Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Marbles

I turn left onto Loudwater Lane. The road takes Little A and I down a hill. It's subtly steep - if I were to roll a palm full of marbles they would begin to bounce like hail stones half way down. My right trainer hovers cautiously over the brake pedal, 35 mph seems like a reasonable speed. It's one of those roads, where in the height of mid summer, the branches form a canopy - leaves stroking, tangling, shaking hands - like the tunnel of arms a just-married couple might walk under, confetti billowing around the limb-made arch. We drive slowly past a sign on a gate post that Little A insists on acknowledging every time we take this route. The colours seem quite out of place amongst the spring-fresh greens. It's a bright sign of Winnie the Pooh.

The car treads slowly around blind corners, on occasion just missing contact with larger vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. The road finally opens out, hugged by green fields, late cheery daffodils, the odd mansion-like house fit for a footballer's wallet.

It's 3 pm on a warm Thursday afternoon. We are on the final leg of the journey to our new home.

Little A has been in thought for a while, and then, in contrast to the burgeoning life around us, she makes three heart stopping statements...

"Mummy, if you die, it will just be me and Daddy."

"And then if Daddy dies, it will just be Mummy and me"

"And then if Mummy and Daddy die, I will be all on my own." 

Inwardly, I weep and weep for her well thought logic. The penny dropping. #Thefactsoflife.

"Sweet heart. Don't worry. Mummy and Daddy are going to be around for a long time yet. We will still be here when you are all grown up. And there's granny and grandma and aunties and uncles and all your cousins and friends."

"When I'm all growed up? Oh good." 

Oh God. When she turns 40, I will be 80. Deep, deep sighs.

In all likelihood, Little A isn't going to get that extra brother or that extra sister.

Oh I do get so, so broody when I see a bundle of pink or blue or yellow or green. I do have fantasies of breastfeeding on the sofa, of handing Little A the latest addition to our family - though this will probably be a puppy or kitten or gerbil or a ladybird in a matchbox.

I turn 43 the end of this year...

...This is my cut off point - mentally and emotionally - for conceiving another child.

But there's more to it than my physical age. I know, my cells know, that I can't risk a repeat of the last performance - a traumatic birth, post traumatic stress, anxiety, depression - a drama that still continues to play itself out. I am now pretty certain, just in need of medical validation, that I'm daily walking over the hot coals of general anxiety disorder, GAD for short. I panic like it's another cup of tea. I've had talking therapy, specific trauma focused therapy, I'm taking medication, even raised the dose of Citalopram during the house move. But still the invasive thoughts come - awful visions of Little A in a pick and mix of macabre deaths - crashing like waves at midnight. I think it's high time for anti-anxiety relief now. This has to stop. Did you know that I am a trained mental health professional? I like to think I know what I'm doing, that I understand myself. One thing I am fully sure of, is my brain chemistry is totally out of whack. Damn you progesterone. Damn you cortisol. Damn you adrenaline. I'm like an air traffic controller, on 24/7 vigilance, fight or flight every hour.

I've thought and felt about it all long and hard. I feel like one of those marbles rolling down the hill - I know the right course, I do, though I keep vacillating between "I want another one" to "Don't be a daft idiot, there's too much at stake". Little A and Younger Dad will be far, far better off with a mother and wife who is happy and functioning, not treading water, not balancing on nails, not stressing over every open window, every passing car. I never used to be like this....

And then there is the accompanying guilt and shame. I feel less than, under par as a woman and mother, that I am too weak, too ridiculous to have another one. I look at other mothers, those who have two or three or more - they are strong, they manage, are beacons of femininity, of mother hood. Yes, I harbour feelings of envy, of incompetence. Why did I get the faulty brain?

But I do know these self depreciating thoughts are nonsense, just can't quell them with a baby-soft blanket. The decision I am making, the one I am in grief over, is the right one for me and my family. And I know, I hope, that Little A is going to be okay - she is confident, social, so emotionally switched-on. I think the right thing to do is ask her whether she wants another sibling, or if she wants mummy and daddy all to herself. And to explain to her why mummy can't, that's it's not her, it's me, and that she is loved - always, always will be - by us, by her grand parents, by the rest of her extended family.

About six weeks ago or so, I shared a lovely evening with a very insightful friend over medium-rare steak and frites. I explained my dilemma, and she thoughtfully asked me the following questions...

"If I told you, you could never have another child how would you feel?" 

I sighed. I shrugged. Nothing dramatic.

"If I told you, you could never ever write again, how would that make you feel?"

A shocked gasp. Mouth open. Goose bumps.

You see, my intuition knows what's best for me. I'm not selfless, wouldn't pretend to be. I'm selfish, have my needs, one's that I need to fulfill, now, before I kiss fifty. I will be a better mother this way.

Now, could you pass me a tissue? I need to wipe the tears off my keypad.

This post was inspired by a wonderful guest post by Grenglish on Dorkymum.


Amazingly, unbelievably, I have made the shortlist of the Britmums BIBS Awards under the category, Lifestyle. I am so ruddy grateful to everyone who voted for Older Mum in a Muddle. Now if you would like to see me in the Lifestyle final six, then please, please, please vote for me one final time. The champagne is on me if I make it this far...... (nominations close on 12th May)

70 comments:

  1. I had my first child at 46 - just the way my life turned out, not a deliberate plan. He's nearly 8 now, so obviously there will be no more for me unless I want to get on the front page of the tabloids! There was science involved in me having him by the way :) - but it's all worked out fine, and I'm very grateful that I had the chance to be a mum. Nobody at the school gates runs away from me in horror, honest! All the best.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Glad it all worked out well for you, and you are very right, I am very grateful for becoming a mum in the first place. :o).

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  2. You make me smile with your imagery and the description of other mums of two or three being strong, managing, beacons of femininity. I have two boys and parenthood has been the hardest thing Ive ever done. People often would tell me how calm,serene I looked, but underneath I was actually fighting back the tears and swallowing prozac like it was smarties.
    I think most of us struggle and you describe the feelings so well.
    I am 49 now and although I definitely dont want more children I have those feelings of broodiness sometimes when I think of what now will never be.
    As I said in a previous comment ... love your writing. x

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    1. It is undoubtedly the single most challenging thing I have ever done. EVER. #FACT. I think I'll be on the pills a while yet as well :o). They do say those feelings of broodiness never really stop. Thank you very much. X.

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  3. I love the honesty of this post - I am feeling exceptionally broody at the moment but I know it's not the right thing for me - but it doesn't mean the feelings go away.
    Doing what you love make you happy and fulfilled and if you are both of those things then that joy will seep into all the other areas of your life too x

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    1. Thank you very much Annie. Those broody feelings can just sweep you away can't they? So important to do what's right for you. X.

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  4. So beautifully written and heartbreakingly honest. I cannot imagine what you're feeling but just from reading your words, I think you've made the right decision and you know it. Please don't ever feel that you're any less of a mum, you so aren't. It doesn't at all surprise me that you're trained in the mental health profession, I think that most good people in that 'walk of life', have or are going through something themselves. It needs empathy and I'm not sure you can give that if you've not experienced it. A wonderful post, you're writing is spot on, every time.

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    1. Thank you very much Suzanne. Yes, I've pretty much made my decision, and I know it's the right one deep, deep down. I think when I get back on track, that I would like to specialise in post natal illness Thank you! :o)

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  5. I have two children both in my late 30's, my youngest is nearly a year old and we are only just coming round to the idea of him if I'm honest!
    I was crippled with guilt as I genuinely worried we'd made a terrible mistake having two especially as my partner was happy to stick with one. I think it's only natural to worry about the decisions we make and wonder what if?
    Here have a tissue....

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    1. I so know what you mean by coming around to the idea of your child!!! There's always a what if isn't there? I'm getting tired of what 'if'ing. Taa for the tissue :o)

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  6. I love this post. I sometimes wonder if I'll be able to have another. I've been trying to accept my lot if that is the case but its hard...like the closing of a chapter. This is beautifully written x

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    1. It's so hard either way. You decide to stick with one - you worry about his/her future, you decide to have more - you worry whether you can get pregnant again! Thank you X.

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  7. write, write, write... the book is your next baby X

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    1. Thank you for your vote of confidence lovely X.

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  8. Oh Sarah, I feel for you and know you have battled with this. What a wonderful gift your friend gave you - now you really know, deep deep down, away from the thoughts in your head, your inner knowing has shown you. What a relief! Having two children is not as straight-forward as having an additional child when you've already had one. It changes the dynamic of the family completely and all that familiarity that keeps you secure now will vanish. There is fighting, sibling rivalry and the ganging up together and ignoring you! You and Little A are devoted - as is Younger Dad to you both - and you have peace and joy which could be easily shattered and not so easily re-built considering everything. Much love. Stay happy and enjoy your writing :) xxx

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    1. I totally agree with you - my intuition absolutely knows best, and I'm really going to trust it! Making the decision to have more is such a big one, and quite frankly I like the happy little unit we have already - I really don't want to rock the boat - well maybe with a dog or a cat :o). Thank you lovely! X.

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  9. What a beautiful post - just as Sarah's post is. Both have really touched me and are so timely for where I am at. So many similarities for our households of three. Lots of well wishes to you all as you settle into your new home. We have lots to chat about at BritMums xx

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    1. Thank you so much! Sarah's post was fantastic and really inspired me to talk about something that's been on my mind for a long time. We are settling in quite well (still close to London though). Looking forward to seeing you again at Britmums! X.

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  10. I absolutely adore this post, it strikes a cord too. I'm also 43 this year, I had POD in my 40th year. Much as I'd really love another child, the risks are too high. So like you when she's 40, I'll be 80 *deep deep sigh* That said by introducing them later in life does mean we're better providers and more knowledgeable. Whether they listen or not is another matter :)

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    1. Thank you :o). You can only have them when the time is right for you! And agree with all your points to having them later on. Most important thing is that I raise a secure, loving little girl. :o).

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  11. Sarah, you know that I have my fears about being an older mum, about dying and leaving them. You know what though, I'll be delighted to make it to 80 and know that they are 40 - grown up, hopefully settled and safe.

    And as for these strong, managing beacons of femininity.....ahem, I have two and I promise, I am none of those things. I'm a chaotic, frazzled, sometimes stressed out beacon of OMG Look at the STATE of her! So there ;) also, puppies are exceptionally cute, even when they pee on your floor and little girls love puppies - probably more than they love siblings! xxx

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    1. That my dear is a very, very good point. Hopefully, if I reach 80 and I can look back and see that my daughter is happy and well adjusted, I will know that the work is done, and that she will be okay. And another great point about puppies - that made me laugh! X.

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  12. Thank you for writing this post. I am just a couple of months older than you and had Bibsey just a little later than you had Little A I think. I have set myself the same cut off. I think about it a lot. I would love another child for me, for Mr B and for Bibsey and sometimes it is probably on my mind everyday. But there is a little voice that says "you've been lucky, be happy with what you have got and don't push your luck". The same voice is reminding me that I have only just got back to work. That life feels like it is getting easier. That she will be starting school in September. That when she is 40, I will be 80... but would I regret not trying?

    It sounds like your little voice has spoken. Funny how a word from a friend can give you a bit of perspective. Keep writing xxx

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    1. Interesting that you have set the same cut off date as me - just can't see myself going beyond 43. If I did, I wouldn't get myself back until my late forties, and I don't want that - for me or my family. Time now is precious. And I have the same little voice in my head - feel lucky you were able to have one - life is only just getting back to normal for me too! The voice has indeed spoken. Thank you lovely. X.

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  13. Beautifully written. I have spells of broodiness, but I absolutely know my family is complete. Everybody has their 'what ifs' in life, not every one can put them into words quite so eloquently. X

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    1. Thank you so much lovely! Those spells of broodiness can be very deceptive indeed :o). Glad to hear you are so solid with where you are at regarding your family. X.

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  14. Brilliantly written, how I would have loved another child.

    Things were so bad after my son was born, plus his father was a complete arse so I decided I could never cope with another child, and I made a decision I have deeply regretted ever since. I got myself sterilised at 23, I'm now 47 and it's too late to do anything about it, but for the last 10 years all I have wanted is a baby in my arms. It hurts too much to even be near my friends and families babies so I avoid them.

    (((hugs))) You can only do what you feel is right xxxx



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    1. Sometimes life steps in and it makes the choices for you - sorry to hear that you were in such a horrid situation after the birth of your first. I hope you can forgive yourself one day - you were only 23, and because of the circumstances you found yourself in at the time, you did what you thought was right. Big hugs to you too - I really hope your pain eases, and you can make peace with yourself. X.

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  15. I had Jack when I was 38 and I'll be 42 in June. Despite some occasional massive pangs of broodiness I'm totally reconciled to the idea of having just the one. For us, this is just right. I feel so lucky and happy the way we are now and I know that, as a family unit, having another would just topple us off our precarious balance. I personally don't have the energy or patience to make it all work with another. So I'm trying to inhale every last moment of Jack's childhood and hold it within me as tightly as I can. Plus I have to say I'm really enjoying getting more of my life and 'me' back.....and sharing that with Jack and his dad.
    I'm sure everything will work out for you - your beautiful writing is obviously a huge help to you in processing your feelings and in turn becomes a huge help to others grappling with the same issues.
    xxx

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    1. I love your confidence - just writing this post and all the lovely, supportive comments I have received, is helping me to really reconcile myself too. And the same as you, having another would tip us off our balance too, and I just don't have the patience, and I like getting my life back again. No, no, no - I don't want to go back to all that again. Thank you lovely. XXX

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  16. A very honest, poignant post, fantastically written.
    I have two daughters as you know but I think that there are no standards, or fails, or anything of that nature.
    I believe we must simply follow what is right for us and our family. xx

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    1. Thank you very much! And you are so very right - we can only follow our hearts and do what's right for ourselves and our family. Having a second, just isn't right for me. X.

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  17. Never, ever feel bad about this. Deep down you know what's best for you. As I've just had my second, I can tell you that while it is wonderful, my heart breaks for all the times that I won't share with just my toddler. He's becoming so much fun and is such a little character that I'd love more time just the two of us. Your family works as a three. Full stop.

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    1. Thank you for your support. And deep, deep down I do know what's best - that I have to accept my limits, and that I won't regret my decision in the long run. :o)

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  18. Omg this could have been me writing this! My son is 8 and i adore him, im 42 next month and i always wanted another but miscarried 2 years ago...I believe it was natures way of telling me im only destined to have one but i do worry about him being alone and hope im still around to see him have children of his own, i have so nany friends that havent been able to have any. If im honest i dont want to share him with any other child! By the way...I too am on citalapram! X

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    1. Thank you for leaving your thoughtful comment. Life has a funny way sometimes (sorry to hear about your miscarriage). I feel lucky I've been able to have one - and need to really appreciate and hold on to this thought. And I will probably be on those pills for a while too! X.

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  19. Even though this is about something so difficult and painful and personal, I think it is one of the best posts you've ever published. It's just beautifully written, so honest, and some incredible descriptive passages. The fact that you are giving all this such thought, and being so truthful with yourself speaks wonders about the kind of mother, wife and woman you are, so you should feel very proud. Whether there's a baby or a book in your future - or indeed both - I know you will tread the path that's right for you all x

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    1. Thank you very much - I'll take that as a very big compliment! This has been weighing on my mind for a long, long time, and I can't really sit on the fence any longer. Indecision takes up so much energy. Thank you for having such faith in me! X.

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  20. Stop making me cry! It is such a personal decision, but it sounds like your self awareness is paying dividends. This was a debate I had - hence the 5 years with tears and miscarriages between pickle and DB. Having DB has left me feeling so guilty that I can't be everything I once was to the pickle - but it is all one very personal balancing act and we only try to work out which option is best of us. Xx

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    1. Here's a tissue love.... such an endless debate isn't it - sorry to hear you suffered miscarriages along the way. What you describe, the guilt of having two, how you can't give everything to the first, is something I hear quite frequently. Five years is a nice age difference though - Pickle must have been at school when DB came along. X.

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  21. A beautifully honest post, I think what is for you won't go by you. You know what is best for you. Big hugs my lovely x

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    1. Thank you very, very much lovely - hug received. At the end of the day, I do know what's best for me and my family. X.

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  22. An amazing post. Emotional, honest, raw. Have tears on my face now too.xxx

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    1. Thank you Lynsey - here's a tissue for you too! Don't cry :o). X.

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  23. So honest and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing something so personal and may you write for ever x

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    1. Thank you very much! My pleasure, and I plan to write. write. write X.

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  24. Wow - loved reading this. You are such a good writer! new follower - going to be checking you out, girl!

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    1. Thank you very much! And for following me! :o).

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  25. This is such a beautifully written post, really moved me. I am a strong believer in things happening for a reason and what will be will be if that makes sense. Beautiful honest post xx

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    1. Me to! I am a believer in things happening for a reason too - and they inevitably always do. Thank you very much! X.

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  26. Beautiful post! I really enjoyed reading it.

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  27. It's taken me a while to get round to my blog reading list, but I'm so glad that I waited until I had more time, otherwise I would have missed this. I hear where you are coming from and can oh so sympathise with a lot of what you wrote. As someone above said however, things happen for a reason and sometimes we just need to see where they take us.

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    1. I had a big back log too recently - never like it when I get behind on my blog reading! And agreed, all things do happen for a reason... and I have to trust that! :o).

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  28. Cld u pls pass that tissue box my way? I'm a little speechless. While I don't have the other half right now I have continued to dream of havIng another baby. When I've gone onto dating sites that have asked to list in my profile if I want more kids/kids I always leave it blank. I cannot accept that I won't have anymore children, but like u a silent decision has been made ... Well made for me. Miss a will always accept her life as it is, it's just u, and younger daddy ... But ultimately u who has to accept it, and it looks like u are doing that. Big hugs darling xx

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    1. Here you go lovely.... You have so hit the nail on the head, it truly is a silent decision, and sometimes life - under whatever circumstances - makes the decision for you. It's the biggest thing in a long time that I have had to come to terms with, and I will just have to take the broody feelings with a pleasant pinch of salt. What I have is good, and I'm not changing it. Thank you. X.

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  29. I think everyone feels a bit broody at this stage of life, regardless of how many children they have. It's just because the decision is slowly being taken away from us, and none of us like that idea! I have one, as you know, and I wanted more, but due to miscarriages and other things it couldn't happen. I am blessed beyond measure to have the one I have. It was a close call for me and I am very, very lucky. My little man is very sociable and makes friends easily so I don't worry about him yet. Most only children that I've spoken to, who are now adults, say they never even really noticed, it wasn't an issue growing up, so maybe we worry about it more than they do or ever would. :-) xx

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    1. Hey Polly! Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are so right - it is because age is taking away the decision. And I do know what the right direction is - to feel greatful, so, so greatful for the fact I was able to have one, and get on with life on my terms. All these comments are really helping me to make peace with myself, they really are. :o) X. Ps. that is what I have also heard from other only children too.

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  30. Hi lovely, I am so touched you mentioned my post. It's such a hard decision to make... and I unmake it and remake it again every other day! You have to do what feels right for your family and 2 children is not the perfect one size fits all model for everyone. We have enjoyed the last few months of not trying, not being pregnant, not getting over the loss of a pregnancy and are in a much happier place. Whatever happens next, the most important thing is acceptance. Then happiness will naturally follow. Thank you for including me in your post, it really is a very beautiful piece x

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    1. No problem my dear - it really, really inspired me. So know what you mean by going backwards and forwards on your decision - that's what I've been like too. I hope I never find myself in the dilemma that I'm accidentally pregnant - that would be a twist! Acceptance is absolutely key! X.

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  31. Oh I feel very much for you, I too, as you know, have a faulty brain at times. I had always wanted to adopt another child but have near enough decided that it would be too much for me to cope with. This honest and beautiful piece of writing reached right inside me and tugged at my heart for you. I think you have come to a fork in your road and have had to decide which path to take. Now you know which route you're taking enjoy the view and the places you visit here, instead of wondering what the other path may have brought. I will need to head my own advice on this too. Big hug. xx

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    1. Thank you very much! I am really glad this post resonated with you - it's been such a difficult decision to make as you well know yourself. But I know it's the right one... and it will work out for the best over the long term. Thank you X.

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  32. Oh honey, such a tough one. GAD cannot be easy.
    Maybe I'm wrong but perhaps it's worse right now because there's still a possibility, however slight, it could happen? Other difficulties aside? But in a year or two's time the decision will be out of your hands. Would it be easier then? Or have I just made it worse?! God I hope not. See, at your age approximately (I'm now a 51 year old woman in a 36 year old's body... in my head that is!) I kind of went through the same thing. Will I, won't I....should I? After a traumatic birth, a difficult sleepless few years ending with a diagnosis of ASD for my boy I thought perhaps better not have another one. But I would have liked another one. And then suddenly I was past the age.... end of my dilemma! But that's just me.

    Mega congrats on being short listed...that is fantastic news and well deserved too :-)

    xx Jazzy

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    1. Tell me about it! I am so used to the anxiety bubbling under all the time now. And yes, you are right - it is worse now because there is that possibility, a slim one but I know I'm making the right decision, I just don't think I have the time or patience to do it all over again. Thank you X.

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  33. Lovely moving post, I know it must be hard , I have 4 children and still get the though of more in my mind, when I see baby clothes it always makes me want another lol...Thanks for joining us at the weekned blog hop :)

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    1. Thank you - it has been a difficult decision but I know it's the right one too :o)

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  34. This is a very honest, moving post, and so eloquently written. I am pleased for you that you have come to a decision, sometimes making the decision is the hardest part. It must have been very difficult coming to terms with this but I hope now it's made you can move forward and there is some sense of release.

    I see you moving on to the next chapter; a new house, the renovations, your book. Lots of exciting things ahead and so much to look forward to. Go forth and enjoy them, with Little A and Younger Dad and be at peace with yourself and the decision you have made. Hugs xxx

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    1. Thank you very much MP..... the whole thing has been sat in the back of my mind for a while and the decision came closer, and closer still. It's been very difficult, but now I am moving more into a position of acceptance, and knowing this is the right thing for all of us. It was very releasing writing this post! Thank you XXX.

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  35. Beautiful words and great imagery x

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