I'm not a syndrome
I am unique. My husband is unique. As a family, we are unique. However, myths determine that what the three of us have is a syndrome, destined to a life of maladjustment, a constant need of attention, and a total lack of socialization.
My husband and I both grew up as only children, each for different reasons. When I first considered having children back in my college years, I knew I wanted at least three children. My first would be a boy, my second would be a girl and the third could be whatever she wanted to be.
Things changed after I was married and the pure realities of uncontrollable situations reared their ugly heads. Consequentially, I am now a parent of an only child, as well.
I was born in 1974 in Lake Charles, LA. My parents had planned to have multiple children, but on that October day, their dreams crumbled around them. I was born with a rare genetic skin defect known as Epidermolysis Bullosa. In short, my skin is so fragile that, as a baby, one touch would lead to a massive wound. I was diagnosed on the spot, but only because the doctor that delivered me had seen a previous case in twins. They both passed away.
On my mother’s 28th birthday, she was given the grave news that her baby was not expected to live more than a few weeks and to start making preparations. I was immediately baptized and they spent as much time as they could with me in my last few days.
On November 12, 1974, they were told to take the baby home to die.
My first several years of life were spent bandaged, sedated and meticulously cared for. I didn’t walk until I was four and most other times, I was in a wheelchair.
Since this was genetic, my parents were told that it was due to a recessive gene and that their chances of having another child with EB were at least 25%. They chose not to take the risk. When I was two, my mother made sure I would remain an only child.
For my husband, the story was a little different. His mother had one pregnancy before and lost it mid-gestation. George was born prematurely and I think the combination of all those factors, including divorce caused George to be an only child.
For many reasons, George didn’t want any children. He has more of a solitude personality and finds some children to just grate upon him. When it came to the decision of actually starting a family, it was an emotional road. We both finally agreed upon one. The decision was solidified when my daughter was nine months old. It was made permanent the week of my sixth wedding anniversary in 2008.
So many unfortunate stigmas surround being an only child. I never thought of myself as disadvantaged. In fact, I firmly believe that I had many more experiences and opportunities than I would have if I were one of many. I rarely thought of myself as lonely and socialization was never a problem. To date, I still communicate with several of my friends from childhood.
My child is seven years old now. I am still asked when I plan to have another. My answer remains firm. Never. Admittedly, it wasn’t an easy decision by far. It took several years for me to become fully accepting of the facts. The time I have with my daughter, however, is unequivocal and the bond is strong. I can relate to her on a level I never thought I could.
When she gets older, I’m sure she’ll understand, just as I did, why she is the only offspring of ours. She’ll also be told that she is in no danger of encountering the same decisions I had to face as she has absolutely no trace of the disorder in her genetic makeup.
And so, as only parents raising an only, we have a uniqueness; something not many families have.