Following on from my Huffington Post piece on feminism and the large number of women in their late 30s and early 40s who are facing the prospect of childlessness, without feeling they made a conscious choice, I wrote something for The Guardian Comment is Free site today on a related topic: IVF for women over 40 doesn’t address the root of the problem.
Today’s piece was on the back of new guidelines recommending the NHS pay for one round of IVF for women aged 40-42 (the previous cut-off age was 39). I only had 600 words so it was difficult to get the whole message across, but I thought I’d written it in quite a balanced way – although you wouldn’t have thought so from some of the comments.
It’s a complex and sensitive topic and difficult to cover in a short blog. We all have our own personal circumstances – we are all products of our upbringing and we all digested the societal and cultural influences around us in different ways. We all had our journeys.
But there does seem to be a growing number of women of my age who are wondering what their futures will hold as regards children. As I try to make clear, when I get the chance, most of us don’t want ‘instant babies’. Some of us don’t even know if we want children or not. What we would like is the opportunity to date without the pressure of the biological clock, to explore a relationship with someone and then to decide, as part of a stable partnership, whether we want children or not, and how we want to go about that.
Of course, we are all different and there are women who have decided a child is more important to them than a partner and have taken motherhood into their own hands – solo adoption, visiting a sperm bank or co-parenting, for example. I respect and admire them for doing that but it is not a path I can imagine taking (although never say never). For me, a partner is more important than children and adoption is always an option I would consider if we – my future partner and I – wanted to go down the children route and that wasn’t possible naturally.
No doubt I’ll be writing more on this topic shortly (I have a more personal post I am working on), but before that, I’ll be discussing today’s revised NHS fertility guidelines and the issue of childless working women on BBC Newsnight tonight, if you fancy tuning in.
It’s a great opportunity to raise the profile of this issue but right now, I’m sorry to say, all I can think about is what to wear – and will I look fat. I realise those kinds of thoughts and feelings aren’t much of a triumph for feminism or women’s lib but I can’t help how my head works and it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime. But I can fight back. Or at least surrender.
So, with a deep breath, I’m off to explore my wardrobe and have a bath …