I have a pit in my stomach that I have not felt in years. A pain of longing and disappointment. Five years ago, my husband and I got the news that we were pregnant after a five-year fertility journey that ended with a final and successful IVF round. Before we saw those two pink lines, we experienced years of disappointment and despair. Those are feelings that I never thought I would feel again. I thought that we were "infertility survivors" and our story was complete.
We decided to be a one-and-done family. Or rather I decided that we would be a one-and-done family. I could not open myself up to embarking on the IVF rollercoaster one more time. Becoming pregnant naturally is not in the cards for us, and I simply could not bring myself to set foot in the fertility clinic one more time. Opening myself up to the miserable feeling if another IVF cycle deems unsuccessful is too much for me to bear.
Instead, I've embraced my life as a mother to one amazing little girl. I count my blessings and tell myself that she is fine being an only child. We are constantly on going play dates, engaging in different activities, and visiting family. This kid is surrounded with love, support, and companionship.
My daughter had mentioned that she wanted a baby sister the same way she mentioned she wanted a new toy. Since the conversation never went beyond what she would name the little girl, it seemed like a 10-minute novelty and then she moved on. Tonight, however, her desire for a sister went deeper. "Mama, why don't I have a baby sister and all of my friends do?" my daughter asked. How do I explain this to a four-year-old? (How I would have answered honestly: We never imagined that it would take so much time, emotion, and money to have one child. If life went according to plan, you would be eight years old right now and you would certainly have a sibling or two.) "Mama, why does our neighbor's mommy have three kids and you only have one?" I answered her questions by saying: "Some mommies have a harder time getting a baby," I said. "Your Mama and Daddy had to work very hard and get lots of help from doctors to have you."
Immediately, the waterworks flowed from my daughter's eyes and the pain in her voice was all too familiar . . . the longing for a person who isn't here. It was almost as if I was hearing the pain of a women who longed to be a mother. My daughter is longing to be a sister. "Why do other moms not need help and you do? I am all alone. It's not fair!" No sweetie, it is not fair. How could she know that these are the same questions and thoughts I have been struggling to come to terms with myself for years. And I agree, it isn't fair. But there has to be a reason for all of it. I still don't know what it is, but maybe one day I will.
Her questions brought up so many feelings I wasn't ready for. Am I being selfish by not going for another one? Right now, I feel terrible about my decision to stop at one. Google has brought me tons of evidence that only children are absolutely fine in the long run, which makes me feel a bit better. I can list all of the advantages, but right now I am trying to just breathe. I feel like I am an "infertility patient" all over again, but this time my daughter is sharing in the heartbreak.
I don't know what the answer is. I don't know what the future holds, and I don't know if depriving my daughter of a unique love and bond that only siblings understand outweighs the benefits of being an only child. I don't know, and I have never been heartbroken about it until this very moment. Her questions have forced me to reckon with my choices again in a way I never expected, and I genuinely don't know what to do about it. But I am shocked to find that infertility never leaves you, even after finally becoming a mama.