And just like that, after months of discussing and second-guessing, it was decided. We were one and done. I had never even heard the term “one and done” until eight months ago, when I Googled “pro/cons of having an only child.” At the time, I was in the throes of anxiety, biological clock pressure and some arbitrary deadline I had put upon myself, and I thought Google would help my husband Josh and I tilt our pro/con list for growing our family to one side or another. Looking back, letting a search engine decide our family’s future probably wouldn’t have been our best move. But I was terrified that either choice we made would be the wrong one, and, being indecisive in general, the finality of the decision had me spinning. Turns out, Google was quite egalitarian on the issue, so it didn’t help anyway. Many online forums extolled the virtues of being one and done, and just as many were devoted to the joys of sibling relationships. Seriously. No. Help. At. All.
Josh had been about 80 percent certain he didn’t want to have another child for some time. Both of us had always envisioned a family of four, but, given our daughter Hailey’s difficult birth, and, you know, us almost dying and our resulting PTSD, well, needless to say, he wasn’t anxious to go down that road again. Also, given that Hailey’s birth could have turned out much different, Josh felt strongly that we dodged a bullet and wondered if trying for a second child would be pushing our luck. Rather, he chose to be grateful for the blessings we had than to ask for more. I shared his concerns and added to them the worry that my body and my psyche couldn’t handle another difficult pregnancy and birth, this time at 41.
For several months, Josh and I asked ourselves the tough questions (and some superficial ones): The three of us have a pretty cool family dynamic going on. Did we really want to change it? Did we have the time and energy to devote to another child? And we’re finally getting sleep! Do we want to go back to sleepless nights and diapers? And Hailey is such a good traveler! We can go anywhere! (We don’t. But we could.) Are we too old and tired? On the flip side, we worried about Hailey being lonely without a brother or sister, missing out on some of the quintessential sibling moments that most of us grow up with. My brother, sister and I are pains in each other’s asses much of the time, but we are also a support system for each other, shoulders to cry on, listeners, friends, cohorts in the stories of our lives, a reality check, our children’s godparents.
Our pro/con list had 10 items in each column, a clear sign that decisions like this can’t be whittled down to a list. In the end, it came down to Josh and I realizing on a gut level what was right for our family. After months of intellectualizing the decision, it clicked for us in an unusual way. The three of us were waiting in a line to see Mickey Mouse at Disneyland and a family of three was in line ahead of us — parents and a teenage daughter. They were talking, playing a game of some sort together and enjoying each other’s company. Perhaps the daughter was all teen angst at home, but on that day, not only was she a teenager alone at Disneyland with her parents, but she was having fun with them. Josh and I watched them for a while, then we turned to each other, smiling, and Josh said what we both were thinking: “I want that.”
We’re a couple of months past making our choice to join the ranks of the one and dones, and we’re still adjusting to this new plan for our family. I had always expected to have a second child and give birth again, thus being able to experience some of the early bonding moments Hailey and I missed out on due to her rough entry into the world. I’m still letting go of some sadness over the fact that I won’t ever know what it’s like to hold my crying baby after its born and feel its skin against my skin. And Josh and I always envisioned ourselves with two little girls, so we’ve had to adjust that vision for our family. But these are just longings for experiences we never knew, ghosts of a life that never existed. The reality of our family is beautiful, and our “one” is pretty damn incredible. Maybe the ghosts of a life never lived always remain for everyone, everywhere on some level, for one reason or another. But I think as gratitude for the present and for your real life builds, those ghosts dissipate, eventually settling into nothing more than a fine mist of a memory of something that never was.