My son Stuart was five days old when the realisation hit me like a physical blow: having a child had been the biggest mistake of my life.
Even now, 33 years on, I can still picture the scene: Stuart was asleep in his crib. He was due to be fed but hadn't yet woken.
I heard him stir but as I looked at his round face on the brink of wakefulness, I felt no bond. No warm rush of maternal affection.
I felt completely detached from this alien being who had encroached upon my settled married life and changed it, irrevocably, for the worse.
I was 22 when I had Stuart, who was a placid and biddable baby. So, no, my feelings were not sparked by tiredness, nor by post-natal depression or even a passing spell of baby blues.
Quite simply, I had always hated the idea of motherhood. In that instant, any lingering hope that becoming a mum would cure me of my antipathy was dispelled.
I remember asking myself, 'Is he really mine?' He could, quite literally, have been anyone's baby. Had a kind stranger offered to adopt him at that moment, I would not have objected.
Still, I wished no harm on Stuart and invested every ounce of my energy in caring for him. Even so, I know my life would have been much happier and more fulfilled without children.
Two years and four months after Stuart was born, I had my daughter Jo. It may seem perverse that I had a second child in view of my aversion to them, but I believe it is utterly selfish to have an only one.
I felt precisely the same indifference towards her as I had to Stuart, but I knew I would care for Jo to the best of my ability, and love her as I'd grown to love him.
Yet I dreaded her dependence; resented the time she would consume, and that like parasites, both my children would continue to take from me and give nothing meaningful back in return.
Whenever I've told friends I wished I'd never had them, they've gasped with shock. 'You can't mean that?' But, of course, I do.
To some, my life before I had the children may have seemed humdrum and my job as a typist was, it's true, not much of a career. So what was the great sacrifice, you might think?
What I valued most in my life was time on my own; to reflect, read and enjoy my own company and peace of mind. And suddenly that peace and solitude wasn't there any more. There were two small interlopers intruding on it. And I've never got that peace back.
I don't know why I feel as I do. I'm one of five siblings and was raised in a happy family by loving parents. Dad was in the Army; Mum, whom he met while posted in Germany, brought us up in the West Midlands.
Mum and I were close; even as an adult I could always confide in her. My childhood was very happy and conventional. Like most little girls I played with dolls. But I never recall a time when I wanted those make-believe games of motherhood to become a reality.
I know there are millions who will consider me heinously cold-blooded and unnatural, but I believe there will also be those who secretly feel the same.
It's just that I have been honest - some may contend brutally so - and admitted to my true feelings. In doing so I have broken a supposedly inviolable law of nature. What kind of mother, after all, wishes she hadn't had children?
I have never hidden the truth from my husband Tony, now 62.
From the moment we decided we would be spending the rest of our lives together, I confessed I didn't want to start a family.
We were childhood sweethearts. We met when I was 12 and he was 16; he was my first and only love. I was 19 when I walked up the aisle, a joyful bride anticipating a happy life with the man I adored.
But I knew even then children would be a sticking point. Tony wanted four. I didn't want any. We'd discussed the subject and I believe he thought I'd change my mind.
I suppose he imagined, as my friends started having babies, the urge to become a mum would overwhelm me. I hoped he'd change his mind.
When we married, we bought the three-bedroom house in Coventry that remains our home today. Tony pursued his passion for sports; my interests were more insular. I loved knitting, dressmaking and reading, and joined a book club.
Tony worked then, as he still does, as a pattern maker in the car industry. I was a typist in an office for a telecoms company.
After a couple of years of marriage, Tony began to ask whether I was still adamant that I didn't want children. In the end I relented because I loved him and felt it would be unfair of me to deny him the chance to be a dad.
But there were provisos: if I was going to have children I knew absolutely - illogical as it may seem in view of my feelings - that I intended to raise them myself without any help from nannies or childminders.
This wasn't a way of assuaging my guilt, because I felt none. It was simply that, having brought them into the world, I would do my best for them.
I cannot understand mothers who insist they want children - especially those who undergo years of fertility treatment - then race back to work at the earliest opportunity after giving birth, leaving the vital job of caring for them to strangers.
Why have them at all if you don't want to bring them up, or can't afford to? And why pretend you wanted them if you have no intention of raising them? This hypocrisy is, in my view, far more pernicious and difficult to fathom than my own admission that my life would have been better without children.
And here, perhaps, is the nub of it: I would not take on the job of motherhood and do it half-heartedly. Unlike so many would-be mums I thought hard about the responsibilities of my role, and, I believe, if more women did before rushing heedlessly into it, they might share my reservations.
I was acutely aware that a child would usurp my independence and drain my finances. I felt no excitement as my due date approached. I had no compulsion to fill the nursery with toys, nor did I read parenting manuals or swap tips with friends. I focused on enjoying the last months of my freedom.
Tony and I had a strong marriage - after 37 years, we still do - and I did not dread the effect of the baby on our relationship. Sure enough, we maintained an active and fulfilling sex life and made a date night each Friday when Tony's parents babysat.
However, I did dread the encroachment of this demanding little being on my own independence.So, in May 1979, Stuart was born, blue in the face as the cord was wrapped round his neck. While other mothers would be frantic with worry, I remained calm when the doctor whisked him away. I sent Tony back to work and for the next four hours I waited without any apprehension.
I did not really think about Stuart at all, until Tony returned after work and asked where he was.He was fine, of course, but when they wheeled him back into the ward I did not experience that sudden leap of the heart that new mums are expected to feel. Instead I sat down with a cup of tea and thought bleakly, 'What have I done?'
Back home, I resolved to breastfeed. I knew it would be best for Stuart and I think every mother should do it. But even during this intimate act, that elusive bond failed to form.
Stuart fed voraciously, every two hours. He seemed almost permanently attached to me, but the proximity of this suckling infant did not make me feel maternal.
I never wanted to hurt Stuart - I only wanted him to prosper and thrive. There is no doubt I grew to love him very much, and indeed still do. But I always wished I had never had him.
I told Tony, but if he was concerned, he didn't show it. He just said, 'Well we have him now. There's nothing we can do about it. You just have to get on with it as best you can.'
And that's exactly what I did. I believe I was a good mum, but never a doting one. When Stuart was three weeks old, I pushed him in his pram to the shops for the first time with our red setter Amber in tow. Outside the baker's I tethered the dog to the pram and left Stuart outside with Amber while I bought a loaf and cakes.
It was not until I got home, made myself a cup of tea and started eating my cake, that I realised something was amiss. My dog wasn't there waiting for her usual titbit.
So the first thought that impinged on me was: where is Amber? I missed the dog before it even occurred to me that I'd left Stuart outside the shop.
I can't say, even then, that I was worried. I just rang the baker to check Stuart and the dog were still outside, retrieved them and came home.
At the baby clinic, other mums compared their babies' weight and boasted about milestones they'd reached, but I was not remotely interested in such inconsequential matters, so I only went to the clinic once. When people peered into Stuart's pram to coo over him and tell me what a lovely little chap he was, I thought, 'That's not true.' He was not a beautiful baby.
Meanwhile, Tony discharged his duties as a dad brilliantly. He helped with the nappies, bathed Stuart, and when we were out, it was Daddy he went to for comfort if he fell.
Then, when Stuart was 18 months, we planned the second baby I'd promised to have. But I felt no more thrilled by the prospect of becoming a mum again than I did first time around. When Jo was born in August 1981, I remember how joyously Tony and his family greeted the news that I'd had a little girl.
I did not share their jubilation. But there was nothing for it but to get on with the job of bringing her up.
I did this diligently, but it was Tony who was the effusive and demonstrative Dad.
He loved the children to distraction, and as soon as they were old enough, he took them to the sports club where Stuart became an accomplished footballer. Jo tagged along too and it became something of a joke that she even asked her dad to take her when she wanted to go to the loo.
We created a routine where I ran the home, and when Tony was off work he looked after the kids. And I jealously guarded my time free of the children.
On our summer holidays, Tony and I had our rigidly defined roles. I did not look after the children when he was around. So as they played football, sat glued to the Grand Prix or watched the golf, I would creep back to our chalet and immerse myself in a good book. Other mums were running around like headless chickens after their children, but in our household Tony took that role.
We shared many happy times together; I did everything a good mother is supposed to. We had bucket-and-spade holidays on the Isle of Wight; there were endless sports events in which the children shone. I'm sure they would agree that they always felt secure and loved.
It was not that I seethed each day with resentment towards my children; more that I felt oppressed by my constant responsibility for them. Young children prevent you from being spontaneous; every outing becomes an expedition. If you take your job as a parent seriously, you always put their needs before your own.
Having children consigns you to an endless existence of shelling out financially and emotionally, with little or no return. It puts a terrible strain on your marriage and is perennially exhausting. And your job is never done.
I know my life with Tony would have been so much happier without children, less complicated and more carefree.
I don't believe either that Stuart or Jo sensed any coolness on my part, although Jo once said, 'You never tell me you love me, Mum.' And I didn't, it's true. But I reassured Jo that I did love her. She and Stuart just accepted that I wasn't demonstrative.
They grew, too, into well-adjusted adults. Stuart, 33, works in telecoms engineering as a supervisor.
He is married to Lisa, 37, a bank supervisor, and they have two lovely children. But before Stuart announced that he was to become a dad, he asked me if I'd like to become a granny. And I told him quite emphatically that I wouldn't: I didn't want my new-found freedom to be usurped by years of babysitting.
My controversial views didn't shock him. He has always known I am forthright; he knows, too, having got my two grandchildren, I would knuckle down to my grandmotherly duties and acquit myself well.
Jo, 31, shares my opinion about motherhood: she has never wanted children; perhaps my views have shaped hers.
It is her tragedy that eight years ago she developed multiple sclerosis and had to give up her job as a chef. She is now bed-bound and lives with Tony and me.
I am her full-time carer and if I could have MS instead of her, I gladly would. She knows I would do anything to relieve her suffering and that I will care for her as long as I am able. I am 57 now and as I approach old age, I have an ever-more dependent daughter.
Yet I would cut off my right arm if she or Stuart needed it.
And that, maybe, is the paradox. I am a conscientious and caring parent - yet perhaps I would have resented my children less had I not been.