Last week the Duchess of Cambridge, a.k.a. Kate Middleton, gave birth to her second child, Princess Charlotte, the “spare to the heir,” as the royals call it. As her first, Prince George, is only a month older than LM, the timing of it all renewed my longing for a second. If it was time for a second for Kate, isn’t it time for me, too?
In a strange way, it was fun to be pregnant at the same time as Kate – we had some sort of connection, which is cool for me because I’m obsessed with all things English. But when the prince turned one, it seemed that the clock was ticking for the royal couple to announce number two. This is the same thing that, I fear, will be happening soon among my mom friends. And I will be left behind, again.
I know I should be grateful to have just one. There was a time when I would have wished for that and nothing more. And as I have said, the longing for a second is not nearly as painful or debilitating as the wish for a first. If LM does end up an only, I think I’ll be able to become OK with it, in time. Side note: I hate the term “only child,” as if “only” is not enough. Why not “one and only?” That sounds special and unique.
But, you see, like the royals, I need a spare, although I’m trying to understand my own reasoning for why. This saying, “an heir and a spare,” confounds me. In some ways it’s insulting, to think that one child can replace another. Or to think that royal women exist simply to pop out children to continue the line, which may have been how it was in the past, but haven’t we moved beyond that? Maybe the monarchy is just hopelessly (I almost wrote “hopefully” – Freudian mistype?) stuck in the past.
In terms of succession, though, in years gone by it made sense. Many children didn’t make it to adulthood. Even a king who took the throne could die an untimely death and need to be replaced. Wars have been fought over this stuff. In our current world, though, why wouldn’t it have been OK for Prince George to be an only? Why did they need a spare? Well, for starters, maybe Kate and Will just wanted to have more kids.
As do I. But my reasoning for needing a spare, although morbid, also falls along the old rules of succession. What if something should happen to LM? If he was all I had, I don’t think I could handle it if I lost him. If he had siblings, it would be horrible, but I would still have something to live for and someone to be strong for. I would still have graduations and weddings and grandchildren to look forward to. If my one and only perished, I would have nothing but empty years stretching before me until I died alone with no one to take care of me. See, I told you it was morbid!
I suppose I should be worried about the effects of being an only on LM himself. Will he miss not having a sibling? Will my care in old age be a burden to him with no one to share it with? Somehow, though, I think he could handle it. He has lots of cousins and baby friends. Every only child that I’ve known as an adult has been perfectly well-adjusted. And I’d do everything I could to prepare for my elder care ahead of time.
No, it’s me I’m more worried about.
On one of my FB groups, one for women who have families post-infertility, a mom of an only lamented that she was feeling left out because of all the other moms she knows who are pregnant with their second and thirds. Other women who also have just one, agreed, saying that they frequently wondered, “Where are all the other moms of onlys?” It seems that we, and our children, are the odd ones out. Maybe I should start a club.
I’m happy for Kate and Will. But I’m also jealous. I want my heir and my spare (and maybe another spare after that). And damn, I want to look that good after giving birth, too.
Are you a parent of an only child? Did you ever feel the need for a “spare”?