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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How dare I have another?

For at least the first year of Toddler in Chief's life, I couldn't imagine having another baby. We had been through so much. We were still bruised, still reeling from what we'd been through early on. We were still haunted by what was to come. But after his second surgery, we realized that having another baby was like giving ourselves permission to keep living. Our life didn't end when we had a child with life-threatening health problems. It had just become part of who we are. Even though our experience could never be described as normal, it's the only experience we know; it's our normal. There will always be life before and life after. But that doesn't mean we need to be totally defined by where we've been, what we've seen, the sorrow we've felt, the mourning we've done, the uncertainty we face.

When TIC was in the hospital earlier this year--during one of his darkest days in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit--one of the nurses asked me, "So, why did you decide to have another?" The tears fell on cue. Her tone suggested that she couldn't believe that we decided to have another, considering things obviously hadn't worked out so well with the first one. I have often suspected that people have wondered that about us--not that it's anyone's business if we decide to have more kids. But especially as I waddled around the hospital for those six weeks, I often felt like I was being judged. And from the tone of that nurse's voice, I apparently was, even as I hovered over the listless body of my three-year-old son.

But why shouldn't TIC have a sibling? Why shouldn't we have the joy of another baby? The joy of a bigger family? Even with all of TIC's problems, he is amazing and I feel honored to get to know him, to spend time with him--even if he drives me crazy occasionally.

A friend is going though the process of having a second baby with a surrogate. She is 44 years old and the surrogate just went through a failed IVF cycle. My friend and her husband were thinking it was getting to be too late to try again because they are in their 40s. But her fears, her hesitations, her concerns about the future reminded me of why we decided to have another baby. We don't know how much time we have on this earth. All we can do is make choices based on where we are right now and what we want for ourselves. When my son was born, I realized that life doesn't come with any kind of guarantees. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't strive for the best life we can build for ourselves, complete with all the ups and downs. Even with all of our downs--and we've had more than our share--the ups, the joys of being a parent to my special kid, far outweigh all that other stuff. Don't get me wrong, that other stuff is real, it's there everyday. But sometimes we forget about it for a few minutes and we live and we laugh and we just are. And it's all worth it.