I found myself having a conversation recently with a friend; A mother who I very much admire. The details of her life are not mine to share, even anonymously, but suffice it to say, her first pregnancy came as something of a shock. She’s gone on to have two more children and is one of the most contented parents I know, so I was somewhat surprised to hear her lamenting how life might have turned out had she not fallen pregnant when she did. She couldn’t regret it, of course, she explained, but she did feel that perhaps she and her husband had missed out on the life they had expected to lead and experiences they might otherwise have had. She laughed after a moment and added “Not really something you’ve got to worry about. You had the marriage, the career, the house first!”
On the face of it, I would be inclined to agree.
Thomas was, after all, very much a planned baby. Planned with almost military precision, in fact. Months of careful work on tightening up my blood sugars, ensuring I was taking high dose folic acid and vitamin D. I ditched the hormonal contraception many cycles before we were ready to actually try to make a baby, to make sure they were fully out of my system and unable to affect my blood sugars or my ability to ovulate. By the time we were ready to get down to the sex bit, I was desperate to have a baby in my arms to show for all my hard work!
I didn’t feel like I really had much choice in the way I went about preparing to conceive. It’s well documented that good blood sugar control both prior to and at (and obviously after) conception minimises the risks of a diabetic pregnancy. Risks such as miscarriage, birth defects, macrosomia and stillbirth.
But I didn’t feel like I had much choice in the timing either. It’s true that when Ian and I met, I had a sudden awakening of my maternal desires. But I don’t believe that alone would have driven me to trying to conceive the instant the ink was dry on our marriage certificate. I wouldn’t have felt so rushed if I’d been younger, and more specifically if I hadn’t thought it might prove to be a difficult thing to accomplish. I honestly thought that I wouldn’t conceive without help. I’d been told as much in that many words. The fact that I did still makes my heart skip a beat and my stomach well up in to my chest. I knew that the sooner we started, the sooner we’d be eligible for fertility help, so getting started was my priority.
And, like my friend, I wouldn’t change the outcome for the world. The thought of Thomas not being part of our lives hurts me to the core. And I love my life, with a toddler, right now. (for the majority of the time, at least!)
But I do still wonder about what Ian and I missed out on, despite the fact that we entered parenthood on our own terms. On a Sunday afternoon when Thomas is napping, I sometimes wonder what we would be doing if a small person wasn’t upstairs asleep. I wonder where we might have travelled to last year and what experiences we might have had. I think of dates we’ve missed out on. Films we might have seen, shows enjoyed and gigs attended. It’s not as though I haven’t done plenty of all of these things in the years I spent as a student and afterwards. But so many of those years were without Ian. In so many of those experiences he was the missing ingredient that I’ve only just realised was absent all along. Just occasionally I mourn for the time we haven’t spent as a couple, just the two of us.
I don’t wish that we hadn’t had Thomas – obviously I don’t. I don’t even wish that we hadn’t had him at the time that we did. I wouldn’t actually trade where we are now for anything. Nothing at all. What I do wish, however, is that I’d met my husband several years sooner in my life. I wish we’d had more time to live out the glory days of our twenties with a double income but few responsibilities. I wish I’d shared more of my past with him. I’m guessing it’s probably a natural feeling, when you finally meet the person you want to grow old, wrinkly and possibly incontinent, with to wish that you’d known them all your life. I feel it very acutely some days.
This is much more about my relationship than it is about pregnancy, parenthood or my child. But at the end of the day aren’t my friend and I both in the same position? Don’t we both wish we’d had “more time” before having our children. And doesn’t it all go to prove that there is never a truly “right time” to have children?