Why I dreaded having a second baby

Esther Walker did not want to be pregnant again or have another small baby. But she did want more than one child...

The time to get on and have another baby was upon me, fast, like when you’re in slow moving traffic and you look down at your phone for two secs and then you look up and FUCK! – you’ve nearly hit the car in front.

Things were just loosening up at home; I no longer regarded my life and everything about it as a horrendous car crash that was all my own fault … like from, say, looking at my mobile while driving.

Kitty was entering the broad sunlit uplands of girlhood, no longer a baby or a dementing toddler but a little girl who wandered about amusing herself with her toys and stickers and could sit down with a pen and paper and draw a few lines or circles and then point at it and tell you what she had drawn.

I did not want to be pregnant again. I did not want to have a small baby again. I have never, ever felt broody.

She watched television and had favourite programmes. She went to bed clutching her blanket and covered in a little duvet, putting her head on her own pillow, rather than flat on the mattress in a sleeping bag. She had a haircut, rather than wild wisps of hair flying here and there on her head. She wore shoes.

I had heard from many people that getting pregnant the second time wasn’t as easy, so I immediately went out and bought ovulation sticks

I did not want to be pregnant again. I did not want to have a small baby again. I have never, ever felt broody. But I wanted more than one child. I wanted Kitty to have that thing that you have with siblings where no-one else makes you laugh as hard. I wanted her to be able to have a witness to her parents’ weirdnesses, an ally in our family.

A person to whom she is most closely related. I wanted to her to have someone to help her when we got old, so she wouldn’t have to deal with the problem of ageing parents alone. I wanted her to have nieces and nephews and I wanted her children to have an aunt or uncle. I also wanted a better shot at grandchildren!

I had heard from many people that getting pregnant the second time wasn’t as easy, so I immediately went out and bought ovulation sticks and set about the project like it was homework. My husband was overwhelmed by the sexiness of it all (he wasn’t).

The second pregnancy, which followed an emotionally and physically painless miscarriage at six weeks, floored me. I hadn’t been especially sick or especially tired with Kitty, but with Sam I was both. I couldn’t move or speak. I developed a phobia about being looked directly in the eye.

I crawled around on the floor of my house with my eyes half-closed for sixteen weeks, occasionally stopping to cram my mouth full of anti-nausea pills, washed down with Diet Coke, rather than full-fat, in a vainglorious attempt not to get so fat this time.

When I found out that the baby was a boy I honestly didn’t mind at all.

I had hired a new nanny, who took Kitty out three mornings per week. The other two mornings I staggered off to indoor play, or to my mother’s house, where Kitty stumbled about and I sat, visibly ballooning, my hair sticking about in jagged tufts, water flobbing and retaining about my cheeks and jowls, ankles ballooning like a pudding in the oven.

When I found out that the baby was a boy I honestly didn’t mind at all. My only thought about gender is that it’s better to have an older brother than a younger brother, but that was based on nothing more than prejudice.

Still, when the Daily Mail rang me up in early December 2012 and asked me if I’d like to write about how I didn’t want to have a boy, I thought I could probably conjure up enough of a head of steam to write something about it. They paid me a staggering sum of money to do it, it paid for the whole of Christmas (I have three sisters! Five nieces and nephews!) and a new iPhone.

I thought it was quite a laugh, I hammed it up a bit, made it sound, I thought, so vile and pathetic that no-one could possibly think I was being serious. I filed it and then, whistling, did a bit of pre-emptive shopping on Isabella Oliver as I thought of my huge cheque.

Then the piece was published and I was genuinely hated for it. People told me I was a bigot, that I ought to have my children taken away from my by social services. My sister, who has three boys, did not find the piece remotely amusing.

Also, bizarrely, other people told me that they felt the same way and would never live full and proper, rich lives because they only had boy-children. Did they really? Did people really genuinely care about not having a girl?

I hid. I cowered! I had an awful row with my sister. I was struck down with Noro by an unseen force, whose wrath I had incurred by being mean about baby boys at this auspicious time of year. And I felt sorry for the unborn boychild. I was sorry, mostly, that he was about to be born into a house of writers and was being scrutinised, even now, in the public eye, for cash.

But then of course everyone forgot about it and the cheque arrived and I bought some baby clothes from Caramel Baby & Child and simply felt pleased to be able to earn money without having to go to an office.

Then Sam was born in a labour that was neither unusually bad nor unusually delightful. He came out looking outraged, his arms – long, long arms – held out perpendicular to his sides, eyes closed, mouth open, screaming. I wept. I was so tired and so relieved. We exited the hospital on a hot, dry, dusty day in May and went straight home to drink champagne.

Kitty arrived home after us, having been in the park. She looked into Sam’s bassinet and said, after a pause, ‘It’s a baby!’ and then went about her business.

This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. If you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here

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