Parenthood isn’t an experience that everyone wants. Some people know from childhood that they want to have a family, some know fairly definitely that it isn’t for them. Others float around the middle of those two positions, taking decades to either warm up to the idea or put it to one side.
That’s unsurprising. Of course there’s the potential joy that having a family might bring, but there are also other things to consider: the financial cost of raising kids, the stress of not messing them up, the possible impact on your career, relationship, social life or wellbeing.
So what influences some people to come down on the children side of the equation – to move from actively avoiding getting pregnant to try for a baby? Is it small adjustments in your mindset, or a more definite moment when you feel suddenly broody? We asked five women what made them get on the baby bandwagon.
‘Meeting our baby niece was a life-changing experience’
Holly Winter Stevens, 40, lives in Farnborough and has have two children, Coral, 9 and Aaron, 7.
“I knew I wanted a baby when my then-boyfriend (now husband) Paul and I went to meet our first niece, Ellie. I was 24. Paul’s older sister and brother-in-law had become parents two weeks previously. We didn’t know anyone else in our generation who’d had children and weren’t bothered about whether we’d want our own. We expected it to be awkward (what do you even do with a baby?) but we fell instantly in love with her.
“She was adorable: small, snuggly, warm and peaceful and she just melted into our arms for cuddles. My sister-in-law bundled her into a sling, and we went out for a walk and a chat as we usually did; we had a cup of tea before setting off home and she was in the crib next to us. When we got back in the car, there was a pause and my husband said: ‘That was a life-changing experience’
‘Dealing with the emotions of an early miscarriage was tough’
Seetal Savla, 37, lives in north London. She doesn’t have any children (she has one one miscarriage, two failed IVF cycles, and is waiting for her third to start).
“Until I saw the word ‘pregnant’ on a stick, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to have children. I’d never ruled it out but just assumed I’d feel more strongly at some point in the future. After I got married (almost 11 years ago) I thought the urge to be a mother would kick in. However, instead of moving towards it I felt myself pulling away. Every time someone asked me when we were going to have children, I inwardly screamed at them to mind their own business.
“Everything changed the day I saw a positive pregnancy test on Christmas Day. What shocked me was the surge of happiness which flowed through my body. I was surprised, elated and hopeful. Years later, I still remember the temporary confusion of being excited by something which I thought would always frighten me. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy ending because I had an early miscarriage. Dealing with the emotions that came with realising I did want to be a mother and then having it cruelly snatched from me so soon afterwards was one of the toughest experiences of my life.”
‘A friend persuaded me I should be open to the idea’
Nyree Ambarchian, 35, lives in Peterborough and has a one-year-old child, Grace.
“I was adamant I didn’t ever want children – I even looked into being sterilised in my twenties. My husband was keen but I’d been very clear about my child-free stance from the start of our relationship. When friends started having children I felt sorry for them. Then, I was having coffee one day with my oldest school friend friend Nicola – who had also been adamant about not having kids – and she said she’d recently been thinking differently.
“Nicola suggested I test out whether I really didn’t want children, or whether I’d just been saying it so long I hadn’t paused to check if it was still true. She said I should trial being open to the idea for a few months rather than just shutting it down immediately. That’s when I started to think it might be for me. I think about this moment often. And when I’ve had a sleep deprived night I curse Nicola in my head.”
‘When my cat had kittens it flipped a switch inside me’
Rebecca Lockwood, 28, lives in West Yorkshire and has two daughters, Eva Rose, 4 and Renae Grace, 1.
“I’ve always known I wanted children. However, I never expected it to be as early as it was. When I met my now-husband I didn’t really think about getting married or having a family. He was in the army so we barely spent any time together. We’d only been together 12 months when he proposed (for 6 months of that he’d been in the Falklands). He then started asking all the time, when are we having kids? My answer would always be, not yet.
″[But] living alone was lonely so I got a cat to keep me company. When she had kittens, they were so small and cute, and having them in my flat – along with my fiance asking constantly about kids – made me think about it on a different level. Watching my cat nurture her kittens was so inspiring and flipped a switch inside me. My cats died while I was pregnant with my first baby. It was really traumatic; I’ll always think of them as my gift from the universe. To tell me my time was just right.”
‘My boyfriend bought me Hula Hoops...I knew he’d make a good dad!’
Sherina White, 39, lives in Northamptonshire, and has five children Kezia,16, Anushka, 15, Miguel, 14, Zhadie, 12 and Yasmin, 3.
“I was on tour with Kylie [as a caterer] when I went to visit my boyfriend on a rare day off. We hadn’t been together very long but I just knew that he was the one. I pretty much loved him straight away but played hard to get.
“He knew how much I loved Hula Hoops [crisps] and on that day, I walked into his bedroom and the double bed was full of packets of hula hoops. I mean the entire bed! I turned to him and said: ‘I want to have babies with you’. He was so surprised as I never wanted to have children. But there was something about that moment, sitting on a bed full of Hula Hoop packets that just made me think: ‘He’ll make a good dad and he brings perfect hangover cures!’”