Deciding to never have another baby was as stressful for me as deciding to have the first one.
I never gave a single thought to family size before I became a parent. I knew other people who did, people who wanted two kids, or four, or one, or 10, all for various reasons — usually a combination of reasons involving finances, their own backgrounds and how much they really liked an episiotomy or disliked peeing by themselves.
After I became a parent, I kept putting off thinking about family size, mostly because I had my daughter very young. I was not married, and not sure where I was going to be in a week, let alone a year. I couldn’t even think about the future, due to a combination of a busy schedule and what I assume were some kind of fugue states brought on by sleep deprivation.
Suddenly she was 2 years old, and then 5, and then I married her father. Sometime around her 6th birthday we had to really, really talk about our family size. Would we have more children? The answer was a resounding “No.” She’s 8 now, and every year we revisit the conversation. We don’t want to start over. We want to ensure financial security for our child. We want to be young empty nesters. We didn’t like the idea of a big age gap between siblings. We like peeing solo. We love our little family just the way it is. It all makes a lot of rational sense.
I still feel sad about it. Some days, I feel really sad about it.
Having your child long before the rest of your peer group has a lot of advantages, like abject poverty and friendlessness, but trust me when I say that there’s some bad stuff, too.
One of the hardest things for me now is watching women in my age group get all fat and happily pregnant. It’s not jealousy, per se, because I like pants with zippers, but it’s still a kind of ache. Even in all of my happiness for my friends, it is painful knowing that as they have kids and then give those kids siblings, I’ve had to say goodbye to having more children forever.
In no way is my situation like the pain of infertility, which is a kind of pain I won’t pretend to be able to know, but there is still a sadness there.
Sometimes I ask myself questions. Stupid questions like, “What if I didn’t get pregnant so young?” Or, “What if we just sucked it up and had another kid when my daughter was very young?” Or, “Would it be so bad if another baby just happened?” But then I remember that my life, as it is right now — exactly as it is right now — is a pretty kick-ass life. Is it perfect? No, of course not. But it’s perfect for me. Change one thing about it and it wouldn’t be the same. I know that, and I am happy to be the mom of an only child.
Usually a pregnancy scare or encountering a boogery toddler in the library is enough to cure me of this sadness anyway, and as for my friends, they deserve better than me mooning over what might have been. They deserve to enjoy and celebrate their pregnancies and births without wondering if my feelings are hurt.
After all, I’ll have plenty of time to weep into fancy cocktails on the child-free vacations I’ll be taking when my kid goes to college and theirs is entering middle school, right?