“Is he your only child?”

Of all of the questions I am asked about my rainbow, Noah, this is one of the most difficult for me to answer. From the standpoint of having a sibling, he is not an only child. He has an older brother, William, who died at birth just over 15 months before he was born. From the standpoint of having a living sibling, however, he does not. And barring a nothing-short-of-miraculous spontaneous pregnancy or adoption, he never will.

Every year, we release roses into the Bay to celebrate Noah’s big brother’s birthday. William may not walk beside us here on earth, but he is with us every day.

Having a “not-only only” (as my husband and I termed it) is such a strange concept.

While he has a sibling, he does not have a sibling he can physically interact with. He will never fight with his siblings (as I did) over who made a mess, who the rightful owner of a toy is, who will ride in the front seat while the other siblings are relegated to the back seats. I think my husband–who is an only child (as is my mother)–is more impacted by the idea of Noah’s “only-ness” than I am, because he grew up without siblings and cannot relate to my tales of the trials and tribulations of having them.

Both of us definitely struggle with the fact that the choice we made to stop undergoing fertility treatment effectively means that, barring the circumstances mentioned above, Noah will never have a living sibling. I know a number of women who experienced complications that either rendered them unable to have another child or make it such a tremendous risk that they have chosen not to attempt another pregnancy. “One and done, not by choice” is the most eloquent way I have seen to express the desire to have another child, but not having it be an option.

As I was roughly halfway though writing this piece, I Googled the definition of “only child” and was a bit surprised by what I found.

While society seems to operate under the impression that an only child is one who is raised with no siblings (that’s certainly what I thought the definition was), Merriam-Webster–and every other authority on etymology I referenced–defines it as “a person who never had a brother or sister.”  By that definition, none of us with a living child–regardless of the absence of living siblings–are truly raising an “only child”.  I’m not sure why that brings me so much comfort, but it does.  No matter what society’s perception of my living child’s status as a sibling is, he is not an only child.

Share this story!