“Just the one.” And there it is… the “look” that always paints a fellow moms face as I respond to her asking how many children I have. An awkward silence trails my response as we try to find a way out of this newly created dead space – her wondering if she should pry further and me debating on getting into the deep dark details as to why we only have one child. I usually just change the subject.
The truth is, my husband and I didn’t anticipate being parents to an only child. As naïve, newly-married 20 something’s, we planned on having 3 or 4 kids spaced out exactly 1-2 years apart so they could grow up being the best of friends. However, after suffering four years of infertility, this expectation quickly transformed into a delusion. Scraping together every last cent we had, we did IVF and we couldn’t have been happier to finally be blessed with a sweet, beautiful baby girl. We wore tired smiles through those sleepless newborn nights and cheered on happily as she learned to roll, crawl and take her first steps… every moment feeling so lucky that we finally had our baby. But soon after her tiny fingers smashed into her first birthday cake, we started feeling the pressure… when will you have another one?
Five years, numerous treatments and a few traumatic miscarriages have now past since then and we still find ourselves living in a place of limbo. With every passing year a crossroads nears forcing us to ask ourselves how much further are we willing to go before calling it quits.
Embracing our reality of potentially being an only child family, we have focused on enjoying every stage of our daughter’s life. We are able to provide her with our full attention as we take advantage of the financial, emotional and time benefits of not having multiple children. We choose to live in neighborhoods heavily infused with kids, stay involved in numerous activities and have had more play dates than I can even count to assure our daughter is never deprived of kid time. For the three of us, the last 5 years have been happy ones. But, then seemingly out of nowhere there are those days…
I was a few minutes early picking up my daughter from preschool last spring. I scanned the classroom of kids until I spotted her long blonde signature “Elsa” braid. As she turned her face to the side I noticed she was crying. Her tear-filled eyes met mine and she ran into my arms. Through her sobs I heard, “I just want a sister or brother.” My heart crumbled into pieces. I held her tightly right there in the center of the room until her sobs subsided. When I told her teacher what my daughter had said she replied with, “I guess it is time for Mom to have another one!” winking at me. With my tearful daughter in my arms, I politely smiled as I walked away, muttering to myself “lady, if you only knew.”
These are the days that are hard. It is painful to look into my daughter’s heartbroken eyes in search of the right words to explain that for some people, having a baby is difficult. Her cries of “it’s not fair” are ones I can relate all too well with. She doesn’t understand… honestly, either do I. Though I love the life we have with our daughter, I occasionally experience these hard days, too. Undoubtedly due to the many residual effects of infertility, I still experience a momentary twinge of jealousy each time I see a new baby announced. There are still times I need to look away seeing siblings who resemble the ages of the babies we lost. There are even times where I have been treated like less of a Mom because parenting must be a “piece of cake” with only one. But, lately what I’ve been struggling with most is that the one thing our daughter wants more than anything in the world is something we haven’t been able to give her.
As much as we would love to experience doing it all over again with another baby, our family doesn’t feel incomplete. We absolutely love our lives with just our girl. We have learned that we can provide our daughter with a fulfilled and happy life whether we have another child or not. The research I’ve read about only children shows that they are no more lonely, spoiled or self-involved than children with siblings. Whenever my husband or I meet an adult who grew up as an only child, we tend to pepper them with questions… were they happy? Did they feel lonely? Did they ever wish for a sibling? Each we have spoken with has said they loved being an only child and never felt lonely or slighted. They enjoyed their parents’ full attention and continue to hold a very close bond with them. They also surround themselves with close friends who they treasure as siblings. Even knowing all this, I still occasionally find myself lying awake at night in fear that one day my daughter will come to me in tears asking, “Why didn’t you try harder?”
We spend so much of our lives worrying and trying to predict what lies ahead for us. What I have learned through infertility is that we don’t have to have it all figured out. In our experience, the future never ends up being exactly how we imagined it to be… sometimes it is even better. Maybe we will be blessed with a sibling for our daughter and maybe not. All we can do is remind her what a miracle she is, how it took so long for us to get her and how lucky we are that we get to be her parents. We are a happy family. For us, our beautiful, spunky, smart and funny 5-year-old daughter is just the one.