I am the youngest of five kids. I loved being in a large family and have great childhood memories, like all of us kids piling in the old green station wagon to go on summer camping excursions. My siblings and I got along pretty well most of the time. Because of them I had live-in entertainment, babysitters, tutors, playmates, and in the teen years, therapists. I also have them to thank for my extensive knowledge of eighties song lyrics.
My older siblings ranged from six to twelve years older than me so most of them left for university while I was still in public school and by high school they had all moved away. So although I grew up with four siblings I also had the experience of what the life of an only child might be like while I was the only kid at home for five years. After my last sister left home and it was just me, I do remember being pretty lonely…although on the upside, my parents did finally let me get a puppy as an attempt to fill the void.
Fast forward to adulthood – I got married at twenty-four but I didn’t want to have babies right away. I had dreams of having my own business, a social life and a relationship as a married couple with my husband before bringing kids into the equation. And I did all of that. I opened a photography studio and clothing store ironically selling maternity fashions. I had great times hanging out with my friends throughout my twenties and got to spend lots of time as a couple with my husband. During this time, I started getting the usual questions once a couple gets married from family and friends – when are you going to start a family? Thirty seemed to be the right time and I was thirty-one when I had our daughter. Despite having a higher risk pregnancy due to having Placenta Previa and having a C-section, I enjoyed being pregnant. I envisioned myself having at least two kids with about a two year age difference…but that didn’t end up happening.
I adored my daughter beyond words but I struggled a bit at first as she wasn’t the easiest baby. She had digestive issues which caused her discomfort. Because of this she cried often and had trouble sleeping – she didn’t sleep through the night until she was three, so neither did I. Needless to say, I wasn’t eager to add another baby to the mix right away. In hindsight, I should have realized that may have been the perfect time to have another baby since I wasn’t sleeping anyway.
When our daughter was three I thought I’d have my bad leg veins treated in preparation for another pregnancy. I had sclerotherapy done which is a pretty common procedure but unfortunately I had a very bad reaction to the treatment and for almost two years, my legs were in pain and anything that touched my legs, even bed sheets, caused discomfort. So, I waited for my veins to heal.
Not too long after that I found a lump in my breast. It ended up being a benign fibro adenoma (thankfully) but it took months from the time I found it and saw a specialist until it was removed. Shortly after that I went to the doctor with pelvic pain and was eventually diagnosed with an ovarian cyst. Several ultrasounds (and months) later, I had my ovary and fallopian tube removed. I continued to have pelvic and abdominal pain and eventually another cyst was found on my other ovary. Through all of this, I kept thinking I’ll wait until I’m healthy to get pregnant. But the last few years have flown by and at thirty-nine I am still dealing with ongoing health issues. And if I’m honest, the thought of having a baby at this age scares me.
So we have one amazing child whom we love more than anything. But her being an only child makes me sad and I feel guilty that she won’t experience life with a sibling. She sees her friends with their brothers and sisters and I know she wishes she had some too. She has told me she wishes she had a sister and that breaks my heart. Sometimes when we’re out people ask ‘is she your only child?’ and then when I reply that she is, they give my daughter a sympathetic look and sometimes make comments about their knowledge of only children and what they lack or how they might turn out…trust me, I’ve heard it all. There are even other moms who make comments that unintentionally make me feel like less of a mom for having only one. I usually just smile and brush off people’s comments or assumptions but I wish people would think before they speak because they likely don’t know the whole story. There are so many reasons for a one child family. A couple may have tried desperately for years to have their first child or are currently having trouble getting pregnant with a second baby. That mom of one may be dealing with health, relationship, family or financial issues. Or that couple with one child may have confidently chosen that one child was right for them, which is a perfectly respectable decision. To me – a mom is a mom no matter how many kids she has, how she had them, if they’re adopted or fostered or if she is a loving mom to her step children.
I wish I was more at peace with having one child. I am trying to figure out how to work through my regret and this guilt that is always there. If we don’t add to our family and our daughter is always an ‘only child’, I need to believe that it is okay because she is loved and cared for. To my husband and I our daughter is not an only child, she is simply our beloved child, with no need for a label.