This morning, I helped a friend after the school run. She had her hands full, was trying to open a heavy gate and push a buggy at the same time. Naturally, she was causing a tailback of parents trying to hot foot it out of the bitter cold after kissing their offspring goodbye, and I was in severe need of caffeine, I selflessly stepped in and helped her out by pushing the buggy for her and immediately regretted my saint-like good nature. In my groggy, half-asleep state, I was ambushed by a gaggle of highly excitable, walking ovaries (broody mums).
“Oh it suits you, Cas!”
“When are you going to have another one?”
“Oh please have another, please!”
And last, but definitely not least…
*dramatic gasp* *suspicious twinkle in eyes* “Oh my God, you’re not pregnant, are you?!”
I did what any self-respecting 28 year old mother would do in a highly personal, uncomfortable, unexpected situation. I whimpered a nervous giggle and ran the fuck away.
I wanted to collapse among the painted snakes and ladders of the school playground and weep. I wanted to let out this all-consuming ball of “I-want-another-baby-so-badly-it-physically-hurts.” I wanted to tell them I took a pregnancy test a few days ago and when faced with a single blue line, I barely spoke for the rest of the day, silently hating myself for getting my hopes up and letting my mind wander. I wanted to say that this burning need to have another baby has simply grown and intensified over the last 6 years. And it’s gotten to the point that I now subconsciously find myself window shopping for baby clothes online when I’m supposed to be buying school uniforms and have shamefully avoided friends and family who are pregnant or have new tiny babies.
I didn’t do that though, instead I scuttled away, burying my face further into my scarf while guilt engulfed me. Why doesn’t one child feel like “enough”? Because he is enough, he’s everything, he’s at the epicentre of our chaos filled lives and always will be.
But what if there’s more?
My heart shatters every time he asks for a little brother or sister, and then thinks for a moment before finally deciding on a sister and I have nothing to say but “I know, baby, I know,” and I have to quickly distract him with something else because my heart’s battering my ribs like a moth caught in a jar.
An ever-increasing age gap that just gets bigger and bigger.
Beating myself up for not being well and for things not being different. Resenting myself for not being able to just say “Fuck it,” and get busy making babies because the need to feel the weight of our newborn on my chest again is just too great.
Because what if I get ill again? What if I can’t get out of bed for weeks on end? What if I have another breakdown and end up in a mental hospital, terrified and alone – again? Last time, we were lucky, Noah was at school when the police coaxed me, crying into the back of their car to take me to A&E. He was young enough to innocently accept that “mummy’s just a bit poorly” for my absence. I can never, ever afford for that to happen again but the fear constantly hangs over me.
My head tells me we have to be sensible and responsible, that we still need a few things in place and that we will get there. We will. Honestly, we will. Soon.
While my heart cracks into countless shards, doubt creeps over me like ice and I’m left feeling hopeless, ungrateful and selfish.
My body aches and tears sting my face in the frozen air, my legs struggle as if I’m ploughing through wet cement as I try to get home as quickly as possible. A weight, a tangible real weight over my shoulder brings me back to the present moment. A gentle tinkling sound. I stop dead on the pavement as I realise Noah’s schoolbag, adorned with half a dozen Star Wars keyrings, full of Dennis the Menace library books and twigs and leaves he’s collected is still slung over my shoulder, ten minutes after giving him a kiss and telling him to have a good day.
At that moment, turning around is the very last thing I want to do, I don’t want to see the hoard of mums again. My toes have grown numb while the cold creeps through my rubber soles. But I do it anyway. I turn around. Because against all odds, with both his parents being ill, with nothing turning out like we planned, and even when we didn’t think we could do it, we did good with Noah. And somehow, soon, we’ll do it again.