I have one child and “So, when is she going to have a little brother or sister?” is a question I’m often asked. It’s fairly common among Filipino families to have several children; I’m the youngest of four, and I have friends who are among four, five, even six children.
There’s social pressure from family (mostly aunties and uncles you only see at events) to have children. Before having my daughter I was constantly asked when I was going to have one. Replies like, “We’re not ready,” and, “It’s up to God,” resulted in looks of pity. Relatives usually responded with what roughly translates to “Your womb is shriveling up.” I couldn’t help wondering if I was disappointing them and my parents.
Despite this, I know a handful of Filipino mamas who are mothers of one child, just like me. Is there a disparity in the way motherhood has changed for us compared to that previous generation? As second generation Filipino-American mamas, I prefer to think we know our worth isn’t determined by having more children, but it makes me no less ambivalent about it.
The Financial Aspect: Can I Provide Enough for Two Kids?
I came to the United States at 16 months old and we slept on the floor until my parents could furnish our then-home. I ate free or reduced-price lunches at public school. I often skipped after-school activities that required fees. My undergraduate education at a public university was paid for with grants, scholarships, part-time jobs, and student loans.
Today, I have my own struggles as a small-business owner and the wife of a recent MBA graduate with student loan debt. I’m pretty good at bargain-hunting, creating meals out of anything in the pantry and fridge, and education is my non-negotiable. If private school tuition was on the table, would we have the means to send them both? Would I have to change my non-negotiable stance for the sake of having two kids? With two kids we’d need more living space, a bigger car, more childcare help, and just about more of everything else. We’re getting by with our one child, but what would we do with a second child?
The Health Aspect: Will We Be Healthy?
I’m thirty-five. My mother was twenty-nine when I was born. I was her last child and she was in the prime of her birthing years. Before this viable pregnancy I was married six years, experienced years of infertility, and a heart-breaking ectopic pregnancy.
I was consistently concerned about my health during my pregnancy. I worried about placenta previa, like my sister experienced. I feared for pre-eclampsia, just as my cousin developed with her first pregnancy. I ate carefully, hoping to avoid gestational diabetes as I’m seeing a good friend of mine struggle with right now. Was my healthy pregnancy a miracle? Do I have it in me to do it again? Will he/she be okay in there? Would I even have the energy to keep up with two?
The Love Aspect: Is There Room in My Heart to Love Another?
The thought of comparisons or competitions for affection is heartbreaking. As the self-proclaimed favorite child (yeah, I said it!), my baby worrying about not being a favorite should never happen. Granted, I don’t want a child yearning for approval from others, but there may be times when it might happen.
I’ve heard that your heart doubles, making for an even greater capacity of love. I’ve also heard about someone crying upon realizing their second child wasn’t her “sunshine, only sunshine.” Thinking about this happening brings me to tears. How do I know I have the capacity to love more? Will I have the ability to ensure I’m giving each the amount of attention they need?
One Child or Doubling Up: Time Will Tell
I yearn for the same joy of anticipation that comes with pregnancy. The chance to bring home a new baby and again experience the little joys that come from the new milestones reached each day makes me smile. I love the idea of birthing my baby’s best friend, someone to whisper little secrets to and share memories with. They’d guide each other, play games, walk hand-in-hand, and sit at the table to do homework together. Then again, they’d also drive each other nuts, fight over toys, and make each other cry.
I’ve thought about freezing my eggs and finding a surrogate, in case I decide later that I want another child. Then I shudder at the thought of being in my forties with a newborn. I also remember I don’t have to decide today. I don’t have to make this one child policy a reality forever. For now, I’ll just worry about making sure I don’t have a spoiled only child.