Having your first baby feels all kinds of crazy. Life carries on, but not as you once knew it; mostly in a blur of unpredictable mood swings, a deep-seated tiredness that can only be likened to a permanent hangover, as well as the early realisation that nothing is about you anymore. Which is fine. Upon the arrival of our first born, his father and I fell profoundly and passionately in love with the beautiful boy that we’d created. We were embarrassingly pleased with ourselves.
I have long maintained that having the first child is madness but deciding to “try” for the second is sheer lunacy. By this point, your rational self knows what you’re letting yourself in for – but you go right ahead anyway. And I know that my desire for a second child was definitely not coming from any clear-thinking place. I was approaching 37, but could not shake the notion that 40 and infertility were imminent. I really wanted another bite at the cherry.
At this point, our 18 month old was transforming from a placid and content baby into a spirited toddler tear-away. During a Christmas visit to my parents, our son treated his grandparents to a spectacular demonstration of his newly acquired wilfulness. Nana cast me an anxious look and suggested that perhaps we should wait a while before trying for another baby. Too late, the deed had already been done. I was in the early stages of gestating baby number two.
Besides, it wasn’t all bad news. As we later discovered, two evens things out significantly. Not long after the arrival of our daughter, my husband found himself to be just as exhausted as I already was. Fair’s fair.
Deciding to start a family is a funny old business anyway. The first school I taught at had a large terrace behind the building, which a colony of feral cats called home. Not long after my arrival, a number of its female population evidently, and extremely vocally, went on heat. The constant, plaintive yowling, announcing their desire to be impregnated could not be ignored. And in truth, I had every sympathy with them. I too had reached the same conclusion, although I wasn’t advertising the fact in quite the same manner.
As fate would have it, I met my future mate, accompanied by the cats chorus, at school. Before we even got it together, he was fascinated by the fact that my sister had had six children. Due in part to being an only child, he dreamed of having a big family. As for me, my hormones were in overdrive; I was very attracted to him. We were both 32 and I was hot to trot, and in all honesty, ripe for the picking.
It is a life lesson when things don’t immediately pan out as you wish. After what we felt was a suitable juncture, we decided that it was time for two to become three. It took us much longer than we’d anticipated, not considering for one moment we’d struggle to conceive. When it finally happened more than a year later, I miscarried, at 11 weeks, what turned out to be a pregnancy that had never properly developed. The cruel irony that I’d spent my late teens and twenties preventing what I now wanted more than anything in the world did not escape me. I felt very humbled.
Given our previous difficulties, I have no explanation as to how we conceived our son almost immediately after this unfortunate incident, other than it was during a tumultuous stage in our lives and pregnancy appeared to be the result. Needless to say, the second baby was created under much more practical and prosaic circumstances.
Not long after our daughter’s first birthday, I made it very clear that there would be no more babies. My back was wrecked, I was emotionally and physically spent and more than ready to devote myself to the pressing business of raising my little brood, undistracted. Despite intermittent cajoling (in the main, consisting of my husband singing the 1973 Bob Dorough classic ‘Three Is a Magic Number’), I made it patently clear that another baby was not going to happen. Even my sister agreed that I’d done my bit for humanity.
I have every respect for anyone who goes on to have a third child or more, but I knew I had to quit while I was ahead, at least if my creaking joints and temporary detachment from any sense of self were anything to go by. I still adore babies – other people’s.
And these days, when I hear the local frisky female felines inviting advances from the tom cats, I smile to myself. The world keeps turning and creatures, great and small, keep on making babies and mostly, we are powerless to resist. And as for me? I’m done.