One morning last week, I took Zee to the park. She set off at a dead run towards the swings, running through that uneven playground gravel that makes me feel like I’m tromping around on terraformed Mars. On the rare mornings we get to spend together, we usually get the park to ourselves. This day we were met by a small herd of kids and a pair of moms who were obviously old pals. I smiled politely at them and the toddlers they were pushing in the swings and urged Zee to say hello in that singsong voice you use with your kids when you’re acting as their publicist. They nodded at me and returned to their animated conversation.
“Yes, you knows her. Her boy is the age of yours.”
“Oh, yes, her! He’s the oldest one, is he?”
“He’s the only one she got.”
A significant look passed between them. A sigh. A tsk-tsk-tsk.
“Sin, isn’t it? My dear, that’s the worst thing you can do is only have one youngster.”
I froze, hand outstretched toward my one and only baby as she reached up to catch clouds.
They didn’t notice, since they weren’t talking to me or about me. I didn’t respond. Part of adulthood (the largest part, I’d argue) is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. Still, it rankled.
I can still see the faces of some of the children I met during my short student internship working in foster care. When I close my eyes I can remember babies, babies, with blue dotted arms and eyes as blank as a new sheet of paper. I wonder where the ones with fetal alcohol syndrome and attachment disorders wound up. It’s been ten years and I am still waiting for my mouth to form an answer to the plaintive wail of “But WHY can’t I see my mommy?”
I have listened to women cry as they lament another month’s failure in trying to conceive. I have heard the pain in the voices of friends who, when asked how many children they have, waver as they picture the ones they buried or never held. Truthfully, I have been the woman with a dull ache in her chest as she puts away yet another size of not-so-little clothing, wondering if it’s another baby she wants or just another chance to do it right instead of all the ways she messed it up the first time, and wondering if that’s a good enough reason to bring another life into the world.
There are worse things.
It’s unclear as to whether Zee will be an only child. If that comes to pass, whether it’s by chance or by choice, I hope she will always know how very enough she is for us. My god, this incredible blue-eyed girl, my only sunshine. She could never make us feel like we are lacking anything. She is not part of an incomplete set. Anyone else who comes along would only enrich something that’s already so wonderful. If this is the worst thing, we will be okay.