Companion Piece: On NOT Being an Only Child

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Me and my baby.

I’ve always, always assumed I’ll have more than one child.  When I was a little girl (and an IDIOT), I wanted to have four children.  This was undoubtedly a Little Women-based decision.  It seemed totally doable, since I was going to get married at 23, live in a castle with my prince and my youthful ovaries and pet unicorns to babysit the children.  Now that I am masquerading as a grownup, I know there are no castles (or unicorn nannies. Nannycorns?) in my future, so I don’t think more than two is a possibility, either for my bank account or my soon-to-be-geriatric uterus.

I don’t think there’s anything strange or objectionable about only children.  My mother, my husband, my best friend in the world, and my kid are all only children, and I think they are the TITS.  I just love the crap out of my brother.  I loved him when we were little, making “cakes” in the sand at Mission Beach and playing “Kidnapped by Ms. Hannigan” in our bunk beds; I loved him in our teens, honking the horn at strangers and making them wave at us, squirting pedestrians with windshield wiper fluid when the dispenser got knocked at a weird angle, rushing home from school to watch Beavis & Butthead on MTV before my parents got home.  And now, laughing and cooking and quoting Monty Python (the really obscure bits, not just the Holy Grail), and seeing the uncle he’s become.  With the exception of a brief period when we genuinely enjoyed beating the snot out of each other, my little-now-big brother has been one of the great joys of my life.

The thing about a sibling is, you always have A Person.  Not that you always like that person, but there’s always someone who knows what it was like.  Who grew up next to you, shared a room with you until one or the other of you became aware of puberty, was your only friend when you first moved to a new school (and in our case, another new school and another new school and another new school), wrote you letters (LETTERS!) to camp and college and study abroad. Someone who knows your family’s particular strain of crazy, and has been there for the best and the worst of it.

I want my son to have that. I do.

But oh, sweet suffering Jesus.

ANOTHER BABY. An infant.  And a toddler. At the same time.  I’m not gonna lie– post-partum depression was the scariest thing that ever happened to me.  I do not want to go there again.  I am still and forever exhausted, like I never caught up from the first months and never will.  We are JUST getting the hang of this; JUST learning to nap more-or-less well, just learning to sleep past 5:30 a.m., just getting a rhythm and a flow and a hint of sanity.  I’m only just starting to feel like maybe some days I’m doing this right.  He eats and he runs and he talks and he sleeps; his skinned knees and his all-day bedhead and the strawberry juice running down the front of his shirts make me proud of him and of myself .   Starting again seems like madness, a recipe for disaster and double doses of anti-depressants.  And a wine budget that I quite frankly cannot afford.

I can’t guarantee that N would have the relationship with a sibling that I’ve had with mine.  I can’t guarantee that I’ll be any better at two than I have been at one. I can’t be sure that it isn’t fiscally irresponsible to add another person to our little family.  In point of fact, I can’t say with any confidence that having another baby isn’t a truly terrible idea.

I was talking to my parents about this today, their 40th wedding anniversary.  My mom told me about how 33 years ago, they made a list of all the reasons to have another child, and all the reasons not to.  The “not to” column was way longer, she says.

They did it anyway.


5 thoughts on “Companion Piece: On NOT Being an Only Child

  1. It is a dilemma, but I think both answers are OK. We are glad we have two: but I think for most families, it works out no matter what. (But really, having brothers, it was hard to imagine not having at least two! Despite lack of nannycorns.)

  2. I hated every minute of my first pregnancy. I hate every minute of this second pregnancy. Saw this link to your blog through Chris. I hated being an only child. I know I will suffer PPD again (shit, i’m already depressed), but I can’t wait for my daughter to have a sibling. My mom had me when she was 40, so yeah I can’t blame her for not giving me a sibling. But I know I am fertile and haven’t had as many problems as you have mentioned in previous blog posts. Your child will forgive you if you can’t do a second one. Your child will probably also go through a period of hating having a sibling too 🙂 It’s a lose-lose situation. For everyone!

  3. Pregnant with my second, I have these same fears daily. It is terrifying. Especially infancy with a three year old. If I survive, I will let you know how it goes.

  4. As someone in the throes of holy-shit-i’m-exhausted-but-completely-and-terrifyingly-in-love phase of having a newborn, I simultaneously cannot imagine doing this again in a year or 2, and would also birth an entire baseball time if my poor uterus and wallet would allow it.

    For what it’s worth, this NYT article is one of the many things that has made me cry in the past couple months, and makes a compelling argument for siblings.

    Aw, crap, now I have to go FaceTime them and tell them I love them.

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