THE BLOG

Not 'Just' an Only Child

13/02/2014 10:58 GMT | Updated 14/04/2014 10:59 BST

So it's a common enough question - 'Do you have any more children?'. One that I've been asked plenty and will be asked countless times more. It's conventional. It's what you ask a parent when you're doing general chit-chat. But I hadn't prepared myself for how hard I might find it to answer.

We have one child. We're not going to have any more. It was a rough ride trying to become a family and we've suffered many losses, most of them before we had our incredible little boy. We're extremely content as a family and if anything our sad experiences have made us all the more grateful that we get to be parents at all. Our son is nearly four, and I still pinch myself that he's actually here.

But once you have one child, it seems expected that a) you will want to have another and b) you will be able to (even if you had problems, having one child is often seen as evidence that the issue was 'fixed'). I sometimes feel isolated in groups of other mums. It can feel like everyone else takes it for granted that you can have as many children as you want, whenever it suits you.

I know that no-one ever means for an off-hand comment to be upsetting to me, so fortunately the self-kindness skills I've learned usually come to the rescue. Instead of making things worse with a defensive retort or a sarcastic comment, I've learned how to hold myself in a compassionate space until I'm able to speak again. I don't always manage not to react at all, and I hope that in turn I'm not making others feel uncomfortable.

Once I've recovered from the hurt of those moments, I come back to my usual sense of how lucky I am. Because I have a depth of appreciation that I hope I don't take for granted. I still feel like it's an honour and a privilege to be doing the weekly shop with a small boy & his octopus arms in tow.

I used to struggle hugely with the term 'Only Child'. I felt it had negative connotations, as if it implied some sense of lack or not enough. I found it hard to reconcile this with my experience of feeling overwhelmingly blessed to have a child. I even searched around to find a different description I could use instead. Our boy is not our 'only' anything. He's our everything. We haven't got 'just' the one child, we've got a miraculous human being who we thought might never exist.

To be clear, I don't think that having one child is better than having more children, or none. They're just different experiences. Every family is as unique as the individuals that make up that unit. My friend uses a wonderful term Urban Family to describe the bonds between close friends, and we've adopted that to include friends of ours in what we think of as our extended family.

So I've redefined my relationship with the word 'only'. He's our One and Only.

Now I don't feel awkward when I get the inevitable questions about whether we have got - or will be having - any more. It's ok. It's normal to ask. I've even caught myself half-way through asking someone else, so automatic is the convention.

These days I just reply that we're very lucky to have our son. And I try to remember that families come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.

How do you feel about the term 'only child'? Do you use a different description? If so I'd love you to tweet me about it @sheilabayliss