“Am I cut out for this?” is probably a question that most new moms ask themselves throughout their pregnancy. But for me, it was something I wondered every single day of those nine months.
There’s no doubt my son was much wanted; after learning I had low ovarian reserve, I finally became pregnant naturally two months after a failed IVF attempt. But I did panic that I may not have possessed the magical “mom gene.” I didn’t feel all broody when someone’s baby got handed around the office, and I’d never changed a diaper in my life. I had no idea what to write on my birth plan other than “get the baby out.”
Yet, almost a year ago, my son entered my life — and I was surprised at how easy I adapted to it all. As he approached his first birthday, my thoughts turned to the idea of a second child. That is, they went there until we found ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic. And I’m finding that now, it’s neither my son nor the hard work of parenting that is making me change my mind about having a second; it’s COVID-19.
When I think about how things went back when my son was born, it now all seems shockingly easy. Sure, the fact that I was self-employed meant my maternity leave wasn’t as lengthy as those of my fellow mom friends. But I soon got into a routine of balancing work and childcare, and loving every single overpriced baby class where I shook a maraca at my son’s head for an hour while he desperately attempted to eat it.
I cherished our days together — and, of course, I still do. But I equally loved the breathing space I got when away from him. Not only did this help me work on my business — something that, being freelance, I’ve taken years to build up — but it also gave me the chance to rest. Struggling with both physical (I have Crohn’s Disease) and mental health issues meant this “me time” was vital to stay on top of things.
I thought I had it all figured out. The decision to have another baby was one I had almost made. Despite my failed IVF cycle, we did have one frozen embryo waiting in storage — a symbol of hope and potentially a future sibling for my son. It felt inevitable, in a good way. But, in the space of just a few short months, the pandemic has changed all that.
Now, I’m doubting everything I thought I wanted.
Of course, I always knew I was lucky that my kid has two sets of doting grandparents and a village daycare a few minutes around the corner. But I never realized that these things weren’t just good fortune; they are what allowed me to be the (good) mom I was. Without them, and now that I’m home with my son 24/7, I’m finding it really, really tough. Of course, there are a huge number of people currently in a more difficult situation — in terms of health, finances, or otherwise — than I am. But still: I’m exhausted, frustrated, lonely, and scared. Scared that I’m not actually a good enough mother to do this — not by myself. And if I can’t do it with one child, how could I possibly with two?
Now that I think about it, fear is something that lingered in those early weeks of motherhood, too. Not the fear of failure that I’d initially anticipated; rather, a fear of something terrible happening. Not necessarily a global pandemic, but something. These fears felt unshakable until I realized I was suffering with postnatal anxiety and sought help; I started talk therapy as well as antidepressants.
Those of us with mental health issues know the importance of equipping ourselves with the tools and support we need: For me, that meant leaving the house each day, baby groups, meeting with friends, and weekly counseling. But not anymore. Each day that this pandemic progresses, it’s becoming more and more difficult for me to keep on top of my anxiety without these networks.
Before, I felt confident that I could control my mental health the second time around. Now, because of COVID-19, I’m not so sure. Of course, I’d like to think that one pandemic is enough for anyone’s lifetime. But even with some countries now taking tentative steps to “reopen,” there’s no sense of when life will truly return to normal — or if it ever will.
I turn 35 this coming June. I won’t have the luxury of waiting years for things to pan out before deciding to grow my family. Saying “yes” to another child, based on the current landscape, is an impossibility; regardless of my decision, IVF treatments are currently canceled anyway. But saying “no” to our embryo brings its own share of guilt and regret.
I remind myself that I’m not alone in this quandary. Pregnancy and motherhood will still go on — throughout this pandemic and beyond. All across the world, moms and moms-to-be are asking themselves difficult questions: Is this the right time to get pregnant? Is this the right time to grow our family? If not now, when? How can I manage motherhood? When will my IVF begin? How do we make a blended family work? Should we try adoption on Zoom?
No mom ever knows the answer to all these questions. But somehow, it works out — or we make it work regardless. I only hope I can do the same.
Having more kids is of course a valid choice, but so is having an only child, like these celeb moms did.