I miscarried before I had Jenson. It’s something that I’m pretty open about these days. I wrote about it a week after it happened but didn’t publish it until long after. It took me a while to process. Since then I have a totally different attitude to talking about children with people who don’t have them. You never know what someone is going through. Now I wouldn’t dream of asking someone in a long-term committed relationship if/when they’re planning on having children.
We’ve reached the point where most of my friends and family who had their first child around the same time as us have had/are working on their second. For months people have been asking if and when we’re going to have another one. Well, people who don’t know me very well. Because those who do know me know that from the time I knew that I was having a viable and healthy pregnancy that I wasn’t going to have another one. Which raises another question in itself: why do people who don’t know me that well think it’s an appropriate question to ask?
So here’s an open letter of sorts to the people who must ask. Bookmark it for later and refer back to it the next time you feel compelled to start a personal discussion.
Reasons why I don’t want another child:
Bear in mind, as you read through this exhaustive list, that each of these points may be enough to overcome on their own, but put them all together and that’s waaay too much for one person to deal with.
1. I had a difficult pregnancy.
I had terrible morning sickness. Not Kate Middleton-terrible but bad enough that I lost weight in the early stages of my pregnancy (don’t worry, I more than made up for it later), still have an aversion to some foods and am borderline phobic of being sick now.
I also suffered with swollen ankles early on, had sore feet (they thought I had stress fractures at first) and I had problems with my pelvis, which still gives me the odd surge of pain nearly three years later.
The whole way through my pregnancy and labour (and probably for the first six to nine months of Jenson’s life), I was terrified I was going to lose him. I thought I’d miscarry again, have a still birth or lose him due to cot death. I’m still something of an anxious helicopter parent but it’s something I’ve learned to live with.
3. Traumatic labour
All of my midwife appointments went fine through my pregnancy but when I was in active labour I found out that he was back-to-back. I knew it would make things difficult – and difficult it was. You can read my full birth story here but, long story short, I pushed for two hours without an epidural but didn’t have the natural instinct to push and all the pain was in my back. I was taken down for an epidural and attempted forceps delivery before having an emergency c-section. This was followed by problems with breastfeeding, Jenson’s weight loss and jaundice and a four-night stay in hospital, including three nights in a separate room, feeling completely alone and vulnerable.
4. C-section recovery.
Two of my friends who had emergency c-sections with their first went on to have elective c-sections with their second and it was a much more pleasurable experience. But it’s still major surgery, you still need a hospital stay and you’re not able to run around after any older children for a while. It’s definitely not the easy option. And I certainly wouldn’t want a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) because of the trauma from last time.
5. Body image.
To say I don’t look like I did pre-baby would be an understatement. I have stretch marks and an extra squishy, flabby belly. Plus I’m still carrying a good stone of extra weight. I know I could work harder to reduce this but the motivation just isn’t there when the working mum life is so damn exhausting. To have another baby on top of that would likely see me even flabbier and heavier post-birth. Selfish? Yes. Understandable? Definitely.
6. Jenson is my number one priority.
I’ve seen people struggle with the mum guilt in their second pregnancy. The ones who used to attend weekly swimming lessons with their first born but had to stop due to financial pressures or lack of energy. Or once the second has arrived they’ve had to rearrange their schedules and baby groups to try to accommodate both children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there’s enough love to give and they love their children equally but I love that I’m always able to put Jenson first and that he doesn’t have to share me.
I’ve heard the ‘an only child is a lonely/spoiled child’ argument so many times and I call bullshit. Jenson is one of the most affectionate people I’ve ever met. Yes, he has trouble understanding the concept of sharing but so do children who have siblings. And he’s certainly not lonely. He’s learning social skills at nursery and has contact with other children at soft play and swimming, plus his relationship with his older cousin is growing every week.
I’m lucky to have a very close family. With a new baby cousin due next month, Jenson will never be short of people to play with, plus he’s also the kind of child who’s quite happy with his own company. I like our family the way it is and I won’t feel pressured to change it or feel guilty that Jenson is missing out according to someone else’s standards.