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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

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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.

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« Briefly, before the year ends | Main | About last night »
Saturday
Dec052009

Only

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)

Alice, you are a gem. Henry is more than enough: he seems like a wonderful, imaginative, challenging child, and his parents love him. What more could any of you want?

It's hard to convey well in a blog comment from a stranger, but I'm sending lots of love from the West Coast.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBether
Thank you.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDenise
Lovely. Henry is so lucky to have you for his mamma.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkate
Beautiful post, and I think I understand. Thank you.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucia
Oh, and I'd like to add:my husband has an older sister who he could quite cheerfully have done without throughout his whole childhood and teenage years, and their relationship is still difficult now in spite of his efforts.

Then again, he has a younger female friend who he is very sisterly with and it is a real blessing for him to feel like a protective older brother to her, and I know she appreciates that too. They are not related, they just found a sibling-like role that worked beautifully for them both. Who needs relatives?! x
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucia
Henry is most certainly enough. I think every parent wonders if they are making the right decision about.....everything. We have 3. Some days I wonder if that was too much and we are doing a disservice to them by "spreading ourselves too thin". What if I can't save for their college, give them enough individual attention, and so on and so on. We are always our own worst critics. Henry will be just fine, lots of people have one child. He is mostly, just really lucky to have you for a mother.

Also, I have had a miscarriage too. And it sucked, big time. It still sucks now when I think about it. And whenever you write about your experience I so appreciate it. I read what you have to write and I just nod and say "yes,yes".
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Anne, you wrote:>what about adoption?

I'm sure you've noticed that Alice and her husband love Henry very, very much. I don't think they will be surrendering him for adoption at any point in the future.

Why on earth would you think this is an appropriate question?



December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ.
Do not even spend one more second worrying about Henry being angry about being an only. He will be happy and perfect and well-adjusted and successful and he will thank you forever for a wonderful childhood. I am an only child, and loved it, and am perfectly adjusted with lots of friends and very happy.

Do what you think is right for you and your family, no one can ask more from you.



December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhalloweenlover
guilt no matter which way you turn. We've considered the same things with our little girl and I don't even have the same experience you had to justify to the masses that we are only having one, but we are. The worst part is the pressure from my in-laws. When you know you're right about your decision though it gets easier to deal with that (at least in my experience with it).
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMary
I had siblings and honestly, I don't think they made my life any better. It sounds harsh, but my brother bullied me relentlessly throughout my childhood, and my sister and I had nothing in common. I doubt I was a very good sister to either of them either. As adults, we have lost touch. I know where they live, but haven't talked to them for a few years now. Being an only child would not have made my life worse, and may have made it much more secure and stable.

You can't know what the dynamics between Henry and any other sibling would have been, and therefore you can't assume that a sibling would have enriched his life.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
i understand this so much. i'm in almost an opposite situation of being an only child and being quite content for a long time with my one beautiful boy. but now i find myself here excited to meet #2 but still wonder if i'm doing my son a disservice by taking away his "only" status.

it's all so hard and so confusing and i think we only all do the best we can with the lives and situations we're given. your beautiful boy is more than enough and don't feel that someone else's experience is what you should be having...
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichelle
No one has the right to dictate how many children you choose to have but you. No one.

I think the people who need their own choices validated by you imitating them are the selfish ones.

Having been through a couple of miscarriages, I wouldn't wish it on anyone else.

People will always say stupid things. I had two girls, four years apart (because of the miscarriages) and I can't begin to tell you the number of times I heard how I needed to try to have "my boy" (for the first time when my first was all of 9 weeks old!) or was asked why on earth I had the girls so far apart as if it were a stupid choice.

You've made the right choice for you. And if you change your mind, that's your business, too.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn
I'm a twin, so I've never not had a sibling, but my daughter is an "only" for lots of different reasons. I've had people say to my face that I'm selfish and my daughter is lonely. I just smile and walk away. She is my angel and I hope we are always as close as we are now. Only you know what is right for your family. And three is a beautiful number.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCF
Yes, it is a difficult thing - my sister and her husband are practically going bankrupt trying fertility treatments, it is a tough road - thank you for this authentic post...
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjer
It's like picking a scab. You have a beautiful wonderful family. And I know my comment means nothing but a tiny drop in the bucket, but I think you are awesome.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindy
I've tears in my eyes. Your Henry is so loved. How gorgeous for all of you. Look at all you have, indeed.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleeza
Thank you for writing this-it has given me peace. I went through a lot to become pregnant 7 years ago through IVF. I was carrying twins and only one made it. Though I had additional embryos on ice, waiting for a second try, I decided to let them go about 4 years ago. Life had thrown me a few curve balls that made the decision not to try again a bittersweet one.

On the bright side, I have a healthy, energetic, charming & loving daughter-and that is enough.

When people comment on why I don't try for another, I really don't get into any details. Those who know me know why. For everyone else, I just say, "One and done," and that stops further comments.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSue
I love the description as "enough" instead of "only." Beautiful.I think you do what works for you. But it's a big thing to be able to write about it and take criticism about it from both sides and still think it's enough. So thanks for writing it.I have two, and not because I needed our family to be "complete." I was complete as a mother with one. That was our decision, while I will never regret it, I have definitely thought about how some things would have been simpler with one.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterrachel
Of course he is enough! Look at him! He's wonderful! :)

Also, there will always be people who don't know why you would decide to do what you decide to do. There will always be people who don't understand. Who think you are selfish.

I was the oldest child of two, and depending on the time period, I wished either for a big family or no siblings at all. My brother and I don't even speak now, and as much as I wish for someone left in my family who could be my sibling in that way you see in movies, all conspiratorial and loving, that's not always how it works.

What I mean to say is, you may not be depriving him of anything. And he has two parents who love him immeasurably. And how wonderfully awesome is that!?
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKat
I don't understand people's obsessions with other people's family planning. I don't understand their pressuring others to have more babies as if it were as easy as picking up groceries at the store, as if babies didn't mean years of so much hard work and personal sacrifice. It's all a bit ridiculous.

You are the only one who gets to decide that for your family, and no one else has a right to question it. Let others think what they want. It's not their life-- it's YOURS. And YOUR family. No one else's. No one else's decision.

I realize this might not mean much as a complete stranger living on the opposite coast, but I wish I could give you a hug.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy
we have an only, a definitely only. some people think we'll change our minds but we found out the meaning of the name we had chosen: it means "entire, complete". we only found that out after we'd chosen the name, but there you go. He's a complete package and our one and only. I get ya, man.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterm
Oh, Alice. This is a beautiful post, and it made me cry with an emotion I can't name. Yes, my one child is enough. Yes, that should be the question, and I am so glad that Henry is enough for you.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Henry will be okay with being an only. Promise. I went through a phase when I was little where I wanted a little sister or brother, but it passes, and it's more a novelty thing than anything. Or at least, it was for me.



December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterS
The article is really fantastic too. Thank you for writing and putting into words what is hard for some of us to articulate.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBe Like The Squirrel, Girl
My mother kept trying. Trying and trying and trying. I know all the reasons she needed to, and understand the difficulties of the issues. I'm also a 32-year-old woman who has spent too much of her time wondering why she was never enough. Your decision is yours, and I honor you for making it. I also just wanted to say that when you said, "Henry is enough...Look at all that I have" it healed something in me.
December 6, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter-kel

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