One hot and sweaty night in 2012, while out in New Orleans with my best friend, we thought it would be a good idea to hop into a psychic reading. When in Rome, right?
We had general short palm reading, but for an extra $10, we could ask one specific question and get an answer — having to promise we could handle the truth. So, after one too many Abitas, I handed over my ten bucks and muttered out the only question that was on my mind and would be on my mind for years to come: Will I ever have a baby?
It was all I could think about and all I would continue to think about for the next five years. Just a few weeks before our New Orleans trip, I had my second invasive surgery for endometriosis and was completely preoccupied with the unknowns it left me with. All I ever wanted in life was to become a mom. (For real – I was pulling babies out from under my t-shirts since I was about 4… ask my mom.)
Back to the psychic… he said, “Yes. You will have one. It won’t be easy, but you will have one.”
I was relieved. I believed him. I was fine with one – one was enough. One was all I needed. I would get to be a mom, after all.
We went back to our boyfriends and enjoyed the rest of our trip. Thanks to a psychic in a closet off of Bourbon Street, I breathed a little easier for a while.
After a long, challenging road of surgeries, treatments, medications, IVF, IUI, and heartbreak, I did get my “one.” And she is perfect. She is more than I could have ever imagined. I know most moms feel this way, but it’s true. Any vision, hope, or dream I had for what she’d be like — she’s already surpassed it in her little life. She is everything.
Is she my “only?”
I think so.
Is my daughter “enough?”
For a while, right around her first birthday, my husband and I thought we’d be getting ready to go through all the not-so-fun processes we’d need to try for a #2. We spoke to our fertility doctor and came up with a loose plan. But then COVID-19 hit. The world was turned upside down, and our plans were put on hold. We talked a lot. We navigated some continuing health challenges. As time went on and circumstances changed, our hearts changed, too.
Since only-child families are on the rise, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
While family sizes tend to vary greatly across different demographics, the American family is shrinking overall. This is because fertility in the U.S. has experienced a significant decline — also resulting in smaller families. Plus, women are waiting longer to have children, women are more educated and career-focused than they were decades ago, and contraceptive methods have significantly improved. In Europe, almost half of all families are “onlies,” and in Canada, nearly 40% are. (I knew I’d always liked Europe.)
Yet even as I’m writing this, I’m still researching, trying to find more “proof” (or reassurance) of what I already know deep down rings true for my family.
For me, it’s just a bit higher stakes. I need to have a hysterectomy sooner rather than later. My endometriosis and adenomyosis have been getting more complicated, and my quality of life has taken a hit, at the risk of sounding dramatic. My surgeon and other doctors have continuously suggested a hysterectomy “once my family is complete” for ultimate relief (even then, it isn’t guaranteed), but… it’s just so final.
It’s actually as final as final can get in the baby-making world, so making the decision is really stressful.
Just the Three of Us
Our life is so full. I have a husband who I cherish, and we’ve been together since early college. We live in a city, in a small but beautiful apartment, we both have incredible jobs that we love, we have loving and supportive family and extended family, and our daughter’s social calendar is seriously impressive.
My husband has a big family, and our friend group has been friends since middle school, so our little girl has more cousins — both real and pseudo — than we can count. It’s the best.
So much so that as I type this out, all I can hear in the back of my mind is, “why mess with a good thing?” I’m so hesitant to alter the fabric of our lives. We’re content. No, we’re happy. Really happy. And, isn’t that kind of the whole point of living?
Research suggests that having more than one child doesn’t make anyone happier. The study indicates that while a first baby makes both parents happier (the study examined male/female relationships), the second baby has little effect on the father’s happiness and causes the mothers to decrease. Research out of Australia even associates second children with deteriorating paternal mental health.
We’re good being happy. It’s okay to say, “I like things the way they are.” I need to own it.
I speak openly and honestly about my health issues so that not too many people close to us pry about a second baby. At least not those who know us well. But when the question does get asked, it stings.
It stings because I don’t know for sure. It stings because I don’t think I can, physically. It stings because I also don’t want to go through fertility treatments, obsessive cycle tracking, hormones, or face heartbreak again. I know I don’t owe an explanation to anyone — but it stings.
Our country still has a stigma that only children are spoiled or difficult. People love to say, “Every child needs a sibling!” or “You’ll never regret one more.” To that, I say kindly, shut up.
We know what’s best for us, our family, my health, and our daughter.
Just like those who decided never to have kids — it’s not an easy decision by any means, but those individuals know what’s best for them.
And for those who have yet to get their dream baby (or babies), I’m sending you so much love and strength. I know it’s hard. But I also know and fully believe that you’ll get the beautiful family you’re dreaming of in one way or another. Your journey might look different than others right now, and it doesn’t feel fair. (Because it isn’t fair.)
And finally, for those families that resemble the size of the Brady Bunch or The Camdens — I seriously respect you. It’s just not for us. And that’s okay.