Family / Family-building / Parenting

Is She an Only Child?

cephalad Our daughter is that age. You know the age. When all of her little friends have new siblings. And she… doesn’t.

Now, she also has friends who are only children; friends whose parents only want one child and are happy with their one. And that’s okay.

But then there are those of us who who would love to have larger families and can’t. At least for right now.


I suppose we’re lucky that she hasn’t (yet?) started asking for a sibling. She understands the concept, though, and knows many of her friends have them. One of her dolls she claims is her sister, and another one is sisters with the (perhaps biologically improbable) plastic dinosaur that she got for Christmas. (But that’s what adoptive families and families of choice are for, right?)

In theory, with no fiscal restraints, J and I would have a large family. It’s something both of us wanted, for our own reasons. Of course, going through these toddler years, I’m no longer entirely certain I’d want to re-do these stages that many times, but the wish remains for a large, warm, and open home, full of yelling and playing and lots of children.

But the one thing that I hadn’t anticipated being so hard, when starting this journey of creating a queer family, is the cost. Sure, the cost of childcare, of course. But one doesn’t really set out on this road thinking “Oh, I can’t wait to spend thousands of dollars on sperm!” or “I really hope I can give my tax refund to the reproductive endocrinologist.” But there it is. And so you end up finding yourself having to make decisions about whether to save up and try again, or be able to pay bills. Whether you budget in for 5 more years of childcare, or hope to be able to take a family vacation at some point ever.

Not to mention decisions over whether to use the same donor – if it’s even possible – or whether to move on to new ones. Whether to give the road of known donors another try, or whether that’s worth the heartache, and the complex issues it’ll cause in talking to children about their life stories.


So, while I realize that the childcare bills are something that every family has to figure out, I have to confess to feeling not so charitable when families who can go through traditional methods try to convince me that we should try for another. Or complain about their own costs. Because when I think about how much we spent to even get this far, it’s really kind of horrifying. (And we didn’t even spend a fraction of what some families have to spend. For that, I try to be thankful.)

And while both J and I are open to adoption or foster-adopt somewhere down the road, it’s not as if those aren’t without their costs, both financial and emotional.

So, yes, she’s an only child. For now. Maybe forever.

But how does one come to terms with that, when it was never the plan?

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  1. Not an easy question to answer. Though I imagine numerous others have. And especially, I would imagine, other LGBT parents and other parents who come by their family (thinking of straight parents with infertility, e.g.) via logistics, often cost-heavy means like we do. I hope you hear from more of them here.

    Meanwhile, I know others have written eloquently about why they are very happy with their child, and want very much proactively to have a one-child household. For instance, Jeremy Adam Smith, whose post “Why we are having only one child,” posted in 2007, holds true today. So many paths to family, so many reasons why we take, or are edged onto, the paths we wind up following.

  2. We struggled with that, too, but we’ve made our decision. In our case it’s infertility. We adopted our daughter and have since had two possible adoptions come up. My husband only ever wanted one. I was unsure, but I have come to agree with him. Our daughter is an extremely outgoing little person, so we aren’t worried about her social development. I like being able to just focus on her, and hopefully we’ll have friends and family in her life who will help her not miss having a sibling.

    One piece is affordability, but the main one is being able to give her as much attention as I’d like.

  3. No such thing as a happy accident for us gays or couples struggling with infertility. I think if we could have gotten a little tipsy and forgotten ourselves, we would have ended up with a large family. I was the one who campaigned hard for a 3rd having come from a family of 3 kids. And because I could imagine it and because I wanted it, I convinced myself that we would eventually be a family of 5. The economy put an end to those conversations. We were unemployed for a year – enough time to make plans for that other bedroom.

    Over time, I grew less disappointed with the family we didn’t have and reminded myself often that having another child was no guarantee that our lives would be happier. I still think about that kid though. It’s easy to get lost considering my fantasy family, but I try to stay present in the reality of the one we have. And the one we have is not just the 4 people who live in our house but the many others by blood, marriage or friendship who mean the world to us.

  4. If money were no object, we’d probably have a big house and five adopted kids and two full-time nannies, plus me staying home and writing on the side, like now.

    But money is very much an object. People have larger families than we do, on less income, but this is the way we want to raise our kids and can’t squeeze in another one in that case. Now, if something happened and we came by more children without making an effort, we’d make it work, but as it is, and as it probably will be we are quite happy.

    Here’s a link to something I wrote on this question a while back. It’s adoption-specific but much of it translates well to any “alternative” family-building process. In particular, your comment about the complexity of perhaps having different donor situations brought it to mind:

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