Ambivalence, thy name is OH GOD PLEASE GO BACK TO SLEEP
It turns out that 4 AM is the perfect time to think about ambivalence. You know, if you're not busy sleeping.
I've been meaning to write about this for a while, since it seems like I should probably get it out of my system before I know the outcome of this cycle. If this transfer works, I expect other feelings to take precedence; if it doesn't, I'm sure in my disappointment I'll forget I was ambivalent to begin with.
I'm not even talking about the highly specialized infertile-brand ambivalence, the kind where you wonder whether it's worth all that blah blah blah blah blah got lucky once do I dare disturb the blah blah blah, or the even more highly specialized — and more highly annoying — Julie-brand ambivalence, where I go on and on and on and on and on trying to square the risk of another pregnancy with the benefit, until even I am sick of listening to myself and irritably unsubscribe from my own blog in my RSS reader. No, this is plain old normal mother stuff. This is the 4 in the morning kind.
Charlie has been experiencing some sleep disturbances lately. By "some" I mean "a lot," and by "disturbances" I mean "waking up crying several times a night and then electing to stay awake for the next few hours, claiming he needs me nearby and howling in panic if I so much as shift my weight as I consider making for the door, and then talking, God, the interminable talking, putting further sleep out of the question," and by "sleep" I mean "no one's getting any." I am finding it much more difficult than it was in his infancy, when wakings were expected and when little was required of us during the following day beyond holding, rocking, and feeding, all of which could be done in a state of hemi-demi-semi-wakefulness. This is different; I go to sleep anxious, not knowing when I'm going to be torn out of it, and I wake up furious, knowing I'm screwed until just after bedtime tomorrow.
Let the outpouring of sympathy commence! I have a beautiful boy, a funny little human who apparently just can't get enough of me during the daytime, so he wakes up calling, "Mama! Mama! Please! Come! I want you to keep me company!" Oh, the rivers you are crying me. Let us move with haste to higher ground lest their waters swamp us all. To Floaties, able seamen!
This is not a major problem, and I complain only to illustrate a point. (I'm hoping I'll seem like less of an asshole if I claim some high rhetorical purpose here.) To wit: I sit in his room at 4 in the morning and think, Sonofabitch, it's this again. Having another child means volunteering, eyes wide open this time, for much, much more of the same. The sleepless blur of infancy. The nights that seem interminable. The grueling next-day effort of being an energetic, patient, pleasant parent to a child who won't...stop...talking. Am I sure I want to do that?
It helps that most of the time, Charlie is beyond delightful. Okay, he won't stop talking, but the things he says make me glad of it. He's cheerful, cooperative, and game, a wonderful communicator, an affectionate creature bubbling over with music and motion. That makes the wakings worthwhile, and the tantrums, and the diapers, and the slide whistle, for God's sake, and the isolated bad days when an invisible devil whispers from the seemingly empty car seat, Hey, you could just keep driving. But it also makes the ambivalence more acute. I suspect every mother-of-one considers this, when contemplating having another: Do I dare to fuck this up?
Because it's a gamble, just like any decision we make about parenthood or pursuit of same. And having another child will make all our lives immeasurably richer in ways we can only imagine. But in other ways it's bound to change some things I treasure about the life we have right now. And bound, I believe with some resignation, to completely ruin others.
Back in the day — I like how that sounds all olden tymes — before our first IVF, Paul and I spoke with a psychologist about how we felt about our upcoming cycle. We both described a certain ambivalence, our awareness that having a child would necessarily affect our life in negative ways as well as positive ones, and some apprehension about it. I thought at the time, and still think now, that if you're not a little bit worried, you're probably not thinking clearly, and that to feel this concern is a healthy, pragmatic position.
But that doesn't make it a comfortable one. No more comfortable, in fact, than stretched out on the floor at 4 AM, praying your son, whom you love more than anything, will finally, please, shut up.