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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

Some Books
I'm In...

Sleep Is
For The Weak

Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« Briefly, before the year ends | Main | About last night »


We're walking home from school.

"I was thinking," Henry says. "I was thinking it would be good to have a little brother."

I can't help but picture it. Henry holding a little boy's hand, guiding him as he toddles down the sidewalk next to us. He would have been such an excellent big brother.

"Or a sister," he says. "Yeah, actually? I think I want a sister. Because I like the girls I'm related to. So I think if I had a sister, I would like that."

I am murmuring noncommittally. "Huh!"I say. "Hmm!"

"So," he adds, looking at me, "can I get one?"

"I don't think it's in the cards for us, sweetie," I finally say.

"What does that mean, in the cards?"

"It means I don't think it's going to happen."

"That's okay," he says quickly. "That's fine. I was just thinking. "

I try to point out the advantages of being an only child. The quality time with us. He does not appear convinced.

"It could be fun, though," he says.

"Yes," I agree. "It could be."


When we made the move back to the city from the suburbs, part of it was because we realized we weren't going to try again. There are so many reasons, and if I give them, I'm afraid someone's going to pop up in the comments to argue that our reasons aren't good enough. "Oh, you can still have a second even if X!" this imaginary person might say. "My precious miracle came about even though we also thought Y and Z and you might be the same way so keep on trying!"

No. It's not going to happen.

And I am sorry. I am. It's so much more satisfying for everyone else, to have a successful pregnancy after a miscarriage. It's expected. You keep on trying, and then eventually you get pregnant and it all works out and the miscarriage becomes an unfortunate blip in your otherwise upbeat narrative. I realize that this is kind of a bummer.


Henry hasn't asked about a sibling for a long, long while--long before I had the miscarriage. It's interesting that it's come up for him now, just as my essay appeared in The Sun and I've been sort of overwhelmed by the feelings stirred up by the publication and its response.

I have to admit, I feel a little strange about all these Sun readers emailing me, responding as if I still feel the pain of the miscarriage as acutely as I did back when the essay was written. I wrote it well over a year ago, and when I finished, I felt like I had exorcised something. I exorcised it and saved it in a Word file and then I was free. And now all these people are expressing their sympathy, when that pain has dulled to an occasional ache, and I feel like I'm pretending to be something I'm not. Like I need to tell them they've made a mistake.

Then as I'm responding to them, something bursts open. All that pain I thought I had purged, that deep, awful well. It's right there, and I want to scream. Then I want to thank all these people who wrote to me, because part of me was afraid it was gone. Nope, still there. I still miss that baby I thought I was going to have. That baby who would have been one year old just a couple of weeks ago.

So many people writing to me want me to know about the children they had after their miscarriages. The happy endings they wish for me. I know they're hoping to make me feel better, I get that, but all I can think is, there won't be a second for me. And then I think: because I'm too selfish.

I am ashamed. Because I've made a decision, and at the heart of it, I made it for me. Scott and I made it for us. And for Henry, but who can really say what's best for him, at this point? I'm afraid we're doing Henry a disservice. That we're leaving him alone as we get older and more helpless, that we're depriving him of a soulmate and ally, someone to build forts with or whatever else I imagine he'd do with a sibling when I'm really beating myself up over my decision.

I wonder if he'll forgive us. I wonder if he'll hate us for it. I wonder if he'll be glad.

Of course I know, rationally, that only children can be happy and successful. I know that Henry's happy and well-adjusted and loved beyond measure. I do.

But it keeps coming up. They think I'm selfish, I think, when other parents ask me if Henry is an "only." Stingy. Not willing to spread myself just a little too thin. I want to give them my reasons. My very good, well-considered reasons. But I'm afraid they'd argue that those reasons aren't enough.

Henry is not an only, I want to say. Henry is enough. Can't that be the question? "So, was Henry enough for you?" I could confirm that without a trace of shame.

Just look at him, I could say.

Look at my boy. Look at all that I have.

at the beach

Reader Comments (245)

I have come back to read this over and over. My husband and I both have siblings, but, in both our cases, with a large age difference that made us only children in any practical sense. My sister moved out for college when I was 2. I can say that, for me, it was fine, great even. There were times that I wished for a sibling, but in the long run, the positives far outweighed the negatives.

What you said about your Henry is beautiful! He is enough. Likely, he is more than enough. And that is all that matters.
December 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Henry does not need a sibling. It is not a garenteed best friend. Many fight and bicker and some never talk at all (my MIL was just visiting and talking about the brother she has not seen in 15 years).

What Henry wants in a neighbor friend! A kid you take with you on vacation and one pick up on the way to the museum! One that sleeps over on weekends when Henry is not sleeping over at his friends house.

A kindred.

I had one growing up. She lived across the street from me.

Though I call my brother once a month and have him over on best friend and I are ALWAYS there for each other.

No blood tie required.

I wish that for Henry. For everybody, really.
December 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternikolc
Another beautiful post from you that nearly made me cry. Thank you.
December 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael F.
I felt like a heel the other day, because I was shooting (photographing) a young couple with dogs and I asked about future children. They've already chosen not to have children. Which is completely respectable. I'm just sure they get that question a lot and they're tired of it.

Two was "right" for me and my family. One is right for others, and none is right for some.

When we were considering a third, it's amazing how many people advised us against it. Even my eight-year-old daughter, who said, "You can barely handle the ones you have now." Yes. She really said that.
December 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C
I haven't read through the 200some comments above, so I'm not sure what was said and what wasn't, but I wanted to tell you that I'm in exactly the same boat as you are.

I tell my little boy that he makes me so happy and completes my life so much that I couldn't bear to have another child.

Truth is, I can't bear another child easily, and I refuse to put myself and my family through the heartache of "trying".

I feel the same way you do about the disservice of it all, but then I look at my husband and his sister. They can't stand one another, it's been a strained relationship since the beginning and it brings so much heartache to him that it is unbearable. She isn't a terrible person, and neither is he. They are just two very incompatible people who happen to share parents.

Being the mother of a single child is sort of new in our society. I think that children like our boys are everywhere, and maybe they won't feel like a minority once they get a bit older and realize that other moms have made the decision to stop at one.

Plus, who wants to be like so many moms who have 2+? Broke and tired and rundown? No thanks.I'm a better mom when I have a few extra dollars and 8 hours of sleep under my belt.

December 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLora
I love this post and have re-read it several times. I'm so sorry for the pain you felt with your miscarriage.

I have one child. He's almost 10 now and there's hardly a day that goes by that I don't wish he could have had a sibling. I don't think that wish will ever go away. He would be an awesome big brother.

I was 40 when he was born and by the time I had even considered the thought of having another, my husband had already been to doctor and snip-snip, no more kids. (I agreed to this, I don't know why, he seemed so eager. He had two kids previously, so for him his 3rd and last child had just been born. And I really thought one would be enough. At the time, anyway, that's what I thought.)

So, yes, technically, he has two half-siblings. They are 10 and 12 years older than him, and we see them a few times a year. I hope they'll be there for him during this life, but they don't have the kind of sibling relationship you get by living with someone in their day-to-day life. Growing up together. Fighting, laughing, playing. They're kind of like the favorite cousins that live farawy.

We have a wonderful life and the ability to do so much with him. I love him with every thing I have. He has a lot of friends and like your Henry is loved beyond measure by a lot of people.

Thank you for this post. I've never shared these thoughts with anyone, not even my closest friends, and it helps to put it out there.
December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDonna
Beautifully said. I also have an only. She wasn't always an only, but that's another story, and many people who know me here in this life we've made for the last 15 years don't even know there was ever anyone else. I never feel that I'm being judged when someone asks 'is she your only one' - I always thought it was because growing up as one of three I thought onlies were exotic and wonderful and doesn't everyone think like me? But truthfully...I think I don't think about what THEY are thinking because even now, 15 years later, everytime someone asks me if I have kids, or if my one is an only...I have the internal debate about whether I say 'I used to have two, but now I have one.'
December 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoAnne
I've been a long time reader and fan of The Sun. After reading your post I knew there was something familiar about the writing style, and how alive it was. Then I saw your name there and it was an "AHA, no wonder" moment. Big fan. Awesome post in the Sun too!
December 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleah
I have "just" one and that's all I want. I grew up poor, and never wanted to have to ration things the way my mom had to. I was also 39 when my daughter was born and, having had a fairly easy time getting pregnant, didn't want to have to go on the emotional/financial infertility rollercoaster for another.

Selfish? Maybe. But more selfish than having kids I can't afford or spending all the money I could have spent on my first kid's education just to have another? I don't think so. I know that's different from having to reconcile with miscarriages, but I do want to affirm that "just" one can be just fine.
December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
I have an only and she is enough, she is wonderful and perfect and in a few years I will ship her off to college and hopefully I will have done my best. I on the other hand am selfish I do want another. I raised her by myself I was 19 when I had her. I am still young I want to have a "normal" family. God that sounds horrible I don't mean it the way it sounds.

December 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterM
I didn't read the comments, I didn't even read the other posts you linked to yet, because I had to say thank you! Thank you thank you thank you for putting into words the exact things that I think but never made it onto paper. I have a 5 year old, had a miscarriage when she was 3 (on her 3rd birthday, actually. How great that was.) We tried for a while, but my heart wasn't in it. We stopped trying, for good reasons that never seems good enough for other people. Maybe they are selfish, but they are good enough for me, good enough for my husband, and my daughter thankfully shows no desire to have a sibling. Most importantly, we are happy, happier than we have been in years.

I will stop rambling, and say again, thanks.
January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoberta
i stumbled upon your blog today and was touched by this post. completely and totally touched to the bottom of my soul. how brave to share all of yourself! i'm just a stranger, but i do want to say to you, it's YOUR family and whatever you decide will be the right thing to do. anyway, thanks for this lovely post.
January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBiz
Amen. Enough said.
January 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
SO perfectly said. I have one 15 month old girl, and my husband and I have no desire for another.....and it is SO hard for everyone to accept that when I tell it to them. So its wonderful to hear you put it so well! It's like you are in my head... :) XOXO
January 4, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterashley
January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkristen_verity
My husband and I had our first baby just six months ago. I'm turning 35 in just a month or so. I have been so back and forth on a second baby that it drives me crazy. I love my son Miles more than I've ever loved anything or anyone. I know I can love another the same way but I'm not sure if we should even try. I'm scared, I'm selfish, I'm tired. So although my reasons are different than yours, I get your fears and your questions. I know that if we decide to not have another, it will be okay.
January 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

I realize that I am late in the game to be commenting on this but it touched me so much and has come at a perfect time to hear it. We also had a couple of losses before our little Mahalia blessed our lives. We have recently decided to not have another for 'our' reasons and like you, I always feel like I have to justify it to people. Mostly this is my issue of maybe wondering in the back of my mind if it is the right thing to do. But you really summed it up for me, Alice when you said that Henry is ENOUGH. That is really the bottom line for us and thank you for sharing with all of us.

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterstella

I know this post has long since been filed but I'm wondering why having an only child is "selfish"? I think it's an empowered decision. Do you have any insight as to why? I personally think spreading yourself thin in an air of providing your kid with a playmate might be a little selfish too.

May 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMailornish

Thank you for this! It's how I feel about my daughter. She is enough. More than enough. She is awesome and perfect and I feel totally complete with her.

August 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Robertson

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