Why I don’t want to have another kid and that’s okay

Some people are maternal. I am not. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad mummy, I just don’t get my kicks from hours watching Bing whine about being sad, or fishing for stray crayons in the sofa.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many moments of motherhood I wouldn’t change for the world. The giggles, the cuddles, the way she’s taught me to appreciate the world with her childlike wonder.

But I don’t want to have another kid, and that’s okay.

“When is number two on the way then?”

“Why don’t you hang on to her clothes for the next one?”

“Wouldn’t it be nice for her to have a sibling?”

“Only children are spoiled, aren’t they?”

These are all questions that I despair at. At what point did we assume that having one child, also meant committing to have a flock of babies that you have to train to shit, eat and sleep?

I’ve just about got there with my first (and only) born. I’m quite OK to not have to go through that again, thanks.

Why should anyone else get to decide what is the ‘proper’ family for me? Or any other family for that matter.

But it isn’t just the everyday reality of having a child that I’ve found difficult. It has made a profound effect on my mental health.

My first experience of this was when I was pregnant, and had perinatal anxiety. I was in London the day of the Westminster Bridge attack, and it terrified me to think that my unborn child could come to harm, when I was supposed to be protecting her until she was born (and after, obviously!).

This affected me long after giving birth; fearing to go to the capital, ‘just in case’ something happened. Whilst I was able to work from home the rest of my pregnancy, I knew I couldn’t put off a trip to London forever. We recently braved it, and I walked my daughter over Westminister Bridge. A big step.

A proud moment for me, and she was totally oblivious.

I also had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant, and this was hard too. It’s a misunderstood condition, and actually requires lifelong attention, but is particularly dangerous to a baby growing in the womb. I did blood sugar tests more than 6 times a day, and couldn’t eat sugar or carbs. I cried in Tesco when I saw someone with a pile of profiteroles in their shopping basket.

It changed my pregnancy. I had to go to extra appointments where I was never sure if I’d end up being kept in for observations (I really struggled with ketones in the warm weather), and I was told that I would have to give birth at a hospital (I was initially hoping for a community birthing centre).

I spent hours and hours in the bath, trying to ‘harvest’ enough colostrum to bring to the hospital with me. Gestational diabetes babies often have low blood sugar when they are born, so colostrum is one of the ways that this can be treated. My boobs felt bruised and battered before baby was even born.

The birth itself wasn’t traumatic for me, which I am grateful for. It happened quickly and intensely, and within 6 hours of being at hospital, I had my newborn baby in my arms. Despite the relatively easy labour, it was the recovery I found difficult.

A brand new baby!

The pain I experienced around the 10th day after giving birth was enough of a reason to never go through pregnancy ever again. I could barely move, and yet I needed to welcome family into the home to meet baby, and look after a tiny human thingy. I was pale, weak, and I cried A LOT.

Can you tell I was suffering with my recovery?

My husband was amazing. I couldn’t lift or bend, so he had to pick up our daughter just so I could feed her at night, before putting her back in her Moses basket. The sleep deprivation was real, for both of us.

And then breastfeeding. I lasted a few weeks and that was enough. Enough of trying to feed a fussy baby. Enough of putting nursing pads in my bra to avoid looking like a wet dairy cow. Enough of trying to massage out blocked ducts in the fear they’d lead to mastitis.

One of the many burping sessions…

As she grew, I was terrified of everything. Weaning gave me the ultimate fear, thinking that she would choke on whatever I fed her. I was always nervous that I would run out of her special prescription formula for her milk allergy. I dreaded nap times and bed time, always unsure when she would wake up – or if she’d even fall asleep.

I felt like I had lost my identity. I was a stay at home mum consumed by thoughts about keeping a child alive, and not caring enough about myself. When you add sleep deprivation onto that, it doesn’t make for a pretty picture. Both myself and my husband saw our GP for signs of stress, depression and anxiety within the first year of her birth.

I can’t deny that it would be “nice” for her to have a sibling, but she has cousins and friends to keep her company and develop her early social skills. That would never be enough of a reason for me to justify having another child; making a decision like I would if I was choosing her a toy or an outfit to wear.

Now that my daughter is approaching 3 years old, it’s an opportunity for us to do more than feed, burp, nappy, repeat.

As parents, we value sleep more than we ever did before, and we’d like to keep it that way! We also have our own career goals. With diplomas and degrees on the horizon, we simply couldn’t justify having another kid anyway. There wouldn’t be the time or money, and we definitely wouldn’t have the energy.

Our lives are pretty busy with one child!

This is a personal opinion and choice, and a decision that is between parents – not nosy neighbours, ‘well meaning’ friends or family members, or total strangers who give you their thoughts as you’re queuing for the checkout in a supermarket.

So the next time someone asks you a similar question, you can direct them here.

There is always more going on than meets the eye, and let’s not forget that it can be a hugely sensitive subject anyway. Nobody should need to justify their choices and reasons regarding the make up of their own family.

Before I finish, let us consider those who are desperately trying to conceive, or have found out they have lost a baby through miscarriage. Questions about having more children could be really triggering.

Whatever the story, it just isn’t as simple as “have another child”.

If any of the issues in this post have affected you, there is always someone available to speak to you. Whatever you’re going through, call Samaritans free any time, from any phone, on 116 123.

You can also access information on many forms of anxiety and depression from Mind https://www.mind.org.uk/, or get support for miscarriages from Tommys https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/pregnancy-complications/baby-loss/miscarriage/support-after-miscarriage.

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Mental health blogger & speaker | MSc student mental health nurse
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