I imagine that I am perched on a wooden fence in the middle of a beautiful mountain meadow filled with colorful wildflowers. The sun is shining, water gurgles over rocks nearby, puffy white clouds sift across a bright blue sky, and the sun warms my face. But even though the scenery is lovely I do not fully enjoy it because my heart is heavy with indecision.
I don’t know which side to step off the fence. Each side is a different life. My mind swirls with the weight of this decision and I don’t know which direction to go…and so I sit. I’ve been sitting on this proverbial fence for months now….
On one side is the life I lead now. I am the mama to one child. He is a gorgeous, spirited, amazing, and challenging child. His existence has shaped the person I am now, pushes me to grow, and challenges me every day. Together with GC we are a family of three. Just the three of us.
On the other side of the fence is a life with GC, the Roc, and another baby. Another baby. Another child. Another little human that would cause our little family of three to shift and expand into a family of four. How different that would be. A completely different life. Four of us.
GC and I always knew we wanted children and we didn’t really see the need to wait a specific time frame before starting our family, nor had we completely decided on exactly how many children we would have. I knew I at least wanted two, and he convinced me of the possibility of three. When we tried for our first baby I got pregnant right away. The Roc was born. When the Roc was two years old I was ready to start thinking about adding to our little family. We starting trying. Months and months went by and I was disappointed again and again to find myself empty.
Then came Autism. Our lives changed. My focus shifted solely onto the child we do have and I shelved that idea of an addition to our little family. I cried, I screamed out my grief, I poured over the internet, read books, took notes, made and waited various amounts of time for appointments with a neurologist, a developmental pediatrician, a psychologist, the evaluation team at the school, a DAN! doctor. I wondered what happened to my beautiful baby and all my dreams, I thought I might go crazy, and I called my Mom every time I felt that I was coming unglued, surely shaving years off her life (thank you Mom). I’ve lost mommy friends who didn’t understand, and gained a few that live a similar existence. The Roc started special ed preschool, a special diet, therapeutic horseback riding, swimming lessons, and a social skills group. I’ve attended IEP meetings, FBA meetings, watched the school psychologist chart my son’s IQ on a bell curve, and felt that my heart would explode with all the decisions to be made. I’ve lived through meltdowns and horrid tantrums at home and in public, and learned to keep my eyes and focus on my son and to hell with the general public. I’ve advocated and tried to raise awareness. I’ve laid awake at night heart pounding and mind racing and I’ve had days that I wonder what I was getting so worked up about in the first place. And on and on and on. All of that is ongoing still.
When the Roc was three years old and we received the Autism diagnosis kindergarten seemed so far away. Two years looked like a lifetime. I had so much to do to get him ready. I couldn’t think too far ahead. I could only put one foot in front of the other while I gained the knowledge I have now and learned how to help the Roc.
Now the Roc is in kindergarten. He is gone from 9 am to 3:30 pm. Six and a half hours. When I mention this to some of my mommy friends they say “Wow! What I wouldn’t give to have just one day to myself!” They have started to ask me “What are you going to do now? Are you going to get a job? What do you DO with yourself all DAY?!”
Of course I have a list of projects I want to complete around the house, and I’m trying to use some of this time for creativity, but this wasn’t what I imagined when we started our family. I assumed that when the Roc went to kindergarten I would have a toddler at home to deal with. I always wanted more than one child.
And there it is. The reason I’ve been sitting on that fence.
Should we give the Roc a sibling?
Sounds like an easy question to answer given that I’ve stated we always wanted more than one child. But it is the what ifs that keep me perched on this fence of indecision. What if autism happened again? What would that do to our family? What would that do to the Roc? What would that do to my marriage? What would that do to me? How would we pay for it? Can I even do this again? What if it’s worse for the next child? How would the Roc handle all that? How would we DO it all? Since there is no clear answer as to why it happened to the Roc, there is no clear answer to if it will happen again. I just don’t know what to do with that knowledge, or lack thereof.
There is another side to the what ifs though. The Roc and I were at the pool Labor Day weekend before it closed for the season and the Roc was quietly pouring water in the baby pool while I sat on a lounge chair scribbling in a notebook (jotting my scattered thoughts on this topic in fact) when another family entered the pool area. Two young boys and little toddling baby girl, she was probably about 15 months old, got into the pool while their parents settled themselves in the sun. The boys ignored the Roc who was still quietly and repetitively pouring water while the little girl beelined for him. I cringed wondering if he was going to scream at her as she reached out her hand to touch the water he was pouring when he smiled at her. He proceeded to pour water for her to put her hands in and when he squirted water out of his mouth she laughed and he did it again and again to keep her laughing at him. He got out of the pool and she followed him to the fence and watched him pour water. She followed him around and he totally enjoyed it. I watched all this with a soft smile on my lips and felt a tug on my heart.
What if that little girl was the Roc’s sister? What would it be like for him to have someone to interact with, even though they would be so far apart in age? What would it be like to expand our family? For the Roc to have someone else in this world to love and who would love him? Would he like to have a little brother or sister? He says “yes” if you ask him. What would it be like for me to have another baby that I dreamed about? To have two children instead of one? What if the next child was typical and I got to see the other side of the coin? What if?
I know that I am lucky. The Roc is verbal and learning new things. He is on his own slow and steady uphill climb. He is beautiful, smiley, amazing, and changing right before my very eyes. I am fiercely proud of all that he has accomplished so far and I refuse to put a cap on how far he can go.
Shouldn’t that be enough for me? I wrestle with this as I watch my friends, sister, and sister-in-law through eyes green with envy. I always wanted more than one child. It’s the what ifs that keep me up at night sitting on this fence.
I just don’t know which way to go.