about that recent brief stint of broodiness

I need to preface this post with this disclaimer; I absolutely love my daughter and would not exchange her, take her back for a refund, or rewind my life to a point where she did not exist… but, I have begun to hate the word Mom, especially when drawn out to sound as if it has three syllables.

I didn’t crave a child and, for most of my life, thought I would not have one. When Julian and I decided to marry, the subject came up; he wanted kids, I didn’t. After some negotiating we came to the agreement; he would go traveling with me and, one day in the distant future, we would combine our DNA in the petri dish known as my womb and see who emerged from my nether regions nine months later.  For the first six years of marriage, this remained a theoretical possibility – Julian never felt ready and, as I never wanted a baby in the first place, the subject only ever came up at dinner parties when friends who wanted kids would gasp unbelievingly that I didn’t.

Then I turned thirty-six. Crows had begun to sink their claws into the previously smooth skin around my eyes. The morning I found my first grey hair I realized that if I were to keep my end of the marital bargain and ensure that Julian did not wake up at fifty and begin looking for a fresh and fertile wife with whom he could do some gardening, so to speak, I’d better get knocked up before my final ovary popped.

Fast forward two years to the arrival in our lives of the shit-storm we fondly call Amber-Jane. I had imagined, and planned, that my writing career would be on track when she arrived. My second book would be published, and by the time she was off the breast, the first draft of my third would be finished. Things I had not factored into the equation were a pregnancy dogged by migraines, an economic recession, the cancellation of my publishing contract, post-natal depression and the sheer mind-numbing boredom of being stuck at home with nothing to do but wash nappies and walk up and down the passage, singing lullabies through gritted teeth, while Amber-Jane screamed out her dissatisfaction at having landed a mom without mommy-curves or -desires. My fantasy (several months of therapy have led me to the conclusion that those delusions I used to term my dreams are just the fantastical creations of an escapists mind) of writing my masterpiece while my angelic child slept peacefully in her wicker crib, crumbled.  On Julian’s state salary there was no money for childcare. I did not have time to pen novels. If, by some evil twist of fortune, I did manage to snatch an hour, I’d struggle to recall words like teacup and most of those precious sixty-odd minutes would be spent googling search terms that might lead me to teacup – a long, winding process, as I first needed to remember the words receptacle, brew and tea (you have no idea of how much exhaustion messes with your synapses until you have a baby).  My first year of motherhood cemented in my fibres the knowledge that I am not a natural mother. So, imagine my surprise when, a few months ago, I became broody.

I have never been the sort of woman who coos over babies. I recoil when someone thrusts one at me and don’t understand the yearning some have to hold stranger’s grubs and smell their heads. But, suddenly, for no logical reason, I wanted another child. At the Cape Town Book Fair, mid-literary-conversation, my head swiveled to a passing pram and, before I could stop myself, the words,  ‘Aww, look at the cute baby,’ gushed from my mouth like a stream of Purity puke.

That. Had. Never. Happened. Before.

‘I want another baby,’ I wailed when I got home.
‘No you don’t,’ a shell-shocked Julian retorted, ‘you’re an a-coping personality, you wouldn’t be able to handle another baby.’

Here is a lesson for all men.  Never, ever cast aspersions on a woman’s mothering talents. To do so will send her into a state of defensiveness that will have her eat her own feet rather than admit she might not be super-Mom. I spent the next few weeks convincing him that he was wrong. We were normal, the hell we’d been through was just de-rigueur for first time parents. I used some of our most neurotic friends as examples. I pointed to the kids we knew that still did not sleep through the night. I pointed out the fussy eaters. I lied and said it wasn’t luck that ours was not one of those. I said it was because I was a chilled parent, we both were.  I needled my poor husband until he began to think that he too was keen to have another child. Very. Keen. And so we began to bonk like bunnies.

Several weeks later, while Julian is on conference, it dawns on me that I might be late.  Instead of the flush of happiness I experienced when I saw two pink lines appear in the window of the home pregnancy test almost three years  before,  I am gripped by anxiety. I lie awake at night, heart racing, palms sweating. One morning, around 2am, I begin to know that I actually don’t want another child. One is more than enough because, even with just one, there is little space in my life for me.

Motherhood has not fulfilled me the way everyone told me it would.  I feel robbed. I do not have time to pursue happiness, which for me means writing, and more than just writing, being a writer. I do not have the space in our small home to work; my desk is in the lounge, the lounge has no door. Julian constructed a make shift gate to contain Amber-Jane during the toddler phase, and I use it to block her entry into the lounge when I am working, but it does not stop her standing at the gate, kicking it relentlessly, and shouting out ‘Maaaaarm,’ over and over again in that sweet, deep Ella Fitzgerald voice of hers.

So please don’t berate me about not wanting to provide my child with a sibling. Don’t lay your disappointment at my door because you crave a baby but have five already and no space in your life for another. Don’t tell me I need a spare, or that it’s unfair to just have one, or that I must have another because we make such cute kids, or that the second pregnancy/child will be different. If you can’t guarantee me a problem free pregnancy and a serene baby that sleeps through the night from day one, then shut your mouth. As much as every baby is different, every mother is different too. I’m not a bad person because you want two or three or four or ten kids, and I don’t. I’m just a woman who wants enough space in her life for her child, her marriage and her work. Next year, I may change my mind. And yes, next year, on the other side of forty, it may be too late. Next year, I may no longer be mourning the writer I used to be, but the child I  might have had. But, that is my problem, not yours. 

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