When I first became a mum in my late 20s, I remember more experienced parents telling me that I’d know when I was ‘done’ having babies. ‘You just know. It’s a feeling’, they’d say.
10 years and four glorious babies later and I’m still waiting for that elusive ‘feeling’. Instead, I seem to have the opposite issue. Tantalising voices in my head keep urging me to reproduce: ‘Why not try for another baby? Five kids would be amazing!’
Just this week, both Danielle Lloyd and footballer Jamie Redknapp’s partner, model Frida Andersson, announced they were expecting their fifth babies. My first thought? They’re 37, I’m 38 - maybe I can do it too?
My second? Well, it probably helps to be a celebrity with a massive home, 24/7 help and endless zeroes in your bank account. Meanwhile, my four kids are doubled up in bunk beds in our London pad. We don’t exactly have the space to accommodate more humans.
Yet the heart wants what the heart wants... As someone who’s let my hormones do most of my thinking for the past decade, I know I’m not always rational. But those headlines screaming ‘baby number 5’ made me smile, and feel hopeful.
OK, it was more like my ovaries started doing Simone Biles-level Yurchenko double pikes as I conjured up my ultimate fantasy: I’d be glowing and pregnant, blooming with new life, clad in a prairie dress and living in one of James Van Der Beek’s cottage-core fantasy Instagram photos (yes, he has five kids, too).
And then something happened to make that fantasy fizzle out: my 10-year-old came into the room, rolled her eyes at me for like, existing, and I returned from the brink of my brief lapse of sanity. Or maybe my three-year-old shouted that she’d missed the toilet and peed on the floor by accident. I love being a parent more than anything... but the reality is exhausting and messy, far from a perfect moment captured in an Instagram grid. Up until this past September, when my youngest turned three, I hadn’t slept through consecutive nights in seven years.
Playground trips with my quartet are a bit like that scene in The Hunger Games where everyone flees the cornucopia and hides in various bits of the arena.
The newborn phase of parenthood, with those first six months of endless kisses, snuggles and cuddles, is my kryptonite. Remembering those moments and memories makes me feel I could one day have a fifth child, maybe even a sixth. While it does get trickier to manage the newborn phase when you already have one, or two, or three older kids, something magical happens instead: the new arrival becomes the baby of the whole family - it’s a baby for the siblings as much as for their parents. I can only imagine how gorgeous that could be with a fifth child, now my crew are all out of the baby phase themselves.
People used to tell me that once you have three kids, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether or not you have a fourth. In my experience, that’s not the case (things get a tad more dramatic). Since four kids is probably the point at which any pretence of functionality as a family has long gone out the window, I have to wonder: will five really be all that different?
Here’s what I mean: any hope of travelling in an average-sized car is abandoned by baby number four. We now have a massive van, which I find too intimidating to drive. However, I was quite chuffed to recognise it from appearances in series 3 of Line of Duty, used in every scene where armed officers raid a property. It’s also often mistaken for an Uber XL - my husband regularly gets flagged down by passengers when driving the kids around.
Playground trips with my quartet are a bit like that scene in The Hunger Games where everyone flees the cornucopia and hides in various bits of the arena. I spend the next 30 minutes wailing out children’s names as they promptly appear, grab a snack and disappear once again. I’m already so stressed and hopelessly outnumbered by the whole endeavour I’m not sure a squalling child in a baby carrier would make it any more complicated (in fact, then at least I’d know where one of them was at all times).
Pride & Prejudice happens to be one of my favourite books of all time and I could totally see myself with a modern-day Bennet crew.
Other than the practical, boring stuff (e.g. not having a Kardashian mansion) putting me off adding another delightful human to my brood, I often have to deal with annoying comments. Like Danielle Lloyd, my kids are all the same gender. Unlike her, I have four daughters. This is not a cause for alarm, but for some, the only conceivable reason I could ever possibly want to have another baby would be to have a boy.
I’m a big believer in parenting a person, not a gender, and anyone with more than one child of a certain gender will attest they are all wildly different personalities anyway. However, in case you’re asking, Pride & Prejudice happens to be one of my favourite books of all time and I could totally see myself with a modern-day Bennet crew (I just need the kids to skew more Lizzy, less Mary).
Parenting is a lot about context, I think. I know that having four-plus kids, especially in London, is an anomaly; in my little corner of leafy parks, lovely state schools and coconut-milk stocking cafes, it’s not really that unusual. Off the top of my head, I can think of over 10 mums who live within a several-block radius and have four kids or more.
Often, it’s the mums of four or more who understand, with a quick glance, exactly what I’m going through at any given moment.
Community and camaraderie has meant everything to me as a parent. Often, it’s the mums of four or more who understand, with a quick glance, exactly what I’m going through at any given moment. Like me, they feel anxious about how ecologically unsustainable parenting lots of kids is (no matter how many plant-based meals we eat or hand-me-down clothes they wear). They’re the ones who see a pregnant woman walking down the street and confess to having that pang of desire - the same one I have.
The journey to multiple children is often not a straightforward one: there’s heartbreak and baby loss, learning to co-parent with a previous partner while having a child with a new one, reconciling your own pain and vulnerability while trying to be the most loving and understanding parent you can.
I think a lot about my own motivations for wanting a big family. I lost my mum to suicide after a mental breakdown when I was 23; my father has never been a part of my life. I didn’t have siblings growing up. The depth of my grief left me longing for a family to call my own, but no number of kids will bring my mother back or patch the broken family of my childhood together.
Falling in love with my husband, and his noisy, bustling family, was the tonic I most needed. I desperately wanted what they had (you won’t be surprised to hear he’s one of four, plus three half siblings).
Now that my eldest is 10, I have one foot in the next stage of parenting. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s really scary out there (why does no one tell you what tweens are really like?).
I’m really not sure I can go back to nappies and leaky mammaries when I’m navigating the foreign land of endless teen selfies - and worse to come.
Luckily for me, that enormous family of my husband’s is delivering, providing me with all the newborn snuggles I need right now.