London - The blue-eyed blonde had captivated my husband, Martin, who was so entranced by her beauty that he could barely look away when I tried to get his attention.
But the enchantress who had rendered him suddenly senseless was no siren intent on snaring my husband: it was a friend’s bouncing baby girl whose gurgling smiles held my husband spellbound.
“Isn’t she gorgeous?” he said, blowing playfully on her soft pink tummy before turning to me and making a comment which had me momentarily wondering where I might find a good divorce lawyer.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we had another one?” Martin said, one eyebrow raised hopefully.
Another child? Was he mad? Earth calling husband! You’re 48 years old! Do you remember me? I’m the 45-year-old wife who has already given you four children, now aged 20, 18, 14 and nine. I’m the woman who has changed more nappies than I could ever count, and whose post-pregnancy body is battle-scarred by cracked nipples, varicose veins and stretch marks.
Deeply flattering though it is it that you still see me as your fertile young bride, our wedding actually took place 22 years ago - which makes my ovaries very much past their best-before date, and me a highly unlikely candidate for conception.
In fairness, my husband isn’t the only middle-aged man I know demonstrating a broodiness quite at odds with the age and biological circumstances of his wife.
In fact, in the UK around 6 489 children a year are born to fathers aged 50-plus. Clearly there is an awful lot of mature male broodiness - a fact which confounds the cliche that only women yearn for more children, especially as they grow older and realise their fertile years are fast running out.
As a chartered accountant, Martin has always had a brilliant memory for dates. And for every date on the calendar, he can always match a nostalgic memory, which only intensifies his broodiness.
Earlier this summer, as he watched our 20-year-old son Sam preparing for a backpacking trip around Europe, Martin recalled it was exactly 20 years ago to the day since we had taken Sam as a newborn baby to Southport on Merseyside, where he vomited milk all over my lovely new jeans.
Sam, now taller than both of us, looked up from his rucksack and suggested that his father should have a lie down.
So what accounts for this phenomenon? Why are so many mature men like Martin keen to take on the challenges of parenthood all over again, years and sometimes decades after their last experience of nappies, toddler tantrums and sleepless nights?
Harley Street psychologist Sue Firth says it’s partly down to men maturing later emotionally than women. Also, as their children grow up, men become broody due to an innate desire to feel needed again.
“Let’s face it, relationships with a partner can lose their passion, children become more independent and all this can make a man feel a bit lost,” she adds.
“A baby will make him feel needed again because here is something helpless which, no matter what, will utterly adore and depend upon him.”
When I gently pressed Martin on the subject, he admitted he feels he is now at a stage in life where he has more time, money and inclination to be a hands-on father than he did when our children were young.
“When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was so busy building a career, working every hour I could to do so,” he says.
“Now, though, I feel I could really enjoy having a baby without being pulled in another direction.”
When Martin says he misses the companionship and unconditional love which come with having small children, I understand what he means. Even our youngest, Sophie, now an opinionated nine-year-old with a will of iron, will only allow cuddles on her own terms.
When our garden rings to the sounds of Sophie and her giggly friends racing around the lawn, Martin often falls into reflection, thinking of days when he was younger, and the children would hang off his legs in adoration. Only last week, he said: “It’s lovely having young children at home. I’m going to be so sad when Sophie leaves.” Since she still insists on being tucked in at night and sleeping with the landing light on, that won’t be any time soon.
But with Sam already away at university in Birmingham, and our middle son, Max, who’s just turned 18, off on his gap year in Israel, it feels like our house is becoming an emptier place.
I feel as keenly as Martin the slow ebb of family life as our children grow up and leave home, and I will miss their company.
But, however wary I feel about living with him in a house our children have left, no part of me wants to fill it with new ones.
I can only assume Martin sees the past differently from me.
He looks back at our children’s early years as if they were a rose-tinted photo-shoot for a glossy magazine: a time of proudly videoing first steps, of sun-blushed afternoons in the park and warm, milky cuddles at dawn (with his baby, not his wife - broody men forget that having a baby means your sex life has about as much oomph as an old banger which has shuddered to a halt on the hard shoulder).
Perhaps men like my husband are influenced by images of celebrity women having babies late in life.
One look at Halle Berry, radiantly pregnant with her second child at the age of 47, is enough to convince any man that all women in their 40s are fertile, hungry for motherhood all over again and breathtakingly beautiful to boot.
I also blame fabulously rich, famous older fathers such as Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart - who both had children in their 60s - for blazing a trail which mere mortal men seek to emulate.
Maybe a man’s unrealistic expectations of fatherhood in later life are down to a subliminal desire to prove he is still fit and fertile, still young - whatever story his thinning hair and prodigious paunch might tell to the contrary.
Though happily Martin has neither, the passing years have undoubtedly affected how he views himself. He wants to be the provider. But what happens when there’s no one left to provide for?
Playing a part, in my husband’s case is, I believe, the patriarchal culture of the man and his family.
Having raised our children in a traditional Jewish home, I see Martin’s contentment as we all sit round the table on a Friday night. I ladle out the chicken soup while he banters with his brood, the working week parked, the working wife home to roost.
I love it, too. But I also remember all those Friday nights when the children were younger and at least one of the boys would be ejected from the room for firing a roast potato at a sibling.
I’ve seen other women surrender to this misguided temptation to have ‘just one more’, in an attempt to hold at bay the burgeoning loneliness left by their children’s growing independence.
A friend of mine in her 40s who had ‘just one more baby’ after a 12-year gap found herself holding a sleep-averse newborn who mutated into a demon toddler who crayoned on her underwear, flushed her expensive Crème de la Mer night cream down the loo and refused to be left with a baby-sitter.
While her peers were advancing their careers, dawdling over lunches with gal pals and enjoying the freedom that comes once the shackles of motherhood have loosened, my friend was chained to the playpen once again.
That’s not a future I could sign up to. Above all, I’m just too selfish to have to spend my days and nights looking after small children.
As things stand, I can sleep as late as I want to at weekends, feel unfettered in my career and enjoy self-indulgent shopping trips without ramming a Bugaboo into anyone who crosses my path.
My children are wonderful companions, but not a drain on my stamina, and my family can be spontaneous now.
Before he left for Israel, Max and I spent the afternoon playing tennis, just for the hell of it. Last weekend, I went with my 14-year-old, Aaron, for a happy walk in the countryside and never stopped chatting.
So when Martin asked that day whether I’d be willing to have another baby, there were a hundred reasons why I knew I wouldn’t, and why he shouldn’t dream of it.
But before I could start running through the list, the beautiful baby in his arms who had inspired that question suddenly filled her nappy - and I realised I couldn’t have put it better myself. - Daily Mail