Dear Daughter: Why You're an Only

Dear daughter:

I can't tell you this today. You are only 5 years old. There are some things you have to wait to understand. But lately, you keep asking me for a baby sister. It's always a sister. On occasion with some of your friends who are boys, you'll request a brother but for the most part, the menu is: baby sister, baby sister, and more baby sister.

Last Summer, one day as we ate our dinner outside, you asked me if I could make you a baby sister. When I told you it "didn't exactly work that way," you then tried to offer your own services to carry "one baby brother" and me "a baby sister." When I tried to explain to you that it still doesn't work that way, you offered grandma's services. Too bad that it still doesn't work that way.

To you, families are unique: some families have two parents under one roof and others, like yours, have parents separated and live under two separate roofs. So the idea that you believed a baby could come from just me seemed about right according to your young logic.

It wasn't meant to be this way exactly. See, your dad and I had planned for you to have a sibling. I never pictured myself having many kids and originally figured one very special baby would be a delight. When you came along, though, you were so amazing, I had to have a friend for you. Coming from a family of four girls, I couldn't imagine you not having a brother or sister to torture. It's one of the fine privileges of being a sister or brother.

But you didn't come easily. After enduring 32 days in the hospital for hyperemesis gravidarum, I was just glad when you arrived. It meant not only were you finally here, but also that the constant sickness would end. See, when you were inside of mommy, mommy's body didn't take being pregnant very well, and I became very sick. I was unable to stay hydrated and was malnourished. I kept puking. Remember that stomach bug you had when you threw up chocolate all over my bed? Imagine going through that day after day . . . after day. I don't know why it happened. Some research says it gets passed on from mother to daughter and through the maternal bloodline, but my mom — your Nana — had never thrown up a day in any of her four pregnancies. Some other studies say it happens more often when pregnant with a girl, but other than that, I don't know why my body didn't respond well to being pregnant and I don't know if you will experience what I did. It's possible that because I had hyperemesis gravidarum, you may too, or God willing, you may not. I just know that despite all of that I ended up with the greatest gift ever.


When I imagined life for you after you arrived, I imagined a friend for you. I imagined so many things, but life didn't turn out exactly how I pictured it. Three pregnancies brought me one beautiful daughter. One marriage brought me one divorce. As much as your imagination would like to believe it, mommy can't make a baby alone, and, to be honest, mommy's body doesn't seem to have it easy in the "making you a baby sister department."

I know when you see siblings and big families, you get excited and all aglow and I understand. It seems fun and exciting to have such a large clan. To have someone to share your secrets with. To have a playmate. To have a lifelong friend and a protector. To have someone, or many someones, have your back.

It seems so wonderful.

I grew up in a big family. It was noisy. Chaotic. Moody. Warm. Cold. Adventurous. There were so many positives, but on the flip side, sometimes it felt like I was competing for attention. Sometimes sibling fights hurt too much. Sometimes it seemed/seems like a lot of work.

But life didn't bring you the big family that you may desire. For now. Who knows what our future brings, daughter? There may be stepsiblings — and they (I sure hope) will feel like 100 percent siblings! Blood does not always a family make. I can't promise you that baby sister. I can't promise you anything other than the fact that I will always love you, no matter what.

Some days, you may hate being an only child, if truly you end up your whole life having no stepsiblings from dad and me. But other days, you will love it. You will love the fact that my limited resources and income go to just you. And in fact, I know you love our one-on-one bond. You love the one you have with me and the one you have with your dad. Being an only child has its minuses, I am sure. I have read about them in numerous articles from only kids. I have heard the case for "that sibling." But being an only also has pluses and pros.

No matter what, let this be a lesson of sorts to you: sometimes, life doesn't happen exactly how we picture it would, but it is still just as amazing and wonderful. So for now, why don't we get you an imaginary sibling and maybe one day if you become a mama, you can make as many babies as you like?


Your devoted mama