Sunday, February 17, 2008

Only Child?

Well, it's official. My 3-year-old son will be an only child. He was an IVF baby in my late thirties, and we waited until he was 3 to try the rest of the frozen embryos, resulting in pregnancy and miscarriage.
This failure to provide the little man with a sibling has given me a strange new perspective on life. There is sadness, but also relief: we are older parents, not well off, struggling on a few levels, and we were unsure how well we would handle another foray into the weird, wild world of parenting an infant, this time with a preschooler in the house no less.

The sadness is great, though: the other day I saw a friend of my son's walk out of the preschool door holding the hand of his 2-year-old sister, and tears came into my eyes. My little man would have been a wonderful older brother: curious, generous, affectionate. I base this on what, exactly? I ask myself. Well, mostly how he treats the dog: a mixture of delighted affection, irritability, and teacherly guidance. ("This is a bus, doggie," he explained one day, showing the dog a picture of a wildly decorated schoolbus I cut out of a magazine for him. That was the day I first talked with my husband about the sibling question, tears in my eyes.)
Friends with more than one children have that inevitable photo: the first gaze of the older on the new younger sibling in her hospital bassinet. If possible, you want to get the photo shot in the exact moment that the most moving look of wonder comes into the older sibling's eyes: "Who is this new creature in my life"? the child's eyes seem to ask. And, "Did I come out looking all wrinkly like that?" Who knows if that's what they're really thinking, no matter how poetic the gaze. Probably it's more like "Will this creature bother me while I'm playing trains?"
Or maybe not. It's unfathomable to the Little Man that anyone would bother him during such a sacred activity, until someone does and he looks up with a kind of incredulous indignation.

But I digress. The idea that I will never hold an infant in my arms again, or feel her desperate searching for the nipple 800 times a day, or feel the wriggling around in the womb again, makes me clench up to avoid sobbing. But what made me wait so long? Did I secretly want an only child? Did I know myself well enough to know that two children would be too much for me? It may be true, but that doesn't mitigate the grief.

The grief, though, may be instructive, or even creative. Will it make me get back to writing?

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