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When giving your child a sibling isn’t as easy as deciding to start trying.

Things people say to a mother of one who is struggling to get pregnant with a second, and the thoughts that go through her head:

“Well at least you have one.” I happen to know that you are saying this while struggling to have your first, so yes, you are justified in your pain and perhaps resentment toward mothers of any number of children. But you should know as well as anyone about unfulfilled dreams and fear of the biological unknowns. While you, hopeful mother, are in a very tough situation, so am I, the mother of one, because I feel as sad for my child as I do for myself, that I’m not giving him a sibling and can’t say when I will. Don’t make me feel like my emotions aren’t justified.

“It might be a good thing you haven’t had another yet. Your child is crazy/quite a handful/destructive–it would be a miracle if a baby lasted a day in the same house as him.” Well thanks. I’m glad you think my child is so much more of an anomalous monster than all the other small children in this world who already have a baby sibling.

“Don’t worry so much about it. The more you think and stress about it, the longer it will take to happen.” Okay, that’s fine, it may be true. But much easier said than done. And you with your four kids all spaced two years apart, I don’t think you’ve ever had to worry or not worry about getting pregnant….

“Maybe you’re not actually ready for another child. You might think you are, but everything works out the way it’s supposed to in the end. You are probably right, and that is a huge fear. After trying to conceive for months, the thought of having another baby is always in the back of my mind, all day every day. So every time I yell at my kid, totally lose my cool, feel completely burnt out, like I can hardly make it to his bedtime, the mini devil version of my mom-self climbs up on my shoulder to loudly laugh and mock in my ear: “And you think you can handle another! Ha, you can hardly handle one! All these other moms of three and four are excelling in their roles (or so your BFF social media tells you), but you could never–you’re not cut out for it. Just stop trying, give up now, lest you want to lose all semblance of your sanity and self-respect.” So if I’m not ready now, when will I be? Is a day coming that I will wake up with 100 times more patience, clarity, and self-control? If it really truly is, then okay. I will wait.

“Your kid is probably loving all this one-on-one time with you.” Yes, I do believe he is, and I am loving it as well. Whenever I think of that changing, I feel incredibly sad. But things have got to change sometime, and sooner is probably better than later, because I bet the next thing you say to me as we watch our kids interacting together is….

“I guess that’s what happens with an only-child, huh? They don’t learn how to share/be nice/get along well with other children, hahaha [because this is being said with such hysterical good-humor]?” Actually my child does know how to share and behave properly in social situations–we’ve worked together a lot on those things. But alas, he is three, and so I do believe he is entitled to an off-day every now and again. Of course, as you know, his living situation hasn’t exactly forced him to practice these attributes on a daily basis. Still, I would appreciate you not judging him for things that are beyond his and his parents’ control.

“Just be grateful for the child you already have.” If gratitude could be measured, I’d bet you fifty times the amount of money in my bank account that mine is at max quota when it comes to my child. But that doesn’t change a woman’s ideal, a lifelong dream, even,  of the number of kids she wants to raise in love and happiness or the number of kids she still believes are waiting in the heavens to be hers.

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In case you hadn’t guessed, I am a mother trying to have my second child. I have never been truly offended by anything people have said to me regarding my situation, because I recognize the foolishness in being offended by well-meaning, perhaps oblivious, people. But still, one can’t help but wish they would more often say, “I’m sorry, that must be difficult,” as a response to the topic they brought up after noticing that my child is an entire three years of age, still without a younger sibling or impregnated mommy, and wanted to know if I am “ever planning to have more kids?”

Well FYI, my husband and I started trying to get pregnant a year ago. Every month since has brought excitement, anticipation, drudgery, disappointment, and, perhaps most of all, guilt. Logically, I know my son is very young and really hasn’t missed out on much in his life yet, but truth be told, I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m letting him down by not giving him one of the most cherished parts of my childhood: siblings.

That might sound a little overdramatic, but when it’s your life and you’re in the midst of the struggle, it’s a big deal. I’m positive that there are many women who have suffered through much more than I have, who have experienced my emotions multiplied, exponentiated even, by the number of years they’ve been trying to conceive. I don’t pretend to know their pain, but I think the basic emotions are the same for pretty much anyone who’s been trying to conceive for more than a few months. Fear of the unknown is the hardest to rationalize, because perhaps conception will occur next month and the worry will be nothing more than a short-lived memory, but perhaps it will take years, or never happen at all–who can say for sure?

I don’t believe the average healthy, childbearing-age woman has to truly worry that she may never get pregnant. But some of us have health conditions that make that fear seem like an absolute possibility. For me, it’s endometriosis.

The main symptoms of endometriosis are pain and infertility. When my husband and I began trying to get pregnant for the first time four years ago, I had already been dealing with pain for several years and could only pray that the infertility wouldn’t manifest itself as well. Desmond was conceived after just four months of trying, and I was happily relieved to know that I was not, in fact, infertile. A couple months after Desmond turned two, we began trying for another, hoping for a three-ish year age difference.

Several months later, I made the mistake of turning to Internet for reassurance, hoping to find stories of women with endometriosis as well as multiple children.  While browsing an online forum, about half of the commenters said they had never conceived and had pretty much lost hope of having a biological child. The other half said something along the lines of, “I always dreamed of getting pregnant but knew my chances weren’t good. But then, blessed be the heavens and thanks to my lucky stars, I did conceive and had my beautiful, healthy angel baby, and he/she is more than I could have ever hoped for. I am so beyond fortunate to have gotten my one little miracle.”

Reading that was disheartening, to say the least. Suddenly I had this feeling that maybe I am infertile and had just gotten really really lucky that first time, and what a fool I was to think that after that one chance conception I was good to go for any others I might want at any time I simply decided was right. My son’s birth, like all births, was a miracle. But I had never thought of myself as being particularly lucky or blessed–no more than any other mom, anyway. As much as my Desmond fills my heart with love and joy and pleasure, he’s not enough. My child is my everything, but he’s just not enough. Sorry if that sounds harsh or ungrateful, but how can he be, when ever since childhood when I first dreamed of being a mother, I always planned on having multiple children?

Many parents have one child and they are happy with that and that is wonderful. But when I grew up with four siblings and loved my house full of noise and laughter, bodies and shared bedrooms, when every time an older sibling moved out for college was one of the saddest days of my life… well, it should be understandable why I would want nothing more than to give my own child those same lifelong friends from birth.

Motherhood has always been one of my main goals in life, one that will leave a lasting legacy even after I leave this earth, and I firmly believe will be a defining part of me in the life after this one, on through eternity. I can’t accept the allowance of that dream being altered or unfulfilled in completeness due to a random, seemingly insignificant condition of my mortal body. Not all things are within my control of course, but I do my best to remain positive and look at things within a perspective far greater than my own.

The purpose of this post is not to make you feel sorry for me (like really, it’s not). Perhaps you can relate to me, and knowing someone else has felt your feelings makes them feel more validated (even though they were already validated all on their own), and sometimes that’s all we really need. But perhaps you can’t relate, however, I bet you know someone who can. And now you know a bit more of what she’s going through and how you might appropriately support her.

In the end, though, it mostly just comes down to my child, for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched my son playing at the park while he’s tried to join in with a group of siblings and they were far from accepting. Yes, they’re kids, and as I said of my own child before, they are entitled on occasion to not behave properly in social situations. But how I wished they would just include him for that hour.

I once even overheard a mom say to her friend, “Well that’s what happens when you decide to just have one kid–he’s going to be lonely” (I’m sorry, but does my child appear to be like, ten to you?). Perhaps she had several kids so close in age so that they could form their own little army, always sticking together, never trusting or playing with an outsider. To each their own, I guess. But how I wished she had simply reminded her children, “Hey, that little boy isn’t your brother, but it’s okay to play with him too.” Because no kid deserves to be left out or excluded based on something he can’t–and sometimes neither can his parents–control.

5 thoughts on “When giving your child a sibling isn’t as easy as deciding to start trying.”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Stacey. You reminded me of the feelings I had five years ago as we struggled to have a second child. Of course you’re thankful for the one you have but the pain of wanting another is very real. After two years of trying I started trying to tell myself all the good things about having only one. We could travel, send Heidi to an expensive college, give her all of our attention. But in reality I wanted nothing more than for her to have a sibling. On several occasions she would see someone around her age with a baby and say, “I guess Heavenly Father heard their prayer.” It broke my already hurting heart.
    Here’s a link to a post I wrote when I was going through it.
    http://www.feronsfamilyfun.blogspot.com/2010/08/faith-in-his-timing.html?m=1
    I hadn’t read it in years and was surprised by how hard it was to read. The heartache is real and I’m sorry you’re having to go through it. I’ll be praying for your family to grow. In the mean time I have two little boys who would love to have a playmate. When can we get together?

  2. Thanks Emily. I remember you guys having a hard time getting pregnant after Heidi, and I also remember when you announced to all the family at your parent’s house that you were expecting another (I can’t remember exactly what the occasion was, but I think some of my family was there too…), and Heidi took off her jacket to show her “big sister” shirt and it was so cute and exciting:) I like the things you told yourself to look on the bright side; there really have been a lot of times that I’ve been glad we still just have Desmond. And I couldn’t open your link, I guess because it’s a closed blog? Thanks again for reading and commenting and for your kindness.

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