It’s Not My Choice: Changing My Perspective on Having an Only Child


She looked at me and asked, “Is he your only child?”

“Yup, he’s it,” I respond and then shift in the awkward silence. She is looking me over as if she is wanting an explanation, all while her kids are spilling out of the van. Her car battery is dead, making her life look a bit chaotic right now, while mine, well, it looks pretty put together at the moment.

I feel a little guilty standing there with my only child so I nervously blurt out an explanation. “Yes, we just have the one, but not by choice,” as if to say, I promise you my life isn’t perfect and neat and without trials. Trust me, I wish my life was a little more full of kids and diapers and spit up. But I don’t ramble on about my life story there in the parking lot. I hope that my one sentence explains that my life really isn’t perfect, and it hasn’t gone as planned.

The words I quickly stuttered are true. It isn’t my choice. We haven’t gotten to choose how many kids we will have or how they are spaced in age. Instead, we’ve had a long road of infertility and the blessing of adoption. I play the words over in my head. I have plenty of opportunity to think about it as I get asked this question a lot.

“Is he an only child?”

I feel a bit defensive some days because this isn’t really the way I had imagined our family. (A big round pregnant belly, one boy, and then one girl. That was my dream. Oh yeah, and a white picket fence would be nice.)

only child

Life has a way of surprising us, taking a different turn than we had imagined. When other parents or strangers ask me if we will have another or adopt again I am reminded that it is not my choice. I have wasted many hours and days, well, let’s be honest, years being miserable and comparing my life with other families. It’s really not a fun place to be. It’s quite terrible actually. So despite how I had always dreamed it to be, I have decided to choose my perspective. It is a process like so many things in life. Rather than focus on what could have been I will embrace my reality. A small family it may be, but it is truly wonderful. 

I have a choice about so many things. So I will choose. 

I will choose not to compare and compete with the woman with a van full of kids. 

She is no more and I am no less because of how many children we have. Parenting is hard regardless. Most likely, she is feeling the need to explain something too. If I can just be brave and honest in a conversation I see that she isn’t judging, rather facing struggles and insecurities, too.

I will choose gratitude over the pity party. 

Some days are harder than others but every single day there is beauty somewhere. I can choose to stop and take a picture or laugh at the silly moments (there are plenty of those in this household).

I will choose quality, focused time with my only child. 

This is a blessing. I can have one-on-one conversations with my little kindergartner on the way home from school. It’s a gift to jump on the trampoline together, or walk down to our creek to explore. I can pour all my mama resources into this one precious life with which God has entrusted us. That’s a big responsibility.

only child, infertility

So when you see me smiling, laughing and enjoying my only child, know that it isn’t always easy. I have chosen this attitude not my situation, and will continue to embrace this life in a small family–even without a white picket fence.

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Chelsea and her family live in a small town east of Portland. Recently they moved to a little piece of land surrounded by tall fir trees where they enjoy the solitude of the country. She has been married to her best friend for 17 years and they have been blessed with a son through adoption. Chelsea owns a small leather business that she runs from home. She spends a lot of time in the kitchen trying new recipes and cooking. She enjoys planting a garden more than harvesting it, hiking, camping and hunting with her husband. Coffee, tea, heartfelt conversations and chocolate are a few more favorites and if they can be combined, even better!


  1. Wow, this resonates so deeply with me; it is so much like something that I would write! I feel the pressures times a million because our only child is biological and I come from a culture where procreating is a woman’s lifelong calling. I was that pregnant mommy with a belly and people assume in our culture, in all of its misinformed glory, that it means I’m only one sexy time away from blossoming once again. But after almost 3.5 years, no dice. It took me a really long, depression- and guilt-filled time to truly come to grips with reality and focus my energies on the little one I have been blessed with. Our days look different now. I try to truly treasure the time I have with her, regardless of what others think (i.e. spoiling her with attention). I’m a photographer and take lots of pictures and love to look back on the one baby I have been beyond blessed to have the honor of raising. I still feel a pang in my uterus every time another friend or acquaintance announces her pregnancy or birth of yet another child, but I choose to focus on the perk (and there definitely are) of having a singleton.

  2. Hi!
    I understand these feelings, situations … so well!
    As a german just popping in here in this culture and language, I wondered about that you even have an expression ‘only one’ which gives directly the idea of something is missing in this child!

    I was blessed with my first child and then having cancer when he was 3. I was more busy with my sadness of not being able to have more children than facing the cancer! I was just so upset! Whenever I saw my child, there was this feeling along, missing the others! And it took me a long long way, so many days with tears until that day when I could change myself.
    I realized, that there are so many people longing for having ONE child and that there is a huge difference in life you can live. – A life with or without kids. And in that it doesn’t matter whether it is one ore more. That was my personal point where I could chance myself and being grateful again.
    And so happy we are, after the cancer there came child two! A medical wonder. And a heart wonder. Sometimes it is just so hard to look on that what you have instead of all the other dreams… But it is worth. Thank you for reminding me on that!

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