Two weeks ago our son turned ten years old.
A ten-year old is a big kid, technically a tween. He is starting to get a few pimples on his chin – which I have been actively trying to remedy – and (sometimes) wears deodorant. His shoulders are becoming broader, he is obsessed with sports, and refuses to allow me to put my arm around him when we are out for a walk (“someone might see”). Typical.
He’s also our only child – by choice.
Our decision to raise a singleton, started almost 12 years ago. Like many couples, my husband and I were in our early-30’s when we married and we were happily pursuing our careers. We were busy…we were successful…we were in love. Tired of living in a cramped, fifth-floor walk-up apartment in New York City, we decided to take the plunge and buy a home near his family in Connecticut. Despite the hour-long commute, everything was peachy. We loved our cute little Cape Cod house and started to befriend our neighbors – all of whom had kids…and where there are toddlers, infants are sure to follow.
There’s nothing like holding a tiny newborn to remind a 34-year-old woman that her reproductive days are dwindling. We had always assumed that we’d have children…someday. But time, according to statistics, was no longer on our side. And so the conversation began. We were old enough to understand that having a child would significantly impact our lives, our careers, and our bottom line. Were we ready? Were we responsible? Would we be good parents? Ok, we agreed, let’s do this.
We tried…nothing happened. We tried again the next month, and the next, and the next. I had read enough articles warning women of my generation about their declining fertility, but I never thought it would happen to me. I was healthy, I exercised, ate right, didn’t smoke, drink excessively, got regular periods, something wasn’t right. With the word “infertile” echoing through my brain, I phoned my doctor seeking a referral to a reproductive specialist.
After a battery of tests, our doctor determined that the problem was rather simple; I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, easily remedied with a daily dose of medication. Prescription in hand, we proceeded with the baby-making. Three-months later, on an unusually warm April morning, I walked past an overflowing New York City garbage can on my way to work. The smell, one which I was well acquainted with after living in the City for more than 10 years, suddenly provoked the urge to vomit. On my way home from work, I stopped into the local drugstore and picked up a pregnancy test – 38 weeks later, I was holding a squealing, red newborn.
We settled into a new routine, adjusting to life with a very demanding new family member. I left my job of 14 years for a part-time position just a few miles from home, found childcare, and like all new parents, found every coo and milestone absolutely remarkable. Life was good.
Two years later, we asked ourselves, “Do we want to do this again?” Our honest answer was, “No.” Although we love our son and being parents, there was something special about our little family of three. But were we missing something? Was it fair to our son to deprive him of a sibling? Would he be lonely? Would he become a spoiled brat? Could I handle another child? Could I balance my work with another baby? We were happy and felt complete. No, we decided, despite my grandmother’s claims that we “were not a ‘real family’ until we had at least two children,” we believed that we were doing what was right for us, for our family.
But occasionally doubt would creep in. Another friend would announce that she was pregnant with her third, or fourth, or (gasp) fifth, and I would wonder if we would regret our decision. The real test came one month when I realized my period, which was fairly regular, was more than a week late. Instead of feeling happy or excited, I was panicked, and the look on my husband’s face when I told him, revealed that he felt the same. The E.P.T. was negative and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Ten years later, we have no regrets. Our son is a happy, well-adjusted, kind, and confident person. He has a more active social life than I do. He’s only asked for a sibling once, when he was four and decided that he wanted a playmate, but not a younger one…an older one who could help him put together the Lego set that was a little too challenging for him.
He realizes that there are pros and cons to being an only. His friends think he’s lucky that he doesn’t have to share the Wii or put up with younger siblings. He loves visiting his friends with big families and having the chaotic experience that comes with a house full of kids, but also says that he’s happy to come home to our comparatively calm home.
It’s not an easy decision, to have an only, either by choice or circumstance, but ultimately, it was the right one for us. Yup, despite my grandmother’s statement to the contrary, we are a real family.