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.
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]
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.
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