It’s Done and I’m Okay with That

So I’m not pregnant and I’m not going to be pregnant. I have had so many feelings since we started trying and even more since we decided to stop trying but they generally boil down to this: I’m disappointed I won’t get the chance to be pregnant but I’m happy that I won’t have to live through late night feedings or any of the other really really hard parts of living with an infant.

After we made the decision that the last IUI was it, I started making a mental list of the positive things about not having another child. That’s harder than it seems. For every upside, there are tiny white onesies and sweet smelling sleepy babies. But as the month wore on, it turned out there were a lot of positive things about not being pregnant. Or, in the spirit of the list, positive things about having an only child.

As Becky mentioned, sleepovers. With one child, we can look forward to her going on overnights and not having another hanger-on at home to entertain. A sleepover means a whole night alone.

We’ll be able to afford to nourish special skills, extra tutoring, lessons, activities, whatever school she wants to attend. We’ll be able to ferry her around to soccer games and piano practice without having to weigh schedules for two children.

Once RR is out of diapers, we’ll be done with diapers. Done. Those things are expensive (and so is formula) and that extra money each month would be a godsend.

We won’t have to endure the uncertainty or the risks associated with having a child at an “advanced maternal age”. I was deeply worried about nuchal tests and unforeseen circumstances, gestational diabetes and postpartum depression. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I was queasy thinking about possible challenges and catastrophes. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about my health or the health of an unborn child.

Speaking of risks, I won’t pass on any genetic hiccups. I’ve had my share of mental and physical illness and I’m not proud that we were taking the risk passing that on to a new person. Not to mention, I won’t have to address the uncertainty of staying on particular medications while pregnant.

I can go back to speculums once a year and seeing my doctor when I’m sick. I don’t dig doctors. I’m always stressed out that my blood pressure will be too high or I’ll have gained too much weight. I’ve made a miraculous turnaround from the crying jags I used to go on every time I went to the gynecologist and I wasn’t looking forward to 9 months of probing.

I’ll admit, I was terrified of labor.

Vacations will still be doable with a family of three. Sure, we’d have still been able to do it, but we’ll be able to save for vacations instead of going into and paying off debt. We’ll still be able to afford plane tickets. Four people would have put us over the edge.

My mom played favorites. Still does actually. I might be the actual favorite in that I’m everything my parents hoped I could be, but it’s my sisters who get the extra time and attention. For years my parents have poured money into my sister’s family, paying her mortgage, serving as daycare, sending them on vacations. They baby my other sister and try to give her the moon. Seriously. Look outside. That moon you’re seeing is just borrowed from my sister. And yet, when my parents visit us, they try to spend as little as possible. They take advantage of our hospitality and ignore our requests (see: dog attacks cat, parents feign ignorance). I was scared I’d play favorites with my own children, trying to prop them both up to the same level and, in the process, freezing out the more confident, capable, successful one.

I am acutely aware of how different this decision is in light of it being a second child instead of a first. Without RR, we’d have an entirely different landscape to navigate. I feel both lucky and very, very sad. For me, it was my first. I wanted to have that special, totally unique experience. I’m a little relieved, too, but that’s a story for another day.

So this is a special call to the only children, to the parents of only children, and to the children who wish they were only children sometimes even though they’d never admit it: What is wonderful about only children? 

17 Responses

  1. First of all I am not an only child, though growing up I guess I sort of was one…..I am the youngest of 3 and there was 10 years between my middle sister and me and 16 years between my oldest sister and me.
    Your approach to not being pregnant again is amazing. Your a very love and caring woman and mom, with an amazing wife whom I am sure is there supporting you through this and everything good and bad as you are for her.
    You also have a very fortunate daughter with 2 amzing moms.

  2. Only children tend to be closer to their parents, in my observation. They’re more of a triad together. I was one of two, and while I was closer to my folks than they were to their parents, my brother and I were still the kid, and one was still the golden child while the other was the black sheep. If/when I have kids, I’ll have one and that’ll be that. I think it’s a more peaceful dynamic.

  3. Only child here, and married to one. It’s good not having competition when we want things (or attention, etc.) from our parents, and they aren’t torn about whether giving us X is fair or not, since there’s no one to be fair to. We talked and read like adults very early, which is dead handy for school.

    I’m sure there’s other great stuff, but I’m too exhausted to think of it. Yay for skipping the extra exhaustion of the early days! You are done with that!

    I am sorry this is the outcome, but yes, there are good things about it, too.

    • Oh, and the only children don’t share/ are selfish/ whatever business is hogwash. Sure, they are if you raise them that way, just like kids with siblings can be. But I never noticed growing up that my be-siblinged friends were better at sharing than I or my fellow onlies were — often it was the opposite, since they were used to competing and used, also, to WANTING something and not being able to have it. I think it can be a lot easier for only children to be patient with sharing, because they know when they go home, everything is theirs.

  4. A couple of things to add here:
    1. I applaud your wonderful, realistic perspective in light of a difficult situation.
    2. I’m not an only child, but the wife is, and she’s a wonderful, giving, gracious, insightful, thoughtful, intelligent person (obviously I’m biased) … she’s curious about the world and always learning. AND she loves to share, so there goes that myth.

  5. I am not an only child and have 2 of my own, but my parents always played what my brother and I call “the fair game.” They were always making sure if they did/bought something for one of us that they did the same for the other one. Still to this day, they do it with the grandchildren. Everyone has to have the same amount of toys/presents on Christmas or the same amount of $ spent. It must be EXHAUSTING.

  6. You did a good job of listing the pluses of having an only. (and thanks for the shout out!). Having seen my MIL pretend to not play favorites when in fact, she plays them bugs me to no end.

    A dear friend of mine is the child of parents who were both only children. Growing up, she learned the value of good friends and that in a pinch, friends were sometimes better than family – something I’ve learned firsthand despite being the oldest of 4 children. I see this with my girl – while she has cousins her age, she sees them very infrequently – maybe once a year, usually once every few years – so her ‘family’ are her friends & their siblings (that child will adopt everyone’s younger sister as her own if you let her) as well as the children of some of our dearest friends. Thanks to the time she spends with her friends, she gets to see sibling dynamics in action. Some of her friends have grandparents that live here as well as cousins, which of course my girl, as an only with no family nearby, has been adopted as an honorary family member by several families. I’ve had several parents tell me that she is far more generous and polite to younger siblings than other friends- perhaps in part because she doesn’t have them and doesn’t view them as pests.

    Downsides of having an only is that they learn how to behave around adults, sometimes too much so. I’ve seen kids who are so used to being the only kid around that when they are around other kids, they don’t know how to behave, they will end up hanging out with the adults even when there are other kids around. Some of them just don’t know how to play, because they never had anyone play with them – they were always expected to behave like adults. School breaks, especially summer, can be HARD for an only. I read that link one of the commenters posted – the part about your child bringing friends on vacation? It’s easier said than done. And even then, you have to think about which kid you want spending that much time with your family. We have an extremely short list.

    I often hear I do not have a stereotypical only child – we have enough friends with onlies that I see what people mean. There are behaviors that are attributed to only children that in fact, do not apply to all – it’s more character traits they were born with (being independent, able to entertain themselves, maturity) than the fact that they are an only. Certainly being an only breeds that, but I’ve seen a few only children completely incapable of entertaining themselves (or only be able to do with with a tv or other screen.) Mine rejected babytalk from the get go – she spoke in sentences before her first birthday, before we had decided she was going to be an only, so I don’t buy that only children have better conversational skills. As with all kids, parenting is a big part of how your child turns out. I’ve seen only children that have zero manners, little ability to hold a conversation with adults and have had zero discipline and accountability because they are onlies. I pride myself on not having a stereotypical only child.

    • Your downside is true for my wife, who was an only. She has said that she could never understand why the other kids were acting so immaturely! On the plus side, she loved coming up with elaborate fantasy games and reading for hours. Being an only meant that her parents could nurture her ballet talent, and send her to special camps and performing arts boarding school. Her redneck dad was even in a few Nutcrackers with her! Her librarian mom helped her learn about everything that interested her- mostly ballet and sharks. They are still very close. While I cannot remember ever being without my siblings and have a hard time imagining it, my wife never wished for siblings. She has a cousin who was like a sister, and I think all kids will find a special bond like that if they want it. I am sure RR will continue to be a fantastic kid!

      • Huh. That “downside” certainly was me to a T as a child, but I didn’t then and still don’t see it as a downside. At all. Maybe this is inevitable, since I hardly longed to play with the kind of maniacal kid groups you describe. I could see (then and now) why it might look strange to some adults — probably especially ones who grew up with siblings — but it is not something I experienced as a loss or anything. I was always more interested in what the adults were talking about, or, failing that, in doing something alone or with an like-minded kid. climbing a tree or doing a puzzle or something. I’m sure in my case it was made more extreme by the facts that I grew up in a neighborhood with almost no other children and that my mother was too sick to ferry me around to play dates or soccer practice or whatever. Still, I did have good friends, most of whom had siblings but still saw the world more or less as I did.

      • Sorry, should have put quotes around downside as you did! I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with it, I just think the difference is interesting. I was intensely shy, but wished I could be a part of more group activities. My wife, like you, was content to do her own thing. I think being self-assured from a young age is awesome, and confidence to talk to people of any age is a great skill to have.

  7. I am not, nor do we have, an only child, but my dearest friend does, and by choice. My friend got a hysterectomy shortly after her daughter’s first birthday because she and her husband do not want to split their love and attention – they don’t want to divert anything from their daughter – and as she and her husband age, they recognized that they already felt too old for the one they have, much less another one. They are eager to put all of their resources into their one child. Swimming? Yes. Dancing? Sure. Disney vacation? We can spend more on souveniers with the $500+ we didn’t have to spend on an extra ticket or all those extra meals/ice cream cones/Minnie ears. My friend LOVES her life with her only child. She has no guilt about the issues of favoritism and fairness, and there is far less juggling. Their lives are less complex, and they are able to focus more on their daughter, and on keeping themselves healthy to be there for her.

    As for their daughter herself, she is 3 and is an absolute delight. She gets the one-on-one attention that I never gave my kids because I was always so frenzied. She is responsive, polite, outgoing, confident, and communicative because her mother makes mothering her her number one priority. Mom stops whatever she’s doing to look her daughter in the eye and communicate, and she is rarely distracted from that focus because there’s not another kid demanding her attention. It’s remarkable, every time I’m around them. It blows my mind, really.

  8. My wife and both have siblings but my wife is the only one left of her sisters so she knows both sides. We have our one son and unless we adopt we are done. I remember when I first had him a co-worker asked if we were going to have more. She had one child and said with one, you are their only playmate. And four years later, while I do not regret playing with him, it is true. I was talking to a friend with two kids about having two so they could entertain each other and she said all she remembers is being the referee. My wife and I are very close with our son and he definitely overfills our lives. I am sure we could manage more, but I can see how it can stretch everything and everyone. He was a very high needs infant and toddler and I don’t think I could have handled more than him and I am glad we were able to give him the attention and love he needed. I do sometimes wish there was someone else for him to sword fight with though.

  9. I love love loved being an only child. Growing up, it was just me and my mom, and unlike other kids who begged for baby siblings, I begged my mom NOT to have any more kids. I wanted her all to myself. I have no regrets. I am just as happy to be an only child now as I was when I was 5. I have a great relationship with my mom–we’re so close. There’s no sibling drama. No perceived favorites. My other half LOVES her sister, but her sister is also a constant source of drama. My SIL is clearly the prodigal daughter even though all she’s really done is move out of state and marry well. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having or being an only child. I was never lonely. I always had friends to play with. I am a bit shy, but not antisocial.

    On a side note, my old boss went through a similar decision making process several years ago. They decided that they really wanted a second child. She got pregnant and had an early miscarriage. Then, she lost her job and they decided that baby #2 just wasn’t meant to be. She went back on birth control and never looked back. It’s been about 4 years, and I always wondered if she’d regret her decision someday, but she said she actually feels relieved. They are able to do so much more as a family of 3 than they could as a family of 4. Her daughter is very active in dance (and she’s really good) and my friend says there’s no way they could afford the time and money they spend on her dancing if they had another child in the picture.

  10. I have a soon-to-be-fouryearold, whom my wife gave birth to. We’ve pretty much decided not to try for another. For all the reasons you’ve listed here, but mainly because we don’t think we have it in us. I’d rather be a good, sometimes even great mom to one kid, than to be a passable one to two. These four years have been the best in my life, and I remember the newborn and baby period very, very fondly, and yet I shudder at the thought of starting over. I’m ready for the next stage.

    My brother and I don’t get along. I don’t go around wishing he was dead, but my life, as a child and as an adult, would have been so much easier had I been an only. My wife and I are both the older sister of a brother, and neither of us is too keen on inflicting the same constellation on our darling daughter.

    I do feel sad that I won’t ever be pregnant, won’t ever give birth, won’t ever have a child that looks like me, but it’s not so important that it trumps all the reasons to not have another. I might regret this decision when I wake up one morning, 45 years old, and it’s too late, but I don’t think so.

    We have a wonderful family. Yes, it’s more of a trio than adults versus kid(s), and I like it. We have friends with kids, she has a cousin (who probably will be an only for quite a fel years, perhaps forever), she goes to preschool… It’s not like it’s her and a bunch of grownups all time.

  11. I have nothing to add, really, except to say that a recently had a friend tell me that she knows she is not fully the parent she wants to be now that she has more than one child. She very much misses the moments of reflection and dedicated attention she had with only one. The main reason I’m commenting though is to tell you I’m so glad you posted this.

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