It was one of those mornings after the night where my forty year old self had recaptured the drunken hedonistic days of my 20s. Was I still drunk? Or was it the two red bulls I’d downed in quick succession to ward off my hangover that sparked my truth? I still don’t know. But from somewhere deep inside, it came. A truth I hadn’t even known existed.
I don’t want to have a child for the wrong reasons, Janus’d said months before. Nor did I. Of course not! Me of all people–an adoptee sold to a new family at birth–didn’t want to objectify a child into a ‘needs fulfilment machine’. But what were the wrong reasons? To pin my life to his in some way? To make our life mean even more than it did already? To conform to a biological imperative? Why does anyone have a child?
And that morning as I dined on rib eye steak to soak up the previous nights excesses, I snarled my truth into the blood oozing on the blade of my knife
‘Sometimes I just wish the menopause would arrive so that the question of children was off the table. You keep saying why it would be a bad idea to have a child, and every time you do it hurts.’
And the channel my eyes made to his on other side of the table became a chasm of utter vulnerability. His dark eyes flashed and out of his mouth came words I’d never heard, and never expected.
‘No matter what I say, the idea of having a child with someone else pains me. I don’t like to think of it too much. And hearing you say that you’d be grateful for the menopause also hurts.’
We were animals, discussing in prefrontal cortex language. No one knows exactly why we burn to reproduce. Survival mechanisms run deep and ours were at that moment on fire.
‘I have no idea why I want to have a child with you,’ I said. ‘But what you don’t seem to understand is that all your theoretical deliberations are so unimportant. Your querying the whys and wherefores of the decision to have a child won’t get us anywhere. Because it will be our child…’
My voice broke at those words as to my surprise and confusion tears rolled down my face. Our child I repeated feeling the words in my mouth.
‘Can’t you feel the joy of that? Nothing else matters. Whatever we sacrifice – our sexual connection, living space, salary – it’ll be worth it.’
He gets annoyed when I cry. He believes that men are wired to be triggered into rescuer mode by female tears and resents any form, even nature’s form, of manipulation. But I wasn’t crying to manipulate him. I was grieving my future imaginary child. The one he didn’t want to have with me.
‘I’m not crying to manipulate you,’ I said in an effort to counter any prospective annoyance. ‘It’s just that I’ve lived in a fantasy world I can’t share with you because you’re too scared. In this world you and I have a daughter and I can see her clearly. I’ve seen her for a while. She has your eyes. You and Morten are standing in the way of her life. Now go. Go and get me another red bull.’
He got up, wordlessly from the table and circled around it. He dropped a kiss on my salty mouth and said ‘I love you’ as I nodded and tried to compose myself. But I was away in my moment. A moment when I realised with startling clarity that I did want us to have a child. That I burned with the longing of it and the joy of being able to tell a truth I’d denied all this time. And that truth was finally out, whistling in his ears, invading his ideas with its possibilities.
That evening I got home, Maya was laid up with a belly bug. One of those hideous ones which repeat endlessly and which necessitate the washing of sheets, scrubbing of sick, showering of small infants who detest water. I stayed up all night looking after her and at 6am Freddie awoke wanting to play. Morten and I were exhausted. But when I looked at them still I felt, it was all worth it. And smelling of sick, I still burned for them.
Later I asked Morten,
‘Did you ever want another baby?’
‘Nope.’ The words came back firm and resolute. ‘I couldn’t wait to meet the kids of course, but I would have been perfectly happy to fast forward to the time when they started speaking. Those first two years were difficult. And you know, we’d have to start having sex again to have a baby.’
‘I don’t want to start having sex again just to have a baby,’ I said. ‘I want baby sex to be magical not functional.’
‘Sorry darling, but I don’t want another. I don’t want the work.’
‘What would you do if Janus and I decided to have a child?’ I said taking a deep breath.
Morten looked welcomingly pragmatic. ‘Well, it would be a lot less work obviously. I assume he would take paternal responsibility. All I would have to deal with would be hearing it cry.’
‘And you can sleep on your good ear,’ I pointed out.
‘But I know myself, he added and sighed. ‘I wouldn’t stand back and see you dropping with tiredness. I would have to help.’
‘As I would if you and Sophia decided to have a baby,’ I replied.
‘I know you’ve talked about a third before,’ he said fixing me with his blue gaze. ‘But is this a thing now?’
‘Some days it is, some days it isn’t. Today it is. Today I just feel like you and Janus are in my way.’
‘So he doesn’t want a baby either?’
‘No,’ I said. But I hoped it wasn’t true.