I really enjoyed collecting all of the perspectives on only childhood from friends and acquaintances that together made up this post. It was helpful in exploring my own feelings on having an only child, and sort of validating Bryce's assertions that having an only child from the beginning wasn't such a nutty idea.
It's kind of hard when your ideas of family size don't exactly match. I add it to the list of things that I feel behind on... deciding I was ready for adoption (Bryce was ready before I was), letting go of a phantom second child years and years into the journey (that was Bryce's preference from the start). It doesn't cause tension for us, although I really have struggled with guilt over the adoption readiness piece. If I could have let go of pregnancy earlier, who knows where'd we be now? It's all coulda woulda shoulda, nothing concrete or worth losing sleep over since it DID NOT HAPPEN, but I can't stop those particular wheels from turning.
I feel that my hopes for a family of more than one died when we couldn't transfer anymore. When those 8 embryos became homeless, I felt there was no more chance that we could have two kids. I was initially okay with twins, and then more trepidatious of twins as I knew more and more people who suffered tragic losses of one or both or had incredibly early labors and extended stays in the NICU. I started worrying that I was having a hard enough time getting and staying pregnant with one, so what made me think that I could do two at once? It was appealing for a time, though, because you could have two children in one shot. Or one cycle of shots, har har.
When we moved to adoption initially, we planned to hang on to those embryos as an insurance policy for siblings. We'd adopt, and then look into going back into the clinic since my body would have had a rest. But the further we got from being in the stirrups, the less I wanted to return there. It became this period of time that had very little light in it, and to return to that, with a toddler no less, sounded not only awful for me but logistically, too. Who was going to watch our toddler while I went to appointments? I had a rough time keeping myself together at the end of our journey without anyone really to be responsible for, how on earth would I manage that? I know people do this, but it just seems so much HARDER. And as time went on, we decided on the embryo adoption path instead. That my uterus was officially closed and we would fully commit ourselves to a family created through adoption only.
There are plenty of people who adopt more than one child. I just wasn't sure that we were going to be among them. Did you know that in the last year, my agency actually placed more babies with families who already had a child? Less went to homes that were beginning a family from scratch. I found that so interesting. One big reason why was that it was appealing for the expectant mother to know that her child would definitely have a sibling. We don't advertise that we probably won't adopt again, but we definitely can't promise a sibling.
It's just so hard, adopting one child. We aren't successful yet with one and this uncertainty is just awful -- you have these cycles of optimism and then cycles of complete doubt and fear that this just isn't going to happen, and it's all so out of your control. It's very tiring. Plus, I feel being in the over-forty camp makes things more tiring, and ever so slightly less likely to happen within a certain timeframe. I was talking with my chiropractor the other day, and she was saying, "you know, just one is so tiring when you're older. I love my daughter, and I am so glad we have her, but you are just completely sapped at the end of the day." I do believe the whole "having children keeps you young" to some extent, but I have seen my friends who are parents. It's exhausting. Rewarding and challenging and amazing, but if it's anything like End-Of-Year-Teacher-Tired, hoo boy. I'd like to give all my energy to one, to have a child who is parented energetically, rather than split it at this point.
Also, we were originally open to twins on our Child Interest Grid. This doesn't happen super frequently, but it does happen. Then we created our nursery. Then we took a long hard look at our house. I know that people raise families in tiny apartments in Manhattan, but it seems so tight. Our house seems tight just the two of us, and to add in two babies at once? Yikes. When we updated our grid for other things, we took twins off. And wondered what the hell we would have done had we actually become pregnant with two at once.
It is possible to have a situation where your child's birth mother becomes pregnant again and does not wish to parent. In those cases, the agency likes to keep biological siblings together. So there is an odd chance that this could happen. I know of situations where this has happened, and if that were to occur, we would not say no, barring some wacky other situation coming to pass that would make that difficult. But that is a very, very long shot.
Parenting two children who are adopted but have different birth families is also incredibly complex. PLENTY of families do it, but it comes with added difficulty. What happens if we have a great relationship with the first child's birth family, but the second child's family preferred a more closed relationship? Or isn't as consistent? How do you explain those differences? People do it, but I can't imagine how hard that would be. I feel like that could take sibling rivalry to all new levels, and cause all new kinds of pain when comparing situations, really on either side.
But at the same time, is it selfish for us to want to reduce complexity by having only one child? Are we robbing our adopted child of the experience of having a sibling who 100% gets what that's like? Or is that me fooling myself into thinking that they would band together in this way, as I know of people who had siblings who were adopted and they had more of a strained relationship because they viewed their adoptions very differently?
The fact is, it's unlikely that we will actually seek to adopt more than one baby, and here's why:
- Our age is big factor -- I originally wanted to have all my children before I was 30, and obviously that went the way of the dodo (and thank goodness, because they wouldn't have been with Bryce). Parenting after 40 IS different. Not worse, not better, although there are examples to support both, but different. I kind of want to revel in first-time parenthood and not worry about jumping back into this pool of waiting and homestudy visits and paperwork and feeling that weird dichotomy of it-could-be-tomorrow-or-it-could-be-next-year. I bet it's hard to explain to your child that their brother or sister is coming, but who knows when? How does THAT transition go? When you're pregnant it's a slow, gradual, visual transition. It's got to be interesting to work through that with a child when you're adopting a second. Having a second child in my midforties sounds completely exhausting.
- Space is a factor. I love our house. We love our house. Our house is adorable, if I do say so myself, but the space is limiting. I am highly jealous of the space in other friends' houses that are bigger, especially newer homes with large, non-terrifying basements. Basements that don't give their husbands concussions on the daily. BUT, if we had one child, we could stay in this house for longer and then move without a ton of financial hardship, because we would have that much more equity and could rebuild our savings without freezing the amount we have to keep in our savings for adoption. We have thought about moving many times, found homes that were wish-list-droolworthy, and every time we have to say, "not now, we can't risk the adoption fund."
- Another factor is finances. We are fortunate, and I am not complaining by any means. However, we've been locked down with funds for IVF and funds for adoption, and the adoption fund is a large chunk that goes out pretty much all at once and has to be there as long as we're waiting... which makes other things not possible. I want to be out on maternity leave for a while, and that will eat away at what's left of our savings. It will be a while before we can build that back up. We'll be fine, but to then build up another adoption nest egg instead of using that money for quality experiences for our new child? Hard to think on.
- Lastly, the death of uncertainty. I WANT TO STOP LIVING IN THIS EFFING LIMBO. I want to live in a life where I'm not waiting for something to happen, for this next part of our lives to begin. I want it to begin already and have all the everyday uncertainties of worrying about my child, not whether or not I will have one. When I do have one, I don't want to restart this cycle for a second. I just don't.
It's complex, right? Part of me is so, so, so jealous of the people who can talk about their family building plans and make them happen. A friend of a friend on facebook made their pregnancy announcement (again complete with ultrasound, ugh), and it was the rhyme, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!!!" OH HOLY JEEZUM. Is THAT how that goes? It's not, "And SEVEN YEARS LATER you're still trying to fill that baby carriage!?") I was at an event where this person was, in February, and she was talking about how she was starting to try to become pregnant. And she did. And if she envisions a family with more than one child, I bet that will happen, too. And that's the way it SHOULD be. I have to remind myself that this is what is "normal" in the fertile world. That having babies doesn't involve needles and lighting candles and special massages and surgeries and cycles of hope and despair for the chance to be pregnant. That there are people out there who will live their lives not really knowing what it's like to wonder if their family will turn out the way they dreamed, if a baby will materialize at all, and have to work so damn hard just for the hope that that can come to pass. It's just not their experience.
But it IS mine. And I have to weigh everything for myself, for us, for our family that hopefully gets to be one of three. And I take a little control back when I say, "You know what? I'm HAPPY to have one child. I turn the no-choice-not-really into MY CHOICE. I CHOOSE ONE. I will figure out how to make up for the things they won't have, and parent my one the best I can. But this is MY CHOICE." Really, it's me accepting the choice that is there given all the factors, but by golly, I'm going to claim it as my choice.
Bryce turned out awesome. So many of my friends who are onlys are awesome. It can be done. And we will do it...once we get the chance.