My husband and I are sitting side-by-side on the sofa, silently staring at the wall. A few minutes ago, I waved a positive pregnancy test at him. He said “Well, then”, I said “yep,” and that’s about when the wordless wall appreciation began.
To clarify, this is a deliberate pregnancy and one we’re both very happy about. Happy, however, but also banjaxed. Last time I fell pregnant it was 2014. My husband and I were freshly engaged, floating on a cloud of unreality, in love with the idea of our genes colliding. Back then, my biggest worry was that my husband would win and the baby would be named after a chain-smoking Disney animator from the 1940s, and not an orphan from a Dickens novel, as is right and proper.
This time around, I’m navigating morning sickness while chasing a whirlwind-like toddler around the house. Plus I’m freelance, so I won’t get anything like maternity pay or leave. I’ve done the maths and I think I’ll be okay, so long as I can still file copy while the baby’s crowning.
I went from wanting to be pregnant, and wishing to be pregnant, to actually being pregnant and then suddenly being in tears – for such a cluster of reasons that’s taken me weeks to unpick
It’s hard to admit feeling negative about pregnancy, because I feel I should be beaming and blooming and glowing about my growing family. But the truth is a sort of fear has gripped me. I went from wanting to be pregnant, and wishing to be pregnant, to actually being pregnant and then suddenly being in tears – for such a cluster of conflicting reasons signalling various states of rationality that it’s taken me weeks to unpick.
Firstly, I felt somehow that wanting another child was betraying the son I already had. I was his mummy – how could I even think about being someone else’s? I’d watch him roaring around the room like a dinosaur, and feel this immense weight of guilt. How would I cope with the change? How would he? Feverishly, I thought of a horror story I read, where a family move into a new house, and in the smallest room, at the bottom of a cupboard, they find – written in crayon – “I killed the baby.”
Then the second guilt would roll in, thick and fast: what if I was only capable of loving one child? How could I possibly love another child the way I love my son? This new child was doomed for a life of no ambition and second-bestness, I was convinced. Not even three months gone and I was already a terrible mother, playing favourites.
The final guilt settled on my stomach like cold jelly: surely these emotions couldn’t be good for the baby. By entertaining such heartless, unmotherly thoughts, I must be inviting bad luck into my womb. As the date of my first scan approached, I was sure it would bring the worst news. To the point where, as my husband and I sat in the waiting room on the day, I vibrated perceptibly in my chair. Shakily I took out my phone and googled “Can I love second baby as much as first”. The results were all similar questions asked on parenting forums. And the answers, from more seasoned parents, were all the same, too: You think it won’t, they said, but your heart expands to accommodate all your children.
Was my heart capable of expanding, I wondered, as the ultrasound lady dug around on my belly, cold and wet with gel. And, suddenly, there it was. Not a worry, or a problem, or a strain on our finances, but a tiny fresh member of our family – all arms and legs and bobble head – Riverdancing on my bladder.
I took my husband’s hand. “It’s a baby,” I told him. “It’s our baby,” he told me. We showed our son the ultrasound pictures when we got home. “That’s your brother or sister,” my husband said. “It’s in your mummy’s tummy.” Our son gave us both searching looks then went back, chillingly I thought, to his crayons.
That night it was my husband’s turn to put my son to bed. “Say goodnight to Mummy.” As usual, my son then barrelled into me, giggling, but instead of turning his face to me, he buried his blonde head in my belly. “Goodnight brother sister!” He trilled, then ran off.
Since then, tentatively, and punctuated by trips to the bathroom, I have begun to bloom.