Nate and I often make jokes about how easy it was for the two of us to decide to only have one child. We say that we knew that when she got older, all of our lives would be easier, and our one and only daughter would grow up to be mature and at home with all kinds. So not true. Or, at least, it wasn’t true at first. We realize now that we love our one kid lifestyle. I love being able to pick her up from the bus stop and jet off to get fro-yo without having to worry about nap times, diapers and bottles for a younger sibling. Getting a babysitter or letting her go for a night at a grandparent’s house is easy for us. When she has friends over, I usually get to do my own thing for a while. It may seem selfish at first, but I really love those aspects of our life.
However, I don’t love how often she calls the cats her “brothers,” because she doesn’t have any. How she tells me all she wants for Christmas/birthdays/Halloween/President’s Day/whatever is a younger/older sibling; anyone at all who is remotely close to her in age and experience who can stand by her side. Someone to laugh with and blame things on and scream at and build pillow forts with.
When Nate and I first got married, one of the first obstacles we faced was an early miscarriage. Nate, not knowing how I could get so upset about losing something we had always said we didn’t want anyway, did not immediately understand why I was reeling. I didn’t understand it myself, actually. After our daughter was born, I had such a difficult time adjusting to motherhood. Sometimes I would quietly allow myself to envision what my life would be like if she had never been born. In the small, dark closet of my mind, I imagined myself happier, calmer and more at peace without an infant. Of course, following these little fantasy sessions was a rib crushing guilt that I would ever think that way about my own baby. Looking back, I know that I was struggling (and failing to deal with) a mixture of a depressive episode caused by my as then undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and likely some postpartum depression.
When she was a year old, Nate and I decided to try to expand our clan. We couldn’t. We lost three babies over the course of a few months. And each time I reminded myself of what I had thought when our daughter was new. “You brought this on yourself,” was my almost daily battle cry. The most difficult loss was when I was able to at least see the plus sign on the test before the miscarriage started.
Now, when friends announce pregnancies or plans, we laugh and tease. “Gosh, don’t you know what causes babies!!” and try to come off as the smug, smart couple who was genius enough to only have as many kids as they could handle. (ONE) My heart breaks for the babies we could have had and sometimes I think about how old they would have been, and what milestones they would be smashing this year. Would we be throwing a Spiderman birthday party?
We love the life we have, but it’s difficult to not think about, and grieve for the life we could have had.