Welcome everyone! It’s week twenty-one of the “On Being Childfree” blog series and today looks a little different because I’m sharing the first story of someone who does actually have a child. You may find that strange given the general subject but I always wanted to keep this open to people who have felt pressure, judgement and so on from being a single parent because we all know that exists. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
We Are: Niamh, 32 and Aaron, 32
Home Is: Gloucestershire
We Do: I work in market research and Aaron is an engineer.
Why Can’t One Be Enough?
This is such a hard story to write. Does writing it all down mean I’m accepting an alternative future to the one I always had planned? That instead of the big, bustling families that both myself and my husband come from, and our siblings have gone on to create, we’ll be “just” a family of three? At the same time I know I’m not alone and hopefully by sharing my story it may help others who are parents to one and face the never-ending questions about “when will you have another baby?”
My husband and I are both Irish and although we’ve long-since relocated to the UK many years ago for work at the time, we do follow the stereotypical pattern of being from larger than normal families (although funnily enough fairly small compared to many back home!) I’m the middle of 5 children and my husband is one of 6. All of our siblings are married and as I’ve been watching this series unfold and reading so many of the stories it really has opened my eyes. There simply would no other way of being for us to think about not having children, even in this day and age.
We met at university and have been married for 10 years, currently now in our early 30s. We always knew we wanted to get married and have a family ourselves and whilst so many of my friends were out partying in their 20s and travelling the world, our little girl Mia arrived when we were 25 and nothing could have made us happier. Yes we feel young but knew that we would have around 4 children, be done with babies by the latest in our mid-30s and then had the rest of our lives ahead of us.
It shames me to say it now but I even looked with pity on the lives of others around us. They felt so frivolous and trivial, I would constantly ask them weren’t they worried about not meeting people, settling down, starting a family. Honestly, my upbringing has been so, so sheltered. I never felt envious, why would I?
Mia arrived so easily and perfectly, I fell pregnant within just a couple of months of trying and we settled into a pattern of little family life. When she was 9 months old, we started trying again, thinking around 18 months to 2 years would be the ideal age gap between siblings. We were naïve and made so many assumptions that it would be as easy this time around.
We didn’t think too much of it in the beginning – a new baby/toddler adds certain stresses to life no matter how much you wanted it but when a year went by and nothing happened, we both started to worry a little. Another 6 months went by and we decided to see the doctor who gave us short shrift. We were young, healthy, already had a baby and there was nothing wrong with us apparently. I felt like being slapped on the wrist like a naughty child so reluctantly returned to life as we knew it.
In the meantime, all around us friends and family were now merrily popping babies out like making a cup of tea. I was heartbroken and guilty in equal measure – we had a beautiful little girl whose life I was missing because I was too all-consumed with trying to provide her with a sibling. And I just couldn’t stand the never-ending questions/accusations: “You’re not just having one are you? Only children are always spoiled and selfish”. Gosh I couldn’t believe how insensitive people could be and we felt very isolated feeling like no-one could understand.
After moving home when Mia was 3 we decided to see how we would fare with a different doctor’s surgery. They were so much more sympathetic to our case (this in itself frustrates my hugely, what a lottery!) and we began testing to see if there may be an issue and heard for the first time the term ‘secondary infertility’. It made absolutely zero sense but it felt good to make progress and finally feel listened to.
Our initial hopes were only dashed though when after exhaustive and extensive testing, the diagnosis came back with ‘unexplained infertility’. We went through so many different stages of grief, anger, at once wanting to be together whilst pushing each other other. We knew we had to try and carry on as normal for Mia’s sake but now in school even she started to ask about brothers and sisters. I felt like I was failing everyone – my daughter, my husband, my family. Myself.
And now here we are. Mia is 8, we have 7 failed rounds of IVF behind us. Tens of thousands of pounds gone. It has nearly broken us. The questions don’t come so often anymore although of course we’re still young and may go on to have more children. But we’ve realised we HAVE to draw a line under this and find a way to be a family of 3. Mia is amazing, she’s independent and thoughtful, kind, intelligent. Not having a sibling seems to be causing no harm to her whatsoever but I feel like I’ve missed her entire childhood on a selfish quest to be a mother of a big family. Why couldn’t I have been happy with one?
I now know there is time. Time for us to move forward. All of our families dote on her as we knew they would but it’s so strange that still, our inability to have more than one child just isn’t spoken about, swept under the carpet like last night’s fire leftovers. I don’t want the rest of my life to be defined by this, and it won’t be. We’re happy, it’s a lot cheaper to travel with just one child and we’ve started to do that more and more as she gets older. We plan to get a dog and know so many families now where there is just a single child. All of them seem happy and well-adjusted.
There will always be a hope in me, for as long as it’s physically possible, that we may be blessed with another child. I’m no longer willing to put that hope at the forefront of our lives though. I know how incredibly lucky we are to have one when there are so many couples out there or single people who would love children and can’t. And as Lins covered in her opening story to this, it’s not even about surrogacy or adoption, it’s about everyone’s own individual circumstances and feeling content and fulfilled with the life you have even if it’s not the one you originally planned.
Thank you so so much to Niamh for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Niamh’s story and leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.