I'm back. It's been over a year and I've missed this space. We've been dealing with our son's increasing seizures over the past year. The seizures continue, but so does life. So...here's a column I wrote a few months ago for Natural Life Magazine. This is a subject that really moves me...
One and Only
Okay. I've had enough. It's time to put this in writing.
I have one five year old son. That makes my son an only child. That makes me mother of an only child. I am thirty-seven years old, my husband is forty-two, and our wonderful son is five.
However, I worry about writing that my son is wonderful because lately our critics would say I am a typical over- indulgent mother of an only child.
And I'm growing weary of it.
I don't know if we will have more children. As the parents to a child who was diagnosed with a catastrophic seizure disorder, Infantile Spasms, at five months of age, it's a complicated issue. Over the past five years, we've had seven emergency rides in ambulances. I've hovered in that horrible place where I wait for my son to start breathing, stop seizing, or wake up and be himself again. Each time we speed to the hospital with sirens blaring, I ask myself, what would I do if I had a newborn right now? Would I be able to sustain a pregnancy with this stress? What if my next child has health concerns? There is a voice inside me that says, "this is enough. I can't manage anything else."
At the same time, I long for my boy to have the sibling relationship that I enjoyed growing up. I love being a mother and miss nurturing a baby. I feel selfish to deprive him of siblings but I also feel selfish to bring another person into our world when sometimes it feels like we can barely manage our current situation.
I've been told that we would find a way to cope. This gives me chills. Since my son's devastating diagnosis, we've been struggling to move beyond just coping, to live our lives with joy and without fear. We're almost there.
Born by emergency C-section, our son's birth was frightening for all three of us. I underestimated how much time it would take for us to heal. I don't want to imply that we weren't elated to have him in our lives, seizures or not. Between the scary parts, we marvelled at his little, wrinkled forehead and his long toes. We held him and talked to him and comforted him. But there was always the fear that something was brewing and sometimes, the seizures literally seized our lives.
So I'm always amazed when people casually suggest (usually in an awkward public place) that we better get going on having a second, like we're reproductive lollygaggers. It feels surreal when people who I've always viewed as sensitive or intelligent (or even both) will drill my husband and me about something so personal.
I've written before how the grocery store seems to be the place where parents are most publicly and vocally judged. Recently, a friend of mine, who is mother to a four year old, was in the checkout line. The cashier asked my friend if she had more children at home. When she said she had one child, the cashier whispered ominously, "What if he dies?"
Should every parent have a spare? Like an extra tire?
I think about the parents who have lost a child. I think about the about the parents enduring the silent grief of miscarriage. I think about how they must feel when flippantly critiqued by strangers or acquaintances for not having the "right" number of children.
The few times I've tried to explain our reasons for having one child, I've been told I'll worry less about my son and his seizures if I had another baby. But if love multiplies, doesn't the worry, too?
Sometimes, I fall prey to false ideas about only children. Will he grow up to be self-centred? Will he resent us for not giving him a brother or sister? Will he be alone when we die? The answer to all of these questions is of course not. Only children do just fine. As for being selfish? Gandhi was an only child. Enough said.
If we parent lovingly and mindfully, it doesn't matter how many children we have. There are myths surrounding all numbers of children. If we have two, the older becomes an over-achiever. If we have three, we deal with the dreaded "middle child" syndrome. And so on.
There is nothing selfish about loving a child. I love my son. Mothering him is the most rewarding experience of my life. While I'm not yet at peace with having one child (I still have bins full of neatly labelled baby clothes), I know that it's the right thing for now. And it may be the right thing for always.