It’s Christmas morning. We’ve been up since six a.m. It’s been exciting. The children all love their gifts. Charlie, two, is causing trouble as he tries to demolish everyone else’s presents before they get a chance.
There are two final presents under the tree. One for all the children. I can’t wait to see their reaction. The other one, is for me, from my husband. He’s written, “To be opened last.” I wonder why?
The children unwrap their last gift together. It’s a book, titled, “There’s going to be a baby.”
Lily, 13, reads the title slowly. She looks puzzled. I wait for a reaction. Nothing.
Freya, 10, says, “Oh my god! Is there? Really?”
I answer, “Yes,” with a smile. I’m excited about telling them. At last they’ll understand why I’ve been dragging my sick and exhausted body from armchair to couch for the last few weeks.
Lily is still struggling with the news, “Do you mean you’re going to have a baby?”
“Yes,” I answer, “I’m pregnant. We are expecting a baby.”
The older boys have known for a while. But the girls have plenty of questions, “When will the baby come?”
“Will it be a boy or a girl?”
“When will we find out the sex?”
I answer the questions. There are hugs all round, then the children run off to their bedrooms to enjoy their new loot.
I open the present from my husband. It’s an Anne Geddes pregnancy calendar. It’s lovely. And unexpected. I’m really pleased he wanted to give this to me because he was not very happy when I broke the news to him about the baby.
We’d had our two-year-old, Charlie, later in life. Our other four children had become pretty easy to handle. It was a busy household, but for the most part we had an easy routine and our children were becoming self-sufficient. We both worked. We enjoyed overseas holidays, meals at restaurants, a certain level of freedom.
So why then, did I long for another? After our fourth, we were sure we’d had enough. My husband had a vasectomy. It was time to move on to another chapter in our lives.
However, I couldn’t shake my desire for another baby. So, four years later, post vasectomy reversal, at the ripe old age of 41, our beautiful boy was born. He filled our house with the joy that only a baby can bring. Watching my older children love and nurture this little boy is worth every lost hour of sleep, every new wrinkle.
For my husband, nearing 50, five children was enough. I agreed. He’d made a huge sacrifice for me. Fair’s fair!
My period never returned after Charlie’s birth. He was breastfed on demand, and still is. At two and a half, my period still hadn’t appeared. I figured I’d head straight into menopause. I’m 44 years old.
But other plans were afoot! After feeling suspiciously unwell, I took a test – it was positive.
At first I felt ambivalent. My husband wouldn’t be happy. How would I tell him? When I blurted it out, he really didn’t feel happy. I understood, but I would never terminate. This baby would fit into our already big family. I felt I loved the baby from the start.
We went for an ultrasound to see how far along the pregnancy was. To my delight our little baby had a strong heartbeat. We were already eight weeks along. Yippee! Only four weeks til I was out of the danger zone.
At Christmas, I was almost 10 weeks. We felt ready to share our happy news with our children. I felt happy.
That afternoon I noticed some brown spotting when I use the toilet. I didn’t want to overreact. Surely it was nothing? It would be all right.
The next day, there was more spotting. On the third day, we organised the ultrasound.
Whilst I lay there willing our baby to move, to show a heart pulsing, I realized my worst fear. There was no heartbeat. Its tiny little heart stopped soon after our last ultrasound. I’m so grateful to have seen our baby at that ultrasound. I saw it move. I saw the flutter of its heart. My baby lived. My baby did exist.
I had no idea how sad I would feel. Miscarriages happen all the time don’t they? My doctor told me 20-25% of all pregnancies end in the first trimester. More in the over 40s.
It was nothing I did, nothing I didn’t do. I loved this baby from the start. I had hopes and dreams for him or her. I had already bought maternity clothes. A little white growsuit. I started a patchwork quilt, and a tiny soft knitted cardigan. To me, this baby was as much my child as my other five.
The morning after Christmas I had a vivid dream. I dreamt I had been out, gone home and realised I’d accidently left my new baby behind. I went back to find the baby, and there it was, curled up asleep with an older boy of nine or 10. He told me the baby had slept. Our baby was a boy. He had a beautiful little head of silky black hair. I couldn’t see his face.
I was so relieved to find him safe.
Perhaps our baby is with a guardian angel. At least, that is how I’d like to think of it.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem