I feel as though I should, by rights, be hankering after Tadpole #2 by now. The childminder certainly seems to think so: she never misses an opportunity to tell me how wonderful Tadpole is with baby Valentina, her six-month old playmate. Evidently Tadpole enjoys playing ‘mummy’, helping to administer bottles and stroking the baby’s face gently whenever she cries, cooing “qu’est-ce qui va pas, Ballon Tina?”
Very cute, I’m sure. But, for whatever reason, and despite the fact that I’ve always wanted two children, I find that I’m simply not ready.
I adored being pregnant, once the first three nauseous months were behind me. The happy hormones kicked in, and I floated through the next six on my own private MDMA cloud. Nothing could bring me down. Nobody could stress me out. Frogspawn and I were cocooned inside a cosy little bubble, insulated from the outside world, which could cease to turn, for all I cared, whenever he/she wriggled or kicked inside me.
It was a welcome change from my usual, bi-polar state, where the pendulum can swing without warning from one extreme to another, never giving Mr Frog time to run for cover.
As one of three daughters, even if I did fight tooth and nail with the sister who was closest to me in age, I do feel strongly about wanting to give Tadpole a brother or sister. Mr Frog, an only child, will never fully understand how much he has missed. Many of our recurring arguments stem from his inability to share, to put other people before himself. I don’t want Tadpole to grow up with that innate selfishness that comes of having no siblings.
But, although I am nostalgic for that blissed-out pregnant state, and do want Tadpole to have a brother or sister, I am putting it off. I can’t seem to make the leap from a vague ‘one day’ to a ‘soon’ or a ‘now’.
I can, when pressed, come up with a million convincing reasons to justify my hesitation. There’s the fact that we have to wait until next year when Tadpole starts pre-school, because we simply cannot afford full-time childcare for two children simultaneously. Giving up my job is not an option, financially speaking. Asking to work four-day weeks will already put a serious strain on our budget, if I exercise my right to do so when our second child is born.
I tell myself that I want to bide my time until Mr Frog has changed jobs (which is now hovering tantalisingly close on the horizon, due to a combination of fortuitous events) to see whether he will be on hand to help out more (or less). I cannot conceive of a life where I work full-time and also shoulder the full
burden of responsibility for bringing up not one but two children. I have, unwisely, threatened Mr Frog in the past, saying that I flatly refuse to have another child until things change and I get more support from him. A pointless exercise in blackmail as it happens, as he’s in even less of a hurry than I am.
I think reasons like those could probably be more accurately described as excuses. The crux of the matter is actually that a selfish, self-centred part of me desperately wants to cling to what shreds of freedom and independence I still have left for a little longer.
I love Tadpole fiercely. But I also love the way that she can be ‘switched off’ at 8pm, leaving me time for myself, to read a book, write, surf the internet or watch a film. Even if going out is rarely an option. If I had a second, terrifyingly needy little being to tend to, that would all change for the foreseeable future. I imagine myself, exhausted, unwashed and cranky, collapsing in bed at 9pm, before Mr Frog has even shown his face, the apartment littered with dirty nappies, clothes and unwashed crockery. It’s not a very appealing scenario. It scares me. I don’t know if I can devote myself so selflessly to being a mother first, and a person, second.
What really doesn’t help, is that there is a hormonal time bomb ticking inside of me, muddling my thoughts even further, crying out that I can’t afford to wait too long. The risks to me and my hypothetical baby grow with every year that I procrastinate. But, while I would hate to look back one day, filled with regret that I did not conceive another child before it was too late, I don’t think that I should let this argument tip the balance either.
The only thing I know for certain right now is that I want Tadpole #2 to be just as desired as Tadpole #1 was. If that means biding my time, then the childminder and anyone else who has mentioned it to me will just have to hold their impatience in check.
It will happen if and when I’m good and ready.