As a teenager, I grew up swiping my mum's Bridget Jones books and reading them, half hoping they were purely works of fiction (as a somewhat scatty hapless seventeen-or-so year old myself) and half hoping there really would be a woolly jumpered Mark Darcy out there as well as a mildly amusing job and good Urban Singleton friends to while away adulthood with. One of the bits that made me laugh was a scene describing Bridget being 'smug-married' at a party by her goddaughter. "Bridget, why haven't you got a boyfriend?" asks the little girl.
Today, Wriggles and I were having a rather nice time at a third birthday party for a fellow special care friend. I was on my turn child-watching in the thick of soft play, when one of Wriggles' fellow comrades turned to me, frowning. She looked over at the table where her baby brother was napping and the area for small people where very-wobbly littlest people were hanging out.
"Amy," she said. "Why haven't you got another baby?"
Oh dear, I thought.
It is bad enough when adults ask; number one reason is because I haven't got a partner. However, I suspected her parents would not thank me for an early induction into the complexities of life, reality and a sampling of biology classes to come. Wildly, I looked around for back up. Where is your own daughter when you need her?
"Shall we have another go on the slide?" I asked brightly.
Thankfully, she shot up the ramp like shouting at me to follow. So I did. You can't ask too many more awkward questions whilst screaming "wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!". And so that was that.
It did make me think though. Really, it was more funny than anything else. Although Wriggles' language is a little delayed still, her peers we know are at the stage where asking "but WHHHHY?" is their favourite past time and for all of them, it is obvious they are watching the world carefully and piecing together information to form the basis of assumptions, beliefs and security. I know she only asked me, because I was there at the time. Although most of the mums and dads I met when Wriggles was small are adding to their families, we were by no means the only one-child family at the party and certainly not within a social circle. I'm pretty sure I was the only single parent there, but that is a whole other ball game and I am secretly quite glad Wriggles has not yet got the words or inclination to ask why she doesn't have a live-in daddy like her friends do. I have no doubt it will happen, probably far sooner than I want or think, but for now I can pass off playground equipment as distractions and pull silly faces as answers. Damn this development thing.
I remember shortly after Wriggles was born, someone well-meaningly pointing out that by embarking on the ultimately probably terribly fufilling path of single parenthood, I was possibly sacrificing things further down the line, or would at least have a lot more obstacles than I might do otherwise. Of course, I don't regret it. I didn't know then and I don't know now how things might have turned out if I hadn't had a child then. Would I have ever had one? Statistically, it is very possible I would. But maybe I wouldn't; and faced with the reality of a small, wriggling bundle of half my genes I wasn't willing to take that risk. I had that chance now and it was unconventional and far from how I imagined, but who knows how life will really turn out? In many ways it hasn't been easy but I cannot imagine life without a child; my child. I suppose now she is reaching the point where equally things medically are settling down and life is becoming more relaxing (that is, more relaxing from a developmental point of view, not actually relaxing because she is a mad as a box of frogs) and also because this is the age where many people around us are having babies, and whether you are in that position or not, it does make you think about how your life is turning out and what it may do in the future: or not. When Wriggles started preschool back in September, there seemed to be babies everywhere and for a while it really hit home that there were very much just two of us and that that was not changing any time soon.
Quite aside from being a single parent, there is also the small question of her prematurity, the effects that have shaped the last 3 years and how that might come into play even if I was in a position to think about having a different family unit. Talking with friends who are contemplating providing a sibling, they are arguing out finances, bedroom quotas, having the patience for dusting out rattles and teething toys-understandably huge decisions after you get used to having one little whirlwind and all the practicalities and emotions they bring with them. When I think hypothetically, quite aside from all of that, I would want the blessing of a very good obstetrician to hold my hand and promise me I would never have to walk into a neonatal unit again, never have a terrible birth, never swim through the fog of skewed mental health, never have to visit and re-visit children's wards, outpatients and think about disability, however small.
Also, Mr Darcy has not yet put in a permanent appearance.
I never imagined I would have one child on my own. I never imagined until I had that one child, that loving her so much would make me wish for another. I never imagined, as a teenager back then reading fictitious books that life could get really very complicated and that things that look so simple-finding someone you care for and managing a relationship-could be so fraught.
I'll let Wriggles and her friend discover that in their own time. Preschoolers birthday parties are neither the time nor the place. Particularly when there is a Hello Kitty cake to be eaten.