Minutes after I ejected my daughter from my newly elasticized uterus, still in tears from a mixture of joy, wonderment and relief, right after the doctor thanked me for not pooping on her, she said, “The next one will be easier.”
I promptly informed her that I don’t plan to get pregnant again. All my life, I perceived pregnancy as a bucket-list experience, something big that I wanted to do once before I died, to know what it would feel like to grow a human inside of me and birth it. And though my pregnancy wasn’t planned, it was welcomed joyously by me and my husband. At once completely beautiful and totally painful.
For the first year after my daughter was born, I looked into adopting another child, but by the second year, I knew that one kid was plenty for me. Some people are great with multiple kids. I imagine that these people possess some or several of the following characteristics:
• Love to take care of others
• Love being needed
• Not prone to irrational fear or anxiety
• Extroverted and generally fueled by social interactions
I do not have any of these characteristics. When my husband has the flu, I tell him that he is boring me and should suck it up. I am a writer and an introvert who likes to be alone in silence for long periods of time. Like pregnancy, for me being a parent is at once completely beautiful and totally painful.
It goes without saying all the awesome things that kids bring to our lives whether we’re a parent or not, but I’ll mention a few anyway. My daughter’s imagination alone has allowed me to believe in fairies again. She exudes a joy that I envy. Her mind is open and absorbing at a rate that no adult human could survive. She is an infinite fountain of amazing creativity. Her sense of humor is outrageous and brilliant. She has taught me how to be more patient and kind, as well as mighty and fierce.
But then there are the things that people don’t like to talk about: arguing about the virtues of wearing underwear, complaining about the meal I just slaved over or paid a lot for, having to find a toilet ten minutes after leaving the house, pee and poop everywhere, markers bleeding into the upholstery of my new car, dripping milk nipples, stretch marks, tugging, yanking, pulling, spit-up on all my shirts, impingement on my sex life, using my sleeve as a tissue, incessant nonsensical talking, persistent existential questioning, singing the same nursery rhymes until my throat is sore, constant requests for unicorn stories, poor attempts to lie and manipulate, tacky spilled juice behind the furniture, stepping on tiny Lego pieces with bare feet, etc. Of course, these things are minor inconveniences compared to the list of good things mentioned above, however, imagine them happening every day, all day, all the time.
Of course, there is also a list of practical reasons why I think it’s better for me to stick with one kid: saving money, traveling more, giving her more attention, etc. But the most substantial one of all is the amount of vigilance necessary to keep away the panic attacks. Some nights, I can’t sleep worrying about all the things that might happen to her. The love I have for my daughter is more intense and scarier than anything I have ever known.
Here is the thing: People –- like random strangers in supermarkets -- love to tell me how I just have to have another kid. “Your daughter needs a playmate.” “She’ll be lonely!” “You’re depriving her of a sibling.” To these people I say, “I’d like to have another child, but I’m infertile from the chemo.” No, not really, but I fantasize about making them feel really bad about being so freaking insensitive.
My daughter came home from school the other day and told me she wanted a brother or sister. “Why?” I asked.
“’Cause Lucy has one.”
“That’s not a very good reason,” I said.
“And I want someone to play with all the time,” she said.
“And fight with all the time,” I said.
“I’m lonely,” she said.
“You have mommy and daddy,“ I said. “You also have all your own toys and your very own room.”
“Look kid, there are good and bad things about being a single child and good and bad things about having siblings. One isn’t better than the other. They’re just different. Anyone who tells you otherwise, doesn’t know what they are talking about.”
That shut her up for a while.
I had siblings and while I appreciate the relationship that I have with my sister now, she was really mean to me growing up. (Sorry, sis. Love you.) My husband was a single child and he claims that he never noticed being particularly lonely or deprived.
Yeah, sometimes I feel a little guilty, but then she starts yanking on my arm, badgering me for a snack while I’m folding the umpteenth tiny sock without a pair and trying to talk on the phone to schedule a playdate for her so that I can get some work done that I’ve been putting off for a month and in that moment, I’m confident I made the right decision.
When my daughter asks me why I only had one kid, I tell her it is because she is the perfect child that I always dreamed of and I didn’t need to have another one, which is true. And when adults ask me the same thing, I say, “Because I got it right the first time.”
Do you have a single child? Are you an only child? Has anyone ever said anything insensitive to you about it?