Wednesday 13 November 2013

To be or not 'two' be: The decision for no.2.

When I got married people frequently asked me one of two things; the first being 'how do you feed the guy who once ate 34 slices of pizza at Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat?' and secondly 'when are you going to have children?'

If you're married you'll know how irritating that is and people will never leave you alone until the day you go through childbirth itself. People will then give you a bit of a break to recover and leave you to get used to parenting for a day or two until they ask you the next question 'When's number two?' This question was asked me three times within the first week of giving birth to my son which I took as extremely insulting, given what they knew I had just experienced.

People have asked me for a long time now the 'when' of number two, as though it would never really be an option for me to stick with just one. I don't mind people asking 'if', it's that 'when' word that is very presumptuous. These loaded questions make me feel, well, a little inadequate. I start wondering what went wrong when God handed out the 'motherly instinct' genes and I question why I'm left with a feeling of deep dread in the pit of my stomach at the sheer thought of a screaming baby in my arms. 'You will know when the time is right,' they all say. 

As Albie approaches his third year people have gradually stopped asking me those loaded questions and the piles of tiny baby grows that I kept for 'number two' are forming dust in my cupboards. I should be pleased that I'm off the hook, but I wince every time I give something of Albie's away, like I can see my idillic family of 2.4 children slowly trickling down the drain. I cling onto a few things 'just in case' because that feeling will come, right? I wait for the day that I 'forget' about childbirth like everyone says, but 3 years later it's still nearly as raw.

I used to wonder why people only had one child, I could never understand it. I never in a million years thought that would be me. I never in a million years thought I would be desperate, not for children, but for the feeling of wanting them. I meet women who speak so excitedly about the thought of having more children and it makes me think I have missed something somehow, like there's something intrinsically wrong with me. Worse still, I'm weirdly jealous. I'm jealous because they will have what I always 'wanted', or thought I did. 

Then I'm left with the guilt. There are people who tell me that it's selfish to have just the one child (which I often think is a very selfish thing to say in itself), as though I've made this decision all about me. There's actually not really a day I don't think about it, torturing myself that if I leave it another year there will be too big an age gap for them to be playmates, and if I have one now I will have a nervous breakdown and wreck my whole family anyway.

Smug mothers look at me puzzled when I say I'm unsure about number two, as their angel baby lies quietly in the corner making the odd coo and smiling blissfully. It's that lack of understanding that makes it all so hard - of course they don't mind having another if their baby only wakes once a night and they haven't experienced the joys of colic. Please don't think I'm weird but after holding a screaming child for several hours a day I'm ready to cut my losses at one.

But time does heal and I love being a mum to my terrible two year old, he is a handful but a very wonderful one. I wouldn't swap him; he is determined, he knows his own mind, he is very, very bright and, most of all, very loving. We have done well to have him in our lives, to get him this far without chucking him out of the window. We've done well to come out the other side and feel no less frazzled, but all the more fulfilled. We'd do anything for him, have another baby, even, except for the fact that when I asked him the question he scrunched up his little face and said 'don't like babies'. You and me both, kid.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject too...

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