Some decisions in life are clear and straightforward. They usually come with a choice between A and B and can be made without a whole lot of effort. However, when it comes to major life decisions about things like health, family, money, and work, those conversations become intensely complicated. And sometimes the decision just never feels decided.
My husband Bob and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary just after Christmas. When we were dating and first married, we would always have fun dreaming how many kids we would one day have together. I usually said three while he usually said two. We both come from a family of three children – he is the oldest and I am the youngest. I just always assumed that life would bring us multiple children and that is exactly what I wanted. Then that funny thing called life happens . . .
To give you the short version, I started having noticeable health problems at 23 years old, with symptoms showing about two months after our wedding day. After years of medicine and numerous tests and doctor opinions, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. My symptoms continued to get worse, which led to numerous surgeries over an 8-year period. Bob and I tried multiple times to get pregnant during that time, but nothing was happening, most likely because I was so sick. After meeting with infertility experts, we underwent four unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization treatments. Adoption came up very early in the conversation, but we wanted to try everything we could to see if I could get pregnant first. But, as fate would have it, this is not how we were meant to become parents. We started the adoption paperwork and approval process in November 2009, were approved in May 2010, were matched with a birthmother in July 2010, and became parents to our precious Megan in November 2010. After 13 years of marriage, it was finally our turn and we could not have asked for a better experience.
We are now three years down the road and loving our days with our full-of-life preschooler who always keeps us on our toes. The question of a second child has been on our minds for a couple of years now. I had to have a hysterectomy in August 2009, so adoption was the only way we would be able to grow our family. We had such a positive experience the first time, why wouldn’t we want to do it again?
When it comes to whether or not someone is going to make the decision to have one, two, three, or more kids, everyone comes to this decision from a different place. I have several friends who are at the crossroads of this decision, and although all of our circumstances are different, our feelings behind it are similar. When I did some searching on the Internet about having one child, I actually discovered a lot of negative views. I came across words like “selfish” when talking about parents that made the decision to have one child. I am not a fan of labels like “only child,” which also seems to have a negative connotation to it. It makes me think, what would our world look like if every family were just able to make the decisions that were best for them with society’s judgments and opinions left at the door?
We actually have a lot of friends who have one child and I have spoken to many of them about their decision. For some people this is a decision, while others have had to accept it because of other reasons, usually because they were unable to have more children. Whatever the reason, it is never an easy one and sometimes one of the hardest to accept. It seems like the word “want” is always the word of choice used when people ask you about whether or not you will grow your family. Do you “want” to have more kids? Sometimes it is not as simple as wanting.
I have always felt compelled to go through the reasons with people on why we would not try to adopt again, why we would choose to have “only one child.” Each time I took the energy to do this, I would hurt more and more. Somehow I always left that conversation feeling bad about myself, like my reasons were not valid or I was trying to justify it. We had such a beautiful experience the first time, are we afraid it wouldn’t happen that way a second time? Sure. We have been though so much, are we afraid to put ourselves out there again? Absolutely. Whatever reasons and debates come up in our mind as we make this decision is just that, our reasons. I think this is important for families making this decision to remember, as it is so personal. It is not about whether we “want” more children. It is about what is best for our family at this point in our lives.
One of the factors of whether or not to have more than one child that I know is difficult for people is the sibling factor. Will my child be ok without a sibling? This is a very difficult issue for Bob and me as we make this decision. We both have two siblings and love them dearly. It does make us sad to think she would not have a brother or sister, but we also know that we can’t adopt another child just so she will have a brother or sister. Megan is blessed with a lot of friends and we will always help her foster and cherish those relationships. She also is blessed with cousins she is very close to, including two that are within 10 weeks of her in age. The sibling factor will always be something I will revisit in my head even when we make peace with this decision. All you can do is hope you make the right decision.
Another big factor that I have struggled with a lot is the “I will only get to do this once” factor. Every milestone is a once in a lifetime experience essentially and that has made me sad sometimes. We have just had so much fun raising Megan and all the fun steps along the way, but it is difficult to know that it will only happen once. We have learned to appreciate them and always have another fun one around the corner. It sure does give me an excuse when I want to buy her another dress or another toy. I can always justify it with a “but, this is the only time I will get to do this!”
If I had to tell you right now whether or not we would try to adopt another child, I would say no. Bob and I really are at about the same place with this and I think we are feeling more at peace with it every day. Looking back at all we have been through as a couple I think we are exactly at the place we were always meant to be. One of the questions I have come to ask myself is, if I put Bob, Megan and I on a stranded island, would having one child be enough? My answer is always a very confident yes. So, when people ask me “why” and “do you want” when it comes to having more children, I just tell them that we feel complete as a family and that brings us the peace we have been searching for through all these years.
Although I feel this peace, am I still able to say that the door is closed? No. But I don’t think that means we are necessarily still thinking about it, it just goes back to making a life decision that never feels decided. Am I ready to give away or sell all of the baby gear? No, but loaning it to friends helps and enables me to put off letting go even more. Am I ready to give away all the dresses and cute baby outfits? No, but I love seeing them on friends’ kids who we share them with a lot. I am almost ready to feel it but not say it. Would I ever consider adopting an older child or becoming a foster parent? I would but I’m not sure that opportunity will ever be the right one for our family. Bob and I want to raise the best daughter we can and show her the world. We want to raise someone that values giving back, being a good friend, and reaching for the stars. We want to provide her every opportunity to be her best self. This is what we “want” and we are very much at peace with that decision. But I am still giving myself space to keep the door cracked . . .