Thursday, 04 February 2016
One is enough
A quarter of UK children live without siblings. Lucy Benyon discovers why these mums stopped at one
Claire, 43, mum to Mimi, 7
'For years, my husband Rob and I assumed that we couldn’t have children because we didn’t use contraception and yet I never got pregnant. Although I liked the idea of having a baby,
I never really considered IVF as I’m incredibly squeamish and have a low pain threshold.
Then, about eight years ago, I suffered a severe bout of IBS and suddenly lost three stone. Shortly afterwards, to my utter amazement, I discovered I was pregnant.
I was delighted – but terrified too. I have a needle phobia and the thought of surgery fills me with horror, so it wasn’t as if having a C-section would be an easier alternative.
Then, on the day I was due to give birth, I collapsed at home and was rushed to hospital. For some reason, my body was shutting down.
While I was blissfully unconscious, my daughter Mimi was whisked out of me in an emergency caesarean. Once she had been delivered, doctors performed an emergency operation on my bowel and removed my appendix, which was about to burst. Mimi had saved my life, and from the second I held her I was absolutely in love: I still am.
Although Mimi’s birth was traumatic for Rob, I’m very grateful that I managed to miss the whole thing. Still, I’ve known since then that I’d never be able to face childbirth again.
In the past, friends have urged me to have another baby, but I don’t think they quite understand just how afraid I am.
I’m one of four, and I would love Mimi to have siblings, so we do hope to foster another child in the future. For now, though, having one does make our lives easier. We can afford to send Mimi to swimming and gymnastics classes, and I can work when I need to.
When Mimi was a baby, I set up my own company manufacturing attachable drinking teats to use on formula cartons and water bottles, which has gone from strength to strength. Having just one child makes it easier for me to be a good mum and keep on top of the business, too.'
Amy, 33, mum to Ava, 3
'I was an only child myself, and I absolutely loved the incredible bond I had with my mother, Sarah. We’re still very close, and have even written two books together – The New Arrival, a memoir of Mum’s time training to be a nurse in the Seventies, and a parenting book called Happy Baby, Happy Family.
If I’d had another baby very soon after having Ava, then I really don’t think I would have been able to continue living in our two-bedroom London flat, write books and start up my own communications business.
I’ve really enjoyed being at home with Ava. We have so much fun together. I didn’t want the guilt of not giving her the attention she needs, or not giving a new baby the input we’ve given Ava. I also love working, and being based at home was definitely the right option for our family’s happiness.
Having a second baby is a very personal choice and there’s no right time. I do get a bit fed up with people telling me to have another child, or assuming I’m trying but that it just hasn’t happened yet. When it comes to parenthood, everyone (even complete strangers!) thinks they have a right to comment on your choices.
Nearly all my friends have a second child already, but we get to have a lot of fun with Ava as well as the space to be a couple. But she’s the centre of our world, and that’s the way we like it.'
Amanda, 30, mum to Oscar, 3
'I have always loved babies, and originally wanted to have several children. Unfortunately, though, from the moment I got pregnant I suffered with such debilitating nausea that I literally couldn’t keep anything down. I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) – the same disorder the Duchess of Cambridge suffered with during her pregnancies with George and Charlotte.
My sickness was so terrible that every single time I tried to eat I would end up gagging, and on most days I actually felt so ill that I couldn’t so much as get myself out of bed. Although things improved slightly in the middle of my pregnancy, by the time I got to the third trimester I was in an absolutely terrible state, both physically and mentally.
When our son Oscar was only 12 weeks old, my husband Kim and I made the decision that we wouldn’t have any more children. We both felt that we simply couldn’t face going through another pregnancy like that.
It’s taken me three years to fully come to terms with the fact that Oscar will be our only child. But we’ve now reached the stage where most of my friends are having or have already had their second child and, if I’m honest, whenever I see a baby I do feel an incredible pang of sadness.
Also, people are always telling me that I’ll change my mind about not having any more children, and when that happens it really rattles me, because this isn’t a decision that we’ve taken lightly.
But as much as I would have loved to have had a larger family, I can certainly see that there are advantages to having just the one child. As it turns out, we’ve recently been told that Oscar is probably gifted, and he requires an awful lot of stimulation – something that I don’t believe we would have been able to give him if we had any more children.'
Amber, 35, mum to Theo, 6
'I’d never really had an overwhelming urge to have a baby. But when Theo arrived, my love for him was instant and I couldn’t imagine not doing it all over again... some day.
But when he was 18 months old, one of the assistants at his nursery said she thought he should probably be using a few more words and suggested we speak to our GP. Everything seemed fine to me so I wasn’t particularly anxious, but the GP was concerned and suggested an immediate hearing test. When that came back as normal, she referred him for further investigations.
He was three when he was finally diagnosed as autistic, with associated learning delays. By then I already knew something wasn’t right but even so, the diagnosis was overwhelming. I couldn’t understand how my loving and gorgeous child could have something as profound, and ultimately rare, as autism. He had always made eye contact and was very affectionate – with me, anyway – so I was genuinely shocked. But I’m also very pragmatic, so despite the grief I knew my next priority was to get him into a really good special needs school, which we did.
All in all, it took a long time to even get my head around contemplating having another child. My husband and I would chat about the pros and cons, but because there’s a genetic component to autism he felt it was just too risky. I, on the other hand, didn’t feel that having a second autistic child was actually the worst option. My bigger worry was that I’d always put Theo’s needs first – and that wouldn’t be fair on poor old compromised number two.
We’ve worked hard to help Theo remain a happy and charming little boy. But the reality is that having a non-verbal autistic child is a constant challenge – both emotionally and physically. And stuff that I used to take for granted like, say, making new friends, is a total non-starter.
Fortunately, I love my job, and believe work gives me the creative space I need to be a good mum to Theo. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to juggle a career, a child with special needs and a new baby, so I’m happy enough that we stuck to our guns.'