I was recently having coffee with a new friend and she was dishing some dirt on a mutual acquaintance.
"You know," my new pal mock whispered over our lattes with a scandalous gleam in her eye, "she has kids to two different blokes."
It was with a wry smile and a sinking heart that I informed my friend that I too was a member of that club. The wry smile because I hear stuff like that all the time, and a sinking heart because I knew we were now never going to be close friends if that's what she thinks makes someone noteworthy.
I'd quite liked her too. Shame.
I have three children to two different men – I'm one of those women. To top it off, I'm no longer with either man. I look pretty normal though – you might pass me on the street and never know it.
I used to try to hide the fact that my kids had two different dads. I never lied about it, but I'd say things like, "My kids are going to their dads' place this weekend" – never being clear about where that apostrophe lay in the word "dads'". It just seemed easier than dealing with the raised eyebrows and the unasked questions that lingered in the air between us.
No matter how open-minded we think we have become as a society, there is still a stigma attached to women who have children to more than one man - and it's a stigma that men don't suffer from equally.
The judgement comes from everywhere - sometimes it's subtle and sometimes reaches out and shakes me by the shoulders, but I see it in the media, among mums at school, even in talking to friends. It's usually followed with a hasty, "Oh, I don't mean you".
Or more often, things aren't said at all so there's no chance to address anything.
Which is weird because I promise, if you show me someone who doesn't have children to multiple partners, I'll show you someone that almost probably kind of could have, if that one sliding doors moment in their life had gone the other way – that pregnancy scare, that abortion, that unprotected sex they had, or that St John's Wort they took while on the pill (that's how my first child was conceived).
My eldest child, who is now 15, was born when I had been with his dad for five years. We were living together, and both of us thought we'd be together forever. Turns out we grossly miscalculated, and it was only another two years.
Then I met the man I would go on to marry. We were together for 10 years and had two children, who are now aged nine and seven, but it turned out he was all wrong for me too.
But here's the thing I've learned: where I was once a young woman who was desperate to please and trying hard to be who everyone else wanted me to be, through these challenges I have gradually grown into a strong and confident woman who knows what she deserves and has no tolerance for anything less.
Turns out those two relationships weren't compatible with my acquiring of that knowledge.
So that leaves me with three kids to two different dads.
It's not a situation I planned for, but I don't regret any of it, and I'm happier now than I've ever been in my life. I made the best choices I knew how to make at the time, and then when those situations no longer served me or my family, I did the best I could to fix them.
I have zero shame about that.