I’m a mum of two boys born two years apart and I’m often asked when I’ll be having a third child.
Maybe it’s the result of royal baby season and the arrival of Prince Louis. Within hours of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announcing they were expecting a third baby, I had friends and relatives enquiring if we’d be following suit. Quite apart from the fact I don’t have a palace, staff and a fleet of chauffeur-driven Range Rovers at my disposal for the nursery run, surely that’s a hugely personal question?
Even more bizarrely, I have been asked if I’m disappointed not to have a daughter. Someone once asked me this as I nursed my days old newborn second son. I know I’m not the only one. Friends with two daughters are asked if they’ll be ‘trying for a son.’ Perhaps we need a bit more education on basic biology: you don’t get to choose the sex of a child – nature does that bit!
It’s no secret that everyone loves a new baby. Look at the nationwide delight when the latest prince was born. I joined the masses in my overexcitement: I wasn’t exactly camping outside the Lindo Wing but I did keep an eye on the news alerts pinging onto my iPhone then WhatsApp-ing my NCT friends that ‘Kate’s in labour!’ But if I have decided my baby-rearing years are over then why is it fair game to keep badgering me to have another one?
Some days the chaos our family life entails, the logistics of work and nursery and the energy to organise it all can be exhausting. My career as a writer has taken a back seat for the last four and a half years: another spell of maternity leave would let it stagnate even further. But for those egging me on to reproduce again, that reason doesn’t seem to register.
There’s no doubt that the topic of childbearing age is in the public domain more than ever before. Perhaps that’s why everyone feels they can comment. I’ve been quizzed about my age in cafes, at a bus stop and even while doing my job. I’m then told, ‘Ooh you have enough time. Go on, have another one.’ as though a third child is like another drink on a night out or one more chocolate from a tin of Celebrations. I’m regaled with anecdotes about women who kept having children late into their 40s, as though my own choice doesn’t really come into it. They wave the financial implications aside, pay no attention to what a third child would mean for our family set up and ignore the fact we are actually quite happy as we are. Infuriatingly, my husband is rarely asked this question and when he is, people are satisfied with a non-committal response. No one asks him about his age or contraception choices.
I am beyond proud of my two sons who were born healthy and without too much trauma. I feel lucky with my lot: all around me, I know couples who are embarking on IVF, struggling to get pregnant or learning to cope with children who have additional needs. I’m very aware that we have been fortunate in growing our family so far and I’m content with it as it is.
In recent times, approaching women and bluntly asking about their plans to start a family has, thankfully, started to be seen as unacceptable. And maybe because I have physical evidence that I have been able to have children, it seems a harmless question. But while it doesn’t cause me any heartache, it’s still a personal question and those who are asking me to have another baby need to respect my answer. Or, better yet, don’t say anything!