Guest List: Just One Child

Guest List: Just One Child

unnamedIt’s rare that someone asks to remain anonymous when I share their list. Its such a telling sign of just how brave the person has been in writing a list which is clearly so personal and raw.

This one is a prime example of that, where the author shares her experience of deciding to have ‘Just One Child’:


My daughter’s birth was the conclusion of many years of heartbreak, bravery and emotion for my husband and me.  First, we faced down an incurable, terminal genetic illness when my husband bravely took a genetic test to find out that he would not inherit the disease that had killed his father, and that he would also not pass on any risk to any future children.  We then, having thought we’d faced our great trial to have children, found the months of trying pass by and slowly realised we would need outside help to make the children we’d been fighting for a reality. Four years and one very fortunate round of IVF later, we held a tiny bundle in our arms and couldn’t believe our luck. Our prayers of “just one, please just give us one happy healthy baby” had finally been answered.

After the newborn fog had lifted, I discovered a couple of things;

  • First, my daughter was the most amazing person I’d ever met. She was and remains, beautiful, charming, calm, loving, sparky and very cheeky. She is also everything I ever wanted to be and I felt my main job as her mother was to help her keep her happy personality as she grows up.

  • Second, I had made the most wonderful group of mum friends. I’d somehow found an NCT group who all immediately clicked. There was not and never has been any competition, judgement or negativity. I feel I’ve got great individual friendships with each of them and the group as a whole is an enormous source of strength. We have been there for each other through sleepless nights, feeding dramas, terrible midwifes, and much more. All with different approaches, backgrounds and expectations of our lives as parents, it just worked from day one.

  • When maternity leave came to a close, I threw myself into a new job and so was surprised when first one friend, then another, then another, turned up at our regular nights out sheepishly ordering lemonade, and then announcing a second pregnancy.

  • It just hadn’t occurred to me that while having one baby for me was the end of a huge battle against the odds and a once in a lifetime experience, for others it was phase 1 of a bigger plan to build a family.

  • As these new bundles of joy arrived in our lives, and our ranks began to swell, a new version of the infertility conflict of joy, envy and sadness crept up on me.

  • For my friends, I feel real joy for and awe at anyone who decides to have more children. My daughter has always been very easy going, but we still feel thoroughly beaten a lot of the time, so anyone who takes a bad sleep situation and throws another baby into the mix has my upmost respect.

  • Similarly, anyone who can keep their head while getting more than one child out of bed, breakfasted and out of the house in the morning is a much more zen being than I am.

  • I sometimes see my friends struggle to attend to two, three or four children, or to deal with squabbles, or rivalries and I breathe a sigh of relief. I know myself well enough to know that the big family world of happy chaos is not one I would thrive in.

  • I see the need for bigger houses, bigger cars, more ruinously expensive childcare, and I feel grateful for my straightforward little triangle.

  • But at the same time, I would like to have made a choice.  While we could, theoretically, embark on more IVF to have more children, the already low odds are far more stacked against us now with the passing years.  I also don’t want to let myself fall into a mindset of “just seeing what happens…” because I know that the chances of anything happening are very, very low, and I would quickly find myself back in the heartache and misery of wanting something that isn’t going to happen. It feels better, kinder and healthier to say no, this is it, and this is wonderful.unnamed-1

  • And it really is wonderful. Our daughter brings so much joy and happiness. I don’t feel anything is lacking from my life, but I wonder what I am denying her life in not giving her siblings.

  • Before, I always assumed I would have more than one and imagined the jumble of family games, fights and jokes that characterised my childhood. It wasn’t all plain sailing, and my sisters and I have thrown enough slings and arrows at each other over the years, but then I remember one sister telling me she was only coping with my parents’ divorce because I was, or another ringing me for a long heart to heart and at the end saying “I’m so glad I have a sister”.

  • At the same time, an only child will never have the labels that siblings have; the loud one, the naughty one, the quiet one.  In our family, I am very much the eldest; responsible, anxious, law abiding. The others are more creative, risk taking and adventurous.  While this is us, these are also labels that stuck to us from an early age. My daughter on the other hand will only ever be herself, and the character of our family will be shaped by her personality, her likes and dislikes, far more than the other way around.

  • There’s no right answer of course, and no correct path or way to feel about it. I’m so lucky to have my family, and I’m just as lucky to have wonderful friends, who mean so much more to me than their fertility track record compared to mine, and all our paths happen to be different. And most days I remember that.unnamed-2

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7 thoughts on “Guest List: Just One Child

  1. This line really stood out for me –
    ‘I wonder what I am denying her life in not giving her siblings.’
    As an only child (more on how I feel about that term in a mo) I can honestly say you are denying her nothing. Because you’re giving her unconditional love and care and a lovely childhood. I can only speak from my experience but I never yearned for siblings. I was happy to have my mum and dad to myself, not to mention my bedroom and toys! Perhaps I found it a bit harder to make friends, but then how much of that was down to being shy? In the end however I had to and I think not having siblings actually made me more sociable. I have wondered in a curious moment what my brother or sister might have been like but not in a way that makes me sad.
    When it came to our own family I thought we’d only have one as we started late in life. If that had come to be I wouldn’t have worried about it. You say ‘Our daughter brings so much joy and happiness. I don’t feel anything is lacking from my life.’ Exactly. Focus on that and ignore the annoying questions about ‘Is she an only child?’ or ‘Are you trying for another?’
    I hated the term only child when i was little, it seemed (and is) cruel and derogatary. Why is there something missing? Whats wrong with me I wondered?
    I have no idea if my mum wanted more but I suspect she did. One day I will ask her but it always seemed a private matter for her and it’s never come up. All the best to you and your perfect family.

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  2. I feel like i could have written this post myself!! After 5 years of endless rounds of IVF, failed cycles, 3 miscarriages, tests, scans and all that jazz, my wee warrior girl was born with congenital heart disease. She is amazing and we love our life with her but i cant help feeling like we are depriving her of a sibling! When we embarked on our fertility journey the possibility of ever having 2 children just didnt occur to us as we knew we would be truely blessed just having one!! Now we are considering baby no 2 i just dont feel emotionally able to go through it all again and this has always made me feel so guilty! Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your story and show that its ok to choose just to stick with one wee miracle!

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  3. What a wonderful read. We are two years into trying to have baby number 2 after being very lucky first time round. I constantly remind myself to feel very grateful for what I have in my amazing daughter rather than focusing on what we haven’t been able to add to the equation. Your list rings true and I wonder how much of my daughters early years I have not fully appreciated because I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to give her a sibling, when she would probably just prefer to have a Mummy who doesn’t cry every month.
    Your attitude and approach to being a happy triangle is really refreshing and inspiring, I expect it comes from having been on such a journey to have your daughter. Thankyou for being brave enough to share it xxxx

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  4. Thank you for this amazing piece. Our first child is three now, and the first year was really hellish. We had trouble conceiving, but when we finally did, she was smaller than expected upon birth. I suffered from PPD and our little girl was incredibly unhappy health-wise. My husband and I are still recovering from that rough start and now we’ve reached a point where lots of other parents are having second children, but we’re just not sure. I’m finding it very difficult to work out how I truly feel about it and what I want deep down. I feel there’s so much pressure and expectation from my surroundings and, as another mother wrote, the question ‘when is she getting a little brother or sister?’ is constantly being asked. I’m pleased to read that one sometimes really is enough, thanks for sharing x

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  5. Thank you for sharing this, I completely agree with it all. We have 1 daughter through adoption after a long road to parenthood. I always thought we’d have more but we said no to her sibling because it just didn’t feel right. Making the decision tore me apart but now, 2 years on, I know it was absolutely the right thing. We were meant to be a family if 3.

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  6. A really great and insightful read, and you echoed so many of my own thoughts that I haven’t dared to voice. This line really stood out for me ‘an only child will never have the labels that siblings have’, I’m suffering with the effects of that as an adult and the last thing I want to do is replicate my childhood experiences. Our challenge has been Lucie’s early arrival which we are still feeling the emotional effects of even 21 months later. I just don’t know if I could go through that experience again. Perhaps its a recipe for disaster but I feel so invested in being the best person I can be for Lucie I don’t feel like I could factor another tiny human into that mix. It has taken me so long to enjoy the crazy little bundle that is Lucie I want to stay immersed in that. Thanks for sharing, best wishes to you and your triangle.

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