It is very easy to fall into the “confirmation bias” trap when looking for articles and opinions to make you feel better about a big life decision, unless that is when you are looking for support on the decision to only have one child! THEN the articles are few and far between.
As a Hyperemesis Gravidarum sufferer my decision to not have another child is solely due to this debilitating and life changing condition. I can speak openly about this decision in the HG community because the women in it understand the suffering I endured and can appreciate why I am one and done.
Other mother’s online forums and groups mean well but the odd one will come at you with ‘good intentions’ proclaiming “Please have another one, I am an only child and I hated it, your little one will miss out on so much!”
I don’t talk about it in those groups anymore and I also wouldn’t discuss it with other women who can’t have more children due to secondary infertility because the truth is like other brave incredible women who do go on to have further HG pregnancies, I can do too, I just don’t want to.
It was this realisation that really set me on a positive track to start with, understanding that it is okay to not WANT to have another child when you can, but at the same time it trapped me in guilt.
I felt like this was a selfish decision and that I was denying my son a sibling relationship and all the wonderful experiences and life lessons that come with it – exactly like the Mum in the Mum group said.
A couple of years ago I left the internet behind and started on my journey to making peace with my decision. I worked through my fears and listed them down as follows.
- My son will be lonely
2. I will regret my decision
3. When I am older, he will leave me so if I have another one there is a greater chance that one of them will stay close by
Writing these down was so cathartic. Firstly, to see that I only had 3 fears helped me to realise that the amount of time I was spending fretting about my decision was not justified and secondly, because it was good to speak my truth, that this is what I am fearful of, and it gave me a place to start from to begin working through them.
So, starting with number 1 – loneliness – I decided to speak to the one person I know who is an only child to get their opinion on how lonely it really is. Myself.
This blog is an attempt to give an honest and open experience of that internal chat about loneliness, whilst at the same time trying to balance the argument and share some things, I have learnt along the way during my journey to validate my decision and work through my fears.
I loved being an only child and I still do to this day. I have navigated my childhood under the guise of my incredible parents who I have a very special relationship with. We are the three-musketeers and I have shared the many of life’s achievements with them and have always felt that our relationship was something that I was incredible lucky to have.
But there have been times in my life when I have been lonely. As a child this was mostly during the holidays. With no family nearby it was always just me, my mum and my dad. My school friends were unavailable during the holiday seasons due to family commitments or parents not needing to arrange play dates because their kids WOULD play with each other at least at Christmas! But don’t feel sorry for me though, as this opportunity of being alone opened me up to the incredible endless possibilities of my imagination. Did I wish I had a brother or sister to play with? Yes, but as much as I wished that I had a horse or a swimming pool it was something that I felt that I wanted but not what I needed.
I say this in slight jest but to also address the inevitable that one day your only will say the heart wrenching words “I wish I had a brother or a sister.” A child cannot possibly understand the choice and what it really means, not that I had the choice but if it had of been possible, I still think I would have chosen the pony. I guess we will never know. I am okay with that.
As a teenager I had so many friends, clubs, sleepovers, and school trips, it was impossible to be lonely and as I moved through to College and University much of the same continued. No sibling required.
My early twenties though were awkward, friends had moved away or moved in with their boyfriends or worse left the country! I felt abandoned. The fragility of my friendships was heart breaking and I was confused as to how our “girl group” was so easily disbanded?
But, when I look back on that time now, with my girl group very much back together after multiple marriages and births, I am proud of how I embraced my loneliness. I didn’t turn to my parents and I didn’t try and make new friends or find my own relationship (not quite true, I did try but my “one” was a good 5 years a way yet) I just felt it all and learnt that actually I am okay by myself. I can live by myself as I was at the time and entertain myself and live life alone. A truly humbling experience and one that I now know is character building.
Did I wish at the time that I had an older sister to hang out with or a younger brother to mentor on nights out?, Yes I did, but it was to fill a momentary void that I am sure all only children go through at some point and as we are all different people with different circumstances, the loneliness spells will come at different times or for some I am positive not at all.
I know I have more lonely spells to come. When my parents pass I will be the sole memory holder of our time together, I think that is going to be hard, not having someone else to remember those with (or remind me of the one’s I have forgotten) but I will have my son to tell them too and my friends who in some way were all my Mother’s daughters will share with me their experiences and their memories. My cousins too will have moments to share and that’s enough for me.
Now we move to my fear of regret. Regret is a tough thing to swallow, we all have them and we all wish at some point that we had done something different or taken another path, but we also, I believe, know that hindsight is a wonderful thing that you can’t enjoy at the time you make these decisions.
So, I decided to speak to the only two women I know who have older only children to ask them to speak to their experiences.
The first is my son’s godfather’s wife. She has a son in his early twenties now and off travelling the world. In our 30-minute conversation over 2 years ago, I can’t remember much of was said but one comment stuck with me;
When I asked: “Do you regret not having more children?”
She said: “No, because I don’t think having another child would have made our lives better, it would have made our lives different.”
Think about it for a moment, it sounds so simple, but it totally re-framed the conversation I was having about it in my head on a daily basis. Because for every benefit of having more children you can always find a negative and vice versa for an only child, comparing the two is pointless. How many times have you heard someone say, “My sister is my best friend” and then another person will pipe up with “I hate my brother, he made my life hell.”
If we change the narrative to it is just a different experience, I think that helps. It helps me when people say, “Oh but you will never get to experience having another child”, because I simply say “And you will never get to experience a life time with just one.”
It isn’t better and it isn’t worse it is simply different. The same goes for your child. They don’t get to experience life with a sibling, and their friends don’t get to experience life as an only – not better, just different.
This really helped me with the grieving process too, and I truly believe for some of us it is grief. The reality is that if it weren’t for Hyperemesis, God willing, it is very likely we would have another child, and my story and my experience would be different. In the future when the inevitable thoughts of “what if’s” come, perhaps when my son leaves home for the first time or when/if he gets married and becomes part of another family and starts his own! I will remember it wouldn’t be better now – it would be different.
As for my mother she has always maintained that she would have loved to have had more, but as she lost so many if any had survived before me then I wouldn’t be here. So, for me being an only literally gave me life – something that I have grabbed with two hands for my brothers and sisters who did come before me and didn’t get the chance.
Lastly, and I think really this is the kicker fear for me – I am petrified that my son will leave me one day and move halfway across the world, or worse be 20 minutes away and never call or want to spend time with my and his father because he is busy or engrossed in his own family.
I don’t have anyone to talk to about this as each family is different and the comparisons of experiences leave you non the wiser still. I do know though, that as an only myself, not out of loyalty or a burden, I have always wanted my parents in my life. Even now at 38 I still see them once a week, I still talk to them at least twice and they remain an important part of my experience.
So for this fear all I can have is faith that my son too will want us as part of his life (and if he is anything like me, need us to help him look after his children!) not because he has to but because he wants to.
I can’t control the future and I can’t let the “what if’s?” control me and I finally feel assured that IF my son is ever lonely, he will get through it, that my story is different to other women who have multiple children and not worse, and to have a little faith that all will be okay.
Hopefully if you are reading this you will do to.