So, my best friend recently announced her pregnancy and I’m excited for her. She and I gave birth to our sons just months apart and they’ve grown up together—truth be told, her son is my son’s only friend. Their family is part of our family and I can’t wait to meet the little one they’re adding to the group. However, I couldn’t help but think that the reveal of her second pregnancy would cause our mutual friends to jokingly ask me when it was going to be my turn…
(Spoiler alert: never.)
Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a proud member of the One and Done Club. Strike that—I’m the President, Founder, and CEO. I am madly in love and obsessed with my son, but I know my limitations and for many, many reasons, I have absolutely no desire to have another child. None. Zero. Zilch. In my son’s five and a half years of life, I’ve heard every possible attempt to get me to change my mind—“Only children are weird and spoiled.” Well, my son is already weird and spoiled so… “You HAVE to give your child a sibling so he has a best friend.” Giving my child a sibling does not guarantee him a best friend andplusalso I don’t HAVE to do anything. “But you have SUCH beautiful children.” Child. I have a beautiful child. The next one could be a hot mess… LOL totally kidding… “Don’t you want a daughter?” Last I checked, the whole pregnancy thing was 50/50. Also, I have nieces.
Anyway, as I predicted, shortly after my best friend made her pregnancy announcement, I had a sarcastic conversation with another friend…
Friend: “So, she’s going for round two. How much shit is gonna head your way wondering the same about you?”
Me: “Most people stopped asking me about having another child after William was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing disorder. You know, because my hands are full of awful and what if I made another kid JUST like him?”
Friend: “Damn. That sounds harsh out loud.”
Me: “It’s easier if I’m honest about it. Takes away the sting that people think it.”
Because here’s the deal. It’s no secret to me that other parents don’t envy my journey as the mother of a special needs child. I wouldn’t be shocked to hear the thoughts they think, the pity they feel, the misconceptions that cross their minds when they’re in my son’s presence. I can see it on people’s faces. I’ve heard it in well-intentioned yet unfiltered ignorant comments. I’ve seen it written in ballsy Facebook comments to other autism parents–“well, good thing you didn’t have another one.” I’m not blind, deaf, or dumb.
So, let me start with some reasons for my one and done-ness. I hated pregnancy. I threw up every day for nine months (EVERY DAY!), had no energy, and never felt like myself. In addition, for my son to have the best quality of life, we have to dedicate some of our finances to speech therapy. And if I’m being honest, we like to live a lifestyle that allows us to spend money a bit more frivolously than other people—you know, on ridiculously overpriced character brunches at Disney. I’m passed the diaper stage and the potty training stage and the not sleeping stage and have no desire to return to any of them. I think adding another child to our family would complicate things and would limit our funds to fully care for the child we DO have. My husband has career goals. I have educational goals…
These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg. I could truly go on all day about why having a second child right now is not a good fit for us.
And before William was diagnosed with autism, NONE OF MY REASONS WERE VALID. People were all “but but but”…
Then autism happened…
And people grew very, very quiet.
Now? Now I get questions about how likely it is that Jimmy and I would conceive another child with autism. Now I hear the “oh, your hands must be so full” and “I can only imagine” and “I don’t know how you do it” and other patronizing remarks.
William’s developmental pediatrician did tell us that although the research hadn’t been conclusive in years past, there seems to be an agreement among the scientific community that autism contains some genetic component. She alerted us to studies that indicate we could have a 1 in 5 chance of conceiving another child with autism.
But let me make this perfectly clear: I did NOT decide not to have another child because I fear he/she would be like William. Though I do believe in a genetic component to autism and have encountered many families with more than one child with the disorder, and though I do agree that raising a child with special needs who may become an adult with special needs can be challenging, I also believe the following:
IF I did ever get pregnant and IF I did ever have a child with autism spectrum disorder who was anything like William, I WOULD BE THE MOST FORTUNATE MOTHER IN THE WORLD.
Because William is absolutely, positively beautiful. He is one of a kind. He is smart and funny and quirky and hardworking and I love every single thing that is him. He has lovely blonde curls, mesmerizing brown eyes, and the sweetest little freckle on his upper lip. He hums and sings and smiles and drives his trains and buses up the walls and flaps his arms and chases his shadow and sleeps under the fitted sheet on his bed and counts all the time for no reason and gives me the best hugs and kisses in the entire world. William teaches me to laugh, to celebrate every step forward, to hear what isn’t being said, and to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Another child like him? I would love the hell out of that.
And anyone who can’t recognize that William is a treasure and not a burden by ANY means? Well, in the words of Beyonce: Boy, bye.