But I don’t like pink…

When we decided to try for baby number two, I assumed I was signing up for life as a mum of two little boys. You see, our families just don’t *do* girls. My father-in-law is one of two boys, my hubby is one of three, and his brother has two young sons; in fact, there hadn’t been a girl born in his family for about 35 years. And on my side, the most recent female addition was my cousin, born in 1989. Okay, so I know that genetically speaking, the woman plays absolutely no part in deciding a baby’s sex, but still, with both sides of the family so male-dominated, it felt like a foregone conclusion that we’d have another boy.

I actually thought I’d prefer a boy to a girl. With a gap of over five years between The Boy and The Baby, I figured that at least if they were the same sex, they’d share some common ground (a love of cars, trains and mud) growing up.

Round here, we’re not given the option to find out the sex at the 20-week scan, so we booked a private gender scan at 25 weeks. We’d found out the sex when we were expecting The Boy and both really enjoyed knowing, so we decided to do the same again. We also thought it would help to prepare The Boy for the new arrival. So there I lay, watching the screen and waiting to see a set of boy bits, when the sonographer said, ‘And these lines are your baby’s labia. You’re having a little girl.’

I burst into tears – tears of delight and utter, utter surprise.

That afternoon, every time I thought about the baby girl inside me, I welled up. Yes, yes, I’d said I wanted another boy, but secretly, doesn’t every mum want one of each? I was going to have a daughter. Me! A daughter! We told our families, and they cried too. My husband’s grandmother – grandma to three grown men, great-grandma to three young grandsons – was so overwhelmed she dropped the phone.

But by the next morning, doubts had started to creep in. The sonographer had said she was very confident that it was a girl, but sometimes they get it wrong, don’t they? It had happened to one of my friends not even 12 months before. There began my one-woman campaign to bug my husband so much that he’d agree to having another gender scan. And because I’m such a good nag, within a week or so, he’d given in, just to shut me up.

The second scan showed exactly the same as the first: a perfect set of girlie bits. This time, we even got a photo of the crucial part of The Baby’s anatomy. But I still didn’t believe it.

With the exception of a few close friends, I didn’t tell anyone the sex, so sure was I that it was all a mistake. I spent hours Googling ‘ultrasound gender scan pictures’ and comparing my photo with the ones online. I refused to buy anything pink, and hid all pink donations from proud grandmas in the back of the wardrobe. I even dreamed (again, and again, and again) about giving birth to a baby boy. My hubby, of course, thought I was insane. I began to wish I’d never found out the sex, as I felt sure I was going to be in for a monumental let-down when The Baby popped out male. Was I going to be able to conceal my disappointment?

Of course, the sonographers were both right. The first thing I asked when The Baby was born was, ‘Is it a girl?’ and it was. Seven pounds and 10 ounces of beautiful bouncing baby girl. We’d done it. We’d actually done it. We’d broken our families’ boy habit at last.

And oh my goodness, wasn’t everyone excited! Within hours of giving birth, the house was awash with pink flowers, pink cards, and lots and lots and lots of pink clothes, mostly courtesy of my mum, who’d apparently had to be physically restrained by my dad in the Monsoon sale.

During the baby days, parenting a girl doesn’t seem to be much different from parenting a boy, but one thing is certain: the clothes are far, far nicer. I’ve never been a fan of pink, but I find myself drawn to racks of pretty things like a moth to a flame, and have developed a dangerous Ebay habit. The Baby’s wardrobe puts mine to shame, and 99.9 per cent of it is, naturally, pink. I tell myself (and everyone else) that it’s just because it suits her colouring, but the truth is that dressing a girl is just so much fun.

No doubt one day, The Baby will go through a Goth phase, and I’ll outwardly grin and bear it while inwardly shuddering at her funereal clothes and black nail varnish (hypocritically, because I went through the exact same phase myself). But for now, she’s my own little dolly, and deciding which little outfit to put her in is one of the highlights of my day.

Now, I must go; I’m watching this lovely little pink Boden dress on Ebay…


A woman’s right to change her mind

Even before I had my son, five and a half years ago, I said I’d only ever have one child. There was no real rhyme or reason for this decision, although no doubt a psychologist would delve into my past and find some significant but deeply repressed trigger point. I just couldn’t imagine myself with more than one child.

As a baby, The Boy did nothing to reverse that decision. Some women start planning their next baby no sooner than the first has popped out (or been suctioned out, in my case). Not me. The Boy had colic and reflux, and screamed round the clock for most of his first year, and after 12 months of hell, I’d pretty much lost the plot. Whether I had postnatal depression or was just seriously sleep-deprived I’ll never know, but it was Not A Good Time for me.

Fortunately, my miserable baby mellowed into a delightful toddler. He largely bypassed the Terrible Twos, potty trained easily and had blissful two-hour naps (at last). In short, he was a joy to be with, and as a work-at-home mum, I was with him a lot. Okay, so he drove me up the wall at times, but I loved being able to give him all my attention, and everyone commented on the strength of the bond between us. Why would I want to add a baby into the mix and ruin what we had?

But then, somewhere around his fourth birthday, The Boy started asking for a sibling. And clearly, he’d thought it through. One day, on the way to school, he told me that he wanted a brother ‘so that when I’m 17 we can go for tea out together.’ This wasn’t just a playmate he wanted; this was a lifelong relationship. Did we have the right to deny him that? More to the point, could I go back on my previous (and much publicised) decision and face the baby stage all over again?

Hubby and I discussed it. I wouldn’t say we came to an agreement, as such, but we decided we’d ditch the contraception and see what happened. If six months came and went with no blue line, perhaps it wasn’t to be.

The first month of trying, I was convinced I was pregnant. After all, The Boy was conceived at the first attempt. When my period came, I was surprisingly disappointed. Same again the next month. But as the months passed, I began to waver. Perhaps the fact that we weren’t falling pregnant was a sign that we should stick with our only child.

Then, six months in – the month that we hadn’t tried, because we were going on holiday and I intended to make full use of the all-inclusive bar – my period was late. I put off doing the test for several days, and when I did, it was no surprise to see the two lines appear. Pregnant. Typical. I was underwhelmed, to be honest, and not just because I’d be missing out on the free cocktails.

We decided not to tell anyone our news until after our 12-week scan. When we did, I almost felt I had to justify myself. More than one person asked if it was planned; fair enough, I suppose, as I’d always been so adamant that we weren’t having any more children, but still…

We got to 20 weeks, and after our scan confirmed that all was well, we told The Boy. He was genuinely thrilled, even if his first comment did floor me somewhat (‘Oh, that means you’ll get to use your boobs again’), which reassured me that we were doing the right thing. Still, though, I didn’t feel anywhere near the bond with The Baby that I’d felt with The Boy when I was pregnant with him. As the weeks passed, far from feeling excited, I just began to feel like I’d be pregnant forever. I got heartily fed up of my bump being the only topic of conversation in the school playground, and as my due date approached, I was almost embarrassed to rock up there every day, still pregnant.

Then The Baby was born, approximately 36 hours overdue but in such a hurry that I didn’t make it to hospital. And I fell in love.

Before The Baby, I didn’t think I’d ever enjoy the newborn stage. I was prepared to endure it for the greater good. So it has been a revelation to find myself cherishing every moment with her, rather than wishing it away. This one doesn’t sleep either, and I’ve had the odd night where I’ve felt on the brink of madness – the way I felt for the whole of The Boy’s first year. But unlike her big brother, The Baby is an utter pleasure to be with, all smiles and coos. In the past I’d heard people say that their baby never cried, and raised a sceptical eyebrow, but ours really doesn’t. She’ll whinge a bit when she’s tired, but I just throw her into her crib for a sleep and when she wakes, it’s with a big grin on her face. I actually look forward to her waking up, rather than counting the minutes until she next goes to sleep.

Best of all is seeing the relationship develop between The Boy and The Baby. She only has eyes for him, and he absolutely adores her. With a five-year gap between them, not to mention the gender divide, who knows what sort of bond they’ll have later in life, but for now, seeing the two of them together makes me happier than I’ve ever been. The other day, I asked The Boy to keep an eye on The Baby while I sorted some laundry. I came back into the room to see him lying on the floor with her, singing her a made-up song that appeared to be all about how much he loves her. I melted.

So, here I am, four months into being a mummy of two, and having to admit that I was totally wrong to only want one child. One of the school mums summed it up recently. ‘When you were pregnant, you didn’t seem excited at all,’ she said. (Oops – was it that obvious?). ‘But now, you just look so happy.’

I am. I truly am. But just for the record, I’m sticking at two – and this time, I really *won’t* be changing my mind!