Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why haven't you had your second child yet?

This is a topic that I'm sure other moms with only one kid can relate to--it's the never ending questions of why haven't you had your second child yet? It seems as if you have two children, every one assumes you're done and then if you have four, people start to question why you aren't on birth control. First of all, it's nobody business the number of children your family should have. But I feel compelled to share my thoughts so here goes.

I was beyond clueless when I got pregnant at the age of 27. I was 9 months into my internship, general surgery no less! and soon after about to start my 4 years in radiology training. At the time, my husband was in his third year of his 6 year orthopedic residency program. We were about the enter the monster of hot messes but we just had no idea. So come January 2013, 6 months into my first year of radiology residency came C. She was perfect. I was not. That is the short version of the story.

I was the epitome of hot mess. I cried a lot. My husband had to go back to work in less than week after her delivery. I was with my parents. I had help but I still couldn't get my act together. C was a good baby. She slept 3-4 hour stretches from birth. I could not sleep at all. I was overwhelmed with anxiety, guilt and basically a state of "WTF did I get myself in?" I was an emotional zombie. I was in a cycle of nursing, crying and attempting to sleep but never really getting any. It took about 4 weeks to realize that maybe I have post-partum depression.

I had all the symptoms. Feeling overwhelmed. Check. Feeling guilty. Check. Feeling empty and not bonding with baby. Check. Feeling even more guilty about that. Check. Not knowing why this is happening. Check. Check. Check

Even though, I was aware. I couldn't get myself to do anything about it. I just powered through the end of my seven week maternity leave. I went back to work. I pretended like nothing happened. But these feelings did not go away. Given the schedule of residency and the shame of postpartum depression, I did not tell anyone nor did I get the proper treatment. I went to a maternal health psychiatrist once, who talked to me after hours, off the record. She wanted to start me a low dose antidepressant but I never took it. I think these feelings never really went away. They did fade over time as I adjusted to my schedule of constantly driving back and forth between San Diego and Orange County (1 hour commute) and doing residency in between that time. I was so busy that I didn't really give myself to process my emotions. I just kept chugging along and watching C grow up was the silver lining. She transformed from this tiny infant to a toddler who was a force to be reckoned with.

When she finally moved to live with me, we encountered several other hot messes but I do believe that is what it took for me to rid of these postpartum blues. I still have the occasional feelings of working mom guilt and anxiety especially when it comes to big changes in my life (such as moving and starting my first attending job!). But I do feel "cured" but for the most part. It took time but I was finally her person. I was the one that she wanted in her time of need. I was the one that could figure out what was in that little head of hers without her saying anything. I knew then that I was definitely put on this earth to be her mom.

So yes. That is why I don't have my second child yet. I knew what triggered my postpartum depression with C. I was overwhelmed with a husband in training, my own training and my feelings of inadequacy as a mom. I told myself if and when we have another child, I will do it when I'm ready so my mental health isn't at stake.

My husband had to leave for the east coast for his fellowship training right after C moved and now he works in LA. We've done long distance for two years now. We are finally at the end of this long distance journey. I will be moving up to LA in less than 6 weeks after I complete my fellowship in breast imaging. I knew I could not handle a pregnancy, C and another baby while he was away. I learned from my first postpartum experience that  a lot of my anxiety was not having my husband around. I understood why he wasn't there but it didn't change how I felt. So I knew that time was not an option for child #2.

And right now is still not a good time. My poor C has not lived with her father yet. She spent the first 7 weeks of her life with me and grandparents. She then lived until 2 and a half with her grandparents in Orange County with seeing me almost every weekend but her dad maybe twice a month. She then experienced life with me in San Diego. She suddenly had to do full time pre school, new home and a new primary care giver. She went from being the center of the universe to being a toddler of a "single" working mom in residency. She saw her dad maybe once a month while he was on the east coast. Now that I'm in fellowship and her dad is an attending in LA, she spends most weekends with both of us. She's gotten used to that now and every Sunday, she hugs her daddy and says "see you next weekend!" It breaks my heart at times that she thinks this is "normal." I want her to experience life with both parents. every single day. before we add any more changes.

So there you have it. I know I'm getting older. My ovaries may be shriveling. My uterus is crying every time I see another baby. But I am grateful for these experiences. It made me stronger in the end. It made me a better mom, wife and physician. It taught me what I needed to know to grow as a mother and maybe one day that will be a mom of two. But for now, I am perfectly content as a family of 3.


  1. It's no one else' business. You do what's right for your family.

    People shouldn't ask questions if they don't want to know the answers. My first child was a preemie with a long and complicated NICU course and it took years for us to be ready for a second one. And you know what? I'm glad we waited. There's no "right" number or "right" time, only what's best for your family and no one knows that better than you.
    Congrats on reaching the end of training!

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  2. I find the question obnoxious. And also, what's wrong with having just one. Oh right, if you only have one the you're not a "real" mom. Got it?

  3. It is obnoxious. It took me a long time to get over the feeling that we weren't a "real" family because we were "only" three. Grrr. We had two devastating losses in our attempt to adopt a second child and we were done. D-O-N-E done. And that is, now, finally, just fine. The other day Eve said "I really wish I had a sibling so I'd have someone to hang around with when we're on vacation" and I made a validating comment and noticed that I had no feelings of guilt. What a relief.

    We lived apart for most of the first four years of our relationship, including the first year of our marriage, and did long-distance again for months at a time after that. We'd been married for five years before we lived together for 12 months straight. Being together was a huge adjustment, and we didn't have a child. You are wise to give yourself time. And I am so sorry for the shame and stigma that kept you stuck in that place for so long. Our culture needs to change.

  4. Your C sounds like she has had a lot of love from many different people at a young age - great start in my opinion - more than many get. I hear you on the single mom guilt and the only seeing my kids part of the time guilt. I work really hard to spin the positive - look at what all I am providing for my child rather than what societal pressures deem that I am not. Some days it's hard, but I'm getting better at it as we go along.

    One of my smartest, funniest, most obnoxious partners - he's like a sibling to me bc we did med school, residency, and now 10 years into private practice together - is an only child. He turned out pretty spectacular (luckily he doesn't read this because it would go to his head!). And I have a non blood relation who I consider a sister. Family comes in all shapes and sizes. Whatever you are doing is just right for you. You look very accomplished to me. Congratulations and good luck blending together.

  5. This is a wonderful post. The second child thing also drives me crazy. I love my little family of 3 as well. Thank you also for sharing about your PPD. It takes courage and needs to be less stigmatized.

  6. Moral of the story: don't marry an orthopod

  7. I struggle all the time with this issue as well! For complicated reasons -- financial, emotional, logistical, health -- we are probably one and done though I pine for another in a way that is less than rational. I see other mothers who have even more on their professional plate and have 2, 3, 4, and 5 children and I don't understand why our family feels maxed out with one child, but I am trying to stop comparing myself to others and focusing on marinating in the happiness that we have with each other. I wish people would not ask this question -- I've started telling people that it is actually a painful question to be asked for me and many others who may be struggling with infertility, etc. -- trying to educate people not to ask this question. Good luck to you -- I would say focus on all your blessings as much as possible.


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