Childrearing

Growing Up An Only Child Made Me Determined To Have More Than One Kid

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only-childI was three months old when my father felt a lump in his groin. His doctors
told him he had stage 4 cancer and would not have long to live. They were
wrong; he fought the cancer off into remission. But just before my fourth

birthday, he had a relapse. This time, the doctors were right. He died a
few weeks later.

I learned early on that there are no guarantees in life. I am relatively

healthy and have already lived past my father’s age, but I don’t assume
that I will live long enough to see my grandchildren. Statistically, most
people these days reach their 70’s, and most everyone else in my family

lives to an overripe age. Yet, I am terrified that I will share my father’s
fate and leave my young family behind.

My father’s untimely death made me an only child. Through a bizarre series

of events, the sperm bank lost his pre-chemo “deposit”, and my mother never
got the second child they had planned for. Growing up, I felt a profound
emptiness, like a twist of fate had left a vacancy instead of a brother or

sister. I had a large extended family and good friends, but it wasn’t
enough to fill the void. I yearned for someone who could understand what it
was like to be a child of my mother; no one experienced her that way except
me. I would have also loved for someone to share my childhood talking,
fighting, playing, and living under the same roof together. In the absence
of sibling solidarity, intimacy, and yes, even rivalry — I felt alone and
adrift in a world that would never understand me.

After I had my son, the painful memory of being an only child began gnawing
away at me. I felt a duty to protect him from the loneliness, the singular
pressure to fulfill our vicarious hopes and dreams, and the future
responsibility of being the sole caregiver to aging parents. I also wanted
him to have a natural ally to share life’s burden’s and joys with, and I
wanted him to learn some basic life skills that I still struggle with
today, like how to share. Before long, my desire to give my son a sibling
became all-consuming; everything else was secondary to getting pregnant.
With my age, I had a short window to provide him with a sibling, and I
wasn’t about to waste it.

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