As my husband and I have been trying for almost 2 years to get pregnant with our second child (it’s been 22 months of trying to be exact), there’s been a lot of time to process and think (and rethink!) over my feelings.
Blogging has been an eye-opening way to chronicle my journey of trying to conceive. As I go back and reread old posts, I can remember the times when I felt hopeful, fully anticipating that pregnancy was going to happen for me at any moment. Then came the shock of hitting the 12-month mark with still no baby – of realizing that I had suddenly become a statistic, the 1 out of every 8 couples dealing with infertility.
After about a year and a half of trying, and after being evaluated and realizing we had some fertility challenges, I started coming to terms with the fact that my husband, son, and I might always be a family of three. I grieved, I accepted, I (mostly) made peace.
I love my family and think we’re pretty great! But I hate feeling like others view us as an “only” family. We “only” have one kid. If “only” our family was different, we would be complete.
There’s no one right way for a family to look – I’m always disappointed when I hear people say things like, “when are you going to have kids?” or “when are you going to get married?”
What do you mean when? Why do you presume that everyone needs to follow some prescribed path like we’re playing the Game of Life, filling up our little plastic car with pink and blue peg people?
I recently came across the following tweet and have found it so validating:
Yes, a couple is a family. A person living alone can be a family. Roommates can be family. Pets can be family. The friends and people you choose to invite into your life are family.
Having children is not the only way to be a family.
As I continue to think about my life of being a mother to “only” one, my sweet son Calvin, I prepare myself for the inevitable comments from “concerned” observers:
Don’t you worry about Calvin becoming spoiled if he’s an only child?
Won’t Calvin be lonely without any brothers or sisters?
You should consider fostering or adoption.
I think for the most part, people who say these types of things are wanting to be helpful. But I have to say I’ve never found these comments helpful in the least – they are invalidating, insensitive, and offensive. Having kids (or more kids) does not automatically solve problems or make raising a child easier. Most of these issues need intentionality and time to be addressed.
Will Calvin become automatically spoiled if he doesn’t have siblings? No, he won’t. That’s not what makes a child spoiled or not. The way parents choose to raise a child is a much bigger determinant as to whether they become spoiled or not.
I’ve met people that were only children who are some of the sweetest and most generous people I know. They have invited me to be part of their chosen family, and have let me in on some of their family traditions and holidays. How special it is to be invited to be a part of someone’s chosen family. It’s one of the biggest honors I’ve been given in life. To be asked to be part of a Friendsgiving or to be invited over to a friend’s house for Christmas dinner – that’s huge to me.
Do I worry about Calvin becoming lonely with no siblings? No, he’s not lonely. He goes to school and church and is doing well making new friends. He is around other kids 6 out of 7 days of the week. We haven’t gotten into extracurricular activities yet, but once we do that will be one more opportunity for him to make friends and interact with other kids. Calvin may not have siblings at home to play with, but Dean and I try to be intentional to make time to do activities with him. Siblings are not what makes kids lonely or not lonely – helping Calvin foster meaningful relationships and modeling what meaningful friendships look like can help him avoid loneliness.
Should I consider fostering or adoption? Only if my husband and I decide that’s what is right for us. As of right now, it’s not. Pursuing in vitro or other invasive fertility treatments are also not what we feel is right for us at this moment. That doesn’t mean those options can’t be right for someone else. (Also take note that the word choice of “should” instead of “would” makes a big difference. If someone were to ask me, “would you ever be interested in adopting?” that comes across very differently than when using the word should.)
Families don’t all have to look the same. Each of us gets to define what “family” means to us. And then we get to validate and embrace the choices that others have made for their families, even if they are the complete opposite of what would have decided.
So your friend who “only” has one kid – instead of asking them when they plan to have another, tell them how great their kid is and that they are doing a wonderful job of raising them.
How about your friend who has 5 kids with another on the way? Tell them the great things you see about their children and wish them the best on their 6th.
Your friend who lives alone and has 5 cats? Ask them how their kitties are doing and offer to pet sit when they’re out of town.
It all boils down to the simple idea of loving and accepting people for who they are right now, not for who they might be someday.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have another child (honestly it’s hard to be certain of very much these days!) But I am sure that one of the greatest needs of my heart is to be loved and accepted, for my family to be loved and accepted – to be seen as whole and complete and wonderful.
Thanks for reading.