Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wonder or Regret?

Is it such a bad thing to look back and wonder? Not have regrets, necessarily. Just wonder about choices you've made, paths not taken.

We've really been struggling recently with deciding whether to have a second child. I don't feel a particularly intense desire for another child. I am really good with and love the baby stage, but I hate pregnancy. Now that E is two and a half, things are getting easier, but I found the past year to be pretty challenging - I'm just not a toddler person. Added to all that, there is a lot I'd like to focus on and accomplish, and as things ease up with E, I am finally finding time for those things. It's difficult to think about going through another pregnancy, or being engulfed once more by the all-consuming needs of an infant. It often seems that the best choice for us is to remain a family of three.

One of the main things that gives me pause, however, is the question of will I look back and wonder. Wonder what life with two children would be like? Wonder who that child would have been? I've heard the advice given that if you think you'll look back and wonder, you should just go ahead and have another because you don't want to look back and wonder. Yet, wonder is not the same as regret. I do think that if we choose to remain three, then I will always wonder about what might have been. I don't believe that's a negative thing. I often wonder about paths not taken, but it doesn't mean I regret not taking them. For example, I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like had I married my college boyfriend, as I was so desperate to do at the age of 21. It's a pleasant thought experiment when I want to feel particularly thankful for having dodged the bullet of my own youthful bad judgment.

So I suppose the real question is will I regret not having another child. We've got another 6 months before we need to make a decision, a year at most, so while there is time to ponder, it is not infinite. Will I regret never seeing E with a sibling? Will I regret never again seeing my husband holding our newborn? Will I regret never getting to watch another little person become who they are going to be?

But just as valid are the questions about regret stemming from taking that path. Will I regret giving up the balance I have in my life now? Balance that gives me time to think, to write, to be someone other than Mama. Will I regret the impact of another child on my marriage, which has gone through some difficult times in the past 2 years. Will I regret giving up some of the dreams that would not be impossible with two children, but would be far less difficult with just one.

The question of regret is far different than the question of wonder. Both wonder and regret are an inevitable part of life, but there is only one that I actively try to limit. So now I find myself with questions that leave a phantom baby hanging in the balance, and the clock continues to tick down the days until I must decide: wonder or regret?

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