I first met my partner when I was twenty four years old. The “Kids?” question was one of the items on my first-date checklist, but there were many others. Do you give massages? Tick. Do you keep fit? Tick. And, perhaps most importantly, do you like Pearl Jam? Tick. Life wasn’t as serious as it is now; I was just as concerned by whether he was fashionable as I was by whether he was trustworthy. I didn’t quite get the importance of having aligned values as I do nowadays.
Once we established that we both wanted kids, we vacuum packed that topic like a bag of winter clothes at the first hint of spring. We knew we’d be addressing it again some day, but it felt like that day wouldn’t come around forever.
Fast forward a decade, and here we are with our delightful pigeon pair and we have fulfilled the promise we made to each other to one day have children. They’re both perfectly healthy and we thank the stars for that every day. They will have each other for company, and we can afford to provide a comfortable lifestyle for them both.
But…. I want more. And my husband does not. And no matter what happens in this scenario, someone is losing out.
How did this happen? How did we end up stuck inside our bunkers on opposite sides of the trenches?
When I look back over the years I realise that as our relationship evolved and conversations about weddings, mortgages, and (gulp) pensions started happening, we did start to plan our little family together. My fella said he wanted two kids. I said three. But instead of discussing it further and locking in a plan of attack, we’d just roll our eyesand say we could decide as and when the time came.
I always thought that our conversation was theoretical. “In theory”, he wanted only two children, and “in theory” I wanted three. There was a whole lot of life to be led in the meantime and anything could happen to change our minds. Secretly, I believed that I could persuade him over to my side of the fence. I thought once he fell in love with our future kids, the idea of having more wouldn’t be such a difficult one for him to accept. In theory…..
And here we are today, a happy family of four, loving our children more than life itself, and yet my husband will not be persuaded.
I have found myself daydreaming about buying bunk beds so our two children can share a bedroom and leave the nursery available for the new baby.
I am looking at cars that are bigger than our Saab and could comfortably seat a family of five.
I’m avoiding giving too many outgrown baby clothes away…just incase….
And while my mind is refusing to accept that this is the end of my babymaking years, my husband stands resolute in his convictions. There are a number of reasons that he is hesitant about having a third child; our finances, my mental health, (and let’s face it) sheer exhaustion! But even he admitted that he could have come around to see my point of view if it weren’t for the blow of the BRCA2 gene.
Recently, he found out that he carries the BRCA2 gene – and therefore our daughter has a 50% chance of inheriting the same gene (and with it a markedly increased chance of developing certain cancers). Now that he knows he has this gene, he is using it as the ultimate ammunition for his argument against having more kids.
“What if we have another girl?” he asks, as the cancer rates are higher for females than males. “I couldn’t face having to tell our daughter that We brought her into the world knowing it was likely she might get a terrible sickness that could cut short her life”.
I have loads of rebuttals at the ready. I fire them like machine gun bullets.
“But we might have a boy”
“But we are all likely to get SOMETHING we just don’t often find out what that something is”
“Even if it’s a girl, there’s only a 50% chance she will have the gene”
He fights back just as hard. It’s not like we are arguing about takeaway Pizza – there is no “half-and-half” option on offer. This is an all or nothing decision and the “nothing” makes me feel so empty it hurts.
The gene thing is a card that he has every right to play, and nothing I can lay on the table can trump it. Now that all the cards are dealt I’m feeling more than just beaten. I’m bereft. I’m mourning someone that does not exist and never will, but whom I had already started loving from somewhere in my soul.
They say you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. I guess in this case, I didn’t know just what I could’ve had until it became an impossibility. And all of this has got me wondering:
Is the number of children your heart desires is just as important as the question about whether you will have kids at all?