May 29, 2017

On Having A(nother) Child

Tulisan ini adalah penulisan ulang dari blog post lama gue, dan sempat terbit di The Jakarta Post.

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Five years ago, I gave birth to my first—and so far, only—son, Raya. Being a mother was an undeniably sublime experience for me…

…but I wasn’t sure I’d do it again.

After I had Raya, I was shocked at how tough parenting actually was, although I’d suspected it. Before I got pregnant, I was already aware that being a parent wouldn’t be as pretty as those Instagram-mommies’ pastel-colored posts. So when I got knocked-up, I educated myself on the “real” side of parenthood, instead of just the “cute” side.

Nevertheless, the experience still hit me hard like a tornado. So for a while, I was uncertain about having another child, and being strong enough to go through the hurricane of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and raising a kid all over again.

This year, my son will turn five and officially passes toddlerhood. Right before my eyes, he has grown into an almost completely independent human being, and the dark times of being a new mother (sometimes) feels so far away.

Not to my surprise, my husband started bringing up the topic of having another child.

Well, my initial reaction was, “Definitely not this year! Or the next! Or probably ever!”

But before I realized it, it was too late. Like in the movie Inception, my husband had successfully planted the seed of the idea of having another child into my head. The idea flourished, and I began to daydream about cuddling Raya’s sibling in my arms.

Thus, on some days, I wanted to jump on my husband and yell, “Inseminate me NOW!” But on other days—when my marriage seemed fragile or when Raya was being impossible—I felt like sterilizing myself.

During this vague baby-fever period, I contemplated a lot and, at the same time, observed society carefully. Although they were not novel observations, I'm still amused by some things I concluded.

First, the Indonesian mindset is very Mormon-like: Every woman MUST marry and MUST have kids eventually. Being a wife and mother are non-negotiable roles for every woman to embrace.

So when I told my family that one of my friends was considering not having kids, they gasped in shock, then said pitifully, “Let’s pray she’ll change her mind soon!”

Being self-proclaimed tolerant, I was surprised that I hated those reactions. I understood that one of women’s primal roles is to procreate and continue mankind’s existence, but in the wise words of Chrissy Teigan, “I don't feel like people should be pressured to have children […] I don't think any of us should assume all women's goals are to have kids. It's a choice!"

Second, the more advanced a nation is, the less its people want to have kids.

First-world countries’ populations have been declining for years. My guess it’s because women in those populations have realized that having kids is not easy and is optional. They know it’s not an undeniable fate.

I can imagine how Indonesians would see them as selfish, since they choose to live their lives to the fullest without being weighed down by kids. But on the other hand, they’re also more aware of their potential and their basic rights, instead of blindly believing that their main purpose in this world—as women—is popping out babies.

Third, many people see having children as an old-age investment.

One of the most typical Indonesian motives for having kids is so we’ll have a (free) caretaker when we’re old.

Surprisingly, I just realized that I also despise this notion. I believe our children owe us nothing. They didn’t even ask to be born. Besides, what would we do if our kids screwed up? What if they abandon us in our old days? We invest years and years of emotion, tears, sweat, blood and money, and they just leave us just like that. Would we go crazy?

Fourth, the firstborn child is usually the result of an emotional decision, but the second child is usually the result of an intellectual decision.

I read somewhere that having a second kid is full of intellectual considerations rather emotional ones, and that rang true for me.

When I decided to have my first child, I didn’t think, because my heart genuinely ached for a baby. But when contemplating a second child, I considered it a lot with my head, not just with my heart.

My friend’s son was born with a congenital heart disease. Though the darling boy is now relatively healthy and happy, his heart problem makes my friend wary about having another child. She’s worried that her second child could also have health problems, since it will be emotionally, physically and financially draining for the family.

She keeps a note in her cellphone as a self-reminder when (and if) she wants to have another kid. The note says things like, “If I ever have another child, I have to be ready for ____. I have to be mentally prepared for ____. I will not be bitter if my child ____.”

I was inspired by it, and started keeping a similar list myself. It contains things I need to be ready for when (and if) I have another kid, from shallow ones (“I have to be ready to be fat again,”) to deeper ones (“I have to be more active in keeping my marriage alive.”)

When people decide to have kids, the first image that usually pops into their heads is them cradling a happy, healthy baby. They rarely imagine being parents of teenagers, adults, or “challenging” children, which, of course, is harder and most likely lonelier.

For that reason, I sometimes envision myself having a child at each stage of life (baby, child, teen, young adult and adult) and in every possible scenario (gay, autistic, disabled, a child who loathes me for no reason) to see how I’d like it. To see if I’m absolutely, 110% ready.

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***

You may think that I’m leaning toward the idea of not having any more kids.

However, I’ve chatted with many moms, and although motherhood is more of a walk in Jurassic Park instead of a serene stroll, no mother ever regrets having her kid, including me. Despite everything, no other feeling can compete with my love for Raya, and I would still lick the sole of very dirty shoes for him if I had to. A parent’s love is the most magical, primal feeling that is absolutely beyond our control, and I am lucky to have experienced such a thing.

Therefore, although I have 1,001 considerations—or even if I conceive a baby by accident—I realize that I would never, ever regret having a(nother) child. I know the kid would bring just as much magic as its older brother, and shatter all my doubts.

On the contrary, it is very possible for me to regret missing the opportunity of having another child, and then crave for that non-existent child for the rest my life.

I guess I’ll make an appointment with my OBGYN tomorrow.

8 comments:

  1. Agree. Every bits of it. Especially that our kids owe us nothing.

    Btw, both of my pregnancies are not emotional or intelectual decisions... They were accidents, hahaha... I was contemplating about whether or not I'm going to have a child. I'm pretty sure my decision was near to a nope, but somehow the universe worked against me and we forgot to bring a condom when we travel. It wasn't my ovulating days so I just let it be...and ta daaa, I'm pregnant. Coincidentally..or dare I say, accidentally. I didn't regret it, and my daughter is so beautiful and all...but I thought this was it, one is enough...and I felt like I couldnt rely on condoms (lesson learned!) so we went see my obgyn to set me an IUD birth control. Needless to say, somehow the universe played a prank on me again and a sperm did make its way to knocked me up despite that birth control. I laughed at myself so hard, why, universe? Why you messed up with me?? What's my fault, what I've ever done to you?? I know I sound selfish and ungrateful, but I didn't expect to be pregnant. I had a tough time during my second pregnancy, but the moment I saw my son, all those feelings melted and I found joy all over again. I feel grateful now for my children, they're my every reason and I'd give up anything for them. both of them made their way to my life accidentaly, but they were the best, most beautiful accidents ever happened to me!

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    1. Hahaha... kalo spermnya udah bisa tembus masa non-ovulating dan IUD, udahlah, itu namanya anugrah hihihi. Tapi pasti skrg, lo ngerasa "kaya" banget ya dengan dua buah hatinya, alhamdulillah :) Thank you for sharing, kriw!

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  2. So glad you re-write this article again, it was one of my favorite, tapi nggak ninggalin komen karena udah terlalu lama hihi

    Aku punya teman, anaknya menjelang 3 tahun dan tahun lalu anaknya didianogsa dokter terkena suatu disease yang menyerang ginjal, which caused they very dear son harus menelan medicine setiap hari. My friend was brokenhearted since then dan berpikir jauh untuk punya anak kedua. Padahal dia suka banget anak kecil and wanted to have more kids. Tapi setelah tahu anaknya seperti itu, dia agak takut untuk punya anak kedua. She's afraid that she doesn't have enough time to spend with her first son in this condition.

    Makanya setuju banget "intellectual" decision itu seharusnya ada even when we decide to have our first child ya. Hamil bukan cuma lucu-lucuan biar bisa posting di sosmed ya.

    Thanks for writing this, Mba Lei. I only "know" you from this digital world but I know you are a great mom to Raya and other kids later! Good luck for meeting your obgyn today! Ini maksudnya udah isi apa berencana, sih? Hahaha *kepo*

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  3. Mau komen tp iseng2 cek post yg lama karena cukup yakin post ginian memancing aku buat komen, dan ternyata beneran udah komen di situ hahahaha..

    Sekarang anak pertama udah umur 1,5 tahun, tetep ragu mau punya anak lg apa nggak :)) Nanti aja mikir lagi pas anaknya udah TK deh, karena kalo mau hamil lagi juga pengennya pas Nara udah mandiri soalnya aku hamilnya tepar parah hehe

    thanks for sharing kak laila :)

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  4. setelah anak udah umur 4 tahun rasanya pengen banget punya bayi lagi!!! nyesel kemarin kemarin ogah ogahan mau hamil lagi. Tambah lagi anakku udah mulai ngerengek rengek pengen punya dede bayi.

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  5. Ahaha
    Posting serupa di besoksiang oleh jeng Arum.
    Punya anak, saya setuju, pilihan personal. Mungkin sudah bisa kali yaaa kalau generasi kita menghargai pilihan orang lain. Tolong deh.
    Sebagai perempuan yang udah nikah 6 tahun dan memang belum pengen punya anak, pura-pura tabah dinasehatin ini itu sangat menguji karakter. Kadang nekat sih, jujur bilang belum pengen punya anak. Reaksinya? Udah bisa ditebak lah ya..Mormon-like indeed.
    Salam buat temennya ya mbak Lei. Mudahan dese lebih cuek. Saya suka darah tinggi sama komen orang tentang pilihan pribadi kita untuk belum mau/gak mau punya anak.

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  6. Silent reader mau comment ya Lei ,
    Firstborn gw tahun ini akan berulangtahun ke-7. Dikarnakan kehamilan pertama gw yang hiperemesis sampe harus masuk RS karna muntah non stop, dan juga harus melalui proses IVF, suntik kekentalan darah setiap hari sampai lahiran, gw sangat trauma dan yakin 100% untuk stop at one child.

    Gw 3 bersaudara, dan gw sangat dekat dengan adik2 gw, so deep down inside gw slalu merasa guilty nggak memberikan sibling ke anak gw. Sibling relationship ini gw rasakan banget waktu alm. Papa meninggal. Those upbringing memories, only my brothers can relate.
    I do aware, not all siblings go along together, some don't even speak each other when they grow up.
    But, still deep down in my heart i feel the necessity for a sibling.

    So here i am , 8 weeks pregnant, setelah IVF lagi dan juga sedang muntah2 lagi, karna umur berjalan terus dan memiliki anak adalah berkat dari Tuhan, nggak semua orang diijinkan untuk punya anak.

    Semoga kehamilan keduanya nanti dilancarkan yah Lei :) Aamin.

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