To have babies or not have babies…. to have them at any time I choose…. to have them with or without a life partner… or freeze my eggs now so I can decide later.
A plethora of choices now has legitimacy in western countries where marriage or relationship commitment is coming later and single women have the economic power to undergo all sorts of treatments including IVF (about £5000 for one cycle), egg freezing (£10,000) and a fertility ‘check-up’ (£400) to see how likely it is that you will get pregnant.
Young women who have sex outside a stable loving relationship seesaw between ‘Whatever you do, DON’T get pregnant’ and ‘You don’t want to miss out on having a baby”.
I have been pondering for some time how ‘free’ middle class western women really are. Sex with your boyfriend after a few dates or maybe on the first encounter is supposed to offer independence for women and commitment-free fun.
But, at the risk of sounding like some moral crusader, sex is not a no-strings-attached activity. At the very least there is emotional cost to taking that step before love and commitment. There is huge pressure to meet pornographic performance standards. And we kid ourselves if we say that an abortion is a guilt-free solution to an unwanted baby.
Fleabag, the funny, sad, shocking and touching TV series about a young woman’s encounters with men, revealed Fleabag’s insecurities. It was clever and amazingly popular with young women. The audience presumably recognised their own self-doubts over disastrous relationships and sex.
An article in the Times in August considered the baby options for independent, career oriented women in their 30s. The writer, Sophia Money-Coutts, noted that moral choices must be made, not just economic ones and she admitted that women still have to face these decisions much more than men. Obligation-free relationships are great for men who get sex with lots of girls and never have to check their biological clock, she wrote.
So what can we say about feminism and babies and sex?
We can’t have everything we want and sometimes we need a ‘God-view’ to help sort out what is best. We make choices about career, relationships, babies, recognising that compromise will happen. And that’s OK. The claustrophobia I felt about the restrictions that a baby would bring to my life have been buried in an avalanche of love and rewarding parenthood (and now grandparenthood). But money was tight, I balanced work and family, my husband and I argued about housework and disciplining a wayward child. Sometimes I felt tired and unlovely.
Was it worth it? Yes! I can emphatically see that God guided us, provided for us (and laughed with us).
We are too me-focussed if we think we can design our perfect life of single motherhood without a support structure or without consulting extended family who may end up being our free childcare and economic life-support. Families work best with a married couple (lots of research supports this) and whilst I know a number of amazingly gifted and strong single mums, none of them deliberately chose that path. Recently, a 61 one year old woman in the USA and a 73 year old woman in India became mothers. Should their free choice be limited by responsibility to others and by ethical concerns?
Concerns for the child and its needs to have a loving stable family are just as valid as the longing to be a mother. This is a really unpopular idea – we claim that we should be free to do whatever we want. But a God view would say we all have limits on our freedom so that we can protect others and keep communities healthy.
When we talk about freedom, we often reject the freedom of others or make judgements about their choices or circumstances. I despair that in the west, we sneer at traditional models of family happiness, seeing them as exploitive, but we fail to see that our western lifestyle of casual sex and consumer driven pleasure is corrosive too.
So back to the question about babies. We have sold ourselves short, ladies. We can have babies and love and work and LIFE, especially if we let a moral code and ethics guide us. We just can’t have it all, all the time. Sacrifice and patience are life lessons that can, surprisingly, bring personal fulfilment.