Eli and Elizabeth

The Power of One: Oh My Only-itis
BY HF Contributing Writer, Dana Pilson

I admit it.  I have “only-itis.”  Or perhaps you could call it “pedia-envy.”  Now that it’s spring and all those heavy coats are disappearing, bulging bellies are all the rage.  It seems as if everyone I know is pregnant, and everyone I don’t know, too.

This past weekend Daisy and I visited Hancock Shaker Village and saw the baby animals.  A wonderful day, those little critters are darling and fuzzy and oh so cute.  There were tons of kids everywhere, of course, and wherever I looked, another bulging belly, another belly-button popping out, another telltale glowing Mona Lisa smile.  I bumped into an acquaintance while we were there, and she mentioned they were waiting until the baby was born before planning a big move.  Baby?  I glanced at her belly.  Yup, her too!  Congratulations and all that.  But I felt that tell-tale mixture of jealousy and sadness.

I wasn’t the instigator of this one-child thing — I always thought we’d be having another.   Pregnant with Daisy, I was a nervous wreck, a total hypochondriac.  I couldn’t wait for everything to turn out okay, and wouldn’t even dream of setting up the baby’s room until I had her in my arms, knew she was healthy and heading home.  Completely superstitious, I reluctantly agreed to a baby shower, but it was under protest. In the back of my head was always the thought, it’ll be easier next time around.  Next time I won’t be so nervous, next time I’ll sit back and relax, and enjoy the ride.  I just didn’t realize there wasn’t going to be a next time.

In the fall of 2008, we were living in New York City, and my period was three weeks late.  I suspected, but had not confirmed, that ohmigod I might be pregnant.  I decided not to say a word until some sort of test said it was so.  But I did spend three weeks walking around the city feeling like I was carrying a wonderful secret.  I took Daisy to Books of Wonder and the first story she wanted to read was about a mommy explaining pregnancy and babies to her child.  My breasts tingled as we read it.  It must be true, I thought.  I felt so smug, so jangly and happy.  Yeah, I’m reading a book about babies to my daughter, and there’s another on the way.  For three weeks I counted days past when I should have gotten my period and predicted a due date: the end of May!  At one point I dreamt I might be having twins, and I named them, Eli and Elizabeth.  I thought about Eli and Elizabeth every minute.  Would they be blond and blue-eyed, like Daisy, or would my darker coloration win over this time?  Would they be tempestuous and stubborn or would my more easy-going personality hold sway?  We’d been giving away much of Daisy’s clothes and toys and baby paraphernalia, so in my head I drafted a breezy email to friends asking for loaners and hand-me-downs.

It was finally time to take the pregnancy test.  I bought one at CVS and then walked to a Starbucks, where I huddled in their fetid bathroom unwrapping the stick.  I peed.  I waited. Negative.  Oh.  I did it again.  Still negative.  I wrapped up the sticks and threw the wads into the trash, and walked out.

A week later, still no period.  Another trip to CVS, another trip to Starbucks.  Still negative.  Against the odds, I continued to believe I was pregnant.  I thought about buying Folic Acid, I asked a friend about a doctor she could recommend, I rubbed my belly absent-mindedly while Daisy played with her friends at the park.

Finally, four weeks late, my period arrived.  And I cried small secret tears and told no one except a close friend who was trying to conceive via IVF.  She had been through the same ups and downs, elation and depression, countless times.  She believed I had indeed been pregnant, but it just didn’t take.  We commiserated over thick hot chocolate and decadently rich chocolate chip cookies.

And now, my friends are having their second and third children, even a fourth is on the way for one.  The friend I bumped into at Hancock Shaker Village had long ago confessed that she and her husband would probably not have another, would stick with one.  I felt a solidarity with her then, like we were members of a special club.

At night, I sometimes count up my friends with only children.  Those friends are fine, wonderful people.  Their children are beautiful.  My child is beautiful and a wonder of nature.  My one child makes me a mother.  More children would not make me more of a mother.  But it doesn’t mean I didn’t wish it to be so.

A year and half later, I continue to shed silent tears for Eli and Elizabeth.  I miss them.



Dana “Dee” Pilson

Dee lives with her professor husband and young daughter in rural Pownal, Vermont, just over the state line from Williamstown, Massachusetts. She is an art historian and has worked in museums in New York City, Boston, and Williamstown. She has been an avid writer since the tender age of eight, filling journals with personal essays and short stories, as well as mounds of poetry, both serious and whimsical. New Yorker by birth, New Hampshire-ite by schooling, and now Vermonter by choice, Dee writes about art and architecture, the environment, books, food, exercise, travel, and green living. Her new blog, “The Power of One,” focuses on issues related to parenting an only child in today’s child-centric world. dpilson@aol.com

Photo Credit: (ccl) Jack Fussell

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