My youngest is almost three. Three. How did that happen? I started writing Diary of a Mum when she was just a faint blue line on a white stick. Before I lost the final third of my sanity – along with the car keys. Before I knew what it was like to have more children than hands: the sleep deprivation, the tantrums, the joy, the chaos, the perpetual challenge of trying to juggle work and motherhood.
But as my tiniest human is no longer quite so tiny, it’s time to move on. This is my last Diary of a Mum. There will be no more blue lines for me – other than those drawn in felt tip over the walls. Child number three is my last, unless, of course, something wildly unexpected occurs. Assuming it doesn’t, my uterus is off the hook. Every month is now a countdown to the menopause, when there will no longer be that outside chance of a little surprise. The odds are off.
My nearly three-year-old is marching daily towards increased independence and self-reliance. She shouts above the racket of her brother and sister – it’s survival of the loudest when you’re number three. She doesn’t want to hold my hand when we go for a walk. Nor does she want to sit in the buggy. She refuses to let me put her socks on, even when we are late and she can’t figure out where the heel goes. She’s trying to tell me her baby days are over, and so are mine.
With my first two children, I couldn’t wait for them to learn to get themselves dressed, go to the toilet alone and sleep past 5am. But with my third, much as these things would make life easier, they will also signify the end of an era – one that has been as enchanting as it is exhausting and, at times, frustrating.
It’s not that I want another baby. There are so many reasons why a fourth child wouldn’t be a good idea: sanity (already questionable), finances (lack of), sleep (lack of), age (ascending), pelvic floor (tell me you don’t clench when you hear those words), not to mention pregnancy, labour and the fact my partner would rather emigrate than endure another newborn.
I know I’ve reached my limit. I’ve been blessed with three healthy children and a fourth would probably put me in The Priory. But however many children you have, there will always be something a little bit sad about blowing the final whistle.
I didn’t know I was a baby person until I had my own; until I felt the weight and warmth of another human being in my arms and fell in love in a way that was scary, crazy and incredible all at once. I remember the fear that it wouldn’t be the same the second or the third time round, and the rushing relief that it was. But there won’t be a fourth time. I’m done.
Yet even though they’re big(ish) and I couldn’t possibly love them any more than I do, there will always be a part of me that can’t help lingering over the new arrivals page in the local paper gazing at the new mums with swept-back hair and bloodshot eyes, who don’t care they’re wearing pyjamas and no make-up. Because whatever pain and gore they’ve just survived, they are now holding the most precious thing in the universe and it was all worth it. Those pages are bad for my ovaries.
They make me wonder how long I’ll have to wait for a grandchild, whether it will be even a fraction as amazing as the first time around and whether I can wait that long, or could I possibly squeeze out just one more to tide me over. And then I remind myself that I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in more than eight years.
I look at my little trio and I’m thankful they are all okay, and here. Another one would mean even less time to go around. And sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough of that already.
Friends tell me it gets easier as they get older. They’re probably right and I know there is so much more to look forward to in my children’s lives, possibly even sleeping past 5am. But I can’t help wishing they wouldn’t grow up quite so fast. Better get a puppy, then.