We always knew we were a one-child family.
Even when we first started talking about having a family, we knew we wanted one. Just one. And, for the last year, we loved every moment of being parents of our joyous little man. There was never a moment where we looked at each other and said, “We should have another” or “James needs a sibling.” We had our little man and that was enough for us. We also learned quickly that we liked sleep way too much to do the newborn stage again. I remember looking at my husband when James was three months old and had finally settled down to bed. I gazed at him with loving exhaustion and said, “We like sleep way too much to do this again.” He laughed and agreed. As soon as I was done nursing when James was six months old, we went back on birth control to prevent the expansion of our little family. A little pill every morning when I brushed my teeth to keep pregnancy at bay.
So when I missed a period and took a pregnancy test (or five) in early April and all were positive, we were stunned. Not stunned like we were with James. The joy and anticipation that we felt when we learned we were pregnant with James was absent now. Feelings of confusion and anxiety and frustration and “How the hell did this happen?!” set in. I took the news much harder than my husband. In his typical calm and collected fashion, he slipped into “This is what is and we’ll deal with it” mode.
Me? To put it mildly, I freaked the eff out. I didn’t want to be pregnant. There was no part of me, of us, that yearned to have another child. In fact, I had already started drafting a blog post entitled, “How I know I’m done with having children,” when those pee sticks came back positive. My husband had already gone to have a vasectomy consultation the day before the first pee stick came back positive. For me, being pregnant again was the last thing I envisioned for my life. It’s not that my first pregnancy was exceptionally difficult or that my son’s delivery was especially traumatic (in fact, both my pregnancy and delivery were pretty standard, and, by all accounts, easy); I just didn’t like being pregnant and had no desire to do it again. And it wasn’t just pregnancy. It was having a child. I adore my son, and I’m probably already becoming the stereotypical “only child mom.” But one was enough for me. For us. And we knew it. Finding out I was pregnant again wasn’t a curse, but it sure felt like one.
So, when my pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 9 weeks, I felt relief and sadness and guilt. Relief that we weren’t going to have to clear space in our lives for another pregnancy and another baby. Sadness that something that was once alive and growing within me was now gone. And guilt for feeling relief. But what I never felt was a longing to try again and give James a sibling or become a mom all over again. If anything, my miscarriage confirmed that I never wanted to be pregnant again. Ever.
The support I received from my midwife throughout the long process of miscarrying and then figuring out our best option for birth control was overwhelmingly positive and reassuring. I was terrified to show her how I truly felt about the miscarriage, but she knew me and knew that I hadn’t wanted to get pregnant again. She reassured me that many women feel the exact same way but are too afraid to say anything because they think they’ll look like monsters. She reminded me that the wonderful thing about being a woman in today’s world is that we can decide what we want our families to be. If we choose to have one child or thirty, our family is our choice. She didn’t want me to feel guilty or selfish for only wanting our one child.
Gone are the days when a woman’s role in the world was to produce heirs and farm hands. Women now can choose the life they’d like to live. They can be anything they want; mothers, professionals, or any mixture of the two. I want to have a life outside of being a mother and that was proving hard enough with one child. There was no way that I wanted to compound the difficulty by adding another child to our family. I like the woman and wife I was before I became a mom, and I’ve spent recent months trying to find her again. Adding another child to the mix would only push me further from once again being that woman. Sure, there are plenty of people who think I’m selfish for only wanting one child and who think it’s unfair to raise a child with no siblings. But isn’t it more selfish to have another child simply because James’ might want a sibling one day or because a second child will keep James entertained?
And all those stereotypes about only children? Turns out that they’re total garbage. The “research” that originally declared only children to be more likely to selfish, spoiled, lonely, aggressive, too dependent and self-centered has long since been debunked. In fact, only children are more likely to have higher IQs as well as having a greater maturity level than their peers. In fact, social psychologists predict that the increasing number of singleton families will likely raise that national IQ average by 2 full points in the coming years.
So, we’ve joined the growing number of singleton households. Over 20% of American households have just one child, and that is the fastest growing slice of the American demographic. Of course, raising an only child presents challenges, but we already know that we’ll need to make more conscious efforts to keep James socialized as he grows and to restrain ourselves from being overindulgent. Thankfully we have good friends who keep us in check.
Miscarriage is experienced by over 20% of women, but yet we don’t talk about it. It’s not something to be ashamed of, and, the more we talk about it, the better we can all support each other. If you’d like to read more about my miscarriage experience, please check out my guest post on Kirsten’s blog.