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6 February 2014updated 28 Jun 2021 4:46am

Squeezed Middle: Why I should definitely not have another child

Is that what I want? Is it? Yes. . .

By Alice O'keeffe

‘‘Do you ever think we should have another baby?” The words are out of my mouth before they have even passed through my brain. Where did they come from? Has my womb established some kind of direct line to my vocal cords?

Curly turns pale. After a few seconds, he gathers himself sufficiently to utter one syllable: “No.”

“Oh,” I say. “OK.”

That’s fine. I knew he’d say that. And he is 100 per cent right. There is nothing I want less than to go through the whole messy business all over again. I swore I never would after the last pregnancy, which incapacitated me for five months with relentless, broiling nausea. I swore it the morning I was sick on a businessman’s shoes on the 8.42 train to Liverpool Street (he was amazingly nice about it) and again when I got acute mastitis, passed out on the kitchen floor and had to spend the whole of Christmas Eve in casualty. I swore it every time Moe woke up more than four times in the night. Which was every night. For six months.

I certainly swore it when Curly and I nearly split up and I got that weird depression that was maybe more hormonal than I thought, looking back on it. If you’ve had that kind of thing once, the chances are you’ll get it again.

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Now that things have calmed down and life is nice and fluffy again, it would be so easy to forget what a tremendous palaver the whole process is; to look at my two beloved boys and imagine, ever so idly, how lovely it would be to have another.

I must resist. I must not think about cute, chubby baby legs, or the pure animal exhilaration of giving birth, or how fun it would be to have a great, big, noisy gaggle of a family. I must not think about how I’m nearly 35 and that’s the age at which, according to some newspaper article or other, my fertility will “drop off a cliff”.

No, no, no. I must think of the practicalities: there is no way we could stay in the slightly-too-small flat if we had another child. We would have to sell up and move to Hull, though perhaps even that wouldn’t be an option now that it’s going to be the City of Culture in 2017 and prices have probably rocketed and I’ve left my job and there’s no way a reputable mortgage lender would look on us with anything other than amused pity. The more I think about it, the worse the idea seems.

Satisfied, I hum a little tune as I trundle off to get the boys ready for their bath. If only all decisions in life were this straightforward. I wrestle Moe on to his changing mat, strip off his clothes and tickle his pudgy tummy. His legs are so big now, they are hardly baby legs any more. He can walk and say “hiya” and “car” and “teddy”. Soon, he won’t be a baby at all; he’ll be a boy. And then I will never, ever have a baby again.

Larry and Moe will grow up and go to school and I’ll crack on with my life, start thinking about the outside world again, working . . . Things will get easier, more manageable, less intense.

Is that what I want? Is it? Yes, I tell myself firmly. It is.