My First (and only) Child
Writer Michelle Bilodeau thought she didn’t want kids—until, she did. But now, 2 years after the birth of her daughter, she has to constantly defend her decision to not have more kids.
When I was in my early 20s, I was standing in a friend’s kitchen, enjoying an evening of drink and conversation, when one of my male friends cracked the but-women-were-put-on-earth-to-procreate “joke”. I immediately honed in on him, expressing very intensely that we were not in fact meant to just populate the planet, even boldly stating that I never wanted to have children. Ever.
You could hear the proverbial record scratch, as each dude in the vicinity stared at me with their mouths wide open—and less than 10 seconds later used said holes to tell me why I was wrong and would one day change my mind. #mansplaining
But I stuck to that mantra for most of my 20s, and into my early 30s. When I met my husband, he openly talked about how he wanted to have nine children in total, his thinking that maybe he could get me to eventually agree to have at least one or two. And, as cliché as it is, once we were on the path to getting married and I knew he was my person, I started imagining myself walking down our leafy street holding hands with a little girl who was all mine, a smile beaming from my face and a warm feeling generating from my heart and my belly.
We have since been pregnant twice, and brought one pretty perfect child into this crazy, wild world. When our daughter was just three months old, my husband asked me what I thought about having a second. “Too soon!” my sleep-deprived self snapped. We agreed to revisit the conversation a year later.
When that one year mark came and went, I was more resigned than ever that we were a one-and-done family. I love who we are together, I'm happy in my career after taking the first five months on my daughter's life off to tend to myself and our little one and I feel like we are complete. End of story.
But some people can’t seem to get past the fact that we made the decision to keep our family to three humans, and feel the need to project their ideals on us, saying things like, “you don’t want to have an only child,” and, “siblings help entertain each other,” or “having two is just like having one.” It happens often when we meet new people, but luckily our family and most of our friends are on-board and don’t pass judgment (a few took some convincing, but they since have stood down).
But, we have a family friend (who we absolutely adore!) who insists on asking us every time we see her when we’re going to have another. Correction, she asks ME when I am going to have a second baby. Each time, I tell her that I am not going to. She always pushes, saying things like, “but you have to” or that our daughter “needs a sibling.” For the most part, I have been alone in defending myself. Not because my husband doesn’t agree with me, but because he finds the conversation so impossibly awkward (and it is). Once I told him that I needed him more decidedly on my team, he stepped up. And the last time we saw our friend, we ended up having a very serious conversation with her about the fact that I do not want to have another child. Thankfully, we no longer have to have this conversation with her.
Because, to be frank, that conversation has consistently made me feel sad and guilty, like I was putting myself above my child, and that prioritizing my own decisions and emotions was a bad thing. I do still think that maybe she would fare better with a sibling, someone to commiserate with and play with. But she is in daycare full-time, and is very social both at daycare and when we’re at the park or with any of our friend’s kids—of which there are many. She has no shortage of companions. She is also very independent, more so than I ever was as a child. Despite the negative feelings that these awkward conversations foster, deciding to have only one kid has also made me feel more empowered. While the patriarchy and outdated gender roles might be telling me one thing, I am strong enough to express what my own personal needs are and to see them through. For those who want more than one child, you’re amazing! And for those of us who only want one (or even none), well, you’re spectacular, too!
Until now, I have come armed with a running list of excuses that I tell people when they ask if we’re having another kid. They include, I could do it again, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to put myself and my career on hold for any amount of time. I am getting older. I don’t want to put my body through pregnancy again. Etc, etc, etc.
But in all honesty, now that I am almost two years from my daughter’s birthdate, it really isn’t anyone’s business but mine and my husband’s. So the next time someone asks me when I am going to have kiddo number two, I am going to look them directly in the eye and simply say that I am not having another child. And when they push—because they likely will—I am going to slap on a little smirk, ask them a really inappropriate question (perhaps something about their sex life?) that would be completely none of my business, and hope they finally get the hint.