You know, I used to long for a big family. Twenty-three children was not too many. I saw myself barefoot and pregnant for a majority of my married life. I would have been happy to count the number of my monthly cycles on one hand, gestation and breastfeeding filling up the rest of the months. Surrounded by my at least dozen children, I could see myself nursing a baby at the wedding of my oldest child.

I envisioned many things before my husband and I were married.

Seven long years of infertility (87 cycles, if anyone’s counting) and one blessed adoption later, I look back at my hope-filled, starry-eyed self and I grieve a little. Not so much grief for “losing” what I had hoped for, but grief in the realization that what I had hoped for was not, and never will be, intended for me.

There are some women who are called to bear a dozen or more (or fewer) children. But who am I? I was not called to be a twenty-something mother of four kids that look just like their daddy. Am I called to bear any? I am scared that I am not.

Then think of my sweet daughter. My sweet blessing for whom we waited so long and so persistently. We fought for her and we loved her to tears even before we knew she could stay. And I ask myself, isn’t that enough? Isn’t it enough to be given the responsibility of one immortal soul to guide to heaven, to raise just one saint for God’s church?

Because, of course, it is enough. And I tell myself that if I am never granted more children in this life then I am grateful and satisfied and overwhelmed with joy in my one daughter. Would I be satisfied with three, or four? seven, or eleven children to bear, to lose sleep over, to fight with, and to kiss goodnight? If I can’t be at peace with one, why do I think I will be with twenty-three?

And here is a dirty little secret. So much of what I was raised with, so much of my surroundings say “one child is selfish. Only children are spoiled. Oh, that poor kid, to not have any siblings. What were the parents thinking? Big families are just better.” I have spent most of my life defending one camp that to find myself (unintentionally) in another feels like exile. Especially when my “exile” is thoroughly not self-imposed.

I am certain anyone who knows me doesn’t think of my one-child family this way, but it stabs like a knife to hear it in any context. Because no one knows all of anyone’s context.

What if, I think to myself, that mother-of-one over there is just like me, soaking up every bit of joy in her only child because she knows that’s the only child she has, or will ever have? What if her heart aches a little, too, every time she sees a pregnant woman walk by? What if she cries a little every time someone else has a healthy, safe delivery? What if she sighs and turns away every time someone else’s baby asks to nurse? Every time two siblings go home to play, hand in hand?

Of course she dotes on her child–it’s all she has. It’s all I have.

It’s not hopeless. We can adopt again. There are infertility treatments. There are miracles. But I can’t rely on these. I can’t depend on these as I look toward the future. My daughter just woke up. She is here, now. She is all, and I have her, and she needs me.


And that is enough.



  1. Cate Jones wrote:

    I need to not read your posts at work Annie…beautifully written. love all three of your beautiful selves!

    • Daddy wrote:

      “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known …”
      You know the rest. But knowledge is not the only thing. You have the faith and trust in God to leap beyond what you “know” to a life with God dwelling in you and you: “through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”
      Your words are so full of wisdom and love and trust.

      • renidemus wrote:

        Yes, you are right. But faith and trust come slowly sometimes, I guess. I’m working on it.. working on allowing God’s grace to work in me ๐Ÿ™‚

    • renidemus wrote:

      aw, I’m sorry you read it at work! I knew I just had to post the darn thing before I chickened out.. thanks for reading, as always, Cate!

  2. This is so lovely.

  3. Viv wrote:

    I just read it again ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m proud of you for sharing what you feel. I know that I too am guilty of that “only child prejudice” but – as usual – your amazing faith and beautifully written word has helped me become a better person! You are a blessing! lagbv

  4. This was a very touching post, Anne. I just wanted to say, I am an only child. I was born in the mid ’80s in Catholic city where I was pretty much the only only I knew — and boy did my mother hear about it, even from people who knew of her decades of struggling to conceive. It astonishes me how cruel (and ignorant) people can be about onlies. But, I just wanted to say: I LOVED being an only child. Even though I now have 3 children (and–hopefully–counting) of my own, I always encourage parents of onlies. There are really some special benefits of being an only, just as there are unique, special things about families of any size and shape. I was not a lonely only. I was a blessed and very happy only – and I’m sure your little one is, too. God’s blessings on your family!

  5. Elizabeth wrote:

    This resonates with me so hard–I think if people knew a third of what it took to bring H home, they’d stop asking about the next one so much!

    Personally, I think your one child family is one of the very best families I know, and we talked about how palpable your love was for each other well after our visit with you.

    • renidemus wrote:

      Elizabeth, you are too kind! We thoroughly enjoyed visiting with your family as well–we felt the love! You are a beautiful three. Always. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Amanda wrote:

    Anne, thank you so much for sharing this! So interesting that God called us both to post about infertility on the same day! Your perspective is so right and I needed to hear it. We never wanted 23, but we do want 6. I can so easily get obsessed with pursuing baby #2 (via adoption) that I forget that I have one amazing little blessing that I need to love on now and that that is enough! Praying for you and your sweet family! If you ever do go through the adoption process again, please let me know! I would love to pray for your journey!!

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