ESSENTIAL CONFIDENTIAL: I regret having my third child, but I can't admit it to anyone

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

I had given up on having a third child when my third child made himself known to me. 

After 18 months of trying, two early miscarriages, then seven months of nothing, we had decided to get on with our lives, grateful for our two children and excited about what the future held with them being close in age.
We planned overseas trips and a house renovation and felt positive about being a family of four, even though we had wanted another child. But within a month of that decision, I was pregnant.

Seeing those two pink lines that day created a flood of confusion within me. My heart first plunged to my feet, then soared with joy, before settling somewhere in the middle... ambivalent, fearful, unsure.

The plans we had made in order to put aside our lost dream of another child fell in a heap that day, but I assumed it would all work out. And it was the minute I told my partner that evening that the relentless nausea that would haunt my every move for months, flooded me.

The pregnancy was extremely tough on me mentally and physically.  I ate plain noodles for the next three months - it was the only thing I could keep down. I suffered from extreme iron deficiency that was left undiagnosed for the entire summer holidays because my OB was away and my tests had been done days before Christmas. I could barely get out of bed. 

The nausea continued until eight months. I was exhausted, wrung out, and I still had two kids who needed me.

He was born into a heatwave, and my recovery from the c-section was punctuated with sweaty panic attacks in the middle of the night. My partner would find me throwing open all the doors and windows in a frenzy and running out onto the street in the middle of the night just to get enough air.

It was then that my postnatal depression began - a solid year of zombie-like existence, my older kids relegated to back-burner status while I struggled long days with a restless, refluxy, eczema-ridden baby. 

Now he's nine, and it turns out he has a lifelong health condition. This means I live with extreme anxiety and spend a lot of time advocating for him at school, among friends and family, with medical professionals and among complete strangers. 

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He is oppositional, has little control over his emotions and is hard work every day. He hates leaving the house, doesn't like to travel or wear shoes. He cries over everything and doesn't eat most food.

Outwardly I am a mostly loving and calm mother towards him and it's true that I love him wholeheartedly... I'd give my life for him. I don't blame him for my feelings - he is an innocent child who never asked to be born.

But how do I explain to anybody in this whole world that I have never recovered from having him? That having him has taken away parts of me that remain missing? I remain terrified of losing myself to that broken mental space again, because some days it feels like I teeter on the edge of it.

We could have travelled, shown our older kids the world, eaten out at restaurants like other families do, and given them so much more love and attention... attention and experiences that they simply don't get because their little brother requires so much from us.

I can't tell anyone that I regret my third child, not even my partner. Not anybody. But the truth is that with him, I passed my limit to cope. 

I wish we had stopped at two. I'd rather be living with the 'what if?' of a never-realised third child than the daily stress of the past 10 years.