A guy I once dated in college told me he knew I'd be an amazing mother, and even at 19, when other girls were fixated on their figure, it was the greatest compliment I'd ever been given. I’ve always loved little kids. In high school I'd spend my free period visiting the pre-K classroom my mother taught in while my friends relaxed in the lounge. I babysat—a side career I had started at the ripe old age of eight—alongside my burgeoning publishing career until I was 25, not because I needed the money (although I did) but because I loved it.
Still, there was a time I questioned whether I'd ever have children. It wasn't that my love for little ones waned—rather, my professional ambitions grew. About the same time my babysitting career came to an end, my real one took off. I was traveling the world, covering events, interviewing celebrities and seeing my name in print. It was addictive, and suddenly I was questioning whether I’d ever want to give it all up, to make sacrifices and allowances. I loved my independence and life as it was, and I knew kids would be a hindrance.
I was fortunate to have two nephews, and after marrying my husband, Zach, I gained two nieces as well. And while I know now that it’s so far from the same, I had convinced myself it was pretty darn close. We saw the kids often, doted on them frequently and then gave them back to their parents. It was a pretty perfect scenario. We were living in Los Angeles, newly married, traveling spontaneously and my career was thriving. But despite what I told everyone, I couldn't stop thinking about kids. I knew I'd always wonder and eventually regret not having one of my own. For me, that wasn't okay. If I was already feeling that way, how would I feel at age 40? Fifty? Sixty?
And so without really being ready (are you ever?) or allowing myself to overthink it, I overserved myself in Lake Como, Italy (there are worse places) and conceived at the worst possible time to get pregnant. In several weeks, I was due to start not only a new job, but a new career as a TV producer, a genre I had no experience in. My boss had just taken a chance on me as an unseasoned editor, and here I was, getting knocked up.
But deep down, my longing to be a mother superseded all endeavors for professional success. And so five years ago, my daughter Lilly entered this world—and we were beyond content as a unit of three. Like many, I found motherhood extremely challenging and overwhelmingly enriching, and I truly felt like I was complete in my maternal role. I romanticized the idea of life as the three of us, traveling the world, while I still managed to score some alone time and conquer my career as a mother of one.
For years I watched as my friends went on to have two and three more children, fully at peace with my position. I couldn't fathom having two in diapers and felt bad for my friends who were tearing their hair out. I delighted in my daughter who slept in, quietly read books and was saying four syllable words (avocado was a favorite!) while her playmates were still striving to say mama. To be fair, at 22 months Lilly started to show some sass and by 2.5 was a full-blown tyrant—behavior that just recently eased up a few months ago. (Did I mention she's 5? It was a long two+ years.) Without giving any thought to having another, I'd glance at my tiny terrorist, pour a glass of wine and pop a birth control pill.
When Lilly turned 3, my husband and I decided to at least consider the conversation of having another baby. If we wanted to even entertain the idea, we thought we should probably start talking about it—after all, we weren't getting any younger, and we didn't want there to be too big of an age difference between our kids.
Much like with Lilly, I still didn't feel ready—but ultimately we decided that, for our girl, whom we wanted the world, a sibling would immensely add to her life, development and future. Who else would she vent to about her parents or share the burden when we get old? And, let's be honest, she absolutely needed to know that she wasn't the center of the world, as we'd led her to believe the last few years. So we started trying for another child, telling ourselves that if it happened, it happened, and if it didn't, it wasn't meant to be.
And then it didn't. I didn't conceive as easily as I did with Lilly—and when I finally did, I miscarried. Suddenly, my previous proclamations proved foolish. Once I lost a baby, all I wanted was to have one again. I'd be naive to think it wasn't at least partly my ego that spurred my mission; I wanted to succeed at what I'd failed at. But mostly, having glimpsed the reality of having a second child, if just for a moment made it all the more enticing. I had embraced the dream for the better part of a trimester, envisioning our life as a family of four, and now I wanted it more than I ever thought possible.
Thankfully, we became pregnant again and, after what seemed like an eternity, with every held breath and painful prayer, our son Oliver arrived and our completeness was quadrupled.
Witnessing my children’s love for each other blossom has been the greatest joy of my life. To see Lilly become a sibling, gain such confidence from that role and excel at being a big sister has been worth every sacrifice and anxious moment. And to see the way Oliver lights up when she simply walks into a room...it's such a privilege to call myself their mother.
It doesn't stop there. To be given the honor to get to do this parenting thing again, especially after it looked like it might not be possible, is something I do not take for granted. We get one more run at the firsts, the baby smell, the tiny clothing, the discoveries. And since he's our second and last, we're much more relaxed but equally attentive, knowing how fleeting it all is. Zach and I have once again been (and will continue to be) tested and strengthened and have grown even closer as the parents of two precious and crazy kids.
I'd be remiss if I depicted our life as all daisies. We had gotten to a good place with our daughter before Oliver arrived. Lilly was potty trained, able to fully communicate and fairly self-sufficient, and is heading to Kindergarten next year. Now we're suddenly back to dealing with a nap schedule, sleepless nights, diaper changes and teething issues. It takes us far longer to get out of the house, and sibling rivalry is just starting to rear it's lovely head. Still, for us the highs far outweigh the lows. (Remind me of that at 5 a.m., would you?) With the birth of Oliver, it was as if one chapter closed and we were able to begin again. We were this close to the one-and-done club. And life would've been lovely. But now knowing our little guy, we can’t imagine an alternative ending.
Published June 2018
Natalie Thomas is a lifestyle blogger at Nat's Next Adventure and creator of the new moms platform @momecdotes. She's also an Emmy-nominated TV producer, contributor to Huffington Post, Today Show, Mother Mag, Hey Mama and Well Rounded, and former editor and spokesperson of Us Weekly. She's addicted to Instagram and seltzer water, lives in New York with her tolerant husband, Zach, 4-(going on 14!)-year-old daughter Lilly and newborn son, Oliver. She's always in search of her sanity and, more importantly, the next adventure.