It’s been a week of baby talk here. One of my friends has just given birth to her fifth baby, and another friend who has been married, and I had assumed, happily childless,  for well over 10 years, is now starting to wonder whether or not she should have a baby…

And it got me thinking – once we have met the person we plan to spend the rest of our lives with, how on earth do we decide whether or not to have children, and if we do, then how many is the right amount? 

I’m well aware that I had it really easy.  I have many friends who do not have the number of children that they wanted, either because they were unable to conceive, or because they lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth or SIDS. There are others who found themselves with maybe one or more additional children than they planned, due to failed contraception.

But if, like me, you find yourself with a completely free choice, then how do you decide?  What makes some people decide to have no children at all, and others to have a whole house full.

It’s a great big debate, one that many other people have struggled with for various reasons, and one which you will probably find that all of your friends and relations will probably have an opinion on, from the moment you first get married or move in together, right up until you hit menopause

In today’s world, when women are routinely preventing pregnancy by taking Levonelle or similar, or using long-term contraception methods to postpone their child-rearing years,  how do you decide when it is time to give up your current working life and career and move to the parenthood stage?

Because let’s face it, children are massively disruptive to your life.  They are expensive, they are messy, they change your body, and they change your outlook on life forever. 

For me the choice was relatively simple; I pretty much knew that I wanted to try and have children when my husband and I got married, and he felt the same way. We married quite late in our mid-30s, so we knew that conception might not be easy and we needed to talk things through and make sure we agreed on the way forward.

We talked about how many children we might like ideally (him 2, me 3), but agreed that we would let nature take its course, and that neither of us fancied fertility treatment if that were to prove necessary.

Thankfully it seems that I am spectacularly good at getting pregnant, and staying that way. Within 2 1/2 years of getting married we had 2 healthy children and I gave up the idea of a third discovering that the reality of life with 2 small children was more than enough for me.

Looking back over the last 15 years, with my children now at the semi independent teenage stage, I can honestly say that it has all been so worth it.  I am so proud every day of my two lovely young people, who are becoming my friends as well as my children.

But, I will freely admit, there were times, particularly at the beginning, when I deeply regretted having two children less than two years apart and wished I could throw one of them (or both) out of the window and forget the whole thing!  (Don’t worry, this was just a metaphorical thought, at no time did I actually plot nor carry out any real harm to my children)

I have three friends now who have decided to have five children, and I really don’t know how those saintly women manage it – as I only just managed to get through mothering two. And I have more than a few friends who decided to stop with just one, and that seems to suit them in the same way that having two children suits me.

So what to say to my friend who is trying to decide whether to have children with her long term partner?  To be honest  there is nothing I can or should say because it  is really none of my business, and she and her fella will have to work it out by themselves.

But what I did actually say to her, is that if she is even thinking about a baby, and is not totally convinced that she does not want children (which is also a perfectly valid lifestyle choice) then she definitely needs to discuss it with her husband and perhaps try for a while and see what happens.

You never know until you try, and sometimes maybe you need to let Mother Nature show you what the right answer is…

In many ways the hard part of deciding whether or when to have children, is trying to imagine what it might be like to give up your current lifestyle and make space for one or more fully dependent little people in your life and in your heart.

It’s a big scary change, and yet somehow we all adapt.  Maybe we have to move house, maybe even to a new area, and we have to adjust to a different income level  – less money in and more money out for the foreseeable future. But there can be more love, more laughter, and so many new and rewarding experiences.

Life is never the same again when you have children, but from my point of view, I can honestly say that I prefer it this way.

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