Sitting on the floor and clapping along to the music at the activity class with our two-year-olds, my friend looked at me sheepishly. ‘I’m pregnant,’ she said. My eyes filled with tears – of joy for her, but a little regret for me. My husband Nigel and I had discussed having more but couldn’t agree – I wanted to, he didn’t.
When Nigel and I met in 2001, he already had a three-year-old daughter, Tia. He said he’d always imagined having only one child, but wanted to do it all again with me. He was nine years older than me and I wasn’t at all maternal then, but six years on, the overwhelming desire for a baby hit, though it took us two years to conceive.
During that time Nigel asked me to marry him and before saying ‘yes’ I considered that some biological incompatibility might mean we’d never be able to have a child together. Heartbreaking as it would be, I decided I still wanted to be with him.
Thankfully it didn’t come to that and our son Kian was born in October 2009 by emergency caesarean – he was six weeks early and weighed 2lb 15oz, but after four weeks in special care he was fine.
Motherhood turned out to be the greatest adventure. Nigel was an amazing dad and Kian idolised him. I felt lucky to have a healthy son and beautiful stepdaughter, but the desire for more children grew. I’d often joke, ‘Just the twins and that’ll be it.’ Nigel just rolled his eyes.
I believed that lots of men were reluctant to have more children but later relented, and I clung to the hope Nigel would too but it never seemed the right time to press him.
At first I was angry,until I realised it wasn’t that Nigel wouldn’t compromise; he couldn’t
Then, all too soon, Kian started school and I knew time was running out. As we climbed into bed one night, I blurted out, ‘I really want another baby. I’m angry at myself for being flippant about it for so long.’ But his answer was firm. ‘I don’t want to be fathering a newborn baby in my mid-40s.’
I tried to persuade him, promising to bear the majority of the parenting, and Nigel listened until he was unable to hold back tears. ‘I don’t want you to resent me but if you need another child, it can’t be with me.’ At first I was angry, until I realised it wasn’t that he wouldn’t compromise; he couldn’t.
Partly he couldn’t face watching me struggle through another difficult pregnancy, but mainly he’d only agree to be a father again if he knew he could do it wholeheartedly, and it was breaking his heart that he couldn’t.
Gradually I came to accept it and over time gave away the cot mobile and baby monitor I’d been unable to part with. But the longing when I saw a baby or pregnant woman remained for years. It surprised me recently when I realised it had gone.
Now that Kian is eight and Tia is 19 and at university, I can see the positives of a smaller family. Sibling squabbles aren’t an issue and with less pressure on the family purse we homeschooled for six months and went on a round-the-world trip. Kian once asked why he doesn’t have a younger sibling. I was honest and he accepted it easily.
I may not have been so lucky to have a second child of my own, but I value what I have – and I have so much.
Louise Chapman is the author of ‘She’s a Boy’ (Thistle Publishing, £10)