One and Done, Not by Choice
"When are you going to have another?"
"Don't you think he needs a sibling?"
"What about adoption?"
I can't tell you how many times I've heard those questions over the past decade, and even now, I still don't know the right way to answer them. I wish I could have another, but my body isn't equipped for that. I wish my son could have a sibling, but he'll have to do with cousins and friends. Adoption and surrogacy are wonderful options for many, but not within my budget. Add a divorce into the mix, and I've become a member of the "one and done, not by choice" club.
Growing up, I imagined building my own family of four. I come from a family of four, so I just assumed I'd carry on that tradition with my own family. I had no trouble getting pregnant (in fact, it was a bit of a surprise!), and I know that I am incredibly blessed in that instance. When it came to the pregnancy itself, though, it was anything but easy. Dangerous tachycardia and a heart murmur, combined with three months of bed rest, five days of prodromal labor, an emergency c-section, and my son spending four days in the NICU led my doctors to advise me to seriously reconsider getting pregnant again.
There was a time, right when my son was getting ready to enter kindergarten, that we almost took that risk. After consulting with my doctors more, I realized that the risk was too great and that I needed to be here to take care of the child that I already have. As much as I longed to hold a baby in my arms again, and to give my son a little brother or sister, the chances of something serious happening to me was just too great.
I know my story isn't unique. I have met many women in my position, who always wanted more than one child, but somehow ended up in the "one and done, not by choice" club. Some struggle with secondary infertility. Some can't afford another child. Some have gone through a divorce, and the time it takes to start a family with someone new is just too great. Whatever the case may be, I've found one common theme- none of us really know how to answer those tough questions.
I feel sort of guilty saying that I long for another child, when I know so many couples struggle with infertility. My heart breaks for anyone in that position, and I am so thankful to be a mama bear to my cub. But none of us should feel guilty for having that longing- whether we already have a child or not. No matter the circumstance, none of us should have to deal with any type of mom-shaming.
I know that I will always have to face the question, "So you just have the one?", but I'm still struggling with the answer to that. I know many are "one and done, by choice", but that's not me. I don't fit into the secondary infertility category. Explaining the entire story is too much for a short conversation. So instead, I just nod my head awkwardly and hope for a subject change.
It's a different kind of feeling, handing down baby clothes to friends and co-workers instead of your own baby. Watching siblings play together at the playground and knowing your son will never feel that unique bond. Going to plan a vacation, only to see that most packages are for families of four. Knowing that my family will never feel entirely complete, but there is really nothing I can do about it but accept it and awkwardly answer those invasive questions for the rest of my life.
I'm very blessed to be a mom. I know that, and I cherish that title every single day. But being part of the "one and done, not by choice" club is not a blessing, and I want anyone else who is a member of that club to know that it's okay to be disappointed that they're a member, too.
You can feel both complete and incomplete at the same time. I know.