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Emotional Complexities Regarding the Choice not to Have a Second Child

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Emotional Complexities Regarding the Choice not to Have a Second Child

“Where is baby brother?” inquired my curious and wide-eyed daughter shortly after she turned 3. I wasn’t expecting a baby nor was I contemplating baby #2. I felt sheer panic, so I blurted out, “Baby brothers are currently on back order.” Don’t judge. I was genuinely lost on how to handle the situation. Thankfully, she paid no attention to me and went back to playing, but since then, she has brought it up at least once every two weeks. As her questioning became more frequent—and I acknowledged this wasn’t just a phase of wanting a sibling—I had to consider what I wanted and what was best for our family. As much as I would give my daughter whatever made her happy, this wasn’t something I could rush to decide. If, like me, you are deliberating whether or not to have a second child, continue reading for my candid reflections on expanding our family.

Altering Plans

Ever since I envisioned motherhood, I envisioned having two children, just like my mother did. The oldest of two, my brother and I are 4.5 years apart. That was the plan—until it wasn’t. One moment I had a newborn, and the next thing you know, my daughter Aria was 3 years old, and having a second child was nowhere near my priorities.

I vacillated the more I ruminated on it. To be completely honest, three years after giving birth to my daughter, I feel like I have only just recuperated from the transition. From finally examining my postpartum anxiety honestly to feeling like I have discovered my identity outside of motherhood, the dust has just settled. Quite frankly, I’m not prepared to relive it all over again. I don’t think I ever will be, and that’s acceptable.

While I miss being pregnant and the notion of having another child with the insights gained from raising my daughter is alluring, my list of pros and cons is uneven. The inner debate I had with myself spoke to a larger issue I’m certain many mothers grapple with: living for the well-being of our loved ones and making choices based on their happiness while suppressing our genuine desires. As mothers, we strive to ensure everyone’s happiness, and that is commendable—until it compels us to forsake the path we truly desire for our lives.

Navigating Guilt over Being “One and Done”

I pondered why my mind was predisposed to assume that there was something flawed about choosing to have only one child. Is it because I have a sibling and my husband is the eldest of six? Is it because I had always believed I would be a mother of two? Or is it because there is a preconceived stigma within society about only children, that my daughter will be indulged, solitary, or somewhat self-centered? We have all encountered the fallacies in movies about the perils of only children, that they are pampered and unwilling to share, that only children are reliant or solitary, or that they embody a range of negative traits.

Irrespective of how ludicrous these notions were, it troubled me. What I had to grasp from this predicament was that I must always be completely forthright about my feelings without any shame or guilt. We aim to do what is best for our children, and societal norms can breed conflict within ourselves. I almost had another child, which I knew would to an extent compromise my mental well-being, in order to provide my daughter with what I thought she needed—or what I was told she did.

Confronting the Inevitable Queries

Initially, it would vex me when friends and family inquired about when I was going to give my daughter a sibling. With each passing year, the nagging thought in my mind continued to arise. When I contemplated if and when I would take the plunge and commit to having another child, I kept postponing the decision. It was only when I was certain of what I truly needed—was I able to reconcile with the fact that I didn’t desire any more children,

What I had to realize is that it won’t be the questions that undermine me, it will be my self-doubt. But when I arrived at the acceptance that I firmly knew I was content with having just one child, nothing could sway me. The questions simply became that: questions—or inquiries about whether I would conform to what society had predetermined for me. And my response, time and time again, was, “No, I won’t be having another baby,” and that’s acceptable.

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