The Only Child

Photography :  Bec Griffiths

Photography : Bec Griffiths

Spend more than five minutes with me and I’ll compulsively mention the fact that I can’t have any more children. It’s a bit pathetic. It’s also probably why Esther asked me to write this post: to shut me up. 

I would tell anyone who’d listen that we tried, we wanted, we couldn’t. Which is all a touch miserable, and pretty offensive to the one excellent child we did manage to have.

It’s just … I didn’t want to be judged for having one kid. I didn’t want to be mistaken for someone who’d chosen to bring one of those weird ‘only-children’ into the world. 

But listen to that, would you? The only judge-y cow around here is ME, heaping my own prejudices on perfectly normal parents who’ve actively decided that one kid is enough, thank you very much. They’re almost certainly better people than I am, because they have the balls to be upfront about their single-kid decision. 

Up until recently, we sat somewhere in between the two. The wanting, but also - the not wanting?

Primary infertility suuuuuuucks. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s almost worse than cancer (and I can say that now). With most cancers, you get kick-in-the-guts news once, maybe twice, a year. With infertility, you get that every. single. month. For years. It’s a white noise of grief and desperate wanting. 

Secondary infertility is different, rather like carrying around a little growl of sadness. Small, but there nevertheless. So although we had a perfectly good kid, we continued to thump along with IVF. While no-one ever said it, I did wonder if after having one surprise baby it was a teensy bit selfish to try and roll a miracle again.

Is that greedy? We both grew up with siblings. And how good are siblings!? It’s very primal to have a genetic buddy with genuine understanding of just how fucking mental your parents are. Also - I was shit at having a tiny baby. I spent the first six months reeling from the pure shock of it all. I was mourning the chance to do it again, properly.

And there’s the true, heavy sadness of knowing my only child will have to handle the depressingly bureaucratic job of managing her (hopefully) elderly mum and dad. It’s a tough job, caring your parents into death. It would have been nice for her to have someone pull a shift every now and again.

Then, with all this whirring around in my head - SURPRISE! Cancer! My lady bits had to be zapped with thirty sessions of radiation therapy, and suddenly babies weren’t on the agenda anymore.

At the time I marvelled at how clean it felt to hear, ‘You won’t be having any more children’. Yes, there was that growly sadness. But also … the relief. No more wondering, no more supplements, no more calendars, and (thank god) no more hormones.

I know it’s a cop-out, but it was a comfort to hand the future of my infertility treatment to someone else. Being freed from the decision-making was incredibly liberating. Someone else made the call for us, and we were allowed to sink into the life I think we’d subconsciously already decided to be happy with.

Because having a single kid isn’t a consolation prize. It’s the best, you guys. The three of us are a tight little club and there is so much love and gratitude for what we have. There are many wonderful things about having one child - the bond feels between us all feels fiercely strong, because we only spend time with each other. There is a focus of attention, time and love that I’m not sure we’d be able to manage if we had a tonne of kids.

Less sentimentally, but just as crucially, I’m also a smug shit because when the kid is out, we are completely on our own. Every playdate or birthday party is a free babysitting pass, which has to count for something, right?

People are nosey, insensitive arses and often point at my daughter and say, ‘just the one?’ 

Just? Just!? Since my diagnosis, I had been enjoying the freedom to look them dead in the eye and say, ‘We can’t.’ Oh-hoh … that got ‘em! But now I’m rethinking my strategy. Now, I’ve decided, it’s going to be a dazzling smile and a, ‘Yes, one. Aren’t we lucky?’

~ This article was first published over at the fabulous The Spike ~