We're walking home from school.
"I was thinking," Henry says. "I was thinking it would be good to have a little brother."
I can't help but picture it. Henry holding a little boy's hand, guiding him as he toddles down the sidewalk next to us. He would have been such an excellent big brother.
"Or a sister," he says. "Yeah, actually? I think I want a sister. Because I like the girls I'm related to. So I think if I had a sister, I would like that."
I am murmuring noncommittally. "Huh!"I say. "Hmm!"
"So," he adds, looking at me, "can I get one?"
"I don't think it's in the cards for us, sweetie," I finally say.
"What does that mean, in the cards?"
"It means I don't think it's going to happen."
"That's okay," he says quickly. "That's fine. I was just thinking. "
I try to point out the advantages of being an only child. The quality time with us. He does not appear convinced.
"It could be fun, though," he says.
"Yes," I agree. "It could be."
When we made the move back to the city from the suburbs, part of it was because we realized we weren't going to try again. There are so many reasons, and if I give them, I'm afraid someone's going to pop up in the comments to argue that our reasons aren't good enough. "Oh, you can still have a second even if X!" this imaginary person might say. "My precious miracle came about even though we also thought Y and Z and you might be the same way so keep on trying!"
No. It's not going to happen.
And I am sorry. I am. It's so much more satisfying for everyone else, to have a successful pregnancy after a miscarriage. It's expected. You keep on trying, and then eventually you get pregnant and it all works out and the miscarriage becomes an unfortunate blip in your otherwise upbeat narrative. I realize that this is kind of a bummer.
Henry hasn't asked about a sibling for a long, long while--long before I had the miscarriage. It's interesting that it's come up for him now, just as my essay appeared in The Sun and I've been sort of overwhelmed by the feelings stirred up by the publication and its response.
I have to admit, I feel a little strange about all these Sun readers emailing me, responding as if I still feel the pain of the miscarriage as acutely as I did back when the essay was written. I wrote it well over a year ago, and when I finished, I felt like I had exorcised something. I exorcised it and saved it in a Word file and then I was free. And now all these people are expressing their sympathy, when that pain has dulled to an occasional ache, and I feel like I'm pretending to be something I'm not. Like I need to tell them they've made a mistake.
Then as I'm responding to them, something bursts open. All that pain I thought I had purged, that deep, awful well. It's right there, and I want to scream. Then I want to thank all these people who wrote to me, because part of me was afraid it was gone. Nope, still there. I still miss that baby I thought I was going to have. That baby who would have been one year old just a couple of weeks ago.
So many people writing to me want me to know about the children they had after their miscarriages. The happy endings they wish for me. I know they're hoping to make me feel better, I get that, but all I can think is, there won't be a second for me. And then I think: because I'm too selfish.
I am ashamed. Because I've made a decision, and at the heart of it, I made it for me. Scott and I made it for us. And for Henry, but who can really say what's best for him, at this point? I'm afraid we're doing Henry a disservice. That we're leaving him alone as we get older and more helpless, that we're depriving him of a soulmate and ally, someone to build forts with or whatever else I imagine he'd do with a sibling when I'm really beating myself up over my decision.
I wonder if he'll forgive us. I wonder if he'll hate us for it. I wonder if he'll be glad.
Of course I know, rationally, that only children can be happy and successful. I know that Henry's happy and well-adjusted and loved beyond measure. I do.
But it keeps coming up. They think I'm selfish, I think, when other parents ask me if Henry is an "only." Stingy. Not willing to spread myself just a little too thin. I want to give them my reasons. My very good, well-considered reasons. But I'm afraid they'd argue that those reasons aren't enough.
Henry is not an only, I want to say. Henry is enough. Can't that be the question? "So, was Henry enough for you?" I could confirm that without a trace of shame.
Just look at him, I could say.
Look at my boy. Look at all that I have.