I have spent the entirety of this pregnancy feeling conflicted and inadequate for loudly calling it quits at two children. “I do not have the guts,” I say to people, “for three.” And I don’t. At some point, you have to be realistic about what you are like. I am physically cowardly, mentally unreliable and morally slippery.
I just want to go on fucking holiday to somewhere hot and sunny and I do not want to have to buy a giant ugly car.
I don’t want to do all this without children, you understand. I want to take children on holiday, take them to beaches and swimming pools, rub fragile shoulder blades with suncream, let them have two Cokes with lunch then pretend to lose count so they have three. Later, when they’re older and if they’re still talking to me, maybe we’ll go somewhere crazy with them, like Cuba or India or Russia.
But I do not want to wait another six or seven years before we’re able to jet off easily. And if we have three, could we even afford to go anywhere? We’d need three hotel rooms, five plane tickets, eighteen arms. An unlimited supply of benzos. Three children, to me, never seems like two children + 1, it seems like two children squared.
And yet… and yet… I am one of four children. Four sisters. One, two, three, four – that’s us. A never-ending stampede of hair and teeth and nails and words. There are so many of us that we are rarely all in the same room at the same time. Our relationship with our mother is like the painting of the Forth Bridge. Once she’s got off the phone with the last one, it’s time to ring the first one all over again.
Two children is lonely. Suburban. It’s neat and dreary. And what if – oh god, horror – one of them moves to live in another country? Worst nightmare. What if neither have their own children? What if neither turns out to be the life-saving scientist I secretly crave to bring into the world? What if it’s the third one who would have found a cure for cancer, or discovered a clean, free, sustainable source of energy for the world?
I am being stupid. Three children would kill me. Kill. Me. And my marriage. And they won’t be scientists – who am I kidding. They will be pointless arts graduates like me. And they won’t be lonely, I say to myself. They will naturally end up being better at making friends than I was, what with no instant gang at home.
I say two children is lonely but there was no lonelier person in the world than me during the summer holidays as a 14 year-old, sitting out the long, friendless six week stint in our London house, never going anywhere, never doing anything; there were just too many of us, at such wildly different ages, to configure any sort of holiday that would suit everyone. That won’t need to be Kitty; we’ll be getting on a plane to Croatia, just to see what’s there.
This pregnancy has driven me to the edge of madness as it is; I find nothing about it charming, or fulfilling or interesting. It is doing unspeakable damage to vital areas of my body. It makes me a poorly-motived and boring parent. Kitty has already had to suffer the mild neglect and lack of stimulation caused by one extra gestation, why should she have to suffer two?
This is what goes round and round in my head. Endlessly, day after day. I feel like I ought to have more than two children – for Kitty’s sake. But precisely bearing her, and only her, welfare in mind, I also think the exact opposite.
I cannot win. I can only hope that it really was only a dream, not my husband whispering sleepy truths into my slumbering ear.
Continuing on the theme of Kitty, I have been forging on apace with her international gastronomic education (just so she knows what to eat when we arrive at teatime in, say, Bucharest).
We have turned recently – keeping things simple – to France.
I am always casting about for things to do with my round griddle pan as part of my resolution not to leave kitchen equipment sitting about idle; I thought I would capitalise on Kitty’s love of croissants to introduce a filled croissant to our breakfast repetoire.
A split croissant filled with either Nutella or ham and cheese goes down extremely well and it’s very easy to do on a hot griddle pan: split, fill, place on griddle, squash with flat implement for 4 mins each side.
Because if she’s not going to be a scientist, she’s might as well know what to order on a History of Art trip to Paris.
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