The day we stood in a urologist's office, ready to end our childbearing days forever, I already knew there would be pushback. Society has a historical bias against raising only children, particularly only girls, who in decades past were considered a burden to parents facing the high costs of dowries and wedding planning without the benefit of continuing the family name.
What I didn't realize then was that the responses my husband and I would get would be determined as much by our own genders as by our only daughter's.
My husband is asked fairly frequently how his decision to stop at one child could affect our child. I am too. But there's one major difference: They ask if he regrets it, but it's generally assumed that his mind is made up and there's no changing it.
Meanwhile, I'm often challenged when I say "I'm one and done" with words like "Oh, never say never. Just wait until she's a little older! You may want another!"
Prior to my husband's vasectomy, we didn't tell anyone that we'd made the decision to have just one child. We hoped it would prevent at least some of the blow back we already expected from family and friends. We figured that deciding to be one-and-done was a choice we'd defend together as a couple of misfits in a nation still largely built around the two kids and a dog model.
There are more American families with only children now than ever before, and still they represent just about 20 percent—less than a fifth. In small towns like ours, they're a far rarer breed. My family of three is outnumbered in the theme park lines and on Meet the Teacher night, an off-kilter table at restaurants with one empty chair.
We try to face the world—and a portion of the critics—together. My husband and I have been warned by strangers in the line at Target that we're dooming our daughter to a life of loneliness, by nosy acquaintances that we've unfairly yoked her with the burden of caring for us in our dotage alone. But where we both field predictions of the heartbreak that lies ahead for our little girl, only I have been treated to perfect strangers insisting that my very permanent decision about my own body is still very much up in the air. Patronizingly, a know-it-all smirk playing on their lips, the person who's just gotten done warning me of the inherent problems with spoiled only children moves on tell me that it's OK because "you still have time."
I've heard some variation of this dozens of times—in dozens of different ways—in the years since I sat in that urologist's waiting room, a toddler squirming on my lap while the doctor made quick work of her father's vas deferens several rooms away.
"You don't know that." This to my admission that we are "one and done."
"She's only [insert age here]. You'll want another one soon enough." This to my answer that our daughter will grow up without siblings.
"Told you you'd regret not having another one!" This as I snuggle a friend's newborn, content to hold a baby that I can hand back when her diaper begins to fill.
Not only is there a bias against raising only children but against women who make the conscious decision to shut down the factory after just one production cycle, who decide that motherhood is great, but only in a very specific dosage. So unnatural is the decision that others are sure they know better than us, that we need to be reminded to keep an open mind, lest we make fools of ourselves by changing them.
I asked my husband once whether he fields the same comments, whether people he knows and doesn't dare to tell him the decisions he's made about his own body are wrong. "That I'll change my mind?" he repeated back to me, one eyebrow raised. "Nope. Never."
He was 29 at the time of his vasectomy, a father of one child under the age of 3. His urologist never even batted an eye at his request, scheduling the surgery within weeks of his initial consultation.
He wasn't asked if he would want more children.
He wasn't told he would.
His reproductive health choices were his own to make, unquestioned.
Like the 500,000 men ages 25 to 49 who undergo vasectomies every year in America, he was given the benefit of the doubt that the life-changing decision he was making for his body was the right one for him and for his family. That procedure ended procreation for us for good. We went from "wanting" to be a family of three to "being" one. Permanently.
The decision was ours made together, and it's one that we don't plan to reverse. It's also the only one that people seem able to fathom when simply saying "I don't want more kids" isn't enough.
"Oh, we fixed my husband," I say. "He wanted a vasectomy." Translation: I know my husband's choice for his body is the only way I'm going to get you to accept my choice for mine.