Marin turned 2 earlier this month, so naturally the question of if and when I’ll have another child has come up quite a bit. People first started asking when I was pregnant, because creating one human life isn’t enough, you must be thinking about more!
I vividly remember an encounter I had with a contractor at our house a few weeks after Marin was born. He asked if she was our first, to which I replied “first and last.” I laughed. I was also dead serious. He looked at me almost puzzled, and replied “No don’t say that. She needs a sibling.”
Does she though? The look on my face must have displayed rage because it got awkward and quiet, and I don’t remember where the conversation went after that. My inner monologue went something like, how about you vomit so hard you pop blood vessels in your face? Throw up so much you lose over 10 lbs and are so weak you faint, a lot. At the time, I was still bleeding from childbirth and only a few days recovered from delayed postpartum hemorrhage, an experience where I thought I might die, and which left me with PTSD. But go ahead, tell me how I should do it all again.
Just an innocent comment though right? Or was it a glaring example of how detached our society is from pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum? In a country with no guaranteed paid maternity leave, no universal healthcare, no universal pre-K or childcare, eroding reproductive rights, and a maternal mortality rate that ranks 10th among similar wealthy nations, it’s pretty clear we’re an afterthought.
Speaking on parenthood recently, the Pope criticized people for having pets instead of children, and went so far as to scold those who “only have one.” Pretty rich coming from a childless man. But it speaks to the lack of care and understanding around what it takes to carry a pregnancy, birth a child, and then care for it.
The average cost to raise a child according to the USDA is $14,846 for a middle class two-parent household. That’s interesting, because a little back of the napkin math puts my childcare bill at around $17,000 (just for the school year) and that’s considered “affordable.” I’m curious how they got those numbers. With insurance, the cost of my pregnancy was somewhere around $4000, the cost of childbirth another $3000 ($1200 for my epidural, because it’s not “medically necessary”), and then another $1200 for my postpartum hemorrhage because there’s no free rides, even if you’re bleeding out! That’s over $8000 during the time I should have been saving to take time off postpartum, because I’m self-employed and have no paid maternity leave.
Of course I’m one of the lucky ones, because I was able to pay those bills. In America, nearly 11 million children are poor. That’s 1 in 7 kids, who make up almost one-third of all people living in poverty in this country. America’s economic systems are not designed to support families, and the US has no comprehensive social safety net.
The truth is though, I never wanted more than one kid, and that’s ok. You don’t need a reason or an excuse. Infertility, medical concerns, the cost of raising children, job security, climate change, all valid reasons to stop at one, but simply not wanting any more is valid too.
The myth that only children are spoiled, bossy, lonely, and “maladjusted” dates back to the 1800s thanks to G. Stanley Hall, an influential psychologist and first president of the American Psychological Association, who said being an only child was “a disease in itself.” He was also a proponent of eugenics, so there’s that. The truth is, the myths have been debunked. Can only children be spoiled, lonely or bossy? Yes, and so can kids with siblings.
About 20 percent of US households are single child families, and it’s the fastest growing family unit in America. I don’t care if you have one, none or six children, to each their own. I’m happy with the one. That should be reason enough.