Last Saturday Bibi revealed that biological motherhood was not in her future. It had been confirmed that at 46 Bibi was probably infertile. In her article Bibi mourned the motherhood she will never experience and aired her resentment of mothers who complain about how hard life is with a toddler in tow.
Instead I am interested in Bibi’s anxiety to make clear why she never had a baby: “I wasn't some hard-nosed career bitch who decided to play russian roulette with her fertility by waiting until her very last egg popped out – preferably between conference calls. I simply never met the right man – and, idiot me in retrospect, I wanted the whole package: the husband and the baby.”
This is the simple explanation for a lot of childless women; they never met the right person with whom they cared to pro-create. They knew they might want children if they ever met the right partner but the right partner never came along, or already had their own ‘right partner’. So instead of sitting around, legs splayed ‘just in case’ these women get on with life, with supporting themselves – which usually entails having a career.
All this is fine. Having a baby is hard work so it is probably wise to try to aim to have a partner to share the burden of baby ownership with. However, a little less of the “hard-nosed career bitch” please Bibi. It is conceivable (hah) that some women simply don’t want children.
Bibi’s main complaint is that mums seem not to recognise how lucky they are, “give it a break. Give me a break. Give women like me, who wanted children but don't have them, a break. You mums do not know how blessed you are – so please just be happy and quit complaining. You got the prize. You have the child. Rejoice.”
Did infertile women rise up and support Bibi? Not really. Did mothers rise up and tell Bibi to “get over it”? Yes. Which is kind of a shame; because whilst Bibi might have glossed over a little about the general difficulties of motherhood I don’t believe she intended to dismiss those who, through motherhood, have particular and very sad difficulties.
It does rather seem that those who marry and have children before the deep set wrinkles settle in have won The Game of Life. There’s a reason Bridget Jones was snuggled to the nation’s heart (in place of a “warm, chubby baby”) and it wasn’t because she was a ‘chubby’ 9 ½ stone. It was because this was the first single 30-something woman to express annoyance at the sympathy of ‘Smug-Marrieds’ dish out. It is not considered particularly rude for the state of a single woman’s ovaries to be the subject of conversation.
Of course those marrieds have plenty of new problems. Having never been in a long term relationship or lived with a partner I don’t have to even try to imagine what these are. But I expect they make my deliberation over how many chicken fillets (real ones, not ones to put in my bra) to freeze and how many to keep in the fridge from the ‘family pack’ seem effing trivial.
It seems that the Government and the media seem to frequently use the word ‘woman’ and ‘mum’ interchangeably. As though until I manage to find someone to spawn with I am only half a person, I am a girl and my ability to vote is a little iffy.
It gives more weight to any argument female politicians put forward if they can link it somehow to the fact they gave birth. Bill Bailey in Part Troll already mentioned women in the public eye and their fondness of the term ‘speaking as a mother’. When I attended a talk about women in politics at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Tessa Jowell, alongside the other speakers, could not contemplate a life without children. This is fortunate for Jowell because she has some, but the idea women don’t get into politics purely because they’re all mothers is absurd. The notion women MPs frequently show up late to vote in parliament with one bosom hanging out and a High School the Musical lunchbox apologising: ‘Just dropped the kids off’ doesn’t help anybody. So why go out of your way to make it appear that way?
Bibi says the crux of the matter for her is; “That love is the key, isn't it? The reason I'm so upset – and the reason mums should be so grateful. We're told the love between mother and child is the most beautiful, fulfilling emotion in the world – the feeling that finally makes sense of our existence. I don't know because I haven't experienced it”. To me this smacks of another example of how women who don’t have children are rather shut out of life, or told they are, essentially, less than fully formed.
This idea that women who haven’t had children can’t understand is quite isolating. It paints us as cold harpies, which somewhat riles us and perhaps makes us act a little harpy-esque. When discussing this with a friend about the mysteries of mother/baby love she remarked: “they get all sanctimonious about how we wouldn't understand anything of life's mysteries just because we're handy with the birth control.”
Also, as Marie Phillips points out of course most of us have experiences of love, “You do not need to manufacture a new human to have love. There are already so many people surrounding you who want your love very much, and all you have to do is give it to them.” The belief that selfless love has to be for someone you made is frankly as shallow as all the childless career women in the world put together.
The older I get the more I have small children pointed out to me. ‘Yes’, I agree, ‘that IS a baby’. I am currently more interested in pugs than babies, throw a fondness for pink chiffon in the mix and you’ve got yourself the next Barbara Cartland.
Of course people don’t want Barbara Cartland v2 (Electric Boogaloo) they want Squeamish Kate junior. Should I be flattered that people like me so much that they want to see me TWICE, or annoyed that all people can see in my future is babies? Were I male I would be allowed to be ambivalent. I’m female so I have to lay my baby cards on the table.
Should I sprog then in addition to having, at the very least, 21 years of someone being financially dependent on me I also have grandchildren anxiety. The pressure to become a grandparent should not be ignored. In fact I suspect it is one of the reasons babies are being pointed out to me (besides as the fact Topshop started up a baby clothing range). David Sedaris writes that his mother’s response to being shown friend’s photos of their grandchildren was: “Now that's different, a living baby. All of my grandchildren have been ground up for fertiliser or whatever it is they do with the aborted foetuses. It puts them under my feet and keeps them out of my hair”.