1000 families project the Brown Family

1,000 Families Project: The Brown Family

We are a family of three, and we are complete.

When it comes up at the playground—that our daughter is and will be our one and only—I get a range of responses. “That’s smart, kids are so expensive.” “It must be so quiet in your house!” “I have three but two are at school now, and it’s amazing how easy it is with only one.” “I’m an only child and always wanted a sibling growing up.” “Oh…so you’re done, done?”

People mean well, I’m sure. They’re also coloured by their own experiences—I get that. But whenever someone comments on my one and only, I feel compelled to explain how she came to be. Well rehearsed over the past six years, it generally tumbles out something like this: “I had cancer when I was thirty and my treatment meant I couldn’t carry a child. We froze embryos before I started chemotherapy, and my sister was our gestational surrogate—she carried our daughter for us. So yes, that’s why she’s an only child.”

I’ve had people cry openly beside the monkey bars, and be rendered speechless in line at the grocery store. I’ve watched the way their faces change when I make my disclaimer about our only child. And I don’t do it because I’m being confrontational, or feel the need to justify. I do it because I hope it helps people understand that every family is unique in how it’s built—and that even though having an only was not our choice, it’s a reality we’ve accepted and to be honest, have actually come to appreciate.

The three of us, we’re like a team. There is no “adults versus kids” in our house. We play tea parties and go on fairy hunts in the woods; my husband has become quite adept at crafting. We have fairly grown-up conversations, and she is privy to discussions she might otherwise have missed out on if she had a sibling to keep her entertained. We envision a future of great travel experiences—having only one child means flexibility for where we can go and what we can see. And day-to-day it’s certainly quieter and more peaceful in our house—there is no sibling rivalry or fighting, unless you count the shouting that arises on occasion when the puppy, Fred, steals one of her stuffies. She also exhibits none of the stereotypical only-child characteristics: She is not spoiled; she’s always quick to say her pleases and thank yous; she’s outgoing; she is better at sharing than most of her peers; she’s empathetic and nurturing; and she’s excellent at making friends.

Our daughter knows exactly how she came to be—that she was an embryo frozen in a tiny glass tube for five years before she was put in her auntie’s lovely uterus. She knows how much we wanted her, and how many people were involved in making her a reality. But she’s also a regular six-year-old, obsessed with Disney’s Frozen, riding her bike, perfecting the monkey bars and her cartwheel, and snuggling at night while her mommy and daddy read her stories in bed.

And though the struggle to have her is still quite top of mind, it is fading with time. These days we feel much more like a typical family, albeit a smaller one, and I’m amazed at how many other “one and only” families I’m meeting these days—many of whom have arrived there by choice.

It took us one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-five days to become parents. It was not an easy road, nor one I would wish on anyone, despite our fairytale ending. But we wouldn’t change a thing. We are three and we are complete.

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Karma Brown

About Karma Brown

Karma Brown is a National Magazine Award winning freelance journalist and author whose work has been published in magazines such as Canadian Living, Today's Parent and Best Health. Karma lives just outside Toronto with her husband, daughter and mischievous labradoodle, Fred. Karma’s debut novel, Come Away with Me, will hit shelves May 2015. View all posts by

'1,000 Families Project: The Brown Family' have 5 comments

  1. September 30, 2014 @ 2:20 pm Linda Ruth Ciglen

    Your story is inspiring. We, too, are a family of three, feeling blessed to have our one daughter in our early 40’s after suffering a miscarriage. What you say here: “I hope [our story] helps people understand that every family is unique in how it’s built—and that even though having an only was not our choice, it’s a reality we’ve accepted and to be honest, have actually come to appreciate.” is, I think the purpose of the 1,000 Families Project – to help people understand there are many different ways to be a family. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your family.


    • Nancy Forde

      October 6, 2014 @ 12:24 pm Nancy Forde

      Hello! So loved your story and related so much to the one-child-only questions/reactions/responses. So inspiring to read of your journey. Medical miracles astound (as they did for my own journey of becoming a parent) and it’s so heartwarming to read of people who want that experience so badly realizing their dream (as I did). Thank you for sharing and I wish you all the best of health and many years of love and joy and laughter to you and your family. What a sister, as well! Beautiful!!! Nancy


      • Karma

        October 6, 2014 @ 2:38 pm Karma

        Thank you, Nancy, and all the best to you and yours as well! Appreciate the well wishes!


    • Karma

      October 6, 2014 @ 2:35 pm Karma

      Thank you, Linda! And glad to hear your story, too. All the best to you and your family.


  2. August 24, 2017 @ 8:28 am The New Family / Podcast Episode 10: My Sister, the Surrogate - The New Family

    […] Karma’s 1,000 Families story […]


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