MENTAL MONDAYS | Infertility & Me
“You’ll Be Wanting Another One Soon”
Those 6 little words fill me with dread…. ‘You’ll be wanting another one soon.’
It’s a statement/suggestion that’s directed at mothers from around the time their precious first born reaches their 2nd birthday. It’s almost an unwritten rule that if you’ve got up the duff and pushed one out already then a few more will fall out eventually. And if I’m honest I used to think that too. Sat at the back of GCSE maths, turning our attention from Pythagoras Theorem to my ‘plans’. Life plans. When I needed to be married by, how many kids I wanted, what I’d be wearing when we went out on Friday night. Big decisions were made during those maths lessons. I wanted three – two girls and a boy. So when I had my beautiful baby girl, Lyla, I was high-fiving my inner 16 year old – the plan was… going to plan! One down two to go.
Fast forward 5 years and the other two never came.
It’s assumed that if you have one baby then you can go on to have another. And another if you want to. It’s not always that easy though. I’d never heard of secondary infertility until the consultant explained why I couldn’t seem to get pregnant. What a kick in the teeth (or somewhere further down south) that conversation was. I was offered a couple of routes but with my medical history they weren’t advisable and the long and short of the discussion was – be happy with what you’ve got.
Easier said than done. I cried, got mad, felt depressed and blamed myself – all at the same time. What a failure of a woman I was! Lyla had been asking Santa for a baby brother or sister for the last few years and now the harsh reality was sinking in that she would never get to experience what it’s like to despise and love someone in equal measures. She would never have a brother or a sister.
I can guarantee at least once a week – it might be in the playground, supermarket, work, ballet changing room – someone will ask me when I’m going to have more children. What a question!
‘Honesty is the best policy‘ is what I’ve always been taught but do I really want to go through the ins and outs of my Fallopian tubes with Sandra from down the road? Not really. So my standard answer is “ah we’re happy as a three”. It’s not a lie – we are very happy. But it’s not quite the truth – the truth is too complicated and painful to go through with close friends, never mind random people. I’ve had strangers in shops say ‘oh you need to give her a brother or a sister’ Yeah thanks for that, I’ll just nip over and grab one from the deli counter. Or ‘did you not want anymore’ and ‘she’ll be lonely’. Every time I smile and reply with ‘ah we’re happy as a three’. Really I’m wondering if I can get away with kicking them in the shins and doing a runner. Even though I know people aren’t actively trying to be invasive, and it won’t enter some people’s heads that it’s not my choice that I haven’t got a trio of children dangling off various limbs, it still hurts to be reminded.
And of course it’s true that I should be happy with what I’ve got (and I am!) – some people aren’t blessed with any children and try unsuccessfully for years to expand their family. But sadness isn’t a competition of who’s got it worse. Not being able to have another baby makes me feel sad. There, I said it. Anyway there’s nothing wrong with having ‘just’ one child. They get your undivided attention, it costs less and you don’t have to share your cake to the point of having none left on your plate. Only children aren’t socially awkward, they do know how to share and they aren’t self-centred. Some couples actually want ‘just‘ one child and there’s nothing wrong with that either. Whoever dreamed up 2.4 children did not live in the real world. Two children – perfect well done. Two sharer bags of Malteasers – then I’m a fat cow and I need to go on a diet.
Lyla calls us “the three musketeers’ and when she hears people ask me the dreaded question she often comes to my rescue with ‘I was so special it meant mummy could only have one’. Quite right Lyla!
So when you see a mum with ‘just’ one child please think before you say ‘you’ll be wanting another one soon’ – you might have just hit the nail right on the head but to mummies like me, I just want to hit you over the head with the hammer that hit that nail. Sometimes what seem to be the simplest and what feels like the most obvious of statements and questions can do a lot of damage.
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I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressured than ever in more ways than one.
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