The Real Reason I Have an Only Child
By Julie Green
Jan 19, 2018
Coming from a small, close-knit family, I didn’t have much exposure to children. So, I hadn't realized how much I liked kids until I had one of my own. Being surrounded by a community of moms and babes back in England kept me sane through the endless colic and sleepless nights.
Right from day one, Jackson was so much more than the other babies. Secretly, while my son exhausted all my reserves, I contemplated having a second baby. How wonderful it would be to have a daughter! “Maybe,” I told myself, “when he’s a bit older and being his mom is a little less overwhelming we’ll think about growing our family.”
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But that intense baby became an intense toddler who morphed into an intense preschooler. Three years in, it all made sense. Jackson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and four years later, with ADHD. If anything, things only got more intense when he started school. I kept waiting for a sweet spot in which to welcome another child. My son is now nine. At some point, I must have realized that sweet spot was never going to come.
Making peace with the parent I am versus the parent I expected I would be — that's the tricky part.
The hardest part is about autism isn’t accepting or loving Jackson for who he is: a funny, brilliant, and (still) intense kid. I could not imagine a day, let alone a life without him. Accepting that I have no capacity to have more children — and making peace with the parent I am versus the parent I expected I would be — that's the tricky part. I see my friend’s kids and I think they’re awesome. Maybe it’s the novelty of how different they are from my son, or the novelty of the mom I might have been the second time around.
I don’t know.
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Had I become pregnant after Jackson, I would have welcomed another baby without hesitation. But with our respective families out of town, my husband and I could not in good conscience, nor without considerably more support, have done it.
Autism has this annoying habit of stealing the show and dominating the conversation wherever it goes. Inevitably, our second child may be relegated to the shadows, subsisting on scraps of attention. I couldn’t let that happen. To be clear, I’m in no way suggesting what’s right or wrong for other families. But as a parent and as a human being, I know my own limits.
Most days, I have literally nothing left to give.
Do I resent my son for the shape our family has taken through necessity? I don’t think so. After all, with the addition of our bulldog (the “furry sister”), we make a pretty fab foursome. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll volunteer with children or be someone’s honorary aunty. In the meantime, I’m glad I can give my all to Jackson.
I’d be lying, though, if I said it didn’t sting the slightest bit — even now — when people ask how many kids I have, and I utter “just one.” Though it’s not what I had mapped out in my mind when I became a mom, it’s my journey; I’m learning to own it.