As soon as humanly possible after the first scalawag was born, I became pregnant with our second scalawag, and I did it on purpose.
Can I say this, just between us? That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever intentionally done.
There are all kinds of caveats to that last statement, notably, that my littlest scalawag is the one person in my life who reliably brings a smile to my face. He is a genius–he has both an intellectual and emotional intelligence that are far above his paygrade. He is genuinely funny. He is spiritually mature for his young age. He is authentic and handsome and charming. He does not hold grudges. He’s got everything.
And I know that he wouldn’t be here had I not, the very minute it had become possible again, pestered my husband to make this little guy happen. If we had waited a few months, or even another year, it wouldn’t have been this little guy. It would have been someone else.
It is not because of my littlest one that I say that having him so soon was a mistake. It’s actually because of my eldest scalawag that I regularly berate myself for that stupid decision.
I didn’t know what to expect from my first full-term pregnancy, but I loved it. I loved feeling the baby move in my belly. I really, really loved being pregnant and trusting my body for what it was designed to do. Even though the context of his birth was not ideal, it did go down how I wanted it to, and I remember saying the very day he was born, “I would do that all again tomorrow.”
When I said that, though, I had not yet had my first sleepless night.
I knew nothing about babies. I didn’t even really like babies, but this one was mine, and I am nothing if not determined to do things perfectly. So I tried. This baby cried all the time when he wasn’t nursing or sleeping. There may or may not have been reasons for it, reasons I didn’t realize until after my second baby was born–like, my insistence on nursing him might have meant that he was being malnourished, which would explain why he was always so scrawny and unhappy.
I wouldn’t understand this little tidbit until he started eating solid food and finally started sleeping through the night and stopped crying 24/7. But when the second baby came along, I could feel it in my body that nursing was actually “working.” Plus, that second kid was a fat and sleek as a seal. It was then that I realized I had unintentionally starved my first baby.
Oh, the guilt.
Why would anyone choose to have a second child when the first one had barely stopped crying all the time, but was still highly sensitive and unhappy? After such a tremendously horrible first six months, why would anyone even think about it?
I wondered about this myself. I remember seeing my first baby finally smile while gazing at a Montessori mobile my husband had made for him, thinking with real, formulated sentences:
“I can’t do this to him. I can’t do this to us.”
But I did it anyway.
I was unprepared for the jealousy. I am, still to this very moment, ill-equipped to face the jealousy that my decision to have a second scalawag created.
I am not a jealous type. Neither is my indulgent husband. So the constant comparing and bickering and territoriality between the two scalawags blindsides both of us on a daily basis.
And so, now, when things get ugly in our house: when scalawags are fighting, or my husband is overwhelmed because of the noise, or gets behind on his work because he needs to come home and rescue me from my exploding brain, there is literally only one person to blame: me.
It’s tragically funny, because I was reading in the Psalms just yesterday, where it says, “A wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands a foolish one tears it down.”
Can a woman simultaneously build her house and tear it down? Because I would be that woman, right there.
I am so, so, so very thankful for the passage of time. I cannot stomach it when people say to me, “Oh enjoy it when they are so little, because time flies.”
“Listen to me,” I grumble under my breath. “I literally cannot enjoy them. I dream of the day that I can be nostalgic. But give me one full hour–nay, fifteen full minutes with those boys when there is not a moment of bickering, and I will still not be nostalgic.”
Into this daily dread of the next fifteen minutes steps my littlest scalawag, who, two days ago, while he was getting dressed for school said to me, “Mom, when I am a grown-up, I’ll invite you over to my apartment and we’ll have coffee together.”
“Yeah. And when I’m a grown-up, I’ll have a TV and you can come over and watch it and we won’t tell Dada.”
“Yeah. And when I’m a grown-up, you can keep your sewing machine at my apartment. You won’t even have to put it away when you’re done with it.”
“Yeah. And when I’m a grown-up, I’ll take you on vacation. Just you and me. We’ll each have our own rooms.”
I have no idea where this came from, because he and I never talk about TV, and I have never complained about putting my sewing machine away when I am done with it, and we never talk about going on vacation.
This has become something of a game between us–and I have to admit that in the short time that he has been saying this kind of thing, it has helped me weather some intense mood swings by his brother.
I have to wonder if there will ever come a day when I will stop blaming myself for all the misery and unhappiness I caused my eldest child by making a poorly considered decision. And yet, I cannot help but be thankful for my littlest scalawag, his affection and his intuition.
I am the architect of my own misery, and yet the reason for my misery is also the one little bright spot in my stormy skies.
So, can people be mistakes? The inherent tension of this question gives me knots in my stomach. How many more years will I feel like I ruined everyone’s lives by making a choice to create life? I don’t want my littlest to feel like he was ever anything but desired, because, he was desired.
Is there a way to tear down the whole dilapidated construction and start over again with different intentions? Will I carry this regret to my grave, all while watching secret TV and using my never-have-to-put-it-away sewing machine at my youngest’s apartment?
Younger me, who never wanted to have children in the first place, is quietly sitting on my shoulder judging me and telling me, “I told you so.”
And me, old, white haired me, snarls back at her, “You only say that because he didn’t invite you over for coffee.”
4 thoughts on “Can people be mistakes?”
I enjoyed reading this. By now you must know I am retired. I identify with your determination to feed your eldest. I had a very thin sad child till my mother arrived bottles at the ready! I had a hard time too!!
Sandra Pilmoor ________________________________
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I so understand the NEED to have the second. I insisted to the point of almost assaulting the poor man, on 1 certain day. My body just said NOW!!. Our 2 girls were born2 yrs, and 8 days apart in the diaper years, I thought I was losing my mind, and I wanted to rewind time. All the same fighting, elc that is brain cell killer bombs!!! My first wa fat and sassy nursing. 2nd was given her first bottle the night she was born against my explicit instructions! So we had a contentious 9 months of nursing. My Mama would say, well, she’s already had a bottle, 1 more won’t kill her. Byy the time she finally decided portable bottles were the only way to go, I was so worn out from fighting her, I just gave up. Mourning all the time that I ahd ruined her for life for not exclusively nursing her. Sigh Mama guilt needs to be gone! Like now!! But I’m 60, and my Mama is still apologizing to me for weaning me at 11 months, cuz Granny told her to. So,,, looks like it’s here for life. But, look, youngest is gonna have you over for tea! Sewing, and secret TV!! He is successful in life already! ❤
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Mom guilt is the worst. I wonder if men experience existential guilt? Or is it a function of having the potential to lactate? I often come back to the verse where God curses Eve and says that she will have pain in child bearing….and I wonder if mom guilt isn’t part of that pain.
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Yeah, I think it’s only us, I really do. Uh, yeah!!