Let’s Talk About Babies….

Dungarees Spring Outfit

First of all, don’t let the dungarees and the title of this blog post confuse you. I am NOT pregnant.

But, if you’re subscribed to the Let’s Discuss podcast you will have noticed that last week’s episode was all about our thoughts on motherhood. And it’s a conversation that I wanted to carry over to the blog.

I’ve just turned 29. So I’ve reached that point in life where the question of whether or not I want to have children – and if so, when – looms large. It’s an abstract time bomb that lingers in the background of many women’s decision-making, during their late twenties and thirties. (And my gosh, I envy men for having more freedom around fatherhood).

The BIG Question: Do You Want to Have Children?

For me, the answer to this question has always been crystal clear. I have always wanted to become a mother.

I constantly change my mind about where I’d like to live, in the future; if I want to get married someday, and which direction I should take my career in, etc etc. But I never change my mind about children. And, if I don’t find “my person”, I’d happily explore the option of having a child alone (whether that’s biologically or through adoption).

However, I know that many women (and men, too) aren’t able to answer this question with as much clarity. And, to be honest, not knowing whether you want to have children is probably smartest position to take, because it’s such a HUGE decision.

Spring Outfit Idea Dungarees

Monica and I decided to broach the subject of choosing to have children on the podcast, this season, because we both feel it’s an area that people rarely open up about. And that’s probably because women are still subjected to so much judgement, whatever they decide.

So, below, I’m exploring a few of the most common answers to the motherhood question. Along with some suggested reading, so we can all gain a better understanding of every viewpoint, and support each other in our individual choices…

Not Wanting to Have Children

A Cup of Jo (AKA the greatest blog ever) ran a wonderful piece, late last year, about eight women who chose not to have children. It’s a brilliant read, and there are close to 700 beautiful reader comments below the article, which are also worth digging into.

For too long society has judged women who don’t have children. (Whereas men get celebrated for being eternal bachelors – just compare the way the media treats Jennifer Aniston and Leonardo DiCaprio). It’s about time we celebrated every choice – and recognised that women who remain childfree are busy doing other awesome things with their lives.

Feeling Uncertain About Having Children

I have so many friends who don’t know whether they want to have children in the future. And that uncertainty is stressing a lot of them out, because we’ve been groomed to believe we need to make a decision ASAP!

If you’re unsure about whether you want to have children, this article from The Atlantic may provide some comfort. It offers a less sensationalist take on fertility. The following paragraph completely blew my mind:

“The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.”

“In other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.” [source]

How to Know if You Want to Have Children

Wanting Children, But Struggling to Conceive

Of course there are many couples who do struggle conceive. And in the podcast episode we spoke about why it’s so insensitive to ask, “When are we going to hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet?” Because you never know who might be struggling with their fertility.

Two years ago Garance Doré wrote a beautiful column for the Lenny Letter, about her failed attempts with IVF. I think it’s essential reading for everyone – whether you’ve personally struggled with your fertility or not.

Kara Stout also wrote a wonderful article on The Glitter Guide about the best practices to give you hope through infertility. And The Every Girl recently shared a sensitive post about how to tell someone who is struggling to conceive that you’re pregnant, which may be a helpful resource.

Wanting Children, But Struggling to Find the Right Partner

This is one of the comments left on the A Cup of Jo blog post about the women who chose not to have children:

“I became a mom at 42 because I couldn’t find the right partner in my thirties. Made me feel like shit that my dreams were so dependant on a generally disappointing male population. But now I know many first-time moms in their mid-forties! Don’t give up hope!”

The line, “Made me feel like shit that my dreams were so dependant on a generally disappointing male population” jumped out at me. Because it probably sums up the experience of a lot of women!

If you’re thinking about exploring single motherhood, purchase a copy of Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and read the column ‘No Mystery About Sperm’. It’s also worth listening to episode 65 of the Happier In Hollywood podcast, where screenwriter Sarah Fain talks about her decision to become a single mother using donor sperm.


Style Credits: Knit by John Lewis (gift) | Dungarees by Next (gift) | Baket bag thrifted | Shoes by Next (past season)


And I’m sure there are a million other varying standpoints that I haven’t covered here. So I’m really keen to hear what you think about the big baby and fertility conversation. Comment below if you want to share your thoughts…

Photos by Lydia Collins

HAVE YOUR SAY

  1. Flic says:

    I’m currently expecting (just hit 28 weeks) and I’m going to turn 29 in June. Like you, I always knew I wanted children, and it’s come at a good time for me and my husband. HOWEVER – I did not anticipate the emotional ups and downs of it; it really is high highs and low lows. I didn’t think I’d struggle with the overall freedom thing; cocktails with friends, city breaks on a whim. It all goes when a baby comes in (and most of the time before as you don’t much fancy going places or drinking when you’re pregnant!) and I definitely felt some mourning around that. It’s a wonderful time to be a financially independent woman and Instagram is NOT helpful, although you could say that about babies too… if you’re struggling to conceive it feels they are coming at you from all angles!

    I’ll have to set aside some time to listen to the latest Let’s Discuss, I can feel myself nodding along already…!

    • Ella Gregory says:

      Congratulations Flic! That’s such lovely news. And I know what you mean about the Instagram thing – it must be so hard for women who are struggling to conceive, as there really are babies coming at you from all angles!

  2. Noemi says:

    I’ve always known that I would have never become a mother. And with always I mean since I was a child. I’ve always thought that pregnancy is not a gift at all, but a burden and I envy men because they don’t have to worry about that.
    Said that, even if I think that having a child with a person you love must be wonderful, I totally understand women who decide to be single mothers because there’re many couples who, after breaking up, use their children as a battlefield. I’m totally against all those practices that allow people to have children in whatever the way they want (like when a woman is over 50, even over 60). It’s incredibly selfish, in my opinion.

  3. Such an important topic! Thank you for raising many important issues. I was 29 when I first started down the long and difficult path of trying to have a family. Today I am the aunt of 22 and 19-year-old nieces. I continue to write about fertility and infertility issues because I don’t want the next generation of women to be as unprepared as I was for what awaited me. Since you’ve provided a few links to other women’s thoughts on the topic, I will give you two more links from relevant blog posts. The first (marking my 10 years of writing) is a conversation about how conception difficulties impact us emotionally: https://blog.silentsorority.com/silent-sorority-marks-10-year-anniversary/ The second is a conversation about the rocky path of reinvention after multiple failed IVFs — when unexplained infertility fully sinks in: https://blog.silentsorority.com/your-sanity-matters-more-than-you-think/

    Thanks again for stimulating more discussions on an important topic. Best, Pamela

  4. Estranged says:

    Hi Ella! Thanks again for starting a conversation on such a significant but overlooked topic. It’s interesting that literally a couple of hours ago I came across a piece from Vogue UK about the stigma surrounding women who choose not to have children. Hopefully soon it will no longer be a niche subject.

    Since my early teens I’ve been saying that I didn’t want to have children. Of course, back then my family was quick to brush off these remarks by saying that I was still young. Now I’m in my late mid-twenties (not ready to drop the “mid”!), the time when some of my friends are starting to have babies – and I still feel no maternal instinct. It’s not even about practicalities such as my career or not wanting to give up my freedom. I just don’t get that warm, fuzzy feeling (no idea how to better describe it) when I’m around kids and I never wonder what it would be like to have one of my own.

    Maybe my maternal instinct will kick in later. Maybe it’ll never happen. The point is, whatever I eventually decide, I want it to be my choice and I hope that the people around me will be able to accept it. Having such conversations out in the open is one step towards normalising all viewpoints on the subject.

    • Ella Gregory says:

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your story. I hope that the more that women feel comfortable to share that they don’t want children, the quicker that decision will become understood and accepted. I honestly don’t understand why there is so much judgement. There are more than enough people on the planet – so there’s no point in having children unless you really, really feel the desire too!

  5. Marta says:

    Very important topic. I myself think about this a lot. I never wanted children of my own even when I was a child (I’m 22 now) but one thing I wanted to do was adopt because I always thought it was a beautiful thing to do. Now, I honestly don’t want children in any way and when I told my family they judged me SO HARD. They said I’d change my opinion in the future but I know many women who never had kids and never wanted them so if their opinion didn’t change, what makes them think mine will? I’m not good with children, I don’t like children, I’m not mean to them but I don’t know how to act around them and I’ve had many years to practice, trust me (I have 4 nephews and nieces) so I know it’s something that just isn’t in me. I’m sure that if I was a man people wouldn’t be so judgemental and that really pisses me off (and makes me not want children even more). Hopefully, times will change and people will start to realize that some women out there don’t need children to be happy and can have just as fulfilling lives as people who are parents.

    P.S. – For anyone who wants children but hasn’t found a partner yet or is getting anxious because “time is running out”, from my own experience, it’s never too late. My mom had me when she was 40 and my dad was 43 and when I was younger people judged us and said one day my parents would be old with a young child but the truth is that is a lie. My parents are in their 60’s while I’m in my 20’s, that’s true, but we still do stuff together that my friends’ parents didn’t do when they were in their 40’s so never be discouraged by thinking it’s too late because it’s not, age is just a number and the will to have a young mentality will always surpass that number.

  6. Ella Gregory says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Marta. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been experiencing so much judgement for your decision, and I hope that over time your family begin to understand and accept your position. I 100% agree that women (and men) who choose not to have children live equally (if not more) fulfilling lives than parents. It’s a shame that women still face so much judgement if they don’t want to be mothers.

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