Lady: "So do you have any brothers and sisters?"Kaelyn: "No." Lady: "Oh, not yet? Kaelyn: [silence]
Next week, the daughter will begin a thirteen-year journey through public education. While we possess great confidence in the school to educate her well, Kelly and I are both a little sad that she'll be in kindergarten all day long. Sure, she did preschool last year (attending a couple of days a week) in order to prepare her for the experience, but this is just different. I suspect part of our anxiety is centered in the fact that Kaelyn's our only child; we're sending everything we have to this place.
We never set out to have just one kid. I assumed we'd have at least two, possibly three. Kaelyn's arrival was surprising and complicated, occurring two months premature. If Kelly hadn't been motivated to see her doctor when she wasn't feeling right (she was actually having contractions), our daughter may not be here today. Kelly then spent a couple of weeks in the hospital on bed rest, hoping to buy more time for the girl's lungs to develop; it was a trying experience. And then, after the birth, Kaelyn spent nearly a month in the Neonatal ICU. I remember clearly one afternoon when she called me from the hospital: another baby in the NICU had died. Kelly called me in tears, thoroughly shaken by how close our daughter had come to death herself. We were probably overtly careful during those first few months that she was home, worried that we might break our delicate baby.
It all worked out though.
And about two years later, Kelly was pregnant again. This time, however, it didn't work out. We lost the baby early on. We knew several friends and family members who had their own miscarriages, but nothing can truly prepare you for it. It was tough, but we made it through. And later that fall, Kelly found out she was expecting again. We had great hopes, yet we had a second miscarriage in the same year.
I'm not sure what exactly changed within us, but our perspective was different. One troubled birth and two miscarriages left Kelly exhausted, both mentally and physically; she struggled with the desire to risk it again, and I was right there with her. Honestly, I don't know how women do it. I couldn't imagine her going through all that pain and heartache again.
That's when we considered that Kaelyn might likely be an only child.
And since then, I've always felt obligated to explain this to people. You see, when you have just one kid, people assume that there are more on the way. And when you state that you have just one, people ask you about adoption or other opportunities; it's as if one child is unacceptable, like we've decided to raise an alien. I always find it interesting that having two children is normal, but having one less makes you peculiar.
But we've never felt the need to succumb to societal norms in any other aspect of our lives! And since there is no biblical precedent here, our consciences are clear; we've maintained a great peace about this.
For the past couple of years, Kelly and I have sought the counsel of people with just one child. We've asked them why, we've asked them about advantages and disadvantages. Perhaps subconsciously, we've explored whether or not we were doing right. Fortunately, God continually blesses us with some great examples of one-child families. We're confident that Kaelyn will be normal (whatever that means). And our family feels complete. I could never adequately express the joy I have with my two ladies.
I will admit that we are a tad paranoid about not spoiling the daughter. I'm likely tougher on her than she needs, but we refuse to raise an ingrate! Seriously, we try to be aware of the temptation.
I've been planning on writing this for over a year now because I'm hoping it's helpful to people reading this. I'm just suggesting that we all be considerate. The topic of children is difficult for many people, from those all over the spectrum. Perhaps they're physically unable to have children. Perhaps they come from a big family and want a slew of kids themselves. Perhaps they had a previous family experience that makes it a painful subject. Everybody has a story. So let's tread lightly. There's no "right" family size out there.
As for Kaelyn, I'm not worried. She's a thinker. She's compassionate. She's an includer. She's beautiful. She might not have siblings, but God's blessed her with a gaggle of cousins and friends that she can access.
I'm loving watching her grow up.