One or two / by Christina Rosalie

On a run, we talk. It is a good time for talking actually. The conversation makes the strain forgettable. In between words, pauses long enough for breath, and for making things intentional. We run past open meadows and woods where the leaves are piled high and brown. The sun is warm on our backs, but we wear woolen hats. We talk about the things we’ve always wanted. About the dreams we have. Living in Europe; graduate school; a life where we can look back each day and say we lived it well and fully. It’s easy to dream and forget to leap. To stand at the top of the cliff, and get lost looking down, without ever stepping off, and then there’ll be the day we’ll look back and regret.

“That would be the summer you’re supposed to be pregnant with another baby,” he says, of two summers from now. We’re talking about living in Europe—a part of a graduate degree program I’ve been accepted to, and have decided to attend. I feel my stomach flip flop.

When I pick up my friend’s baby, he fits perfectly into my arms. My body remembers that rocking motion (a side-to-side movement I grew so accustomed to, that for month’s I’d catch myself standing in line at the grocery store, or the bank, swaying.) I bring my lips to the softness of his downy head instinctively. Motherhood is in my bones.

And yet, I have a fierce, anxious longing to do more than this. I’ve come to this other passion slowly, like an embering fire. It hasn’t been a direct route, like Karen Russel, who at 26 has already published an acclaimed, original collection of stories. Writing for me has been more like a slow aquifer, bubbling to the surface with greater and grater force with each year’s passage.

I love my son wildly, and am grateful for his little satellite self, orbiting my days. But I’ve just started to feel like things are possible again. Life beyond the insular circumference of a baby’s needs. I imagine a sibling for Bean. But when I really examine this image, I find much of it is a composite of expectations. Everyone I know has had two or more kids. I grew up in a family of three. I don’t really know any onlies, and people ask me regularly when I’ll have a second.

As it stands, it’s a matter of timing. A matter of putting one dream ahead of the other. People say siblings born close together are happiest—they have each other, and all that. But I can’t imagine this now. I can’t imagine the constant rush. The never enough hands. The diapers in addition to the night time worries of a toddler. I can’t imagine never being able to sink back into the couch with a stack of books, to read to a wide-eyed eager Bean with no interruptions. Nor can I imagine giving up this wellspring of focus and direction that I've come to in my writing. Maybe I could do both. Maybe, especially if they were far enough apart in age. Maybe if I had a two-book deal in the works. But now?

I can picture a second. I can picture being pregnant again, and a part of me wants that chance. The first time I was caught so off guard, the whole nine months passed in a blur of coming to grips. I’d be able to do it more gracefully now—and also those first crazy months. I’d be less terrified, more confident in the certain joy of hour of melted moments spent staring at a newborn’s face.

But as much as I can picture this—and even want it—I cannot imagine it now, or next year or the year after. Huge, in the front of everything else, is the desire to write, to publish, to make this into my career. And I get these things, still, I am uncertain.

I want your thoughts on this. If you’ve had kids—why have you had more than one? How did you decide the timing? How did it affect the scope and outcome of your dreams?