Friday, May 20, 2011

Not by choice

If I had had my way, the LGBB would be a big sister by now. Possibly even twice over.

If just one of any of the four pregnancies I have had since her birth in 2006 had come to fruition, she would be that big sister.

If just one of the three pregnancies before she was born had eventuated, or if her sister had lived, then she wouldn't even be here. Not the same wonderful, unique being she is, anyway. Or, heck, if any of the four pregnancies before her sister died had happened then we wouldn't have even had her sister! That's a lot of missed opportunities.

I always wanted three children. We have two. One on this Earth, one not. So really, we are raising at least one less child than we ever expected. But it is as it is. And I am eternally grateful.

I recently read an article on Kleenex Mums about only children which brought these feelings up all over again. By an adult raising an only child (have you met Christie from Childhood 101? Oh, she is an absolute delight and I hope we can one day continue our conversations which began in March in Sydney). The tips she shared were relevant. Further, I was buoyed to read such a well balanced piece on the... I don't know what to call it - Issue? Phenomenon? Situation, is the best way for me to see it, I think. Because this is a "situation". This is our "situation".

It seems a hotly debated topic sometimes, and there is always an opinion to be had. Of course. As with anything. But this one seems to bring more out of the woodwork to weigh in than others regarding families and decisions (or not) of size/number of children. Isn't this an incredibly personal thing to be spouting off about? The size of other people's families?

It is painful to see/read/hear the derogatory opinions of so many against only children. Against my child. (I hasten to clarify the prejudice is not necessarily in that blog post I have directed you towards in the previous link, but in its comments section and so many other places, and not necessarily even online - as well, I hasten to add that I adore Maxabella deeply and she and I have discussed this at some length.... the "only child" post, not my adoration of her...). Opinions that range from them being "odd", that we are "making them miss out on something" by not providing siblings, that they are "spoilt" and "don't know how to share", that "they lack negotiation skills" and perhaps the one that surprises me most, that my husband and I are "being selfish parents" by not giving her a sibling to share her life with.... On and on the self-opinionated lay in unfairly. And I cannot help but take more than just a little bit of slight to it.

Can I just point out the obvious here and say.... have we all not at some point or another come across a child (who is not an only child) who is odd? Who is missing out on something because they actually do have siblings? Appears to be spoilt? Doesn't share? Can't negotiate?? It is really difficult to break out of a label once "society" (or the proverbial "they") has slapped one on a child. Please don't label my child before she's even gone out into the world and truly begun.

I also feel inclined to state that it is not for anyone, not even other so-called "onlies", to speak on behalf of my child. Who knows if she is lonely or not? Or will ever be? One cannot deduce that, simply because their life as an only child was isolating, it goes without saying that every child suffers the same fate. My father was an only child. I have not once in all the years I have heard him speak of his youth express even a tinge of loneliness.

But is this because he never felt it? Or because he had a glass half full mentality about it? Food for thought.

Further, I was third of four children. I was painfully lonely at times. Just as I really do believe my daughter must be lonely... at times. What I am saying is, when an adult only child (or any other adult who presumes to know, simply talking from their own experience) steps up and says they were lonely so, therefore, all only children will surely suffer the same fate, they are speaking about an immeasurable experience - how would they know, if a couple more brothers/sisters were thrown in the mix, that they wouldn't have been just as lonely?? They can't know.

The LGBB will always be a little sister, but that means little to her in the present moment, in terms of someone to bounce off, play with, argue with and plan to grow old together (and share the responsibility of possibly taking care of either or both her elderly parents.... not that I feel I will ever get old, nah! Rather, will never *feel* old enough to need taking care of).

To see opinions floating around that virtually condemn us for compelling our child to live an only, lonely life is rather unsettling. Why are we, as human beings, so hellbent on warning others and being self-asserted "forebears" of the what if's of anything that we feel has harmed us detrimentally? I can certainly understand an only child who lived a lonely life because of their family's circumstances would want to speak to that loneliness and ensure others don't make what they perceive as "the same mistake" their parents made. But the thing is, I am not about to assume I know the entirety of one's situation. How am I to know what that only child's parents were thinking? What they were going through?

More to the point, there surely can't be different rules of engagement either - that is, we can't say to parents who would desperately love to bear a sibling for their child that these warnings about only children don't apply to them, but only to those "selfish" parents who have only decided to have one child. That is just so disappointing. And downright scary (that such bigotry exists).

Stories come out all the time - ALL the time - if we care to listen, they shed light on just some of the legitimate reasons (that I can see, anyway) a couple might "decide" not to have any more children. Stories about mothers who couldn't cope after the birth of their child. Stories about subsequent (or earlier) children being put up for adoption. What if the thought of having a second child brought her to her knees? What if they tried for the next ten years but it never happened? What if? What if, what if? There are so many what if's, this is but one of them I can think of off the top of my head (heh, can you tell who suffered depression after the birth of a much-wanted child??.... cough).

We have only just started to come out of era of not talking about this sort of thing. If any older adult only child out there thinks they know the whole story, perhaps it would pay them to think again. Perhaps it's simply time to forgive their parent/s the "decision" not to give them a sibling (if that is the case, for is it even known if they perhaps had difficulty conceiving any more? Or miscarried and it was too painful to try again?? Miscarriage alone has only just in the past ten or so years, if that, started to be given the credit it deserves for so adversely altering the course of a woman's life).

The LGBB draws houses these days. Chalk board after chalk board of houses with many windows. Faces in all the windows. She proudly rattles off who is at every window. The family in the drawing always consists of me and her Dad, herself, Ellanor, and then variations of the following:

"My little sister, my big brother, my little brother, my baby sister, my brother the baby, my sister the adult..."

She goes through bouts of this and where once it used to stun me into a frozen pause - a literal *pause button* stand-still where I am, can't think, can't move brain and body freeze - now I am not so taken aback. See, to Lolly she apparently IS from a large family. Her imagination is stellar. Her intuition is sharp and insightful. She is a child who is matter of fact and organic.

If I don't get my act together soon, Steve and I will miss the chance of having another child anyway. That is fact. But I shall not be tempted to do it just because apparently, according to some in society, I am crippling my child's emotional wellbeing or chance to be happy or burdening her with my heady ambitions for her.

All it takes is for us to consider what we're contributing to before we go jumping on a bandwagon about which we can't possibly know the full story. Wide public opinion doesn't necessarily make something fact or lore. Being an only child doesn't make one any more remarkable or less capable of knowing how to fight a good fight. It simply means these are the circumstances that contribute to them being the unique individual they are.

So, please.... Can we just stop with the stereotyping - Stop with the guessing - Stop with the labelling and the judgement?

Right. Hot hat off. And just lastly, if you have been offended by this - I offer my hearty apologies. My intention is not to offend or divide further. I am merely seeking to give a voice to all those out there with hands tied, waiting in IVF clinics or otherwise simply unable to bear another child for their "only". I can safely bet they are grateful for the one they have, regardless of the choice that has been taken from them.

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