Nearing the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t decide, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that my little boy was destined to be an only child. Not doomed, not sentenced, but destined.
Since Fede and I got married, people had started asking us when we were going to have kids. Yes, plural. Kids. And now that we’ve had the healthy and precious jewel of our lives, I’ve already started hearing from acquaintances, friends, and complete strangers alike, “When are you having the next one?” Sometimes they say it in a half-joking way. And sometimes they don’t.
When I hear this, I feel like I’ve just completed a marathon and I am at the finish line covered in my own filth and sweat, dry-heaving, and someone feels compelled to tap me on the shoulder ask me, “And when are you running the next one?”
First of all, give me a minute. I’m still trying to unscramble my marbles and recover after a difficult pregnancy. I am still trying to come to terms with my “new” body and how I look. I’m still trying to take a step back and find myself and my new role in this world as a mommy. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell I am doing as a whole.
At best, I regarded of my pregnancy as an out of body experience of sorts. It was sort of a blur to me. I never truly felt at peace with it, I was too emotionally and mentally unbalanced. I felt alien in my own skin and was unable to embrace my physical state. I was scared shitless. At the worst, I look at that period of time with regret as I did not enjoy it at all (the pregnancy, not my baby). I was dangerously depressed to the point where I had to be hospitalized. I state this not with shame, nor with any hint of pride, as I feel that I simply did what I had to do just to keep myself alive at that time when all I wanted to do was to check out of life.
And I cannot go through it again.
I’m still 29, but will most likely be finding some way to arrange a permanent form of birth control in the near future. I honestly feel that I cannot risk repeating what I went through and how much I suffered, as well as my husband and those who care about me and love me. Any future pregnancy would imply not only risking all of this again, but throwing my beloved child into the ordeal, which would be unforgivable. Sadly, another pregnancy would be a tragedy in my case.
It is not easy for me to think this, much less state it aloud or write it, but it is what it is. I will never have the two child family that I had idealized for almost all of my life. Sadly, I will never have the daughter that I dreamed of having, with whom I envisioned playing dress up and reading the “Madeline” book series, as I had done with my mother. I love my son and we share a special bond, yet we will never enjoy that unique and precious bond that only a mother and daughter know.
Unfortunately, adoption is not an option even if I ever wanted to go that route. Adoption in Argentina is the epitome of South American inefficiency and mind-boggling bureaucracy at its absolute worst. In a nutshell, since we are married, my husband and I would have to file jointly to adopt a child here, but since we already have a biological child together, we are out of the running, as the adoption process (which takes about 5+ years on average though the public court systems) is only open to childless couples. Yes, it sounds preposterous because it is. But that’s a whole other story. Moving on…
(Side note: Not that I would be able to afford it in a million years, nor would I chose this as the route to motherhood for myself, but surrogacy is also out. Though it is legal here, it is reserved only in cases in which there is nothing of monetary value exchanged for the baby being carried. I have a few female friends here in Argentina, but none who I imagine would be willing to have my baby and then deliver him/her after 9 long months. Scratch that idea, too).
In any case, as much as I try to convince those who are close to me (and also those who are not) that I’m “one and done,” I’m also trying to convince myself. For a million and one reasons (most of them ecological or economic in some way), I know that I am doing Sebastian no harm in choosing to raise him as my sole child. I’ve read up enough to know that according to various studies, only children do not, in fact, suffer from “little emperor’s” syndrome like once commonly believed and are not condemned to a life of being spoiled and self-centered, anti-social misfits. In many cases, the contrary is true. Only children tend to do just as well or better than their peers academically, have higher IQs, do well socially given the right opportunities, and are just as successful. Down the road, Seba will have cousins as well as playmates from school and other activities. He’s not going to be a “lonely only.” So why does the thought of having only my son still plague me with nagging guilt?
Some people who I know who are parents say that they loved their first child so much that they decided to have another, or they say that they always envisioned having large family for themselves growing up. But whose interest does that really serve then? And what would my excuse be if I ever wanted to bring another child into the world? And knowing what would be at stake, would it be worth the risks involved? As far as I can see, the answer is no.
As my baby continues to outgrow his tiny clothes, when he no longer needs all his Avent brand paraphernalia, and when the day comes when we don’t need a stroller or a car seat anymore, I know that people will continue to ask me whether or not I think that I should hang onto my baby stuff “for later.” They seem rather unconvinced now and will probably remain that way for a good long while. I will have to continue to be honest with myself that I will not be giving Sebastian a sibling; not out of selfishness, but rather selflessness. It’s not an easy decision, but it is one that I have made because I love him and I want only the best for him, not only in terms of what money can buy, but my desire to give him all the attention, stability, opportunities, energy, and care that he needs and deserves. He is the light of my life and deserves only the best that I can give him, why compromise that?