When I was growing up I always thought I’d have a lot of kids.
Four to be exact.
Three boys named Dominic, Theodore and Bartholomew.
And one little girl with bright wide blue eyes and a curly mop of golden hair and a spirit that was strong and vibrant.
The funny thing though was this:
I never really dreamed about the boys.
Instead I’d always just picture the boys around the edges, on the verandah of the farmhouse.
And in the dream I’d be in the chookpen with my daughter, and she’d hold an egg in her hands and look up at me with those eyes as clear as sky.
I could see her and feel her and knew, deep in my bones, that my daughter would come for me.
I always just assumed I’d be a mother of a large family.
Perhaps because I came from a large family myself (one of five) with my dad being one of seven and my grandfather one of thirteen.
It just seemed like that was the way it should be.
When I talked to my love about how many kids we’d have, I was so insistent that we’d have at the barest of minimum two.
And he’d say gently, in that way of his:
Let’s just start with one, and see how it feels.
That man can be so wise.
And through the years between, the dreams still came:
a daughter. A fuzzy blonde haired girl.
One with a strong spirit.
Who was insistent that she would come through.
She was impatient and excitable.
In countless intuitive readings I’d hear:
your daughter is waiting. she wants to come through.
And I’d laugh, and say I know,
and knew when the time was right for me, for my love, for our future, we would say yes.
One Sunday afternoon, as light poured in the window, we knew it was time.
And we said yes with tears in our eyes.
Soon, we were pregnant.
And the moment the two lines appeared, my first thoughts were:
my daughter. she’s come for me.
I’ll always remember the moment we found out for sure she was a girl.
It was my 27th birthday, and I was over six months pregnant. It was our first ultrasound.
I remember the technician saying (ever so honestly):
There’s no better way of saying this:
If you see what looks like a penis and balls, it’s a boy.
But if you see three dots, it’s a girl.
And we held our breath…
and there it was. Three dots. Triple goddess.
My daughter has come for me.
And my full moon belly waxed and grew and bloomed and shone.
I still didn’t even consider it would be my last pregnancy though.
I had no idea when I’d want another baby, or if I’d want another boy or girl.
It never really entered my mind that there wouldn’t be one at all.
(Taken an hour before my waters broke. Remember when I used to have mermaid hair instead of pixie hair, peeps?)
And then she was born.
In the swell of an ocean wave, she swept from inside to out.
She was here. A tiny little mewling lion cub with wrinkled fists that reached out and clung to me.
She was bright eyed and here in the world.
And suddenly, we were three.
My daughter was here.
She had arrived, at last.
I think the expression on my face above says it all, really.
The Moment of Her Arrival.
The joy + certainty that she was destined to be here, and here she was.
Her placenta slipped out from inside me just moments later.
And with that, a mother was born.
And in the same wash of losing my placenta, so did I lose my calling to ever be pregnant again.
Here she was. All I ever wanted, really.
I think I ignored it for a while.
Ignored the tiny voice that I wouldn’t have another child.
In the weeks after she was born, I’d recite over and over again about how next time, I would do birth perfectly.
That instead of my birth-centre-waterbirth-plans-turned-induction-in-hospital-with-no-pain-meds-coz-I-hypnobirthed-like-a-mofo, I’d do it EXACTLY RIGHT NEXT TIME. I’d freebirth or homebirth or lotus birth or eat my placenta. You know, anything to be MORE PERFECT.
It’s probably that same perfectionist predilection inside me that caused me to have repetitive dreams for years of going back to high school just so I could get straight A+’s instead of mere mortal A’s.
I got over that dream of course.
Just as I got over the dream of doing birth “perfectly.”
And in the months that followed, as my tiny newborn turned into a fuzzy haired baby,
the tiny voice got louder. And louder. And louder.
It wasn’t a mean voice. It didn’t say
“OMG KIDS SUCK I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.”
(Okay sometimes it sounded a little like that.)
But most of all, it was just a strong woman’s voice:
“I’ve had my daughter. I don’t believe I have any more soul children to come through. I am so grateful to have my one beautiful daughter. I don’t wish to have any more.”
And I believed in that voice. I believed in that voice because it was my own. It was no longer about what I thought a good mother should look like, or what I used to think families looked like. It was my own. My truth.
So I started telling Chris.
We had long discussions. Long talks that carried through afternoons and in the hours before sleep came.
I cried often.
I felt guilt and shame and fear about what that made me if I wasn’t the kind of woman who wanted more than one child.
But I couldn’t ignore the voice:
I don’t believe I’m destined to have more children. There is not one cell inside me that sings to have more children.
We talked. A lot. Often. For months and years.
About each of our concerns and fears and beliefs.
Gratefully, thankfully, blessedly, he understood.
He supported my decision. He was open to more children, but understood that the lion’s share of the work of pregnancy, birth and babyhood would fall into my energy, my arms, my womb, my boobs, my sanity.
We talked for hours upon hours:
of what it meant to raise an only child. What we could do to cover any weaker points in only childhood. What was most important to us in our family values.
We discussed the possibilities of fostering and adopting. Right now, it’s not something that calls either of us.
And we decided:
It’s absolutely okay for us only to have one child.
Even if it wasn’t what I thought it would be like.
Even if I come from a long line of large families.
It was a reorientating of world views and family views until our poles shifted into place:
The most important thing for us is balance and happiness and making sure all three of us have our needs met.
I hedged my bets about not having more kids for a long time.
I’d say “I don’t know if it’s just because I have a 2 month old/6 month old/12 month old/18 month old right now, but I really don’t want any more kids. It’s probably just because I’m chronically sleep deprived HAHAHAHAAIT’SNOTTHATFUNNYBUTI’LLLAUGHANYWAY.”
I just don’t.
I still get comments.
When people ask me when I’ll be pregnant next.
Who are aghast when I say I won’t be.
Who believe I should have one just “as a playmate.”
And I look inside me, and there’s the truth:
I can’t. And I won’t.
I’m not able to fall pregnant again just for a playmate for a daughter.
I’m not able to go against this deep soul-calling of mine to only have one. I’m not able to risk Post Natal Depression again. I have no idea if I’ll end up with another super-sensitive “spirited” child who didn’t sleep and needed her mama so so so very much, or if I’d end up with one of those famed “easy babies”. On top of that, I’m pretty dang sure my nervous system is just way too sensitive to be happy to taken on the immense task of mothering two. And there’s just the voice: I only want one. I want the one I have. I’m not able to say Yes when so much of me says No.
I’m happy to arrange all the playdates I can. I’m happy to keep creating the happiest family environment possible. I’m happy to live in a multi-generational family home (my parents-in-law move in with us tomorrow!) I’m happy to do many things to make my daughter’s life be as joyous as possible – but I won’t carry another child in my womb for her.
I’ve listened to all the stories and made my own decisions.
I don’t believe in the myth of only children being spoilt or unsociable. Of families only being “finished” once there’s siblings.
My love – the man who I think is the most remarkable piece of humanity ever created – is an only child. One who never wanted siblings when he was growing up.
One of my longest standing and dearest friends – who also happens to be the most consistent, loyal and thoughtful person I’ve ever come across – was an only child on a remote outback station. She’s the person who – when calling to let you know she’s just given birth to her first child – asks how you’re settling in to your new town, how your husband and daughter are going, what’s really happening for you. (Yes, that really happened. Her thoughtfulness is astonishing.)
I love Ariel Meadow Stalling’s musings on her only-child life (she comes from a long line of only children & is continuing the tradition with her son): Why only children are awesome!
I also don’t believe that just because you give your child siblings it means for a perfect childhood.
Siblings don’t always get along, if at all. Inter-family abuse can happen. Kids die: I lost my eldest brother when I was 14.
I’m not saying that to be all “THESE ARE ALL VERY GOOD REASONS TO NOT HAVE MORE THAN ONE KID.”
I’m not saying that at all. I’ve been through all three of those possibilities, and I am actually grateful they happened – I learned deep and dear soul lessons from them.
I speak about them instead because so often we see evidence of what a family looks like in order to be whole or true or right.
And I think that’s bollocks.
A family looks like what it looks like.
A family can have one parent or four parents, zero kids or twelve. Kids can be human or they can be fur babies. They can come out our vag or cut out from our bellies or given to us through the belly of another woman or found at an animal rescue place or that sweet little face pressing their nose through to us at a pet shop. Family can be a group of people who love each other who pledge to stick it out together for life. Family can be extended or it can be tiny. It can be loud or it can be soft and quiet.
Family is just about belonging. Belonging to our selves, belonging to each other, building bonds with our hearts.
We each get to choose what is right for us.
I understand this is a subject that touches the walls of every soul’s dreams and wishes and beliefs – whether they’ve manifested or not.
I know that my decision is not the right decision for every woman out there.
I know that every family has to find their own happy place of what’s true and right for them – and sometimes that’s about all your dreams come true, and sometimes it’s a compromise.
I know not every couple has the same number in mind when it comes to children.
I know not every woman gets to choose how many (or if any) children she will or won’t have.
It’s an area fraught with so much emotion and belief and judgment.
Just as Neale Donald Walsh says in “Conversations with God”:
“The journey of the (parent) is one of the most difficult spiritual paths to take in the world… if not the most difficult.”
I just want to send love to every woman who has come up against this decision of:
will I? won’t I? why can’t I?
Regardless of what the answer is, I know it’s not always an easy answer to come to.
I talked to other women. Women who’d chosen one child because of their concerns about the planet. Women who didn’t get to choose. Women who’ve told me in tears that they get called a “part time mum” for only having one child. Women who chose and chose again. Women who’ve faced pressure to have one, or two, or not too many. I’ve listened to the story of women who’ve chosen to have as many children as wish to come through. Women who’d chosen one child because “I’d rather do one child well than two children badly.” Women (like the beautiful Rebecca Woolf) who’ve ended up with a stunning family larger than they expected and treated it as the destiny it was. Women who’ve had children spaced so far apart it was like having two or three only children. Women with six children who still cultivated their creative careers.
Each of them are remarkable and special and right.
Every one of our choices and lives (and surprises) is powerful and sacred.
Because they are our own.
I’m not pro-one child.
I’m pro-compassion because I know sometimes life just happens to you.
I’m pro-woman and I’m pro-man.
I know none of this is easy, and I know we all do the best we can.
I’m immensely grateful that I have a choice. And that I’ve found peace with what I am wanting right now.
I also understand that one day I might completely change my mind. I don’t believe I will at all, but I know enough to know that the universe is wild and expansive and that unseen vistas appear at every corner.
But right now:
My heart + soul are that of a mother-of-one-child.
This particular constellation of cells longs for nothing more than that.
I want my daughter to know – by being a living example of it –
that it’s okay for her to choose what she wants.
Whether it’s to have zero kids or one kid or eighty-six million.
Whether she wants to attachment parent or if she thinks that’s the most ridunkulous thing ever.
Whether she wants to love or not love, whether she loves a man or a woman or someone who doesn’t identify as either or maybe she loves more people than one all at once.
Whether she wants to homeschool or unschool or send her kids to public school or some British boarding school where they still row and wear straw hats.
Whether she wants to work or be at home or a bit of both or join the circus or wherever the wind takes her.
That she gets that choice. She does.
Because it’s her life.
And she gets to choose what sings to her soul. What is right for her. What is right for her family.
And I’m going to love her, no matter what she wants.
Just as I’m going to love me too. For wanting what I want too.
I don’t know what is right for you. But I do know what is right for me.
And that’s all that matters.
I’m sending you so much love, kindness, compassion + understand for all the decisions you are called to make in your life.
I love you. I honour you. I see you.
All my love,