My intention was always to have at least two kids. My husband is an only child and felt quite strongly about having a sibling for our then almost three year old. It was while we were trying to get pregnant that I found out that I had breast cancer. The tumor had already spread to my lymph nodes, and I learned that I would have to delay treatment in order to harvest eggs. I decided right then and there that I had to fight to live for the son I already had rather than worry about the one I didn’t, and I opted to begin my chemotherapy immediately. That decision instantly made me a reluctant member of the One and Done Club.
There are so many reasons why people opt to have only one child. For some, like me, there is a medical crisis. For others it’s issues with fertility. Some people feel that they can’t financially afford more than one, and some simply just don’t want to have another child. (All equally valid reasons, BTW.)
Those of us who have only one child have all been asked the inevitable question, “When are you going to have another one?” I used to feel like I needed to make an excuse. “The child we have is perfect and we didn’t want to take our chances” is the one I would go with the most often. But as I told that lie over and over again it began to grate on me more and more. The truth of the matter is that I desperately wanted to have another baby and that the most heartbreaking part of my cancer diagnosis was reconciling the loss of this ability. Lying about my truth just added insult to injury.
And here’s the thing, it’s an innocent enough question. I know that people mean well when they ask it. I’m often curious about it when I meet other people too. But I’m not going to lie about my reason anymore.
There are two different ways I now answer the question. If they are someone I’m close to, I simply tell them the truth. I’ve learned that it’s not my job to manage their reaction. It usually goes something like this–they ask me the question and I now say, “Because I had breast cancer, I’m no longer able to have children.” Sometimes people will suggest adoption or surrogacy. Sure that’s an option for a lot of people, but these are not sure (or inexpensive) options, and at my age, it isn’t something that my husband or I feel like we want or need to do. It feels better to tell the truth, rather than cover it up and I have found that people, for the most part, have a great deal of compassion for where I’m at.
If it is a stranger or someone who I’m not comfortable engaging with, I use a trick that a dear friend taught me. He said that whenever he gets asked a question that he feels is inappropriate or that he’s not comfortable answering, he replies with, “No, Why do you ask?” This puts the responsibility back on the person who is doing the questioning and often ends the conversation there.
The decision to have one child or 10 is a deeply personal one and one for which no one needs make excuses or justify. If you’re a member of the One and Done Club, reluctant or otherwise, stand proud in your decision and share your truth as you see fit.
And if you’re someone who is curious about someone’s childbearing status, understand that for many of us there isn’t always an easy answer. It’s okay to inquire, but understand that this simple question may have complex, difficult answers. And please be sure to show compassion and restraint in your response.