“Do you ever regret not giving your son a brother or a sister?” she asked, a blank look on her face, yet distinct curiosity glimmering in her eyes.
I wasn’t expecting that question from a longtime client, from someone who has zero kids of her own, or from anyone for that matter. We had just seconds ago been talking about what each of us was having for dinner, and then BAM! Things sure did escalate quickly from talk of pork tenderloin and broccoli to now…pain. Grief. Hurt. Angst. Confusion.
I’m sure my face wrinkled up or did something weird or ugly. I had to pause. I wasn’t sure how to respond, but I had to resist the urge to flee (which can sometimes be my coping mechanism, just to escape).
And then, the words somehow quietly eeked out of my mouth with an edge of forcefulness. “I wouldn’t say I could ever describe it as regret. It’s pain that encompasses me when I think about it. It’s not like I didn’t try. I didn’t purposefully not give him a sibling. You know I had miscarriages.”
Then it was her turn to pause. And she said, “Well, was it your fibroids or something? It’s too bad you couldn’t have given him a sibling.”
Again, I had to pause, and I hope my face didn’t do something crazy. I had jarring and excruciating flashbacks of bringing a Tupperware container with my unborn baby’s tissue to the hospital for examination after my second miscarriage.
I surprised myself with my reply. I am a notorious people-pleaser with a consistent inability to say “no” and an innate desire not to upset others.
“Let’s not talk about this, please,” I said, fighting back the tears and anger and whatever other emotion that was brewing within that moment. I maintained composure.
I was proud of myself for keeping it together, for asserting myself in that situation, for not rambling with a laundry list of reasons trying to defend myself, and ultimately for giving myself grace afterward for feeling all the feelings. And I also openly admit I internally experienced a few (hundred) “How dare she??” moments.
Because women like me, who have suffered and endured miscarriages, indeed feel all the feelings. And when people ask us why we “only” have one child, the hurtful feelings can intensify, like, are we are doing society a disservice for not having two or more kids? Are we in some way letting our one child down by not giving them a sibling? NO. I can declare that answer without regret or remorse or any loss of dignity. And for the record, how does someone having one child impact another’s life in any capacity in the world? Why do people ask such invasive questions without a second thought of exercising courtesy and rationality?
It’s possibly foreign to some that people have “just one” child. My son is now 8, and years ago, I blogged about how I only have one child and how I am ok with that, but it seems others are not. I understand that most people probably view a “family” as having two or more kids and not “just one.”
Yet, in my case, yes, I still only have one child. And he is amazing and resilient; I am incredibly grateful for my miracle baby! He is my heart, my everything. I don’t carry a shred of envy, resentment, or anything negative towards bigger families; I applaud them and support them. They are awesome, but my small family is incredible, too.
For those who have struggled with miscarriages or infertility issues, my heart goes out to you. For the women who choose to keep their family small for whatever reason, good for you. It’s your choice and your business; nobody else’s. For those who want big families; good for you. It’s your choice and your business; nobody else’s. Let’s celebrate each other, always, and empower each other rather than cast aspersions or inflict guilt or interject unwanted thoughts and opinions.
I have to keep getting through these challenging moments where people unintentionally or intentionally put me in an awkward or painful spot. I have to remind myself that ignorance is not always meant to be cruel. I also remind myself that some people inherently do not have a filter, and they will say or ask anything they want at any given moment. The beauty has to be in my ability to reframe my thinking and not make this about me; this is definitely about them in some capacity.
I often remind myself the only way is through. And then I keep going. I am the proud mama of one amazing little boy, and he needs me.