Only One


I always wanted a few kids.  I was never set on specific number, and was not one of those girls who, in a childish vision of her future, would proclaim things like, “I’m going to marry a doctor and we’re going to have four kids—two boys and two girls—Timmy, Tammy, Tiffany, and Tommy.”  No, my vision was a little more open-ended with slightly more wiggle room. I simply imagined myself with a fulfilling career and a loving husband and kids. Kids. Plural.  But in life, as I have learned, things don’t turn out quite the way you expect.

I didn’t expect the journey to motherhood to be so very draining– emotionally and financially. I didn’t expect that I would have to wait until age 40 to become a mother. After years of heartache and disappointment, I didn’t expect that I would have such a beautiful and perfect little girl. And I didn’t expect to have only one.

Of course, after so much time and effort to get that one, by the time my husband and I were ready for a second child, we knew it would be unlikely, but that didn’t stop us from at least trying. From our previous attempts at IVF, we had frozen embryos in storage.  (Forgive me if that makes them sound a little like leftover meatloaf.  Sometimes words fail.)  We thought we should give our embryos their chance.  We counted ourselves lucky and blessed for the child we had and went into our “frozen cycle” as it’s known in the fertility world with an if it works, great, if not, well, that’s okay too attitude. Turns out the not working was less okay than I thought. While the news that the attempt was unsuccessful may not have come as a surprise, the tears that accompanied the news definitely did.

I thought I had come to terms with the probability of having an only child.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude for having my Muffin. I am overwhelmed with joy. And even with only one, there are days I’m just plain overwhelmed. I wonder how people handle more. One feels good. One feels manageable. How could I ever ask for anything or anyone more? And yet,  feelings that I don’t quite know what to do with still linger.

I try to focus on the good feelings– well, they are really only “good” in the sense that they are a little easier to deal with. Like relief. Relief that I don’t have to go through pregnancy again at my age and worry every step of the way. Relief that I won’t have sleepless nights wondering how my husband and I could possibly afford to support more children. Relief that I won’t have to put a career on hold even longer. Relief that I won’t have to referee turf wars in the back seats of automobiles or pull apart sibling wrestling matches.

But there are other feelings that aren’t so easy to deal with. Like sadness. Sadness that I won’t have a son. Sadness that my house will be that much quieter than the one I grew up in. Sadness that Muffin won’t know the love and support of a brother or sister. And sadness that I won’t get to referee turf wars in the back seats of automobiles or pull apart sibling wrestling matches.

The sadness brings guilt. Guilt that wanting another makes me somehow seem ungrateful for what I have. I don’t want to seem ungrateful because I am not. I thank God every single day. Out loud. I love my daughter. I adore her. I finally know the love that motherhood brings– boundless and unconditional and breathtaking and indescribable– and I can’t help but be thankful.

I spent the better part of the last two weeks sorting  through Muffin’s baby things in preparation for an upcoming consignment sale. It about broke my heart to say good bye to the infant swing she slept in so many nights. To the breastfeeding pillow that she nursed from. To the many little pink and white onesies that I could barely fathom that there was a time she was small enough to fit into. And as I stood there among her infant things, the sadness and the guilt came flooding in, and my heart yearned for another once again.

Maybe we should adopt. Maybe we should go ahead and give a “fresh cycle” of IVF a try. Maybe I’m crazy and should just be thankful for what I have.  With only one, I can focus my attention on parenting her. I won’t have to decide which child needs me most at any given moment. I won’t have to decide between one’s dance recital and another’s football game. No, only one. Only one child’s birthday party to organize each year. Only one set of pediatrician bills to pay.  Only one snotty nose to wipe and one child’s boo boos to kiss all better.  Only one child’s parent/teacher conference to attend. Only child’s homework to check. Only one set of driving lessons to white knuckle through. Only one set of colleges to visit. Only one set of milestones to record and treasure.

I began writing this post weeks ago, and I had hoped that through the process of writing this, I would come to know if I was really okay with an only child.  I would know which path to follow on this journey that is motherhood.  But I am no more clear on that now than when I started.  I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this:  God gave me this one, and I love her with all my heart.


  1. Pam says:

    You have so beautifully described the emotional ride that we all face on this journey of motherhood; the joy, the gratitude, the fear, the desire for more, the guilt, the regret, the laughter, the tears, the hope… and finally, the knowledge that despite all of those emotions… we usually end up in exactly the place we were meant to be. And sometimes we get really lucky and we are able to realize that it was the detours along the way that truly made our lives into the “something more” that we may have been searching for.
    I am so glad you are sharing your stories again… love, Pam

  2. Irene Landon says:

    All of our prayers were answered when Charlie was born. And none of us could be more happier. She is a delightful, beautiful (and, yes, active) little girl. If you want to adopt or try the cycle thing again, you will know – without a doubt. But, yes, we are happy with a “just Charlie”. Love, mom

  3. Sharon Riley says:

    Kelly, What a beautiful, heartfelt post. Thanks for so honestly sharing your feelings on both sides of the issue. You and Greg certainly have a beautiful child in Charlie. Just follow your heart – there is no right or wrong choice, as you know – just what feels right for you and your family. I love, love, love what you wrote. Is it OK for me to share your blog with friends? I know many moms of one and more than one who would relate to what you have written. Just for what it is worth – both of my in-laws are only children, and they are very happy, well-adjusted, lovely, sociable people.



  4. Helenie says:

    Kelleroooo… as much as you feel grateful to have your Muffin, that’s as much gratitude that SHE will feel, someday, when she starts to understand what an amazing mother she was fortunate enough to have been born to. Keep your gratitude at the “tip” of your every thought, but remember you and Greg aren’t the only ones who were blessed by Charlie’s arrival… she was too.
    Here’s the couch to sit on… Jani is long since done with it! And as you sit on the couch, don’t rush the feelings by. Let them come as often or as infrequently as they do and one day, you WILL come out on the other side of it. You WILL make peace with having just one child. Do I think you are selfish or ungrateful? HELL NO!!!! I think you are a mother and I think us mothers too often push aside our feelings because there is so much to do for our children & husbands. I say don’t push them away in this case, you won’t ever find peace until you walk through them, not around. I LOVE YOU. Come to Temecula SOON or let’s meet somewhere. I have a tremendous urge to HUG YOU TIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!