Having only one child means a lot of things. It means that resources which would otherwise be split amongst extra little mouths, bodies, college funds and wardrobes have only one allotment. It means that my child often gets to experience having both her parents present at her swim classes and friends’ birthday parties. It means she’ll probably never understand the wildly complicated, frustrating and yet loving, rewarding relationship that siblings bring -which saddens me to no end.
Last but not least it means that my daughter will always be the little one in the family. At least in our nuclear family. No little brother or sister to boss around. No younger being to engage in mischievous play that’s bound to drive mom nuts. No one to show how things are done, the big girl way. And no one to snuggle up next to in a heap and pass out next to with the comfort of sibling familiarity. Don’t even get me started on the adult years.
Can you tell I’m grieving the loss of the child that’s never been planned for and never will be? It’s true. The last year or so has left me feeling…torn. There is really no other word I can think of to describe it.
Kayla was a difficult baby. You’ve heard me mention that before. It’s an understatement. The first year and half of her life involved not just sleepless nights, but lots of worry about her well being and many medical complications. Being her mother, my focus was almost entirely on her and keeping myself afloat in my work. Not on myself as a human being or my husband. I would be lying if I said it did anything less than divide us as a couple.
He felt like he was being cast aside as all my attention, worry and focus went to this tiny demanding person. I was incredibly high strung and in hindsight bordering on losing it as a result of caring for a reasonably sick baby and pretty much never sleeping. He felt like he couldn’t do anything right and that this baby didn’t want much to do with him. I pretty much felt like he couldn’t do anything right. I resented him for all the freedom he had from “baby lock down” and the extra hours he’d spend at the gym while I didn’t get those kind of breaks. Ever. He’ll never fully admit it but I’m positive he resented me because I was the one who really wanted a baby in the first place. I’ll admit it, I resented him for encouraging me to leave everything I knew behind in New York, the only home I had ever known.
I feel incredibly fortunate that unlike a lot of couples who never recover from that stage and go on to split up, Craig and I managed to find our way to a much better place. In fact I think it’s safe to say that our relationship now is stronger, better and more secure than it ever has been. I’m actually scared to say that I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been out of fear of jinxing myself. It certainly didn’t happen overnight and it sure as heck wasn’t easy.
Getting to a place of honesty with yourself and the person you love regarding all that is right and wrong in your relationship is probably the most difficult emotional work any couple can do. I shed more tears than all the bad breakups I’d gone through in my entire dating life put together and let me say, I’m not really a crier. I’m embarrassed to say it but there were a few days where I thought about giving up on our relationship, declaring it broken and unfixable and fleeing back to the comfort of my family and friends in New York. Starting over. It’s better for a child to have two parents who are separated but potentially happy than two who are together but sad, right?
I’ve never been a quitter, so I’m glad I quickly came to my senses and realized that there’s never been a person who could make me move 10 miles, forget to the other side of the country like I had for Craig. And I didn’t do it out of stupidity, but out of knowing it was the right thing and worth it to be with the right person. Despite the long road ahead of us at that point, which I think is safe to declare the “bottom” I found myself determined to get back to where we used to be before our baby kicked our butts and caused us to discover all sorts of holes in our relationship armor that we never knew were there.
How long did it take to get back to a place of normal and then beyond? I really can’t say. But I guess that’s not so important compared to the fact that it happened at all. And just like that big divide which had crept up on us, I felt like this was the same, but in reverse. A slow, gradual process in which we both re-learned to make one another a priority and get over the emotions and resentment that got the best of us when Kayla was young.
So now Kayla is a happy, healthy, silly 4 year old who sleeps (thank goodness!) and has two parents who love her to death and are truly very happy together. So naturally, the question that everyone from relatives to strangers on the street ask is “when are you having another one?”
We both always thought we’d have two kids. He stands at a relatively firm no. One and done. He’s terrified. I don’t blame him. I on the other hand waver back and forth and endlessly list the pros and cons of 2 versus 1 even though I know there is no equation you can put them in that will spit out an answer. I’m one of four girls and I can’t imagine my life without my sisters. We fought like brothers, love one another entirely, still want to wring one another’s necks and of course we’re the only ones who can truly understand the insanity that is our family.
I want that for Kayla, but is that reason enough to have another child? I’ll admit, there isn’t necessarily a burning desire for me to have another baby so much as there is a fear of not having one and regretting it. I’ve spent many an afternoon at a friend’s kitchen table being told how she wishes she had another but now it’s just too late.
And do you throw financial plans to the wind and just say oh we’ll make it work? Last I checked, having a child these days costs about as much as buying a home in pricey suburb. Craig and I are both pretty financially conservative and worried about having enough for the future to guarantee a decent lifestyle in retirement and to pay for Kayla’s college education. But people do it every day and have multiple children. Plus, life has no guarantees. Sacrifice having the child you might have now so you can have a big nest egg for retirement at an age you may not even live to?
Ever the decisive person I feel incredibly envious of other women or couples who know without question that they are or aren’t having another child. I’m not sure what to do. Rock the newly fixed up and freshly painted boat? Decide that this small but happy family is enough for me/us? I think it is, but there is this little piece of me that keeps circling back to this question. Rationalize to myself that with good parenting my child can still grow up normal as an only child. I mean seriously, how normal are the rest of us that have siblings?
For now, I think the answer is no for baby #2. Not because of all the reasons I mentioned above, but because I think knowing what I now know about everything we’ve been through as a couple it only makes sense for us if it’s something we both really want and can say it with confidence. Am I okay with that? I guess. Maybe. It makes sense, right? Sigh, I don’t know. Help!! What’s your take?