We are strolling through the car park next to a mariner, marvelling at the luxurious yachts and the expensive cars driven by the owners. He points to a large, family SUV and says, “That one would be perfect, it would fit all 7 of us”.
I almost miss a step, I have to force myself not to respond. Did he misspeak? Miscount? Or is he being deliberate. I know him well enough to know that it likely wasn’t an accident. I also know him well enough to know that I need to contain my reaction to this inconspicuously huge revelation.
Because, right now, there is only six of us. There’s me and my two girls, and him and his two boys. An almost Brady Bunch.
The seventh, a potential baby of our own, has been a hotly contended subject. It’s been the dealbreaker that wasn’t. It’s taken me a long time to find peace with not getting my way in the situation. To bury the piece of my heart that was desperate for another baby.
And now he says “seven of us”?
Before we had gotten together, properly, I asked if he was done having kids. His youngest is about a year older than my eldest. Honestly, I suspected that he had had a vasectomy. He’s older then me, and his ex-wife even older then him, in her forties. I assumed they had discussed it long ago, but I wasn’t sure if it was decision he had made for himself. He told me that he thought he was, but that with me, he really loved the idea, and that if we wanted to, yes it was possible. A vasectomy had been suggested, but he’d never felt right doing it, he wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t someday want more kids. With someone else. And then, here I was. Wanting a baby with him.
But then, when we became an official, public couple, and his ex wife found out, ran off with his kids, kickstarting a long, expensive and emotionally excruciating family court battle, and his answer turned to a hard, immovable, adamant NO.
It was devastating. We had walked through so many fires to be together, and now we weren’t just on separate pages, we were reading different books. My littlest girl was two and a half, and I was ready to either have another baby, or go back to work full time. I also have difficulties falling pregnant, and didn’t want to keep waiting to start trying, being that it could take many months. For me, it was now or never. For him, it was absolutely not now. We were still new, and although we were both certain of the relationship, there was so much other turmoil in his life, that he just could not entertain the idea of bringing in another child to complicate things further.
Knowing now as I do how things worked out, he was absolutely right. But for me, at the time, I felt betrayed. We had spoken about it. He has said yes. We’d talked baby names and who it would look like. I was ready. And now he’d taken it back. I was so angry at him. I’d put so much of my life aside to be with him, and now it wasn’t going to move forward how I thought we’d agreed. Looking back, I’m a little surprised he stayed with me through all the pressure I put on him in those early days. He hates being made to do things. He hates, as anyone would, being pushed into things. And he hates confrontation, and confront him I did. A lot.
I remember the final fight we had about it. We’d sent some heated texts, before giving each other the silent treatment for a few days, which neither of us coped with well. Finally we met at the beach to talk it through.
“If you want a baby, you need to be with someone else.” He said, hopeless tears in his eyes. He was exhausted from the same fight, over and over, and I knew that he couldn’t do it anymore.
“It’s not that I want any baby, it’s that I want YOUR baby.” I explained.
“And it’s not that I wouldn’t want a baby with you, it’s that I don’t want another child at all right now. Of course it would be with you if I did want one”.
I taking it all as a reflection of how he felt about me. I was jealous he’d had children with his ex-wife, that he’d told me he wasn’t ready when she was, but he’d done it for her, but now wouldn’t for me. It infuriated me because he would constantly tell me what an amazing mother he thought I was, but, he didn’t want a baby. To me, those couldn’t be mutually exclusive things. And I couldn’t see that he had learnt having a child you weren’t ready for, was a terrible idea.
To him, it wasn’t that he didn’t adore me, or value me as a parent, it’s that his plate was so full, and he was already drowning. I was heaping on with expectations he couldn’t manage, and it was hurting him that he just couldn’t agree with me. He wanted to make me happy, but this was one thing he couldn’t budge on. I was asking far too much, and we were both miserable.
So. I agreed to stop asking.
I told him that I wanted him, more than I wanted a baby to someone else. I would rather choose him, and no baby, than no him. But we also agreed that I would stop taking birth control. It was ruining my body, my cycles were awful and more hormones horrendous (and possibly/almost definitely responsible, for some of the big fights we’d been having, which were almost exactly every 4 weeks). We agreed that he didn’t want a baby, he needed to be responsible for preventing it. I told him that I wouldn’t deliberately try to get pregnant, I had absolutely no desire to have a child the father didn’t want.
We closer the door on the argument. We bought condoms. He was quite nonchalant about protection though, which I found confusing, given he was the one not wanting a pregnancy, and we didn’t use them often, and instead relied on a very lazy combination of family planning and the withdrawal method- risky, given both are notoriously unreliable, but given I rarely ovulate, nothing eventuated.
I started working more. I applied to transfer my university degree, was accepted and the following year, I quit work to study full time. I’d have my degree finished in 2.5 years, and then I’d start my career. My little one grew, and as she got older, and our independence as a family grew too, it was easier to imagine life without another baby. I’d agreed “no”, so I pushed my life in a direction away from the homemaker role, and started to see a life laying out for myself with the children we had between us, and a career I’d dreamt of for a long time.
And then, barely 6 months into my degree. Only a little over a year since we decided not to fight about it anymore, just as my heart is healing from the “no more babies” grief that seemingly only mums experience. Then, THEN, he casually drops a:
“All 7 of us”.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Now?! Now he’s bloody ready? What. A. Prick.
It made sense. The worst of the court proceedings were over. He had stable time with his kids. His job was going well. Our relationship is so happy, we were travelling and having regular date nights, my study was going well, everything was quite settled. Obviously it was a much, much better time.
But uni? My degree? My career? What if now, I’m the one not ready? I don’t want to postpone all that again. I did that after my first and it took me 6 years to go back. I was looking forward to the new plan I had made. The one without a baby.
Later, I ask him.
“Did you mean to say 7?”.
I think I sound more annoyed than I intended. He looks quite abashed. “Yes.”
He tells me that he started thinking about it a few months ago. That he is quite excited at the idea of having a child together. That he wants to parent with me, not just the children we have, but one we share only with each other.
I ask if he’s happy to wait until I’ve finished studying. He tells me that the timing is up to me. But we stop being careful at all pretty quickly. I stop checking the calendar, and we give up on the withdrawal method almost all together. I start getting little twinges of hope and excitement every time my period is late. Disappointment when it arrives. We pick baby names. He changes jobs. I take extra courses to fast track my study program. It’s subtle. But it’s there. It’s not an “if” anymore, it’s a “when”.
* * *
18 months later, the test is positive. And I laugh, because I have exactly 9 months of my degree to go…