“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.
The one thing that bothers me when I tell people that I have only one child is the response ” have another one”. Well, not every lady is blessed with getting pregnant easily, or having an easy pregnancy. The first time around I had a miscarriage and a difficult, unsafe pregnancy for the baby and I, so not trying again is a safe choice. Don’t judge, if you don’t know the situation. Let’s be supportive to one another, ladies!
Thank you for this article. As a parents of one, some days are incredibly hard for me as well. It’s certainly not what I ever imagined, but I thank God everyday for the one who do have. I would love to read more about parenting a single child!
As an only child, I can assure you that your daughter really doesn’t understand when she asks for a sibling. Take heart in knowing that in 2-3 years time. She wouldn’t want another sibling. It’s so much fun being an only child!!!dont pay heed to other people. They will talk no matter what. Enjoy your life with your daughter
Read “Maybe One” by Bill McKibben — you’ve done the planet a favor, and the research favors single children on all measures including IQ and adult happiness. Some of my best friends are single children and they are wonderful adults. For every adult w a sibling best friend, there’s one who hates his brother or sister. There’s no guarantee. Tell those people to shove it!
This resonated so close to home. My daughter begged for a sibling and we tried for several years to have another. When she was six, I was told it wouldn’t happen. I was devastated. Infertility was such a painful thing to deal with, especially having a young child who didn’t know why she always felt like the only only child. Fortunately, through some miracle, I was blessed with a pregnancy I was told couldn’t happen — nine years after my daughter was born, she got a brother. It’s intense to see it both ways — accepting the hand you’re dealt, then having it all change. I wish your family the best.
Thank you for sharing your story. We also have been blessed with one healthy and happy daughter, and have struggled to add another (4 pregnancies that weren’t viable). We too recognize the good life we are fortunate to have, but it can be hard at times when I have those days of…he/she would have been x months/years old now. I know that we are blessed & happy, and yet it is ok to have sad days.
As an only child I want to let all those parents of “Just One” know that you’re doing an amazing job even when it doesn’t feel like it. Your littles may not understand until they’re a bit older, but I assure you that they love and cherish you all with their whole hearts. My mother was older when she had me and dealt with pregnancy loss before and after having me so I ended up being her one and only. I’m so thankful for both my parents especially now that my husband and I are trying for littles ourselves. Also want to give a shout out to anyone dealing with fertility issues. They’re expensive, mentally and physically exhausting, and a major test to any relationship. Wish you all the best and much love! ❤