Living in rural Mexico, I’m a bit of an anomaly as the mother of an only child. Women see me and Maya together and ask – do you have other children? When I say no, they ask why.
No matter what reason I give them for not having another child – like my age (I’m 46 and recently went through “the change”), my struggles with infertility, and that I like having just one child – they still insist I should have another one. It just doesn’t seem to compute in their minds why I would stop trying to have more, no matter what might stand in my way. God works in mysterious ways, and may bless my uterus again one day.
What I don’t tell people is that I never wanted another child. I get the feeling that this won’t sit well in this small, family-focused, Catholic community. Most of my neighbors come from large families with many siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great grandparents living in close proximity. Having just one child or a small family is not the norm.
Like my daughter, I too am an only child – una hija única. My mother, like many of the young mothers here today, did not have access to the same family planning resources in the early 1970s as I did in the 2000s to support her decision to have just one child. She, too, was an anomaly in her local culture. Unlike most of her peers, she was set on having just one child. Those around her – including medical professionals – questioned her choice. Her doctor made her wait 5 years after I was born to have her tubes tied, just in case she changed her mind. She was pretty darn sure at the time. I give her a ton of credit for knowing herself well enough at the tender age of 22 to see that the best form of motherhood for her would be to mother just one child. She’s never wavered on or regretted her decision. Nor have I.
Growing up, I was often asked if I wished I had a sibling. I don’t recall ever having a strong desire for one – other than when I was a teenager and wished for an older brother so he would bring home all his cute friends. When I was in the 4th grade, I had a pseudo older sister for a year when my 18-year-old cousin moved in with us during her first year of college. We shared a bathroom and I loved to watch her put on makeup and fix her hair with hot curlers and a curling iron. She drove a yellow Dodge Colt and had cute guy friends she would bring over to the house. I thought she was so cool. But I was also happy when she moved out and I didn’t have to share my bathroom anymore.
I guess I was never truly in want of a sibling since my parents surrounded me with opportunities to socialize with kids my age. They signed me up for Brownies, sent me to summer camps, put me in Sunday school, and got me active in youth groups. They had a tight circle of friends with kids my age and we spent nearly every weekend together from middle school through high school. I considered these kids my brothers and sisters growing up.
From time to time, my daughter asks me if I’m going to have another baby, or tells me that she wants a baby brother or sister. Sometimes she asks for an older sibling, sweetly unaware of the lack of logic in her request. I’m sure it’s pretty normal for an only child – or any child for that matter – to inquire about future siblings, but it’s probably intensified by the fact that she is surrounded by families chock full of children and she is alone in hers. While she is too young for me to explain all the reasons why she does not have a sibling, I tell her the one simple truth I learned at a young age that she can understand – that her “brothers” and “sisters” are all the people in her life that love her or will ever love her. Plus, she’ll never have to worry about sharing her bathroom.