Friday, April 02, 2010

My One & Only

Much of my angst over failing to conceive another baby has revolved around my desire to give Ethan a sibling. In my mind's eye, from the moment it occurred to me that someday I might be someone's mother, I envisioned being mother to two. When I started writing my first novel (which was never completed) in my late teens, I modeled one of the main characters after my vision of myself in adulthood. She was a suburban mother, to two children. Children she watched play in the back yard from the window over the sink in her kitchen. Even then, as I wrote about her in third person, as a voyeur to the life I hoped to lead one day, I could feel the intense love she felt for both of those children. Fierce love.

These days, I watch Ethan play outside, watching through the sliding porch door, as he pedals his bike around our mini-basketball court, pretending to gas up his Cosy Coupe, crashing his matchbox cars into each other. On his own. And I love him fiercely. And I ache for the companion missing in that backyard with him.

I am an only child. My parents intended to have one child, and they did. My parents went out of their way to make my life full of experiences and rich with friendships. As a little girl, my best friend lived 40 minutes away from me in Lyndeboro, NH, and my parents (or hers) would cart us back and forth to each other's houses almost each and every weekend from the time we were in 2nd grade until we got our own drivers' licenses. When we rented a house at the shore every summer, I was always allowed to bring a friend for the week. In high school, they flew a favorite pen pal up to NH from New Orleans to spend winter vacation with me. They surrendered their living room on countless occasions to a gaggle of giggling teenage girls so that I could be surrounded by friends, if not siblings. And I'm so grateful for that.

But in the day-to-day, I remember feeling lonely. Not all the time. Not desperately. But enough to remember it. Enough to feel my throat close up a little when I watch Ethan wandering around in the back yard, racing against no one, on his scooter. I can't stand the idea of him being lonely. And so I've started becoming obsessive about play dates, and about setting up activities for him. Well, not obsessive--that makes me sound coo-coo, and I'm not (*twitch*twitch*). But I want his life to be filled with giggling and laughter and rambling preschool conversations about rolly-pollies and spaceships. I don't want the word "lonely" to ever be a word he would use to describe his childhood.

We're so fortunate to have next door neighbors who have a little boy about Ethan's age. The possibility of the spontaneous play date is wonderful thing. There is something so homey about playing in the back yard with Ethan and seeing this little boy's blond head pop up over the back fence. He hears Ethan's voice coming from our yard, climbs up his play structure and just starts yelling, "Hey, wanna play?" And of course, Ethan is off like a light, back through our house, out the front door and into the neighbor's yard, almost before I know what's going on. Things like that make me feel better.

We're also lucky that Ethan's got some amazing classmates with fantastic parents. It's almost always possible to find someone to play with, although I am trying to give us a couple days a week without play dates. For awhile I was scheduling them almost every day of the week after school and found that not only were we utterly exhausted, but Ethan was becoming a major pain in the in the general butt region when there wasn't a play date. Demanding a play date, "But you have to make a play date, mommy," or demanding that I step up more in lieu of a play date, "You have to play with me, mommy." There was much hanging on me and clinging to me and barking of demands. So we had a couple of tough, whiney play date-less afternoons, detoxing off the constant stream of playmates. I mean, I want his life to be filled with laughter and companionship, and I want to play with him, too, but I still want him to be able to entertain himself to some extent, right?

I've spent a lot of time considering siblings in the past several months. Never having had one myself, I've always romanticized the idea. Most of my friends growing up had a younger sister or an older brother. My husband has an older sister and for a long time I struggled with their relationship because it was the first time I'd been seriously involved with someone who had a sibling close in age to them. My college boyfriend had a sister I never met once in almost four years of dating him. The boyfriend after college had a much younger brother from his father's second marriage who we only saw on holidays. So when Husband's (then Boyfriend's) sister moved in with us for several months early on in our relationship as she relocated from NYC to DC, I was utterly stumped. And fascinated. It took me a long time to understand their relationship and not feel threatened by it.

I grieve that I won't be able to give Ethan that connection with another human being. Honestly, growing up, I had no idea what I didn't have. I don't recall ever once wishing I had a sister or a brother. As a matter of fact, I recall a lot of times being glad I didn't have to share my bathroom or my allowance or my parents with another kid. I never had to worry about who my parents loved the best or if I was going to make them as proud as a brother or sister would. But now as I brace myself for middle-age, I wish I had that connection to someone.

I hope that Ethan doesn't grow up wishing for something he doesn't have. I hope we're able to fill enough of his days with laughter and experience and friendships that he won't feel the absence of that little brother or sister, that sibling who might have been, in the backyard while he plays alone.


angelynn said...

I can't say whether he'll wish for something he doesn't have, but it's safe to say he'll grow up knowing what he has. He'll know his parents love him more than anything in the world and that he has a wonderful and supportive family. You're an amazing mom.

Emi said...

A tear :-). I think the same thing with S. Soooooo ok we either get PC job here or u get p a job there. Cousins could almost b like siblings but we need to live closer than a 6 hour plane ride away. For long term thoughts. :)

Laurel said...

Hugs to you, Sarah. I agree with what Angelynn said! Ethan will know he's loved unconditionally by his parents, and that makes all the difference in the world. No doubt he'll have lots of friends to fill any void (if he even ever feels one). Sometimes people find greater reward in their relationships with friends than with their siblings anyway. So just because Ethan doesn't have a biological sibling, it doesn't mean he won't find that kind of connection in his friendships.

He's lucky to have such a caring, loving mom and dad.

And I remember those long drives to and from each other's houses!! Seems like eons ago, but also just like it was yesterday.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

Thank you for sharing such a personal and heartfelt reflection. It is clear from your writing that Ethan has a loving mother, dedicated to his health and happiness. How fortunate he is.

Corinne said...

I remember feeling lonely, and I have a younger brother ;) I think it depends on so very much, and the grass is always a little greener on the other side. I remember wishing I was an only child at times, and also wishing for a sister. A younger brother? Eh... I love him to pieces, but we've had some serious struggles because of personalities and favoring by parents and blah blah blah...
Not to take over your comments ;)
I think whatever happens, Ethan will know you love him, that is there without a doubt.
I dated one guy who was an only child, and he was incredible. So well adjusted, level headed, kind. I don't know where I was going with that... but anyway... I think you're doing a good job. The fact that you think about all of this makes you an incredible mama :)

A Faithful Reader said...

I have a sister - but one who is currently not speaking to me (for reasons unknown to me) and who has always been a b* to me (I think due to her personal issues such as low self-esteem, etc.). Who are my real sisters? My 2 best friends. Girls (well, back when we met... now women) that I can't imagine living without. That I call first with news or fears or joys.

So all that to say that Ethan will have a sibling one day - just not what you originally pictured. What's that saying - brother from another mother?

However, as much as you love children and with the type of home you offer, have you considered adopting? I'm sure you have a decision on this & it must be to not pursue it or "we'd" have heard, but I think any child would be lucky to be a part of your family.

Becca said...

I don't know what to say. But I do know you are an amazing mother.

Juli Ryan said...

For a while after Five was born, I felt the biological urge to have another child. And give Five a sibling. Because siblings are great. Now I am wondering if my family is already complete. However it works out in the end, I am counting my blessings--I am lucky to have the choice to conceive a baby, or not. xo's

Grandma Bear said...

I was thinking about what Emi said before I saw her write her. I have the Xmas pictures as my screen saver in the office and there are pictures in which Ethan and Sofia really look like brother and sister and in Honduras we were used to cousins considering themselves as brothers or sisters. You could see it in Alberto Downings sadness in his posting on his cousin Mario's death.

As an only child myself I marveled at the two of them growing up together. I don't ever feel that I missed a sister or brother, but there was no doubt in my mind that if I were to have children I'd want two.

So maybe we can't figure out a job where you will all be together, but we need to figure out a way for them to spend time together. I started to think how much fun that weekend in Nashville was, maybe Emi and Sofia and Pete can come up for a long weekend when you come this summer. And you will meet a new niece/nephew and they cousin-- who is about to be born next month, maybe on Ethan's birthday...
we'll figure it out.

Anonymous said...

You wrote this years ago. But this is what i am feeling today.
I had hoped to read that your infertility treatments had brought you baby number 2, as i am wishing for myself. I don't think they will for me and it makes me sad. Thank you for sharing.