Thursday, August 23, 2007

And Then There Were Two

When it comes to life events, people generally have ADD. As soon as you’re single, they want to know when you’re going to date; when you date they want to know when you’re getting married; when you’re married, they want to know when you’re having kids; etc etc. I am one of the worst offenders, so I don’t presume to judge now that people are asking when baby number two is coming along, even though I am surprised it started so soon.

For instance, at a family event a few weeks ago, my step-mother-in-law was trying to convince me to have them close together by telling me childhood stories about her two children who are roughly a year apart. They were very endearing stories of siblinghood…until she forgot her mission and started telling the only-funny-years-later kind of stories. Like the time her son put Vicks Vapor Rub in his little sister’s hair or the time he cut off one of her pigtails.

When it comes to number two, I’ve been through various stages in the past year. Before Emerson was born, I thought a 3 year spread sounded good; right after he was born, even five years apart seemed too soon! At times I thought he was so cute I wanted to start again right away, or I would think that it seemed logical to keep going now that we are already in baby mode. Right now we are in a “Dear god when is this child ever going to sleep through the night?!” phase again, which has the one benefit of being good birth control.

Every parent who wants more than one goes through the same debate – close enough to be friends or far enough apart to keep your sanity? And then the albinism adds a whole other layer. When he was first diagnosed, I had this intense desire to get pregnant again right away that I couldn’t quite explain in words.

I’ve been reading a textbook about developmental psychology for one of my classes that helped explain it a little. The authors theorize that from the time we are born until our own child is born, we are constantly forming a fantasy of what parenthood means and what our future baby will be like. Every parent, when their child is actually born, goes through an adjustment period as they reconcile their fantasy of the baby with the actual baby. Some just have to do more reconciling than others – like, say, when you imagined a dark-haired, dark-eyed baby and he came out with white hair and a rare genetic condition. :)

It’s basically the same thing that the story “Welcome to Holland” is trying to convey, just in psychological rather than poetic terms. In our case, our baby fantasy was almost a collective one as friends and family have discussed what our baby was going to look like and be like pretty much since we started dating. Even strangers have told us we look like we could be brother and sister (not sure how to take that) and that our kids would “definitely” be skinny with dark hair and eyes. When this didn’t happen, I felt the need to somehow create the baby everyone was expecting. It’s stupid I know, but there it is.

Although the desire still remains for the most part, the motivation has changed. I now feel compelled to provide Emerson with a sibling who also has albinism so he can have someone to relate to him in ways that us “pigmentos” can’t. If our next child doesn’t have albinism, I love the thought of adopting a child who does – especially since in many countries it is misunderstood and therefore children are labeled “special needs” or “difficult to get adopted.” It would be amazing to use our experiences and knowledge to help another child and provide them with a loving home.

With this in mind, having siblings close together who can bond becomes even more important. Luckily, my less emotional and (at least in this case) more rational husband is keeping me in line. That and the sleep deprivation.

I don’t really know what will happen in the next few years, but I do know when the time comes it will be life-changing in ways I can’t imagine even now. How do you prepare yourself for that moment when the midwife looks down in the middle of delivery and says, “Look at all that *blank*-colored hair” – knowing in that moment that whatever color she says will carry a world of meaning…pros and cons for everyone involved.

One thing I do know, though, is that whatever fantasy we create for the next baby, real life will exceed it in unexpected ways. If you had told me a year ago I’d be sitting here with a beautiful snow-white baby screaming like howler monkey, I never would’ve believed you. And yet here I am, plugging my ears and loving every minute of it.

1 comment:

  1. With my 3 kids, it was definitely the "far enough to maintain my sanity." Mine are all 5+ years apart, but they still fight like my brother and I did, and we were only 2 and a half years apart. Sometimes I wish they were closer, so they'd play together more, but overall I'm glad we waited so long in between. I get to experience 3 different stages at once. :)

    If we didn't already have 3, adopting is something we would definitely consider. Not until after we had Lyra did I ever realize there were so many babies that were unwanted because they had slight imperfections. Its terrible! Then again, if a person wasn't accepting of the baby and accepting of the responsibility of loving and raising a child with special needs, then he/she probably shouldn't be raising him/her anyway. It's not just about "special" babies. We are special parents. We are blessed that these children are OURS. :)