Around this time last year I was asked to contribute to a collection that would be titled “The Love More Stories.” I don’t often write about myself or share personal stories because I tend to shy from the sort of attention this could bring. However, over the last year I’ve had a nagging feeling that I should share this story more broadly. The story captures a number of key themes in my life and the tension between them. The desire to have a large family and the desire to be responsible in our family’s use of the earth’s resources. The pull between personal interest and the greater good.
Growing up I always knew I wanted children. In fact, I knew I wanted a big family. Seeing my mother skilfully raise the three of us, knowing she always wanted a fourth, I thought to myself that four was the perfect number, at least as a minimum. And so, my heart was set on having four children. As I later learned, these were certainly the idealistic musings of a young person who hadn’t put thought into what their life partner might want and who didn’t consider the environmental impacts of raising children in the first world.
Today, I am a mother to two children. First, there’s my kind-hearted daughter, Ro. She’s the creative type, always dancing, singing or drawing, and usually doing more than one of these at once. Ro is highly intuitive, deeply loving, naturally funny and the definition of a social butterfly. Then, there’s Sen, my wild little boy. He is head strong, while also being a very sweet and calm child. He loves climbing, dancing, and pretending to be a ninja. Together these two are the best of friends and siblings. Most days I dream of having their level of connection with another human, their love for each other is so fierce and all-consuming, it has taught me so much about the powers of love.
I am always a mother first, but I am also a wife and friend, and I work full time outside of the home. I work professionally to provide for my family, but my passions lie in the arts, in writing, in photography, in adventure, and, of course, in nurturing my children. My aim is to develop deep and genuine kindness in my children, not only toward their family and friends, but toward all humans and toward all life on earth. This is why we spend most of our free time outdoors connecting with each other and with the abundance of animal and plant life around us, cultivating a love and reverence for the earth.
And then, there’s Matt, my husband and partner in life, a highly rational and deeply principled person. These two things I love most about him, but they also make life with him hard. There’s no being flaky about your values around Matt, principles should be lived by. Fun or not. Easy or not.
We knew soon after we met that we were a perfect match; we didn’t share any hobbies, but we agreed on the big stuff, like politics and ethics. We married a few years later. We both wanted to have children while we were young, at least by today’s standards, and so soon after we married we had our first, Ro. It was like a cliche seeing my child for the first time and having so much intense love instantly, and over the first year seeing my love for Matt grow and mature seeing him become a parent, and seeing his love for his daughter. When Ro was nearing one year, I felt ready and excited for a second child. I talked to Matt about having our second, we were both in graduate school at the time, and so the timing of the birth was not inconsequential.
And so, I started the conversation on a very practical point: timing. Since the question of having a second child or not, was already answered in my mind, and presumably in Matt’s too. Now, Matt is someone whose heart strings are perfectly aligned with what he believes, with his principles and ethics, and so he replied with “We shouldn’t have a second, it is not responsible, it is not right to take more resources from the earth to satisfy our own cravings to have children. One child is the right number.” Now, as you can imagine, I didn’t accept this without presenting a few counter-points, strongest among these was that “surely, the world needs more children like the ones we will raise, they will be role models in caring for the earth.” But, to be honest, I knew in my heart that this was pretty presumptuous of me and motivated by self-interest. In this instance, loving meant not only loving our kin, not only loving humans, but loving all life. If I were to truly act lovingly toward all life, toward the earth, then I wouldn’t have a second child. So, I accepted, very reluctantly, that Matt was right.
But my heart still wanted that big family, so I began to talk about adoption, which I thought Matt would agree to since it wouldn’t bring new people into the world. And this is when I got an answer I never ever expected. “Danielle, I love Ro so much it hurts. I love her so much there is just no way that I could ever love another child this much. I would never forgive myself for having a second child in the family that I didn’t love as much. That child would know, they would feel the lack of love. And if by some crazy stroke of fate I did love that second child as much as I love Ro, then I would certainly have to rob Ro of some of my love.” I could see the calculus of love floating in thought bubbles above his head. Like any resource, there is a finite amount. In a family you only have so much time to share among its members, there’s only so much food in the fridge and bedrooms in your home. Who was I to say, naively, that there would be enough love to go around? When I thought about the woman living in the apartment below us, who had 19 children, I thought Matt’s right, there is no way she loves any one of those children as much as we love our one child. This was without any poor judgment of her, it was pure math, pure logic. And so, once again, I conceded to Matt’s view. It would be one child for us. Logically, I knew he was right, but I’d be lying if I said my heart was happy about it.
And so, for the next four years we carried on pouring all our love and energy and resources into our one child. Then one day, as I carried Ro on my hip to go downstairs for breakfast, the same as I did every morning, she excitedly said something very peculiar. “Mama, you have a baby in your tummy!” To which I replied “Oh no, sweetie, there’s no baby.” And she replied with complete confidence, “Yes, there is. I know it. You smell like mummy milk, you smell like you did when I was a baby.” What a quirky thing to say, I thought to myself, and with that we prepared breakfast and carried on with the day.
A week later, having forgotten my conversation with Ro, I started to experience symptoms of pregnancy. I ignored them for a few days, and then decided to take a test just to rule out my worries. Worries because I believed in Matt’s reasons not to have a second child. I was in complete and total shock when the test came back positive. And then like a tidal wave, Ro’s intuition washed over me. She had known. The sensitivities and keen perceptions of a small child are truly astounding.
Now, for us, while we had agreed one was a responsible number of children for us to have, there was never an option to not carry a pregnancy through. We respect all life and couldn’t end a life prematurely, and so eight months later we welcomed our son, Sen, at almost 10 months gestation, into our family, born at home into his papa’s arms.
Living life, living in a family, there are many lessons in love. We learn that there are all sorts of love: love for a child, love for a partner, love for a friend. We learn that love evolves and matures. One of the great lessons in love we learned from our second child is that love is not a finite resource, as we had naively thought. When we saw our son for the first time, we had that same overwhelming feeling of love, of the biggest, most intense love, the same feeling we had had with Ro, and that we still had for Ro. There was no diminishment in our love for Ro or for each other, and yet we had as much love for Sen. In fact, our love grew. Seeing Ro love her brother instantly, our love grew for her. Seeing Matt hold his son, my love grew for him. Even though everyday I think that I can’t possibly love my children more than I do, I somehow love them more than I did the day before. Of all the lessons in love, the one I think of most is that love obeys no rules of math or logic. Love does not diminish when it is shared, rather it grows. You can always love more. Love is infinite.
You can find the full Love More Stories collection for purchase here
You can also read an interview with Amanda who started the Love More Shop, where she talks about her motivation for starting a shop focused on loving more and how she gives back to the community.
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