So, when is the right time to have a baby?
This is something my friends and I have debated recently-is there really ever a right time to have a baby?
Ideally procreation should happen in a loving and supportive relationship, when you are happy, healthy, financially secure etc etc. But most importantly when you are ready. But can you ever feel totally ready or is it, accidents aside, that some of us just decide to boldly dive into this unknown maze that is parenthood when broodiness overwhelms us and we feel most fearless?
Now I can’t imagine life without baby O and he’s truly my biggest joy but I don’t believe women who choose not to have a baby, won’t be as happy or have as fulfilled a life as I.
Having a baby is not for everyone but for those who hope to, and later in life, might find it a struggle to conceive if the medical community’s view is to be considered. Many pin hopes on IVF and struggle to conceive the old they are.
So what’s the answer?
It’s a hard one admittedly, as being ‘biologically ready’ doesn’t always correlate with age. The long ladder to career success, particularly in male dominated industries such as mine (the film industry), often sees women reaching their 40’s or older, by the time they’ve had the opportunities and experiences to create their best or/and most commercial work (having to have worked like all hours to get there). They might well find when they’re finally ready, the right time has in fact passed them by.
There is a very real pressure for female directors (who only make up 7% of the film industry) and others in head of department roles, to delay or even abstain from having babies as a sacrifice for success.
Working sometimes 12+ hours a day on tight deadlines under immense pressure often away from home, doesn’t seem conducive to having a family and often it’s not. I’m as ambitious as the next director and love my job but I want to have both. Being creative, making films, docs, music videos and drama makes me happy but so has having a baby. I also reasoned that freelance work would be there as I’d generate my own work as an independent filmmaker after my baby.
Having lectured and taught since my MA, I felt reassured I have two careers that could work post-kids, potentially.
Having a baby when I did was the right time for me. I didn’t mind that I had so much more of the ladder to climb work-wise, I’d gotten to a stage where I was content with my achievements thus far and that having a baby was more of a priority.
I was diagnosed with PCOS aged 19 and advised by my consultant to try and conceive before 30 so with a time bomb ticking, I didn’t want to risk not being able to conceive.
PCOS is accredited with being the most common cause of infertility. It worked out I was pregnant by 28 and O arrived when I was 29. There was no amount of potential Baftas or Oscars that would mean more to me than having a baby and broodiness naturally came to me overnight, 3 months before I fell pregnant.
I was fortunate it didn’t take longer.
I know women in the industry who have waited and waited and now sadly can’t conceive or feel it’s too late.
I didn’t want that for myself. I didn’t want to look at awards on the mantle piece without a babe in arms. I wanted to be sure I’d have no regrets.
It is possible to conceive later in life but that comes with greater risk and lower rates of success. The oldest Mum to give birth in the UK, Elizabeth Adeney was 66.
So when is it really too old to have a baby?
The NHS does not recommend fertility treatment for the over-40s while most British clinics won’t offer IVF treatment to women over the age of 50. Mrs Adeney, however claims that she feels 39 inside and is fitter than women a third of her age. I was surprised to find at 28 I wasn’t considered a ‘young mother’ myself by doctors.
At 30, I find motherhood tiring so I wonder how a woman of 66 might find it. Who’s to say though, there are many older mothers thriving as parents and many grandparents raising their grandchildren.
Maybe all these female filmmakers need not worry after all-if you reach your career peak in your 40’s as directors tend to, that leaves two more decades to make your movies and rake in the accolades before childbearing need even begin, right?
So where do you stand on the debate?
When is the right time, if at all?
Photograph© Peter Broadbent.