Dear Miriam,

You might think I am over-sensitive or over-reacting, but I would appreciate your advice on this. After a very long, hard road, my husband and I had a baby girl three years ago. She is a little ray of sunshine, absolutely loves being on the farm with her daddy, and is simply the best thing that ever happened to us. We would love to have another baby, but it has not happened as yet. I have not given up hope completely, but I also am trying to find peace with the fact that we could be a one-child family. I know many couples who have been through similar struggles and have not yet brought a baby home, so I know how lucky we are.

The problem is this. I get a lot of comments about how she is an only child. These can range from, “Oh, you’ll have to give her a brother or sister soon” to “She’ll be spoilt rotten”. The fact that we are on a farm does not help either. There have been hurtful comments about how we will need a boy to take over the farm. Sometimes these have come from older members of my husband’s family, which makes them sting that bit more.

My husband says not to let it get to me and that people don’t mean any harm, but I feel judged as a woman and as a mother, as if I’m not good enough or that I have failed to “provide” a son and heir. I usually try to ignore them, but I’m getting sick and tired of it. How should I handle this?

Mam of one, Wicklow

Miriam responds

Dear Mam of one,

Thank you for your email. Your little girl sounds absolutely precious. I’m sure she has brought so much light to your lives and she is blessed to have two parents who love and cherish her.

The road to parenthood is far from straightforward for many couples and it is very unhelpful when people weigh in with unwanted comments.

To be honest, with more awareness these days around infertility etc, I’m surprised that people still feel it’s OK to pass such remarks.

Of course, they probably don’t mean any harm; but it still hurts. The emphasis on having a son to take on the farm is also so outdated. You can find many examples of strong young women who are making great strides in agriculture. Of course, your daughter may decide to do something completely different with her life; and that would be the same if you had a son. I have no doubt that with your love and encouragement, she will find the right path when the time comes.

You have gone to the stars and back for your daughter, and that takes tremendous courage

So, what to do about the comments? I know that some people like to have a stock answer ready to shut down the conversation along the lines of, “Oh, we got it right first time!” when asked why they have only one child. Perhaps that might work for you. Explaining your situation might also put an end to these unhelpful conversations.

Of course, you might not want to share your private life with everybody; but if there are family members who keep this line of questioning up, it might be no harm for you or your husband to give them some idea of what you have been through and to let them know that such commentary is unhelpful and hurtful. They might think twice in future.

Ultimately, though, remember that you have not “failed” to provide a “son and heir”. You have gone to the stars and back for your daughter, and that takes tremendous courage. Be proud of yourself and of your family. I wish you the very best of luck and all the happiness that you deserve.