The Future By Thirds
"What would you think," my husband asked, "if I got a vasectomy?"
I put down my magazine and stared out the window. "I think," I said carefully, "that I wouldn't know what to think."
"We're done, though, right?"
"I think so."
"But you don't want to get pregnant again, right?"
"I don't want to be pregnant again, no. Or at least, I don't think so. I think. No. I don't know."
That wasn't entirely true. I do know. I don't want to be pregnant again. And I certainly don't want to go through childbirth again. And I could do without ever going through another exhausted-depressed-anxious-boobchafed tour-de-newborn again. But do I want to ensure that I never get pregnant again, that I never have another child? I don't know. I don't think that those questions are the same. Do you want (or not want) to go through the process of having another child? is a different question from do you want (or not want) to have another child? in the same way that do you like the work of motherhood? is a different question from do you like being a mother? or do you love being mother to your children?
I don't like pregnancy. I don't like childbirth. I'm not super crazy about the work of motherhood, and I'm especially not crazy about the 24-7 boot camp nightmare that is the work of being a brand new mother to a brand new baby who stays up all night and chomps boobs and shits everywhere. But I love my children. I adore my children. They are the most precious, most delightful, most amazing things in my life. So if you ask me, do I want more mother-work, the fast and firm answer is no. But if you were to ask me whether I'd want another one of these incredible little beings, I would say that I can't bring myself to say, firmly and finally, no. And if you were to ask me whether I'd accept further burden of mother-work in order to have another one of these little beings, I'd have to say, I just don't know. I don't think so, but I don't know.
All I know is that I don't want to say no. Not with any kind of finality. Not in a way that closes off any possibility of yes. Or even, oops. (Because oops is a yes of a sort, is it not?)
(yes is a world/and in this world of/yes live/(skilfully curled)/all worlds)
(feel free to roll your eyes at me here)
My hands are full. Emilia is hell on wheels, a brilliant and beautiful tempest that blasts her way through every day, wreaking full havoc and leaving us, her parents, stunned and enchanted and weary in her wake. Jasper is a great, hulking, grinning cherub of a baby, big and strong and determined to catch up to his speedster-demon of a sister. They thrill and delight and exhaust me. I adore them more than I thought it possible to adore any other living beings, but they keep me at the very razor's edge of my wits. I don't know that it would be humanly possible for me to manage another child. Ever.
But the idea of closing off any possibility of that third child... that seems, somehow, inexplicably, wrong. I'm not a big believer in destiny - that is, I don't think that I am - but if there's a future for us in which a third child figures, do I want to refuse that future? I think of those friends of mine for whom the third (or fourth) was unexpected, a shock even, and I know that if they had it to do over, they would not want to turn back the clock and refuse. But turning back the clock to change the past, and settling upon certain choices for the future are two different things, of course. I have already made innumerable choices that have closed off innumerable futures; I do not, for the most part, mourn the loss of these futures. They just simply are not to be.
Am I ready, though, to close off entirely the possibility of this future, of a future in which our two are our three, in which we four who once were we three become we five?
I don't know. I just don't know.
(How did you know? DO you know?)