For the first time this year, my school is requiring homeroom teachers to lead Social Emotional Learning. These weekly lessons attempt to help nine and ten year-olds manage their emotions. In the past, it was the job of the social worker, but these days she is bogged down with one-on-one meetings. I anticipate these lessons with dread – one more subject to prep – but often, I feel energized afterward by our discussions. When I’m lucky, I even learn a thing or two, like I did the day we discussed decision making.
There are two areas of the brain we can use when deciding something, the emotion and logic centers. The best decisions are made when the two are balanced. These days, I’m applying this knowledge to my thoughts about having a second baby.
Without a doubt, my emotional center says a million percent yes for so many reasons. One, I miss the days of lying in bed cuddling with Autumn sleeping on my chest and watching her hit the zillion milestones that happen in the first 1.5 years. Two, I really want her to have a sibling. In recent weeks, after my mom’s stroke, I have started talking to my sister daily, and I can’t imagine not having that connection with someone. It feels selfish to have brought my daughter into this world, and to not offer her that same bond I’m fortunate enough to have. Third, I love the idea of having more people living in my house. We have spent her entire life staying with my parents, and I thrive on the chaos of three adults, one baby, and one dog. When we move out and it pares down to one adult, one baby, and one dog, the only words that come to mind are empty and quiet. There will be fewer arguments and more peace, but as someone who has always enjoyed theater, I live for the drama.
Then there’s the other side of my brain, the logic center, that a million percent tells me I’m insane to even consider using one of my five remaining embryos to give birth again. There are a billion reasons it makes no sense. While everyone has limited funds, energy, and time, as a single mom teacher in her 40s, these elements are compounded. I tear up thinking about starting over with IVF appointments and hundreds of injections, and repurchasing baby swings and bottles, but I also get choked up thinking about never having these things again.
Now I’m realizing, that lesson I taught? It left out one very important part – how to make decisions when your emotion and logic centers are equally adamant in opposite directions. So I guess that part is left to me.
I want what’s best for Autumn, and so I’m realizing it comes down to this: Is it better for her to have a sibling with a mom who’s overwhelmed, exhausted, and financially drained, or for her to be an only child with a mom who’s still overwhelmed, exhausted, and financially drained, but to a far lesser degree, and who’s also able to be more present, physically and emotionally. Because while her relationship with her potential sibling matters, her relationship with her mom matters, too.
I do my best to prepare my students for the real world. I teach them that life is hard, that we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do – but also that doing things we don’t want can help us achieve our goals. For them, it’s putting in effort to learn now so that later, they’ll have their choice of career. For me, it’s deciding I can’t have another baby so that I can be the best mom possible for Autumn.
Some days, I still have sprinkles of hope that emotion will kick logic to the curb. But in the meantime, Autumn will hang out with her dog brother. As for myself, I’ll enjoy being a party of five because even though I didn’t plan this arrangement, I kind of love it sometimes.