Are there good reasons to have a second child, even without a biological urge for one?
There certainly are bad reasons to have a second child. The fact that society, your parents, in-laws, or even your spouse really, really, really want you to have another child does not mean that you should. The world does not need yet another dad or mum who are half-heartedly raising a child. Μisery cannot be masked from children. This is why for the past couple of years I did not consent to a second child despite pressures from all listed above. My response was fairly basic: with Johnny, I had and continue to enjoy the human experience of parenthood, and while I absolutely and unequivocally adore him, I couldn’t see the novelty in repeating the whole thing all over again.
I stuck to my guns despite Sunshine’s persistent demands for reasons why I didn’t want another child. As usual, we intellectualised our disagreement and ended up bickering over semantics with me saying that the answer “I don’t want to” should suffice, and her insisting that I should give a rational explanation for not wanting a second child (which she would no doubt subsequently trivialise). A couple of years later, I succumbed to the pressure and gave her some reasons, which didn’t really have anything to do with the essence of my hesitation, which was that I neither felt the need for a second child nor was ready for one. Instead, I told Sunshine that I liked my life and routine as is and I would not want to disturb it in any way. Sunshine understandably went on multiple rants saying that I could not object to a second child merely because I did not want to disrupt my running and cycling schedule. Yet, I kept my ground based on the strong conviction that both parents should really want a child, if indeed they intend to raise it together.
With the background out in the open, let’s consider what are the possible reasons to have another child even if one does not feel the biological urge to do so. For me it was two reasons, both of which are fairly obvious yet I couldn’t process them at the time. Ironically, both revolve around the concept of death – of us or our child.
The first is the weakest of the two, and a bit trivial. It goes like this. Hopefully, Sunshine and I will die before Johnny. It would be nice for him to have a sibling who could be his comrade in life; someone who would know him inside and out and with whom he will be able to communicate without much filtering or background information. Someone he can call family after we are gone. This perspective resonated with us, as we both have good, yet different, relationships with our siblings.
It is, however, a second reason that made the different. This reason emerged after an encounter with death. An acquaintance lost his little boy to cancer after years of operations and chemotherapy, and has been very public about it. While the tragic news were anticipated, I was nonetheless shocked. Something ticked inside of me, which sparked a thought that dominated my being – what if I suddenly stopped being a parent? What if I, in addition to the unimaginative tragedy of losing a child, would also have to forego the identity of parenthood? For me, fatherhood became such and integral part of who I am, which makes it really hard to imagine forfeiting that identity. I simply cannot picture myself reverting to non-parenthood.
After this mini-identity crisis, I knew I wanted a second child. I sat on it for about a week and then had a chat with Sunshine. A couple of months later, her period was late and a pregnancy test came out positive. This time around she spared me the heart attack and was gentle with the announcement (with Johnny she sent me a photograph of a positive test while I was attending a meeting in Rome). A few weeks later we did one of those genetic screening tests and found out that we’ll be having a baby girl, which made me very excited – I’ve always wanted a girl. She’ll be named after my mum, with whom I have a very special bond, such that my siblings make fun of us. Johnny announced it to her, by asking me in front of mum “Dad, what will be the name of my sister?” and I whispered it to his ear, only for him to repeat it out loud. She was ecstatic, which is mostly how all of our loved ones reacted to the news.
I can’t say that I’m “ready” or that I don’t fear the effort that will be required in the first year or two, and how will that affect my life and my routine. But these concerns are secondary to the joy that the little girl will bring to our lives – and Johnny’s.
This is part of a series of entries titled Fatherhood Diaries where I record thoughts on life as a new dad. Click here for all the Fatherhood Diaries.