Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Embracing Life As a Mother of an Only Child

I'm a mother of an only child (MOC).  Being such, I know that a lot of women in a similar situation are plagued with guilt, just as I am.  Guilt for not having more children.  Guilt for not being able to bear more children.  And probably most of all, guilt for being okay with just having one child.

To be honest, the way I feel about this situation sits on sand, always shifting, trying to balance and find firm footing. There are days when I'm perfectly at peace with where and how we are, and there are days when I still wonder and hear the faint echoes of a desire I can't fully entertain, that of having another child.  For the longest time, I've been perfectly fine with our situation, arguing that I'm definitely not in the minority group.  I saw that I was surrounded by families with only one child, and some of them even have children older than my son.

Then all of a sudden, I noticed that these same mothers started abandoning ship.  They were all getting pregnant again!  I thought to myself, 'What traitors!'  Though I wish them well and am happy for them, I won't deny that they make me wonder and question my resolve to living the rest of my life as a MOC.

It's true that self-knowledge is a double-edged sword.  It's good to know what you want and what you are capable of, but it also gives you knowledge of what your limitations are and what you can be rationally afraid of.

I know I am not the most relaxed person there is.  I am a worrier and am highly-strung.  I tend to fixate and obsess over things.  I am intense and have tendencies toward perfectionism.    If I already get so stressed out with one child getting sick or getting hurt, what more with two?  And I know I've been told by others numerous times that one tends to be more relaxed with baby number two. I respect that this might be true for others but you can't possibly expect it to be automatically true for me. Like I said, I know myself.  I know it will not be any less intense with a second child and I do wonder how much more intensity I can handle before I break.  It's a risk I consider way too high to make me change my mind.  It's a hypothetical not worth betting all my chips on.  I'm not adventurous that way (nor in most ways, really) and I would trust my self-knowledge on this.  

In a way I can justify my situation because I know I've tried.  In 2010 I chose to give IVF another shot and try for baby number two.  I was pregnant for a while until I lost her at 7 weeks.  I was devastated and vowed that I was done.  She would've been 2 1/2 years old now (my Emily) if she had made it and admittedly, I do wonder about the life that could have been.  But we did find out that she had trisomy 22, a chromosomal disorder which caused her early demise.  Again with this knowledge, can you blame me for my fear of trying to conceive again?  I am also now 40 years old, have always been reproductively challenged and have aging joints, eyes and other health issues I'm sure.  All these factors decrease my chances for another (successful) pregnancy and, might I add, a sane family life ahead.  I also still remember the grief I went through when I lost my daughter and I don't think I can handle ever going through that again.

Sometimes, I imagine a life with two children. Most of all, I wonder how different my son's life would have been if he had a sibling.   They say that the choice to have a child (your first one) is for you.  But the choice to have another is one you make for your existing child/ren.  My son doesn't ask for a sibling.  As a matter of fact, he's always been vocal about loving his situation as an only child, with 'no babies around the house to mess with my Legos and topple the towers I build', he argues.  I'm pretty sure he's just glad that he has a monopoly of all the hugs going around in this household.  


But I'm also aware of the gifts of having siblings, having two myself, and sometimes I do wonder about the life I'm depriving my son of.  Whether it's by choice or not is a moot point.  The fact is that he will never know how it's like and that he just has to find a way to navigate this world without the kind of love, support and bond that only real siblings share.  This is why I always pray that he be blessed with souls around him who will let him experience a similar kind of love and deep connection, in spite of not sharing similar life histories or genetic makeup.  Maybe he'll experience it with his cousins, or maybe even with real friends.  What brings me comfort is that I know it is possible. What my womb cannot give him, I am almost certain another womb can or already has.  It's only a matter of time.

You can chastise me all you want and call me selfish, afraid or ignorant. But again, it's about trusting my knowledge of who I am and what I deem important.  Some parents can handle a lot of children. Some parents can honestly say they love equally.  I am not so sure of myself.  I know I'm the type who needs to know I'm giving it all.  It's just who I am. And with having another child, would I be able to love the same, give it my ALL in the same level my son now is receiving from me?  I know I am incapable of being happy if I'm not giving my all to someone I love, so do I really want to disturb this status quo?  Would it be fair to the next child or to my son now if things changed?  

Some parents can embrace child illnesses and disabilities with strength, calm and positivity.  I know I can never be that parent.  And I have to respect that. Yes, you can say that I'm afraid but fear is sometimes a gift too.  It's like not wanting to walk into a dark alley not knowing what's on the other side or what lurks in the darkness.  I would rather stay on this lit end.  It doesn't matter if you tell me that I could be missing out on something or depriving my son of a different kind of life and future.  I simply don't have it in me to wager everything I have now for an unknown life I'm not quite sure we'd all survive.  

I don't know what's in store for me or our family.  Maybe fate and nature would intervene and bless me with another child naturally, without any need for hormone shots and a million other medications and tests.  (I'm definitely too old and too tired to use that route again).  Or maybe this is it: One child, a son, who has such a wonderful soul that his father and I could never imagine life without him and feel helpless when it comes to loving him and showering him with all the hugs and kisses we have in us.  My heart overflows with gratitude for this beautiful boy for whom I only wish true happiness, health and safety.  I really can't ask for more.




6 comments:

  1. I firmly believe you do what feels right for you at any given time. Things may change, they may not. Everyone has a right to choose their own path or work with what they have been delivered. I myself am now at the stage where I may reconsider NOT having a child - but then I really need to analyse the WHY. Is it because of the pressure from society and those close to me. Do I really want a child of my own? I'm an anxious person - will I be able to handle it. Depression and mental illness runs in the family - the thought of a child of my own going through that is, well, off-putting.

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  2. Joy, nobody knows what is in store for us. We have to make do with what we have, I am afraid. Do whatever works for you. Having also lost a baby, I was also wondering whether you were still grieving. We all have different ways of grieving. Take it very easy!

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  3. Thanks for sharing this story Joy. As Muriel and Janine said, we all have different paths to walk and you need to choose the one that's best for you, without taking on the pressures society likes to put on the uterus. "What you're not having more children? Why?" As if our uterus is public property open to questioning from strangers. It must be very difficult to have to field these questions from people who haven't a clue about your personal situation and choices.

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  4. Joy, I can honestly admit that I enjoy not having to be in constant motion and chaos taking care of more than one child! Yes, I often feel the pangs of wanting another child (especially since I've lost 3 myself) and my husband has always dreamed of a large family, but when we consider the reality of our personal lives, one child fits us perfectly. I am an only child myself and seriously doubt my limited knowledge of how a multiple-child family should run. I don't want to take the risk of scarring my kids for life and that's ok! Besides, Riley runs the gamut of personality so I don't feel I'm missing out on the different life experiences of siblings! Rest assured you will have every MOC's support and I thank you for sharing what we feel, too!

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    1. I'm so sorry for my late reply, Beth. Thank you so much for your supportive words. It's really a matter of choosing what suits us and what we feel is best for our families. Have a great week!

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