Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Next: Part Two

I know this probably gets debated a lot on dead baby blogs, but it's been my experience so far that I will never feel as sad, as hopeless or as desperate for another baby than I was after I lost my first and only child. As much as in the years to come I may hope for another baby, I don't think it will be as hard? difficult? all encompassing? as it was when I was trying to get pregnant with first Aidan and then Kaia. Death of an only, in my experience, is just the rock bottom of empty.

Because I have her, I feel lucky, blessed and like I could (and may have to) consider my family complete.

But what does that mean for Kaia?

Both Brian and I each have a brother. Brian's is older, mine is younger. We both grew up in the typical mom, dad and 2 kids family. We both played with our brothers as kids. We each share that sibling bond. We can have conversations with our brothers that we couldn't have with anyone else. As Catherine so aptly put it having a conversation with your sibling is "like reading a webpage absolutely jammed pack full of hyperlinks. Or a book crammed with footnotes". Your shared past guarantees a certain understanding. Siblings own a special and important piece of your childhood that not even your parents can quite understand.

Brian and I consider ourselves lucky that we both remain fond of our siblings into adulthood. We look forward to seeing them. Neither Brian or I harbor feelings of animosity or jealousy towards our brothers and are happy when we hear they are doing well. If time and space permitted we would see them more often.

One day, as much as I might want another baby for me, I think eventually if we don't have another one I will grieve the lack of it more for Kaia. A brother or a sister is a special thing and I would feel she is missing out on something if she doesn't have a (living) sibling. Since I'm being honest, it almost scares me to think of Kaia being an only child. What if she's spoiled because of it? Will she grow up feeling lonely? What if she asks for a sibling, how will I answer? What if something happens to Brian and I (and eventually it will, as it does to us all)...she will be all alone. Over the past few years as I have watched my parents cope with the deaths of my grandparents, I realized the safety and security of having a sibling (or two or three) to lean on in difficult family times continues well into adulthood.

However, I'm also trying to be realistic and not romanticize the sibling bond too much. Yes, if I had my way Kaia would have at least one more (living, definitely living) sibling, who she would love and adore and get along with smashingly. Boy or girl. Doesn't matter.

But I know it doesn't always happen that way. Siblings can be a help and comfort to each other, but in some cases they can also be a down right drag. Take my good friend. Her brother has had repeated interactions with the law. He is in his 20s and didn't finish high school. He lacks motivation, is currently is out of work and seems to have no desire to find a job. While I know she loves him...I get the sense that she doesn't always like him and resents the stress he places on her and the rest of her family. There is a lot of 'eye-rolling' when his name comes up. While my friend and her brother see each other often, I wouldn't describe them as 'close'. Or take my cousins. These sisters have had repeated, lengthy fights as children, teens and adults. The kind where you don't speak to one another for days, weeks or months at a time. I'm sure awful things have been said and done on both sides. Before this past Christmas their fight involved one of these sister's children. It's sad and unfortunate to see their animosity passed along to the next generation.

I wonder sometimes would my friend and my cousins have wished to be only children? No one to fight with or resent or stress about. I wonder how much of their bad relationships with one another stems from treatment by their parents. Can one ever ensure that one's children get along? Or does it have more to do with personality clashes, birth order, or some other uncontrollable or outside factor? Individual successes, failures, personal strengths and weaknesses, and possible major illnesses can all play a part in how one views a sibling. It would be nice and certainly easier to believe that by some action on our behalf we could ensure Kaia and her younger sibling would be the best of friends, but it may not be up to us.

Then I look to only children I have known. My references for this includes a couple of my cousins, two childhood friends and the children of a few colleagues. What have their lives been like? On the whole, I would say these children have had good lives and don't seem to be especially 'lacking' for not having a sibling. One of my childhood friends did seem to be a bit 'spoiled' with a large sense of entitlement, but that could have been her personality, sibling or not. Only children I have known do seem to have more 'fringe' benefits in terms of material items, which makes sense, since an only's slice of the parental financial pie is going to be larger by virtue of not having to share.

One thing that I have observed with colleagues who have only children, is that they seem to be able to travel more easily with a single child and therefore do so more often...and not just to the standard 'child friendly' places (Disney World anyone?) This doesn't seem to just be due to financial reasons, either. Traveling with one child, whether it's by plane, train or automobile is likely easier to manage (one child, one suitcase, one stroller, one hand to hold is always easier to manage than 2). You only have to take one child's needs and schedules into account. Plus onlies I have known are often more 'adult' oriented by virtue of spending a lot of their home life with adults, thus sometimes being more interested in adult things. A only might like Disney World...but he or she might also be more inclined to like museums, interesting restaurants and historical sites than a child who has a sibling to team up with and insist "DISNEY! DISNEY! DISNEY!" I remember a colleague I knew took her young son to Italy. She had a picture on her desk of him chasing pigeons in an Italian piazza which was quite stunning...and definitely more my style of vacation than mouse-ears and fake castles.

Possibly the best part of having an only child, is the close child-parent bond that seems to develop between only children and their parents. Not that this can't happen in multi-child families, but some of the best examples I've seen of this are in only child families. My parent's friends had an only child who was my age growing up. She was very close with both her mom and her dad. She respected them, listened to them, and they to her. As a young adult her and her boyfriend would choose to spend time with her parents. They vacationed together. When, as an adult she had to move to a different city for work, her parents even considered moving too. She was their only child and they all wanted to be close to one another. It would be nice to think that Kaia will grow up and still enjoy spending time with us by virtue of us being her only immediate family.

An only child may make our lives somewhat more fulfilling in some ways as well. I really want to go back to school to get my masters and become a nurse practitioner. I really admire the work the NPs do at the hospital where I work and I can envision myself doing the same. Going back to school, while continuing to work, might be doable with two young children...but my opportunity to do so may come sooner and be made easier with only Kaia to have to consider. Having another child would mean I would be off work again on maternity leave for a year at some point. Great for raising a baby, not so great for furthering a career.

It's a lot to consider on both sides. I love having Kaia and I'm so grateful for her and if I had to choose today, I'd say "yes, definitely we want another baby"...but...if we don't...maybe that will okay too.

Are you an only? Had one sibling? One of many? Tell me what your home life was like as a child. What are your thoughts about onlies?


  1. Out of all my friends growing up, only one was a single child. She grew into a manipulating, evil girl and her parents spoiled her rotten- literally building a new house when she threw a fit that her room wasn't big enough.
    Personally, I think siblings will improve your life, even if you go through rough patches. With my older siblings, I've had someone there to listen without judging. With my sister who is 4 years older, we would get along and fight about equal parts of the time, but after she moved out we got along great- and still do.
    I wanted a younger sibling badly, even when I was in middle school in high school. Unfortunately, my mom was 41 when she had me and although they kept trying, I was my parents' last child.

  2. You're right about siblings. My cousins are brothers and they always fought as kids but now as adults they share a condo! I am an only child and it is one of my life's biggest regrets. I was so lonely. My mother was a single mother who was always at work and I never saw her; I was always in daycare. I had no siblings and I had to invent imaginary ones.I swore I would never do that to my own kids and I didn't: we have 11 kids! We have also taken the kids travelling to Europe,Caribbean and California and it was wonderful!.They love having lots of siblings and hope to have large families of their own someday.

  3. I am a middle child, I have an older brother (14 months) and younger sister (8 years).

    Even if you wait until Kaia is much older and would need less care to have another, I think a sibling is a definite possibility.

  4. We are hoping to add one more child to our family, mostly so that Inigo won't be alone when we die. As "older" parents, I don't want to leave him alone in the world. Of course, that may end up being the reality, but I think it's important (for us) to try.

    And I still owe you a baby gift - is there anything Aussie you have a hankering for?