A friend and I were grabbing a quick bite over our lunch breaks recently when she told me she was thinking about trying for another baby, her third. She already has a girl and a boy and each time she found out the baby’s gender in advance.
In between salad bites, she explained that having another baby would allow her the experience of being surprised since she is equipped (clothes, nursery decor, mental preparedness) for either sex.
“I know that’s a silly reason to try to have a baby,” she said dismissively.
“Well maybe, but that’s not why you want one.”
And I meant my response. I could tell this wasn’t just about people guessing her baby’s gender or the big reveal in the delivery room. She was considering another baby because of a sincere desire to grow her family. The surprise element was an added bonus.
That’s the difference between my friend and me. I also have a “cherry on top” reason for wanting another baby—getting the experience of one newborn, instead of two.
But my cherry is just suspended mid-air, untethered by any type of delectable treat to sit upon. There is no underlying want, desire or genuine feeling of an incomplete family driving me to consider another child to join my twin boys.
Just a curiosity about what it’s like to attempt to nurse one baby, to rock a single child to sleep, to run errands with a small stroller, and to run into Starbucks to grab a quick coffee, confidently wearing my baby in a carrier with a little diaper bag that doesn’t even look like a diaper bag slung over my shoulders.
It’s not that I think any of these things are easy because there is only one. A multitude of factors contribute to the struggles and joys of parenting far beyond just the number of children. (And of course I am completely ignoring the reality that I would have two toddlers with me, making my Starbucks run anything but quick or enjoyable.)
The difference is these things, with a fair amount of naïveté sprinkled in, are how I envisioned the first year of parenting.
I am incredibly blessed to have twins, to have children at all. Getting pregnant was an arduous path and being a mother of multiples has made me stronger, kinder and more patient than I ever thought possible. Many parents have their vision of what parenthood will be like altered in significant, and sometimes heartbreaking, ways. Having twins changed mine in ways for which I am forever grateful.
But still, I sometimes wonder what the singleton experience is like or how I could parlay the knowledge and confidence from mothering multiples onto one baby.
It’s funny when friends who are pregnant with their second child ask me what it’s like to have two children. Obviously my sons are two distinct people, but I still feel wholly unqualified to answer that question. My friends are looking for insights about having enough love for two children, splitting their attention among differing needs and adding 30 minutes to their attempts to leave the house.
In short, how do they go from one child who seems to take everything out of them physically and emotionally—both in challenging and wonderful ways—and have enough left over for another one?
I have no pearls of wisdom to offer these mothers. Having two is all I’ve ever known. My love—though independent of and complete for each twin—has always been shared. I have been prioritizing their needs, their wants and their boo-boos from day one. The cries of one baby while I tended to his brother, a sound that I thought would break my heart, was just reality.
And like every mother, doubts pervade. Are they really getting enough of my attention, my energy, my love? Has being a packaged deal meant less outings and more clock-watching until bed time?
And could I be a better mother the next time around with only one?
My family used to “joke” that they hoped I had twins. They wanted more babies in the family and knowing me, they figured there was no way I would have another child after parenting a newborn.
While we will never know the answer, I imagine they weren’t too off base. As much as I wish I could slow time down, I don’t ever wish to rewind it. I’m enjoying moving from one phase to the next and I pray we continue this forward trajectory.
My parenting journey will never look like the one I plotted before we heard the word “twins.” Who knows what I could do differently or better if there was a “next time,” but the good news is that I don’t need a new child to apply what I have learned or rectify my mistakes.
I just need a new day.
About the Author
Caryn Berardi works in higher education and lives in Texas with her husband and twin toddler boys. Her writing has been seen on The Huffington Post, Kveller, Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy and Modern Loss. She can be found dreaming about retirement at her blog and on Twitter.