14 Mar 2012
I am wearing a sign. It floats above my head. Like a speech bubble. It reads:
I have only one child, please ask me when I am having another one.
Just this morning on the way into the office, I was grilled about my failure to produce more offspring. It is a regular topic of conversation. I get asked about it almost every day. Even people who don’t know me well seem very keen to talk about my reproductive potential. So common is this line of inquiry that I have toyed with getting t-shirts printed. I thought about something similar to the ‘Don’t ask me about my PhD’ shirts that used to be popular at ANU. Perhaps ‘Don’t ask about the unborn’ or maybe ‘Yes, I only have one child’. Or even ‘Don’t you know I’m 39?’ Mind you, that probably wouldn’t be enough to put them off.
I remember having this conversation over and over immediately after Benedict was born. I couldn’t quite believe that having only just had my first child that people were talking about the next one! I’d only just got him home and had started the whole shocking adjustment period, when people started talking about second children. The medicos, the midwives, the GP, they were all in on it. At the time, it felt like a bit of conspiracy. You’ll be back, said the midwife confidently. I just had a baby; I thought to myself, how can you be talking about having more babies? I just had one! (Might have a lie down now thank you, instead of talking about having more children, goodbye.)
These questions have continued intermittently over the past two years, especially after the first of the mothers’ group started to announce their second pregnancies. Some of those brave souls went really early, some of them accidentally, or perhaps more kindly, in a time frame that was perhaps not entirely of their choosing. I was slightly alarmed by their embrace of the idea of two children in nappies. Eeek!
Recently, the questioning about a sibling for Benedict has hit fever pitch. Everywhere I turn at the moment, women I know who had their first child around the summer of 2009/10, at the same time as I had Benedict, are pregnant or have had their second children. My Facebook page is like a congratulatory wall of motherhood glory, full of pictures of newborns and announcements. It seems weekly at present, another email comes full of expectation and joy. This is to be expected, of course, a nice two-ish year gap between children is nice, sensible and predictable. Happens all the time.
This festival of motherhood continues unabated around me. I have been reading a lot of blog posts about stopping after three children, and the excitement of seeing how differently they turn out. These paeans of love for children, in the plural, are full of the conviction that there is immense pleasure in a brood of children. Women with grown up children talk to me about when they had their second, or their third child, with a tone that indicates ‘you’ll see, you won’t be able to help yourself’. People ask me about having another or even the more presumptuous, when I am having another one. For a while at work, it was rumoured I was pregnant already. But to the deep disappointment of the observers, I was just getting fat.
Two weeks ago, I went to visit one of these delightful new little people, born serendipitously on my birthday. I ended up in a conversation with the obstetrician about having more babies. It is his business, of course, and so he was keen, but the tone of this conversation was, as always, you’ll be back, you will change your mind, you’ll see. Despite the fact that I was holding a tiny three-day old baby at the time, it was very easy for me to just say; no I didn’t want any more children. Easy. Just like that. He didn’t believe me. You’ll be back, he kept saying.
I’ve started to reply with a flat no! No, I won’t be having any more! These conversations are often so bizarre, I wonder if there is anything coming out of my mouth at all. Am I still speaking? Are you people listening to me? I am not having any more children. You’ll change your mind, you’ll see, they say. Er, no, I won’t, I reply. But thank you, dear person, for your interest in the none of your business topic of my nascent children. Even before I went through 38 hours of labour to bring Benedict into the world, I knew I would only have one. I knew that this singleton birth would be the only one. An only child.
Why then? Why am I so sure?
I have one lovely child and he is fantastic. I have known for a long, long time, that if I did have any children at all, I would only have one. In fact, until 2009 there was still a big question over whether or not I would have any at all. I have always wanted to just have one. I am glad that I had one, but one is exactly enough. I have no desire to have any more. And whether or not you believe it, that’s just how it is. I have one child and that is as many as I want to have and as many as I am going to have.
One is exactly enough.