This dawning doesn’t happen to every woman – there are those who actively choose not to have children and are content with that choice. And there are those who discover, sooner or later, they are unable to conceive, carry a baby or give birth, for a whole host of reasons.
But for many of us – a large and growing number of us from what I can gather from my research and from speaking to women in my social circles – the realisation we may never become biological mothers creeps up on us quietly, in our late 30s or early to mid-40s. Either that, or it hits us suddenly, perhaps on a milestone birthday or on the death of a parent, shaking us out of our reverie and crushing our assumption that ‘it’ll all just work out in the end’.
Because many of us, it seems, did simply assume we’d have children at some point in our future, just as we assumed we’d own our own home, fall in love, or eventually retire.
As each year passes, however, we find ourselves contemplating a life very different to the one we’d imagined for ourselves. Instead of living in a house with stairs and a garden and juggling work and family life, we’re single and living alone in a one-bedroom flat. Or we’re sharing a house with fellow 30- or 40-somethings or living with a partner whom we love but who doesn’t want children or already has a few.
If we’re single and short on travelling companions, we’re going on activity breaks on our own, hoping to meet ‘like-minded people’. And we’re pouring our creativity into our work or channelling our nurturing side into caring for a pet.
While, on the one hand, we can appreciate everything we have, we’re pretty sure it wasn’t meant to turn out like this.
Our circumstances may be different but we’re united by the tick of the biological clock and by the fact we’re on the brink of what I call THE BABY GAP.
The baby gap is the period of uncertainty that kicks in when a woman becomes aware both of her desire to be a mother and her declining fertility, and that continues until she knows her time is up.
This, as many of you will know, is an extremely tricky stage – and it’s not for the faint-hearted. At times it can feel like you’re walking through a minefield, bombarded from all angles with potentially life-changing questions and momentous decisions.
- Do I really want children or can I imagine life without them? And how would I cope with the responsibility and routine after decades of freedom and independence?
- Do I get my fertility tested to see where I stand or do I relax and accept what will be will be?
- Should I freeze my eggs or would that take me out the dating game for months at a really crucial time, or create false hope for my future?
- Do I stay in a relationship with a man who says he doesn’t want to be a dad? And at what point in a new relationship do I raise the baby question?
- Do I put ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ next to the ‘do you want kids?’ question on my dating profile? And should I knock a few years off my age online so I can at least get a date?
- When do I start thinking about solo adoption, visiting a sperm bank or getting my head around using donor eggs? Or would that well and truly scupper my chances of meeting a mate?
- And how do I juggle my baby angst with my desire to live, love and give my relationships a fighting chance?
As a 42-year-old, single woman who’s trying to work out firstly, if she definitely wants children and secondly, what to do about it if she really does, I ask myself these questions all the time. And as someone with friends in many places, I speak to women who are living in the baby gap every day, in the UK and all around the world.
I’m also a journalist and a storyteller. So knowing how much we women love to share our experiences, I decided to write The Baby Gap – a book about this stage of our lives – with the hope that we can learn from each other, laugh together and feel less alone.
I’m writing The Baby Gap Blog alongside the book – in part to spur me on, but also to create a space for women and men to offer their thoughts and feelings about this time in their lives. Because this site isn’t for women’s eyes only. Men who are wondering if they’ll become dads or who are trying to figure out how to date or stay in relationships with women who are struggling with baby angst are also very welcome here.
So if you’re in the baby gap, hurtling towards it, clambering out the other side or have well and truly resolved the motherhood (or fatherhood) dilemma – one way or another – I’d love you to join me on this journey and would be honoured if you’d share your insights with me and with your fellow travellers by commenting on my posts, sending in links or resources or simply saying ‘Hi’.
Because one thing I’m sure about is that we’re all in this together – and we can’t do it alone.
So thanks for visiting this site and do please follow and comment on the blog.