When I was 19, I came home from college with a perplexing medical issue. I had been feeling “off” for several months of my freshman year and some issues had been becoming more and more annoying. Over the summer, I went to see my family physician to find out what was going on. I was sure it was just freshman angst and the adjustment of being away from home for the first time. However, it turned out that I had a significant female issue that had the possibility of being a life-long struggle of fertility. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to have children…at least not naturally…and that if I wanted to have a family someday it was going to require a significant amount of medication and possibly additional medical intervention.
At 19, this was really not an issue for me. I had never really fancied myself a mother and didn’t have dreams of being one in the future. At this point in my life, I had dreams of being chief of staff to the majority leader in the Senate or a famous political commentator. I wanted to do big things – I wanted to BE a big thing. I didn’t want to be a mom or a wife or live in the Midwest or any of the things that this diagnosis deemed difficult if not impossible. I was ok with it – I had moments of disappointment in the days and months following the doctor’s announcement – but for the most part I was cool.
I finished college and achieved my dream of moving to DC – I lived in the world of politics for 5 years and did things that I had only dreamed of as a political junky in Springfield, IL. And then 9/11 happened. The world kind of fell apart for me that day – I saw the plane hit the Pentagon – I experienced the fall out of anthrax and tanks in the streets – I didn’t deal with it well. Several events conspired to send me back home about a year after that fateful day. I spent a few years in Champaign and then moved back to Springfield to teach history at the high school I had attended 12 years before.
While teaching at that school, I met my now husband – that story is long and fantastic and definitely the subject for another blog. Suffice it to say, we met, fell in love and got married within 5 months. It was truly magical. He had been married before and had children from that union. We talked a bit about whether we wanted children of our own together, but I told him of the doctor’s predictions of significant complications should I want a child and we agreed together that children weren’t likely in our future. We were both good with that decision.
Fast forward a year after our wedding and I discovered much to my surprise that I was pregnant. It was amazing. I was thrilled. He was thrilled. We were so excited about the coming baby. Arden Whitney Jones was born in all of her fantastic glory on January 23, 2010. She was and is a miracle baby that was never supposed to be, but wow are we glad that she IS.
The above story brings me to the topic of today’s blog. Selfishness.
Shortly after Arden was born many, many, MANY well-meaning friends and acquaintances started to ask when we would be having another baby. Arden needed a sibling that could be a playmate and confidant. We made such a beautiful little girl, why wouldn’t we give another to the world?
Each time someone would say something like this, I would go into a list of reasons why we couldn’t or wouldn’t be having another baby any time soon – “one is enough”; “we got it so perfect with the first one”; “we want to have some time with this one first” – never the real reason – I am NOT SUPPOSED TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A KID!
Once someone, who I know loves me and loves my family, said that to only have one child is selfish – and that our daughter deserves a sibling. Ouch. And you know, I agree…my child does deserve a sibling to play with – a confidant to tell secrets to – a blood-friend who, even in the years when they would hate each other, will defend her to the end.
In the years after Arden was born I would pray with each cycle that somehow another pregnancy would occur, but it never did. It has been 6 years since her birth, and she is still my only child.
Terry and I are “older” parents, and we know that Arden will be fairly young when she has to deal with the reality of elderly parents. I wish she had someone to shoulder that burden with her. I wish she had a built-in playmate on the days when Mom and Dad just can’t play with her. I wish she had a little brother or sister to boss around.
But the truth is, my body wasn’t built to carry children. And I am beyond blessed by the miracle that is Arden. I am thankful that I was blessed with the one I have. And I just want to say it isn’t selfishness that kept me as the mom to an only child. We all put up walls around our feelings of inadequacies – and I am no exception. I joke about the horrors of pregnancy – the terrors of no sleeping for 2 years after she was born – the dual personalities of Arden/Veronica. These are all smoke screens to hide the hurt that I am not the woman I think I should be – the one that is able to bring more and more life into this world. I like to fancy myself an over-achiever, but in the realm of motherhood this is just not the case.
I say all this to say – don’t let a woman’s brave face fool you. We mothers of one child may not be selfish at all – we may just be blessed with one opportunity to be the moms we never thought we would be.