The other night, cutting it a bit fine before the cut off deadline, I started to listening to a BBC Radio 4 Extra programme by Jessica Fostekew called Motherhood: Bump, Birth and Beyond.
Here’s the description from the BBC website:
“Made for 4 Extra. Jessica Fostekew charts the horrors and highs of the nine months of life with a bump, the moment of reckoning with birth, and the chaos, or not, that lies ahead.
We have clips from over 50 years of Woman’s Hour, programmes on pregnancy and childbirth from the 1960s and 1970s, and archive interviews about coping with parenthood – and we’ll be speaking to the comedians Jenny Eclair, Cariad Lloyd, Sara Barron, Richard Herring and Catie Wilkins, Caroline Mabey, Jen Brister, Hatty Ashdown, Kirsty Newton, Katie Mulgrew, Taylor Glenn, Robin Ince, Laura Lexx, Sindhu Vee, Diane Morgan, and Holly Walsh about their experiences with fertility, pregnancy and motherhood.”
I was listening, sitting in bed, in the dark, on my own, late at night and it made me quite emotional.
This year, my youngest brother Thomas turned 30. When he was born, in March 1988, he was the 5th child and our ages were 13, 10, 4, 2 and newborn. My mum was 33, turning 34. I’m 34 and could not imagine having 5 children right now. I don’t have any. I’ve never been pregnant and the only person I would really have thought that I could have a child with did not feel the same way. (Scrawl back through the archives to a post in late 2012 for more on that if you feel like it!)
I don’t have a biological clock screaming at me that I’d best get on with it or I’ll miss out for ever, but I am very aware of my circumstances. Financially, I’m scraping by at the moment, barely making enough money to support myself, let alone a tiny human who would be entirely reliant upon me for their existence and survival. I’m single, so there is no current opportunity to create a tiny human and as I said, I’ve never been pregnant so I don’t know if I even can be. Six years ago I had part of my cervix removed after a smear showed that I had abnormal cells and on the information pamphlet it said that one consequence/side effect could be miscarriage or preterm labour because my cervix may not be strong enough to keep a baby in. According to The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), the optimal time for childbearing is between 20 and 35, so I’m coming to the end of that window. Getting pregnant as you are older can be more difficult, but it’s not the only way to be a parent, adoption is a great option but has its own difficulties. I’m very aware that just before my period I start fancying different types of men, presumably because my body is going ‘oooh, oohhh, him, quick, that would work before we waste another egg!’ The most recent example of this was when I was watching a Norwegian police drama on Netflix called Borderliner and I found the lead, Tobias Santelmann, so attractive it was almost physically painful. I guess my ovaries at that point were shouting out for me to create some viking-esk spawn…
All of these things, and more, were in my head as I was listening to this interesting programme full of clips and conversations between women, and some men, about pregnancy, trying to get pregnant, wanting to, not wanting to, birth and raising children.
Jessica talks to Diane Morgan about not wanting to have children and people’s responses when you say that – you’ll change your mind, you’ll regret not having them and all that sort of nonsense. It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to not want to become a parent or have a child but it’s a concept that some people just can’t accept.
There was a clip from a programme in the 1970s about teenage mothers with a young woman being given the choice by her parents to have the child or have an abortion. She was asked which she would be more likely to learn from and she thought she would learn more from the situation if she had the baby and gave it up for adoption, so that’s what she did. She said something along the lines of just wanting it to be done with now so that she could move on, in a very polite and matter of fact way.
The conversations included women who all of a sudden had a huge urge to become pregnant, those who struggled to conceive and suffered miscarriages; Jess said she just all of a sudden found herself consumed by wanting a child.
Listening to a show like this, (and full disclosure, I only got to listen to half because I’d left it a bit late, oops!) I was overwhelmed by a range of feelings including, but not limited to the following:
- I would love to be a parent,
- I might be rubbish at being pregnant,
- I might not even be able to get pregnant,
- It’s really not an option right now anyway,
- I love looking after my nieces and nephews but I’m exhausted by it even after a short time, so how would I be if it were all the time?
- That probably wouldn’t matter because my own child would be different,
- I’d like to foster or adopt, but again that’s not really a thing for now.
- I like having lots of brothers and sisters, so I’d like more than one child, but how many is a good number?
- Why am I even thinking about this since it’s not on the horizon anyway?
- Have I been programmed into thinking this stuff?
- What if… eurgh. Stop thinking about all this.
I have lots of friends with children of varying ages; I have friends who tried for kids for years, who had IVF, who were heartbroken by the failures and then had healthy children. I have friends who have tried for years with no sign of a child and still get people asking them about when they are going to have them. I have friends who have had nightmare births – I’ve been told so many stories about plans going wrong that it sounds like it’s best not to have a plan in the first place, but the main theme running throughout seems to have been ‘Don’t let them induce you and break the waters!’ I have friends who have loads of family support with their children and others who barely have any contact with their families.
As I’ve said, I would love to have children. It would be cool to be biologically related to them, but not the end of the world if that’s not an option for me. I think I’d be a good mum, well, probably anyway. It’s refreshing to hear other people talking about their experiences of motherhood, attempted motherhood and avoiding motherhood in an open and honest way, the good, the bad and the covered in shit and puke. Thanks Jess!