With a toddler over three years old I get asked when I'll be having my next baby a lot. Why? Why is it assumed absolutely that I will be having another? I don't say I am stopping at one to get a kick out of seeing the shock on people's faces, I say it because I mean it!
As much as I idolise my son, and believe me when I say I do, I know completely that he will be our only child. I'm aware that for many this does seem unusual and I find myself having to explain to friends, family, passers-by, the lady that waxes my eyebrows that no we are not trying again because we just don't want another. Many assume I am playing a kind of game and acknowledge that 'Yes its hard, I agree - who would go through it again?' but insist that very soon, if not already, I'll be back in the family way. I mean - who wouldn't want to have another? You have to try for the set, the pair, the girl, the 2.4, it's unfair not to, what about the effect you'll be having on your son?
Well isn't that rather unfair to assume that my son will somehow be missing out by not having a sibling? I know a few adult only-children; more well adjusted people you couldn't hope to meet - they always share and play nice and have far fewer family fall outs! My son goes to nursery, has friends, has a dog, has me and his father, goes everywhere with us and to every event we can think of taking him to.
I'll admit to a certain amount of selfishness and the fact that I am not a natural mother, it hasn't come easy to me and I don't enjoy it all of the time so why would I feel the need to go through it again? I can already see over the hump of childhood to a time when I won't be needed continuously 24 hours a day, to a time when I might be able to think about myself, my husband and our future more. My son grows rapidly, beautifully and now he is older and communicating we're lifted out of the chaos of babyhood.
A few mothers in my son's soft play group are pregnant again and one already has a newborn strapped to her while her toddler races about - I am exhausted just looking at them. I still believe I already have a baby to look after that needs all of my attention! Another child would just send us back to that mad time from which you raise your head to find two years have disappeared (along with all your money). My husband and I came to marriage and parenthood quite late and I don't want to think that the time we have left together is going to be earmarked for children we don't yet have.
Everyone vouches for the fact that the second child is a lot easier because you apparently know what you are doing the next time round. Well our experience of parenthood has been exactly that - our experience. We spun the wheel, took our chance, had our ups and downs but thankfully seem to be getting on OK. I feel no reason to go back and do it again just to try and change what our experience has been - to have a better birth, to enjoy pregnancy more, to relax more, to buy cuter clothes etc. All the things that people tell me will happen with the second and of course things I wish I had done with my own boy, but there we go, why bring another life into the world just because I have learned to knit my own booties and would like a water birth this time?
Another thing that apparently happens with the second is that they easily fall into your already established routine - well if I can't cope with the everyday chaos believe me when I say I find the routine almost as difficult. The lack of spontaneity in your day is almost claustrophobic - no lie ins, no after work drinks, no quick coffee catch ups, no extended shopping trips, no silence. Your life is dictated by the constant striving to meet your child's needs before they are vociferously announced!
Call me callous if you like (and admittedly the routine has worked for us) but I will be glad to cast it off when my son is older and be able to just say yes to something spontaneously again. And I am not shallowly suggesting that I don't want another child so that I can go shopping or away for the weekend. Before I gave birth I was able to please myself, and as amazing as I find him and his development I am still mindful of my needs, to be alone, to be myself. Of course this is not his fault - I asked for him to be born - and there is nothing I would ever reproach him for, but it doesn't follow that I would go through it again?
As happy and excited as I am about my child's future I don't want my life to now be lived vicariously through my children, there is still plenty that I want to do. I am not saying that having children necessarily stops you doing whatever you like but that first novel, that dirty weekend, that music festival, that new pet, that motorbike, those singing lessons and all those peaceful moments, all have to take a back seat when you have a child, as is only right. I hope when my boy is older we can start sharing things that all of us want to do, I certainly don't want to be a mother that has no interests of her own (or indeed a mother that can only talk about her children). And of course, he'll leave us one day, we want to be happy and fulfilled without him too.
Now I don't want you to think me heartless, I am not, I know how lucky we are and we are alive with love for our boy (believe me when I say I get incredibly broody! I kept my son in babygros far too long and am always desperate to get my hands on a newborn for a cuddle). But as life-changing as they are, our lives aren't only about children, and I don't understand the need to automatically have more than one. We've tried parenthood out and found that although we love our child deeply, we haven't fallen deeply for having children. I know that this will seem odd to some and invite question, but I think that any opinion you have about parenthood, pregnancy and childbirth will be controversial to someone? So despite opinions to the contrary we think it's a responsible move to stick with yes - just the one - our Number One (and only) Son.
A version of this blog originally appeared on The Argus websiteSuggest a correction