EVERY year, between January and May, I enter a period of my life where it seems like I might have once been super organised.
That or a control freak. My middle child has his birthday on January 12, and, until May 15, my three kids appear evenly spaced in age, each separated by two years. This year they're currently three, five and seven.
On paper that looks neat and methodical, like my husband and I had a Grand Plan that we stuck to (that, or a seriously good grasp of my ovulation cycle.)
It began with the birth of our honeymoon baby. Some would be devastated to return home from honeymoon to realise their newly wedded status would be short-lived: superseded by parenthood. We, on the other hand, were chuffed. After seven years together we planned to start a family as soon as we were up the aisle and couldn't believe we hit the jackpot somewhere in the Scottish Highlands post-wedding.
Nine months and two days after our wedding, our baby boy arrived. We had always dreamed of having three children (aside from a brief phase of madness where I convinced myself I might like four. Two kids in and that notion was quickly abandoned).
When we decided to go for number two nothing happened at first. I paid little heed in the early days: after conceiving so quickly first time around, I was fully confident that I was super fertile. But the months rolled by and we soon realised we'd been trying to conceive for a year.
Baby number two was born two years and eight months after our first child. Thirty-two months is hardly a large gap between siblings, but, if I had my way, I'd have had all three of my children in three years. I have no idea why it took me so long to conceive number two. As soon as I stopped breastfeeding him at eight months I got pregnant again, meaning that I conceived two of my three children the moment I set out to.
Seventeen months sounded like a lovely age gap between children, but our daughter was in a bit of a hurry to meet us, and rushed into the world almost two months ahead of schedule, meaning there's only 15 months between my youngest two.
So, on paper, we may look like a super organised little family, but what you see isn't always the whole picture. Our pregnancy history is straightforward, and it's been easy to take this for granted. But not everyone's pregnancies run smoothly and age gaps between siblings often tell a story that's filled with heartache or disappointment.
I used to be terrible for remarking on large age gaps in families. It might have been nothing more than throw-away small talk with a mum at the school yard or side of a rugby pitch but I now realise it's a hugely insensitive thing to do.
So many of my friends have had miscarriages over the years, several having gone quite far in their pregnancies. Others have been faced with sub-fertility, whereby they have conceived successfully in the past but struggled to do so again. Either situation must be heart-breaking and thoughtless comments of "Wow, that's a big gap between the kids," must hurt dreadfully.
Thankfully, I've learnt to be more sensitive. Everyone has a story to tell but sometimes it's just none of my damn business.