I pressurised my husband into having a third child – don’t do the same

Determined to get what she wanted, Fiona Drake reveals how forcing her husband into having another child nearly cost her everything

should I have a third child

Determined to get what she wanted, Fiona Drake reveals how forcing her husband into having another child nearly cost her everything

Words by Fiona Drake

As soon I told him the news I knew I’d made a terrible mistake. It was 10pm on a Monday night and as usual, he was in bed staring at his work laptop. I’d been waiting all evening for the right moment, but it never came. So I walked in and blurted out, ‘I’ve got some news… I’m pregnant!’ A look of horror shot across his face, then for an awful moment, I thought he was going to cry. He reddened then mumbled, ‘I can’t deal with this right now… I’ve got so much on…’ Then he fell silent and fixed his eyes back on his screen. The enormity of what I’d done hit me as I quietly scuttled out of the room, shaking.

When I’d seen the two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test that morning, my thumping heart confirmed what I already knew from my tender, swollen breasts. We already had a seven-year-old son and five-year-old daughter, and at 42, I felt so lucky to be five weeks’ pregnant with my longed-for third child. But unlike the elation I’d felt with my first two pregnancies, it was marred by a deep sense of dread, as I knew I’d essentially forced my husband into trying for another child.

In the five years since having our daughter, I’d increasingly pestered him to try for ‘one more child’. I said that if I didn’t have a third child, I knew I would wonder, ‘What if?’ for the rest of my life. He’d listened, then patiently talked me through the myriad reasons why sticking with two children was a far more sensible idea. We’d go out for dinner and by the second course I couldn’t stop myself from raising the ‘third child issue’ yet again. Somehow I couldn’t let it go.

He told me that with both our children now at school, life was getting easier. We’d been incredibly lucky to have two healthy children, why throw the dice a third time? Especially with me now in my 40s, my risk of miscarriage and having a baby with Down’s Syndrome had significantly grown.

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Everything he said made perfect sense, and yet, I’ve always been ruled by my heart not my head. My mother always told me, ‘If you want something enough, you’ll get it in the end.’

This fearless determination had seen me win many coveted jobs and pitches in my career, but in this case the principle of persisting until I got what I wanted was entirely wrong. The decision to have a child is so enormous, I now believe both partners need to be fully on board. What scares me most is that my obstinacy nearly killed my 20-year relationship, as my husband clearly resented me sending his life hurtling down a different path from the one he’d chosen.

Just to be clear, we’d been using condoms until that point, so I hadn’t tricked him into it. Instead, worn down by years of badgering, he reluctantly half-agreed to ‘see what happened’. We’d conceived both of our first two children very quickly, but in fact third time round, it took eight months of ‘pretending not to try’.

When he told his mum the news he rang her in private so I couldn’t hear. She later confided that he’d sounded so down, she wasn’t even sure whether to congratulate him.

During the pregnancy he was in complete denial. He hadn’t made a note of my due date and tried to book a builder on the same day, until I protested. He didn’t even get round to telling one of his closest friends until after the birth.

When I excitedly arranged a 4D scan for us to all go along to as a family it was a disaster. He came begrudgingly with a look of irritation on his face and seemed completely distracted by the stress of trying to find the clinic and park. When the grainy image came up on screen of the baby’s head, instead of cherishing the moment, he looked like he couldn’t wait to escape from the tiny room, while our daughter loudly complained, ‘I’m bored!’

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I’ll never forget the look on his face when at eight months’ pregnant I watched him busily painting the nursery. He looked up and shot me a look of such despair, I thought he’d never feel love for me again.

During the labour, he was lovingly by my side, but the weeks after our daughter was born were unimaginably tough. I would be up most of the night breastfeeding a newborn, while trying to give my eldest two the attention they craved after school each day.

Coping with sleepless nights in your 40s, when you already have two children, was far harder than I thought. As I threw everyone out the house for the school run each morning, having scraped my hair back and not even glanced in a mirror, I was so shattered I felt like I had permanent jet lag. Watching my daughter’s Christmas assembly, the colours were so garish, it felt at odds with my ashen, exhausted face. I became gripped by anxiety. Even worse, as it had all been my idea, I didn’t feel I could admit how overwhelmed I was.

Ironically, he rose to the challenge better than I did and became a manic super-dad, frantically tidying the house and batch-cooking every weekend.

Eventually I let slip that I was struggling to cope. Understandably, he was furious. His catchphrase whenever I complained became, ‘Well, you wanted a third!’ When we later went on a family walking holiday that was heavily curtailed by having a one-year-old in tow, he angrily grumbled, ‘Thanks for this, Fiona’. Exhausted from lack of sleep, I could feel the tears welling. I didn’t dare moan though because I knew he’d just snap and remind me, I’d ‘got exactly what I wanted’.

But thankfully our little ball of energy turned out to be the most easy-going of all three and developed a special bond with her dad.

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Eighteen months on, with the hardest part behind us, my guilt finally eased and we both felt a fresh optimism about life as a family-of-five. The last time I had a mini moan when she was thrashing around mid-nappy change, he turned to me and said, ‘Look, you wanted her and she’s absolutely lovely.’ And he’s right. Now we can’t imagine life without her.

I’m lucky she won him over – and that he stood by me – but I would warn anyone not to play Russian roulette with your relationship. Making the bold decision to have a third child has to be a joint one. Otherwise, like my school friend, you could find yourself a single mum-of-three, torn apart with regret.

Niamh McCollum

Niamh McCollum is Features Assistant at Marie Claire UK, and specialises in entertainment, female empowerment, mental health, social development and careers. Tackling both news and features, she's covered everything from the rise of feminist audio porn platforms to the latest campaigns protecting human rights.

Niamh has also contributed to our Women Who Win series by interviewing ridiculously inspiring females, including forensic scientist Ruth Morgan, Labour MP Stella Creasy and ITV’s former Home Affairs Editor Jennifer Nadel.

Niamh studied Law in Trinity College Dublin. It was after enrolling in a Law & Literature class on her year abroad in Toronto that her love of writing was reignited. In no particular order, her big likes are Caleb Followill, hoops, red wine, sea swimming, shakshuka and long train journeys.