What You Don't Know When You See My 'Only Child'

by Stacey Skrysak
Originally Published: 
A mom holding her only daughter's hand while walking together
Caiaimage/Robert Daly / Getty

It’s a question I hear all the time. Are you planning on having more children? Curious minds want to know, and I’ve learned to expect that question when strangers see just one child in tow. But, it’s the comment that sometimes follows that hurts my heart. It’s a simple reaction that people don’t realize can be offensive.

“You should have more children. Your daughter can’t be an only child!”

Is there anything wrong with having just one child? At first glance, we look like your typical family of three. The laughter and smiles that fill our faces give off the impression of a picture-perfect family. And on the outside, we are. But, if you scratch beneath the surface, there is so much more to our story. It’s filled with years of frustration from infertility, heartbreak from child loss, and fear following a premature birth. And that’s why I wish people would stop asking me if my husband and I plan on having more children.

I always knew I was meant to be a mother. I often pictured life with two children, a loving husband, a dog and a house with a white picket fence. But as I’ve learned, life doesn’t always go as planned. For years, my husband and I faced the heartbreak of infertility. Each month was filled with hopes and dreams of becoming pregnant, only to see the “not pregnant” sign on the test. It felt like God was playing a cruel joke on us. Why was it that two people who longed to have children of their own couldn’t get pregnant?

The tears from infertility gave way to shock and joy as we learned we were expecting triplets. Finally, our family would be complete. But as we began to stock up on boxes of diapers, car seats and baby items, our perfect life took an unexpected turn. Five months into my pregnancy, I went into labor. Our three babies were born more than 17 weeks premature.

Nothing prepares you for the tragedy of losing a child. It seems unfathomable, something so terrible that you never expect it could happen to you. Within two months, two of our triplets passed away. In those early days, I found myself buried in grief. Some days, it was even a struggle to get out of bed.

As reality set in, I found myself distraught over the future. After our first daughter died, I started wondering what would people say to us. Would strangers assume my children were “twins?” Two months later, after my son died, I found myself once again thinking about my children. Strangers would never know our surviving child was actually a triplet. Would my two children in heaven be forgotten?

After years of therapies and medical appointments, our surviving triplet is now thriving and healthy. Her fragile beginning is now just a distant memory. And as we’ve settled into our life with one child here on earth and two in Heaven, my husband and I are at peace. Our little family is happy and content, and we don’t spend our days wondering, “what if?”

I was recently at a store when a stranger struck up a conversation. After commenting on how adorable my daughter was, she then asked the dreaded question, “Are you going to have any more children?” Even though I knew she was just making small talk, that question made me cringe. I kindly told her that we are perfect with our miracle girl and that’s when I heard the comment I’ve grown to hate.

“She can’t be an only child,” the stranger said.

I smiled at the lady as the tears welled up in my eyes. I took a deep breath and replied, “She’s not. She has a brother and sister in Heaven, who love her very much.” As I walked away, I looked at my daughter. She may be our only visible child to most people, but she will always be a triplet. Our family is not defined by the number of children we have here on earth. We are perfect just the way we are.

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