Not long after Zoe was born, I met two ladies in my neighborhood for coffee. All three of us had just delivered beautiful baby girls, but I was the only first-time Mommy in the group. I was anxious to hear advice from these two ladies who were already Girl Mommies. What should I expect? Is it normal for my daughter to cry all of the time. Which brand of diapers should I buy?
My husband had taken two-weeks of paternity leave but once that ended, I was home alone with my very demanding baby. I had no idea what to do. I was scared out of my mind and really needed advice from women who had been there … done that.
During the conversation, one of the ladies said something about “only children.” I can’t remember why this topic came up but as she was starting to gossip about someone’s only child, she paused, looked at me and asked, “you aren’t going to be one of those people who has only one child are you because only children are always such freaks?” I quickly shook my head no, because at the time, I was only focused on the “only one child” part and not the thoughtless, cruel “always such freaks” part. "Of course I’m going to have more children. Why wouldn’t I?" I thought to myself.
Fast forward, three plus years and numerous amounts of time and money spent on infertility treatments. I’m finally reaching the “acceptance” phase of grief. I’m accepting the fact that Zoe quite possibly might be an only child. Not by my choice but by a choice being made for us by the universe. We have no money left for more painful infertility treatments and no money for adoption. We’re tapped. This appears to be the end of the road for us. We are a family of three, and I’m working on being ok with that.
But I keep thinking about the mean-spirited comment made by that second-time mom so many years back. Does she even remember making the statement to me? How many other people has she scarred with her matter-of-fact stereotype? Does she look at my 3 year old daughter and wonder why in the world we don’t hurry up and have another one before the freak-factor sets in? Does she realize how many times I’ve reflected on her statement with fear that my only-child will turn out to be a freak because she has no siblings? And there’s not a darn thing that I can do about it?
Events in our lives have a way of giving us a cosmic kick in the behind, forcing us to let go of old, set-in-stone ways of thinking and select new paths. A friend recently told me that she hated Sarah Palin because she cut government funding for special needs children until she had one of her own. My guess is that Ms. Palin got one of those cosmic kicks in the behind that forced her to look through a different set of glasses. And she didn’t like what she saw … so she changed. And change is good, especially when it makes us better people.
If I were a much braver person, I’d approach said woman and tell her how much her statement made so many years ago still hurts me to this day. But I’m not brave at all. In fact, I’m a big, ole coward so I’ll continue to try to move past the pain on my own. And hope I never have to deal with my daughter’s tears because a kid at school calls her a freaky only child.
Two interesting articles on only-children:
Only doesn’t mean lonely
Only-Child Syndrome or Advantage? (photo "borrowed" from here)