.
Faced with these considerations for and against adding another, we decided to work backwards. We want more than two adult children. I don’t want to be pregnant for more than a decade. Put the two together and our decision’s made. Hopefully this infallible logic begets a seamless reentry into the world of sleepless nights. Fingers crossed. I’ll let you know how it’s all working out on or around August 31.
Here’s hoping you’ll find me strutting down the street, adoring both my new specs and our most recent addition to the species – despite their price.