I was almost eleven when my only sister was born and though she has been the center of my universe since that hot September day she was born into this world, it has always felt more of a maternal love. I went away to college and kissed my sister goodbye in her elementary school cafeteria, and I spent those initially overwhelming years sending letters home about Webkinz and Lizzie McGuire. It was always my goal to shield her from hurt, as a mother would. The struggles, the hard times, the good times -- these weren't times I was able to share with her, a child, tucked into sleep with her lullabies and stuffed animals. For a long time, I had insisted my own children would be eleven years apart. After all, my sister and I are the closest of any siblings I had ever met and I wanted that love, that closeness, for my children. But then I got married and I had a baby and my sister had teenage apathy and as I dived deep into this new turning point in my life, she stepped into the halls of high school for the first time. I couldn't remember what those years were like. She couldn't imagine what having a baby was like. I wanted her to experience the joy on Ethan's face as he ran across his favorite playground. She wanted me to experience the joy she feels sitting in front of Instagram, liking photos of celebrities that I've never even heard of. And while my love for her -- and Ethan's, as she's the center of his world these days -- only continues to deepen with each day that passes, it's different; it's a maternal love, a protective love; it's knowing Ethan will never have cousins to grow with.
I really want a big family. I want my children to have cousins. I want to throw parties and host sleepovers and know in my heart that my children will always have friends because they were born into a large family. I want my children to call one another and rant about me when I'm being unreasonable. I want them to have one another to learn on when I'm old and frail. I want them to always have someone in their corner, even though I know it's not a guarantee that siblings end up liking one another at all. That's a risk I'm willing to take.
And then there's practicality. We don't have the room in our house, the modest square footage already closing in on us. A move, an upgrade -- these aren't really options when you live in one of the highest real estate markets in the country. And relocation is out of the question when you struggle here because this is the world you want to give your children, these are the schools and the culture and the opportunities you want your children to be raised in. It's like one big circle my mind keeps running in. Or the fact that my body is as un-ready to handle an abundance of c-sections as our bank account is. Or the fact that adoption is expensive and the little bits of hurt in my heart that this might never be a reality for us as I had always hoped it would be. Or, you know, the blistering fact that my husband appears to truly only want two children and the fact I can't think about that without tears welling in my eyes despite the fact that I won't even tolerate discussion of a second at this point. I'm selfish. I love laying on the floor with Ethan in a puddle of laughter and focusing on nothing other than the way his eyes light up as we explore every inch of this town without any other thought on our mind. I'm not ready to sacrifice that yet, to share my attention, to change a thing about our day-to-day schedule, our day-to-day adventures, our sporadic before-dinnertime trips to the skatepark that we rush home from just in time to get dinner on the table. I'm also selfless, knowing my risks of future bedrest are high and I'm willing to wait on the family I so badly want to ensure that Ethan always has his mommy. Every pregnancy is different is true, but it is not guaranteed. It is not enough for me to risk what I have with Ethan, my health, my place in his life -- not now.
I spent the duration of this humid Sunday up to my elbows in epoxy and thrift store candlesticks, in scissors and glue and paint and all of the makings for Ethan's second birthday party preparation. As I cut, glued, stirred, planned to the thought of my sweet boy's face when he sees his Curious George party all put together for the first time, I felt it. The loneliness of a small family. The weird feeling when your mother is both a grandmother and also the mother to a teenager who won't stop texting you photographs of hip-hop artists you have less than no interest in. Really, truly, loving your family and feeling so fortunate to be a part of your family but wishing you had that ally, wishing you had someone to -- and I'm aware this sounds so absolutely silly -- Pinterest with. It's not that I would change a thing about my life or offer my parents the criticism that I thought they did things wrong, it's just that I want to do certain things differently for Ethan. But that's where my mind kind of blanks, because right now I'm just mentally running in circles.