It was the end of the first day of the new school year, parents swarmed around the classroom doors, eagerly waiting to collect their children and hear stories about new teachers and classmates.
Arriving five minutes late, I turned up at my daughter’s classroom to discover she had gone AWOL. While busily searching the school grounds, I bumped into my friend Jo.
“I’ve lost Darcy,” I said almost jokingly as we exchanged pleasantries,
“Well, you had better find her, you’ve only got the one!” She replied giggling.
There, there it was… that word again. It’s a small word, but it niggles me every time I hear it, strumming a sorrowful cord within my heart — pinching at an irritated nerve that I thought had long settled.
Only one. Only child.
I hear it often.
“You ONLY have the one, then?”
“ONLY the one?”
“Is she your ONLY child”?
To be fair, I can just about handle these, except when they are followed by;
“Are you going to have any more?”
“Thinking about another?”
“What about a brother or sister?”
For god sake… A, – it’s none of your business, and B, – I’m 47 for f*** sake.
Why am I so bothered? Is it because the word ‘only’ when used in this way seems to imply not enough, less that should be, not ideal, not optimal. Although they mean no harm, I can’t help but imagine them thinking, ‘Ah, poor her, only one, I wonder why?’ I can sense them guessing… hmmm, wonder if she had fertility problems? I wonder how old she is? A male friend even once said to my husband with disdain, “Why would anyone choose to have just one child?”
The fact is, I don’t think anyone chooses to have one child, at least this was not the case for me or the vast majority of my single-child friends. I think most of us would have loved to have more, it just did not happen for a myriad of reasons. However, we have accepted our lot, learned to enjoy our lives, and our single mom-dom, just as my many friends without children have learned to love and accept theirs.
That is not to say that I’m entirely blind to the potential disadvantages of having one child. Of course, I sometimes worry…What if I was to lose her? Who will she have when we are gone? Being close to my own sister, it saddens me to think that my daughter will never get to experience having a sibling, and when socialising with large families, I find myself pondering, comparing, and even envying their commotion, and bustling rapport.
This month my husband and I received notice from our fertility clinic in London, where we’ve had frozen embryos in storage from our second attempt at IVF, the round that produced our daughter, Darcy. Our time is up, we need to decide whether to donate our embryos to science or have them destroyed. It’s an emotional decision, we have held on to these three bundles of frozen cells for ten years, relying on them as a sort of back-up/insurance plan — now that blanket of security is being ripped away, and I am left facing the painful, raw reality – that I am at the end of my fertility. No more dreaming, no more what if’s, no more maybe’s. Our time is up. It’s a time of transition, a time of acceptance, and letting go.
My family is small, tiny in fact, but we are happy, and I am immensely grateful that through modern medicine and the miracles of IVF, we managed to produce one child. I have learnt to focus on the advantages – the absence of squabbles, the undivided attention, being able to comfortably squeeze into one hotel room, and fewer plane tickets!
In short, I have come to accept and enjoy the fact that I have one magical, beautiful, extraordinary little girl, who is anything but ‘only.’