I am an only child.
When my parents married, they were young - and poor. I am not using the word for effect, it was just a reality. My dad worked two jobs and went to night school. My mom was a fledgling public school teacher in a pretty rough neighborhood. They lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn NY long before yuppies invaded the borough and created $6,000/month rents. And hell, when I think about it, the neighborhood they lived in as newlyweds still has yet to really see gentrification.
When I came around, they moved into an apartment with a tiny room off the kitchen to serve as a nursery. My mom quit her day job. As I got older I learned that money was really tight, but this is a woman who keenly understands how to budget. My childhood was in so many ways idyllic. My mom loved being home with me. A former photography student, there are countless pictures of me at the park, at a public pool, all smiles and high on life. I played with other children, but wasn't really aware of the fact that families had more than one child. It's pretty common in NYC given the living space constraints, larger families are looked upon as more of a curiosity.
For a bunch of reasons I won't share on this blog, when I turned 5, we ended up in a pretty precarious situation, one that left us virtually homeless. My mom and dad scrambled to find us a new place to live, one away from Brooklyn, ideally a neighborhood with good schools and lots of parks. It was summertime, and I was supposed to start kindergarten. My parents were pretty much dangling in the wind as far as family was concerned. None of my extended family would help them out, despite the fact that I was a young child and surely you can find a way to help out a young couple with a kid, right? Our little trio spent a number of weeks living out of an old Buick LeSabre, spending our nights in motel rooms along the Jersey turnpike, and on the living room floor of someone my Dad knew at his work, while she was away on a trip. Dad was working full time and hunting down leads for apartments.
The pictures of me during this period are remarkable. I am smiling, beautifully-dressed, strolling through parks, picking flowers. An older me years later thought these pictures captured something magical.
That magic is my mother. A woman who was literally born in the ashes of her ancestors, in a nazi concentration camp turned DP camp called Bergen-Belsen. A woman whose mother never showed her any love or affection. A woman who is today completely estranged from her blood relatives, and just trust me when I say you would be too if you went through the ringer she's been through.
I do not know how my parents did it, but through sheer will and force, they found a one-bedroom apartment in an amazing neighborhood in the Bronx, just a few weeks before the school year started. One with the good schools and parks and safety they wouldn't settle for less on. I remember that they gave me the bedroom, so that I could have a spot filled with toys, while they made a bedroom for themselves behind a chinese screen they put up in the living room. Once I was enrolled in school my mom returned to teaching, mostly as a sub - in better neighborhood schools - and eventually they were able to move us into a two-bedroom apartment.
While I never knew it at the time, it was around this point, I was maybe 8 years old, that my mom wanted to have another baby. We had more space, we had more money, and while my parents didn't ever breathe easily when it came to money, we were far from the temporary homelessness I once knew. But fear prevailed. What if my dad ever got sick, lost his job? What if they needed the help of non-existent family? how would they continue to give me the many things that were supporting my creative pursuits, the ballet lessons (I was apparently kinda gifted), the piano lessons (I was kinda gifted there too), the summer camp?
Those what-ifs are the primary reason I have no siblings.
I want to be clear now. I never longed for a sister or brother the way Niblet does. Hell, the only thing I would have ever even remotely expressed wanting was a big brother to protect me from any kids who teased me (I was kind of a an artsy kid, so of course, "weird") and that would have been impossible. I also keenly understood that many of the amazing opportunities I had as a kid were the result of my parents having a little financial wiggle-room with an only.
But years later as I matured, my parents both became pretty vocal. I was the best thing they ever did. They regretted not having another kid. They loved raising me so much that they wanted the opportunity to do it twice. My Dad believes that his fears about money took something very real away from my Mom. This had nothing to do with creating "siblings" per se, as both of my parents have siblings that they have no relationship with. But they were a couple who were completely hands on in raising me, they were good at it
, they loved it
, and if anyone should have another child, it should have been them.
Both of my parents have struggled with my recurrent pregnancy loss. They can't relate to the unique horror that it is (who can?) They sometimes question my seemingly rational decision at the time to wait until Niblet was three to start trying for a second. But they also recognize I had no way of knowing at age 38 that my fertility would take such a steep nosedive. And if nothing else, they recognize that it is just awful for Niblet to experience a mother in recurrent grief. A mother who gets poked and prodded on a regular basis by REs, a mother who flies to Boston for surgery. Not surprisingly, Niblet is a huge portion of their lives. Hell, they moved to an apartment in my city (which they hate
) for a year to help raise her after my maternity leave ended. I can't imagine her life without them.
Last week my Mom - who is often dismissive of western medicine and big pharma - told me the following: I should pursue IVF because it is my best chance at my age to bring a baby into the world. And I shouldn't do it "half-assed" (her words, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree you see). If I am going to take this journey I need to do it with PGS because I clearly have some "crappy eggs." And she will write me a check for the PGS.
And she understands it could fail, but still, we have to try it because I can't live my life with any regrets. And I can't look back at Niblet a few years from now, and wonder "what if I had attempted IVF with PGS, would you have another miracle to love?" What if?