One is the loneliest number

Today on our way home from the zoo, CJ pipes up from the backseat with this,

“Mom, I want to get a baby.”

“A baby?” I find myself floundering for a response. This isn’t the first time he’s asked, and still I don’t know quite what to say. So I ask, “Why do you want a baby?”

“Because a baby will grow up to a kid. And then we’ll have a kid in our house that I can play with.” he pauses, thoughtful. “And also I like babies.”

“I know you do, sweetie.”

“We have to get a baby, mom!” his tone is urgent, commanding. Like he expects me to turn the car around and drive right to the baby store where we can pick up our own made-to-order brother.

Instead I give a non-committal “mm-hmm” and turned up the radio.

Lately CJ is obsessed with having a brother, a sister, or a baby. The topic comes up more and more. It’s natural, I suppose. CJ is a sociable little guy, and he sees his friends who have siblings and wants one for himself.

But every time he asks, it’s as if a knife turns in my chest.

I never intended for CJ not to have a sibling. I never intended him to grow up alone.

I always saw myself with three children… maybe even more.

Funny how life never gives you what you expect.

When CJ was 1 1/2, I found myself pregnant. It was NOT planned, but somehow had happened. After three months of morning sickness I went in to have the first ultra-sound and hear the heartbeat. The baby was healthy! the doctor assured me. We’d passed the point where risks of miscarriage are high! she was happy to inform. A week later I lost the baby.

It took me two years to recover, to even consider trying again.

But time marches on, no matter how madly we want to shout for it to STOP, just HOLD ON for a minute so that I can THINK! It ticks and tocks and vanishes and before you know it years have passed and you wonder where they went.

So it was with us until we found ourselves here, with a 4 1/2 year old son and no hint of another.
Still it feels strange when people assume that CJ is an only child. When they talk about our three-person family in such finite terms… as if it was our choice, as if it is set. The first time it happened– that someone referred to CJ as an “only child”– it gave me a jolt.

Only child? I thought, He’s not an only child! He just doesn’t have any siblings YET. That’s not the same as being an only child!

But as time has passed I’ve grown to realize that CJ is an only child. At 4 1/2, even if we did run down to the baby store and “pick him up a brother”, I think he’d pretty much still be an only child. Because at some point (5 years? 6 years? 7 years?) the age gap is too great to cross for any kind of meaningful sibling relationship… at least as children. How can a 10 year old really relate to a 5 year old? Or a 15 year old with a 10 year old? I just don’t see it happening.

When he turned three, I thought I was ok with it. I had carefully thought through all the benefits of him being an only child. Like how you get to spend this intense one-on-one time together. How well we know him. How easily he makes friends, because he’s had to.

But as he grows up my heart aches for him. When I see him playing alone in his room. When he has bravely interrupts yet another group of children at the playground to try and find a playmate. And especially when his questions show me how much his little heart yearns for another child to share his growing up with.

Oh, I know that it’s ok to be an only child.

I know that sometimes siblings are overrated.

I know that CJ will be FINE.

I know that somewhere is a woman who desperately wants to have just ONE baby. Who would give anything to be in my position.

But knowing these things doesn’t really help with the ache. Feelings aren’t rational, as much as we wish they would be. And so I grieve for the family I took for granted that I would have, for the realization that the future that I always planned is now, and it isn’t as I planned it.

And even while I feel sadness, there’s also a feeling of hope. That my life isn’t as I’d expected, but that doesn’t have to be bad.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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  1. :(
    Poor CJ. Poor you.
    I’m so sorry you lost that precious baby. I hope you’ll be able to come to complete peace with your decision about possibly having or not having another child.

  2. I’m so sorry. I have some friends who’ve dealt with this for years — people asking why they decided to have only one child, when the truth is that they tried for another and it didn’t happen.

    They seem to be at peace with how things turned out, but I still cringe when I hear people saying things based on assumptions.

    I have another close friend who tried for years to get pregnant. Eventually, she and her husband turned to in vitro. She now has two children after believing they would never have one.

    I pray that you will find peace no matter how things turn out.

    As for age differences — I worried a lot about that. My stepkids are 16 and 15. My bios are 2 and 4. On top of that, we aren’t the custodial parents of the older two. Still, in spite of all the obstacles, I’ve been so pleased and thrilled to see their relationships unfold. I couldn’t ask for a more considerate and helpful stepdaughter, a kid who delights in getting her little sister and brother ready for bed — bath included! — and entertaining them.

    Should you have another, please don’t fret over the age difference. I did and it was so needless.


  3. I’m so sorry to hear about the miscarriage you had.

    I have to believe (I didn’t for awhile and maybe I’m just rationalizing it now) that SB and the baby WILL be close despite their 7 year age difference. I’m not saying it won’t be a challenge just that in some ways SB is better equipped to handle a sibling now than he ever was at 2 or 3 or even 4.

    I can imagine how lonely CJ gets. SB is overcome with sadness when he has a friend over and it’s time for that friend to leave. He always wants the other child to move into our house. Now granted, after a week of having the baby living here, he’ll be probably be ready for it to leave, but you get my point.

  4. I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby. This was so beautifully written. I wanted to throw in my 2 cents about the age difference thing. My kids are 16, 14, 13, 9, 7, and 3.

    Today the 16-year-old and the 7-year-old were happily playing a computer game together. The 3-year-old has moved out of a baby bed and into the room with his big brothers (who are 4 and 6 years older than him). The 3-year-olds favorite person in the house is the 13-year-old. You get my drift? Siblings are a blessing no matter when they arrive. Trust me.

    A weird aside, I recently photo-shopped my head onto the body of the late Rick James. I blame you. :-)

  5. I know it’s hard to admit your pain when you’re truly grateful at the same time. But pain is pain is pain. And in the end it all hurts just the same, regardless of the cause. You’re justified in feeling however you feel. And just because you say it and acknowledge it and work through it doesn’t mean you don’t love your life.

    I think this was a really brave post. From a really brave mother.

  6. Jenny, all my brain can even come up with is “ditto” — I feel all that, too. And that disappointment every month. Just know you are not alone in this experience.

  7. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. In time maybe CJ will learn of his angel sibling?

    I was also going to say, I know many siblings, separated by a big age gap that get on just fine, and others close in age who do not get on – the age gap is no guarantee that kids will get on or not get on, you know? (I know you know this :) )

  8. We have decided that Nathan will be an only child, though, we didn’t go through the same heartbreaking ordeal as you did. I’m sorry about that, Jenny. But on the age gap–I’m the youngest and the age gap between me and my siblings ranges from nine to sixteen years. Though I didn’t relate to any of them when I was younger, I can talk to them now. But CJ will be fine. Look how awesome his mom is.

  9. My older sister is five years older than I am. My younger sister is 7 years younger. I have a GREAT relationship with the both of them, although the 12 years between my younger and older is a bit much.

    My oldest daughter was 3 weeks shy of turning 6 when my youngest was born. They get along famously and just the other day, my oldest said to me, “I LOVE having one-on-one time with my sister.”

    Don’t give up on the idea just yet . . .

  10. I share so many of your same feelings. I wrote about it here if you’re interested. ttp://

    It’s so hard. Dealing with other people’s reaction and stereotypes of only children are so hard too. Especially when you’re not someone whoever only wanted one.

  11. I’m so sorry for your pain–a miscarriage is a hard thing.

    If you ever decide that your heart is ready for another try, don’t worry about the age difference. I have my 7 year old and my 2 year old sharing a room. And the little guy just worships his older brother–and the older one is very loving and caring towards his monstery brother. No matter the age difference, a sibling is something that you can’t replace.

  12. I’m so sorry you lost your baby. I can’t imagine how it must have felt. Thank you for sharing your story.

    As for the future, I am sure that whatever you decide, CJ will be just fine because of the wonderful mom you are.

  13. Bananas,
    Don’t stress. I’m an only child. All only-children go through that “I want a sibling” phase. I always wanted an older brother. Now, as an adult, I realize how cool it was to be an only child and the benefits of it. There are pros and cons to having one child and pros and cons to having multiple children. When we got pregnant with our first child, a friend of mine with a 14-year-old would always tell me, “One is the most wonderful number! Don’t have more than one!” She liked having an only child. So, don’t worry. Don’t fret. CJ will be a wonderful adult. And, “interrupting” the playgroups to find a playmate is a good thing. Onlies are so great at making friends! I know, because I’m one of them!

    Tell CJ he’s in a great club. One of my best friends is also an only and we have the best times together! Onlies are independent, tend to be leaders, and are great thinkers (those childhood imaginations take us far!).

    Hope this has helped! :-)

  14. Jen,

    If it helps, my brother-in-law has 3 step children, 1 from a prior marriage and 2 from his current marriage. The youngest is turning 4 and the oldest is 22, the age gaps are wide for the 1 from his prior marriage. They all do fine though and are close despite the gaps. The 10 year old plays just fine with the 6 and 4 year old and also gets spoiled by her 19 & 22 year old sisters, and fights with her 15yo older brother the way they are supposed to. So, if you decide to have another eventually, they will find ways to play with each other.

  15. Hi. I have been reading your blog for quite sometime now, but I don’t believe I’ve ever commented. You make me laugh daily, and I appreciate that! I love your writing.

    I can so relate to what you are saying here. After years of not getting pregnant and then 3 miscarriages myself, I was sure our son (CJ too, btw) was going to be an only. But that all changed almost 3 years ago when our precious daughter was born. Yes, they are 10.5 years apart – but they adore each other and have a wonderful relationship. So the age gap is not a bad thing. And though I thought I wanted my kids to be closer together in age, I realize now God knew what I needed better than I did and (I won’t go into details), and I see now why the timing was perfect.

    So don’t give up just because it hasn’t happened yet. And if for some reason another child is not in your future, know that CJ will grow up fine. My hubby is an only and he hasn’t suffered because of it.

    Sorry my first comment was a book, but I hope there’s a little encouragement in it for you!

    Be blessed!

  16. Very touching.

    I can’t even imagine the pain you went through with your miscarriage, but I can pray that you find peace, and that CJ gains understanding.

  17. age differences are insignificant…really! when my husband and i got married, we each had 2 kids from previous marriages…all live with us full time. we were married for about 6 months, our kids were 5,6,7&7…and i found out i was pregnant. the kids were ecstatic. now, my little guy will be turning 4 in dec, my oldest are both going on 12, 11 and 10. and, they play…boy do they play. so, you see, it doesn’t matter the age difference. siblings are siblings. my youngest is just as happy playing with his 10 year old sister as he is playing with cousins who are the same age!
    take care!!!

  18. my dear, its a matter of love and fear…does the love for CJ to have a playmate overules the fear of another mistake…

    my friend who has 3 children now, 2 girls and the last was a boy. In between the 3 pregnancy, she had miscarriage 3 times!

    I am not joking, this is not something to joke about anyway.

    yes, if she didn’t had the 3 miscarriages, she would have 6 children now.

    for her to overcome her fear was the ‘must’ to have a boy. that’s what kept her trying…

    get CJ one more companion. He will love it. Although my 2 boys fight every other minute, but every other seconds, you can see them laughing together…

    try it dear. overcome the fear with love.

  19. I have one daughter. I lost another baby to miscarriage as well. I have no regrets AT ALL at having an “only child” (sorry, but I hate that term). Daughter and I are so close; closer than I am with my parents or siblings. She has so many friends she isn’t lonely. It was meant to be, that’s all.

  20. Thanks for sharing. I am so sorry. This is why I feel that people should never comment about the no children thing/only child thing because you really never know the whole story.
    On a side note because I like to find the positive side of things if you do choose to have another baby at least their age gaps will be more manageable when it comes to college tuition :-)

  21. Your quote by emerson at the end sums it up perfectly. We’re human and we simply can’t have everything we want all at the same time! I want to go back to work because staying home alone all day is starting to drive me nuts. But I also want to be with my son and not farm him out to some daycare where they get to watch all the new things he does. It’s not possible to do both and yet I want to…

  22. I used to wish I was an only child, lol. Especially when my mother told me, when I was 17, that she wanted another child. Now I’m 23, and my sister is 6 and it is hard to relate to her, but I have a better relationship with her than I have with the sister who is 5 years younger. Christian and his brother are 8 years apart, and their souls are connected in the most bizarre way. Even with his brother far and unattainable.

    I don’t want to sound presumptuous, because I don’t know you personally, but don’t give up on the baby based on age. Age will be a difference all the time, lol. Samara used to try to smother Caesar {her excuse; “But, I love him.”} and they’re only 2.5 years apart. We can only imagine the torture this new one will endure. I think it all does even out at some point. :)

    CJ, and your family, sound wonderful to me. So even if it never changes, I think CJ’s got a great family at his side. :)

  23. Coming from a family of ELEVEN kids I am biased. I love my siblings, but eveyopne only does what they can.. and that being said, some of my favorite friends are only children and loved it.

  24. This post made me cry. Mostly because it made me realize how lucky my girls are to have each other even if they don’t realize it.

    I am so sorry for your loss, I can only imagine how awful that was.

    Also, if you do have another one, don’t worry about the age difference. My oldest is 7 and her baby sister is 22 months. Kaylie LOVES her baby sister. LOVES her. She loves playing with her and making her laugh. They may be far apart in age, but the have a very close relationship.

  25. Gosh Ya-ya, I am so sorry you lost the baby.

    Feelings are not rational, you are right.

  26. I read your blog faithfully (with my morning cup of coffee) but I have never left a message. reading your blog today I thought I would try it. My husband and I are currently trying to have kids and although I say trying loosely (we fit it in when we have time) I know how it feels to grow older and have people say are you going to have kids, what’s stopping you?

    But I don’t want you to think you have passed the mark of having children. I am 4 1/2 years younger than my middle sister and 5 1/2 from my oldest and while growing up, we didn’t play too much, I always had a guiding light that I could turn to and ask questions, advice, cry, and they understood. Growing up they were my sisters but not my friends. Now that we have all left the house and started our own families, I have found our bond has strengthened ten times over. They are no longer just my sisters, but my very best friends. I chose to vacation with them, call them on a daily bases just to tell them how much the gym hurt today or to check in on them and although childhood is fun, the vast majority of our lives are spent as adults. I wouldn’t trade my grown up relationships with them for anything. My point is, if you really want another child, keep trying, CJ will never be too old and while the relationship may be different now, in a few years, they can share the pains and joys of growing old together!

  27. Aaaaw, the only thing that matters is what exists between you, CJ and your husband. If another little banana finds his way to your home, that’s okay too.

    And I do have to say that it’s not too late — I had my third when the others were 5 and 6 1/2 and they are just as much “siblings” as kids who are closer in age, but I understand your concern.

    Hugs to you, Jenny. It’ll be okay.

  28. Thanks for such a beautiful, raw post.

  29. it is…but it might be long…I will try and make it short and get to my point…

    I always wanted 4 kids, my hubby only wanted two. We are VERY fertile people and surprisingly got preg with my 2nd before my period came back from having my 1st.

    I had major complications during my natural birth and my husband watched as I almost LEFT him for good. I truly almost died.

    He was done. NO MORE BABIES!
    I ached for one more that I just FELT was to be in our family. I consulted high risk OBs – they said, I should be happy to have 2 healthy children and to be alive and stop there.

    THAT did not make me happy. When I pictured our family on the couch posing for a picture, I could see a hazy space that was reserved for someone I had not met yet.

    We decided to become foster parents when our children were 7 & 8(something I had NO idea why I thought I could do it – my heart would surely break, but I felt God calling us in this direction). We were taking on a family ministry, We waited over a year for our first placement.

    Our 9-month old angel joined our family as a foster baby when our birth children were 7 & 8. He will officially be adopted within the next 6 months. He is 2 1/2, our bio children are 9 & 10.

    NEVER would I have planned such a huge gap, NEVER would I have WANTED this large gap.

    The amazing beauty that I see in the relationship our older children have with their baby brother is a miracle only God could create.

    Don’t be so sure CJ won’t thrive being the one who is looked up to. Don’t shut your mind to the possibility that he is an amazing teacher. Don’t close the door on a relationship created (& divinely spaced)by someone SO MUCH bigger than us.

    There is a reason you ache. It is God’s gentle nudge.

    JUST MY OPINION…I will pray for you!

  30. (((HUGS)))

    I am so sorry for the miscarriage you experienced and for the emptiness that still fills your heart. Don’t give up hope … I’m not giving up mine!

  31. I am right there with you, sister. Having had such difficulty having our first, and me being knocking on the door of 38, it isn’t likely Sun with have a sibling. All in all, the best we can do is create an environment where our children give and receive a lot of love–from family (whether blood or created) and friends. That’s what is important.

  32. I’m an only child and I definitely know how little CJ feels. I went through the same thing when I was younger, but was pretty much ok with it by the time I was 11.

    I also can sympathize with YOU. It took us four years to have our son and he is almost 3. We’d love to have more, but I have PCOS which makes it difficult to even get pregnant, and sometimes I feel like I just don’t want to tempt fate. We lost one before him and it was so hard to move on and SO hard to enjoy my pregnancy with our son.

    Sorry for the ramble…just wanted you to know I can kind of understand completely.

  33. I’m so sorry to hear you lost that baby, and I’m sorry you feel sad about the situation. I will say this though–I have a sister who is 8 years wounger than me and we have ALWAYS had a good relationship. At the times when we weren’t at a stage where we could really “relate”, we found things we both loved and that was common ground. If you do decide to have another baby, 5 years or 6 years or even more really won’t matter. Now my sister and I are 28and 20 and we get along great, same as always. Just know that whatever you decide, it will be the right thing for your family.

  34. I can so relate to this post. I am in a similar situation. After my miscarriage, we tried again, but it just didn’t happen. At this point, they’d be a least 5 years apart, and I think they’d miss the whole sibling thing.

    The other day, my son told me that he was a boy so he was a brother. I had a really hard time explaining that one.

    I am ok now with the idea of an only child. The hardest part is the comments from friends who knew when we were trying for #2. I don’t think they have accepted that it is over.

  35. God bless all of you and DON’T think they will “miss out on the sibling-thing” it is such a gift, IF that is what you want, to do it with ANY span between.

    My best friend’s next oldest siblig is 11 years older than her and there are THREE more older than that and they had a wonderful relationship growing up!

  36. Eeeeyah.
    My mom was the same…she never planned for me to be alone..but I was it.

    My friend had horrid miscarriages till they figured out why and she is on no. 2 and already planning on no3…she is just mad that it too soo long and caused so much anguish.

    Try not to feel bad.
    He is a great kid with a great mom…..and how sweet that he wants to share!

  37. I didn’t realize you lost one. Having lost one at 6 weeks, so very very early, I can’t even imagine the three month mark. And Jenny? Don’t feel you need to qualify your feelings because other people are worse off. It’s ok to feel whatever it is. I am just so glad you express that feeling oh so well. :-)

  38. I’m the youngest of four girls, and I always wished for a brother. I think it’s completely natural to wish for what you don’t have.

    That said, the age gap really is not significant. In a lot of ways it’s a blessing, because there is less sibling rivalry and because each child gets to experience their own schooling without being known as “CJ’s little brother.” One of my best friends had a baby and then spent NINE years trying to get pregnant again. Her 12-year-old son and 3-year-old son are bosom buddies, partly because the 12-year-old had prayed long and hard for a sibling. I bet CJ would absolutely dote on a baby if God blessed you with one.

  39. OH Jenny! That scares me! It reminds me that each one is such a miracle! There are so many worries invovled in carrying a child. I almost don’t want to get my hopes up with this one. What if it happens to me? My mom lost her fourth 2 weeks after delivery. One of my best friend had 3 healthy children and then 2 very traumatic miscarriages. I’m scared. I feel like it’s my turn next.

  40. What I think about for my kids is their future holiday celebrations when my husband and I are gone. I have two children and I always think I need one more so that their holidays are fun filled with family when they are older.

    I also think about the more kids I have the less of a burden we will be on them when we are older. My thinking is they can split the work.

    I also like the idea of them having each other to take care of when we are gone.

  41. Sorry about your miscarriage! :(

    I wouldn’t worry so much about the age difference in them. If they don’t get along now, they will get along later. My little sister is 5 years under me and my little brother is 10 years under me. I was usually pretty close with my little sister growing up, but didn’t become close to my little brother until he became a teenager recently. It takes time, but it happens.

    Ambers last blog post..Fun at the Beach