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!