Is it just me, or did it all used to be a lot easier? I’m sure in the folklore of familial heritage when someone wanted to have a baby, they simply closed their eyes, thought of their respective country and hey presto, nine months later they were up to their armpits in interfering mother-in-laws, sore nipples and buckets of rancid nappies.
Nowadays it seems so much more complicated. While me and my peers rode on the shoulders of our forbearing feminist barrier-breakers, we travelled the world, climbed the corporate ladder and took our rightful place on a bar stool. As we come down from those dizzying heights though, we find ourselves struggling not only to cope with pregnancy and parenting at the tail end of our body’s best breeding window, we find ourselves struggling to cope with becoming pregnant at all.
I’m one of the new feminist statistics – pregnant at 40, exhaustingly extolling the virtues of late parenthood as I bring up two toddlers with no surrounding extended family, while secretly wishing I was actually ten years younger (as opposed to just looking ten years younger!) And I play perfectly into the fearful facts of delayed reproduction – three miscarriages in six pregnancies, my grief and loss hidden behind the awful commonness of my experiences. For it is not just me. All around me my peers – from my closest buddies, to my wider network of friends and acquaintances, we feminists are still fighting for our place in society – but this time, our place as mothers.
Infertility. Miscarriage. Chromosomal issues. Unexplained problems. A few years ago it would all have been about cross-stitched gifts and congratualtions, now it seems more about crossed fingers and commiserations. And so as I navigate the current wave of friend’s frustrations and disappointments (while keeping quiet about my own little window of wonder), it was a super shock when I heard recently about a friend’s good news. I almost burst with delight that someone else would be finally sharing the joy I feel right now. Nature’s rainbow amid the cloudy skies. It shocked me how rare it has become.
And although I often think about what would have been if I had started my family earlier, thoughts pushed aside as I account for every year of travelling, career building, party pleasing as ones I would not have given up, will I be telling my girls to try for families earlier? Yes, I think I will. And not just because if they have inherited my dodgy X chromosome they too will be susceptable to a much greater risk of miscarriage, but because simply I would wish on them the rainbow, and not the clouds. And as I read in today’s paper that doctors have now devised a test that could tell young women the precise age at which they will no longer be able to have children, perhaps the next generation can ride on our shoulders as well as the shoulders of our predecessors, and from those dizzying heights finally make the choices they need to make to have fulfilled and happy lives.