Last week at an office Christmas lunch, I overheard a male colleague talking to a woman who I know has just celebrated her 42nd birthday, as she was very open about the number on the day. He asked her if she had any children and she said no. He then, rather inappropriately in my opinion, asked if she never wanted them. I could see panic flashing across her face as she furiously tried to work out what to say and after a few moments she replied, ‘well I’m not sure if I want children or not’.
The male colleague looked awkward and I could tell what he was thinking, as I was thinking the same thing. By both ‘usual’ society and medical standards, you might assume that the ship had possibly sailed for this woman. At 42, I also would have assumed she would know if she wanted kids or not, as she most likely would need some form of medical assistance to have them.
Later I was in a conversation with two male colleagues, both of similar age to me and in similar roles, both with wives and two kids. Conversation turned to the recent kids Christmas party that the company put on and I was asked if I had kids. I replied ‘no’ and the conversation moved on to other things, but I couldn’t help but wonder if those colleagues too wanted to ask me if I wanted children.
The answer to that question currently is that I don’t know. By 35 I really thought I would confidently know within myself if I did or I didn’t. I guess most people would also assume a 35 year old woman would know. After all, I’ve been a proper functioning (most days) adult for a long time now.
At times throughout my life I have thought that I knew. When I left school I was envisioning a life like Amanda Woodward in Melrose Place, a ball breaking advertising executive. When I finished university I threw myself into work in that industry and I loved working, so much so that I spent a lot of long hours doing it. I never really felt I’d get the urge to have a family, unlike many of my friends who spoke about their desire to be a young, cool mum and were keen to 'settle down'.
Up until my late 20s I really didn't think I would want children, but I was open to the idea in an 'I'll see what happens' kind of way. Thirty came and went and although it was unusual for our age, most of my friends had not stared having children yet. In fact when it started to happen about aged 32, I was quite devastated. Surely we were too young to be having kids? Just before that we had been getting drunk, playing Singstar til 3am and eating Freddo Ice Cream cake for breakfast like teenagers. I wasn't ready to give my friends up to motherhood yet. Surely they could have held off just a few more years?
Alongside this my mindset had shifted to thinking that I would want children, but the most significant reason being that I couldn't picture myself being the age my parents are now without children. Not exactly a compelling reason.
I've been a long term single, dated a lot, but not met many men that I'd be really interested in having a committed relationship with. By 34, I started thinking about my fertility and with Mr Right nowhere in sight, I attended an IVF Australia info session for single women who may be interested in having a baby via sperm donation.
Meshel's Laurie on going through IVF alone. Post continues after video.
I still hoped that I would find someone, but I wanted to know what was involved so I was informed should the need arise. At 35 I could not possibly imagine my lifestyle with a child in it in the near future, so I decided to freeze my eggs. I'm a very independent person and I did not want the decision as to whether I have a child or not to be potentially taken out of my hands due to age.
In the lead up to freezing, I had the idea in my mind that if I hadn't met someone by 39 I would have a baby on my own using sperm donation. Not an ideal scenario I know, but I felt like I definitely needed to have a child. Whilst in the middle of the hormone treatment to prepare for the egg freezing, I started to think four years was too soon and I'd push that scary age out to 42. Lots of women are having children in their 40s, it will be fine I thought.
I got 12 viable eggs from the cycle and that was enough of a safety net for me, but I suddenly felt that any maternal instinct that I had (to be fair it was very minor to begin with) was gone. It was like it had been extracted whilst I was under the anaesthetic.
I now felt confident that I would not want to have a child by myself. If I hadn't met someone by 42, I'd probably let that idea go. But in the months afterwards, I also started feeling like I wasn't sure if I wanted kids at all.
Many of my friends were giving birth to their second child at the time and yes, yes I love them... BUT there are so many irritating things. Their 'baby brain' seems to have intensified. My friends who once had passionate conversations at length now barely finish a sentence and many times the sentence involves poo.
They can hardly leave the house as it's too much effort involved in getting a newborn and a toddler out, so you usually have to visit them and that pretty much always involves seeing and smelling poo and having to manoeuvre some form of potty training contraption off their loo to use it yourself.
Or if you do get to see them out and about out, it's a 40 minute window in between dancing and soccer in which 82 baby wipes are used for things one never knew baby wipes could do. They are just as integral to life with a child as a $2000 Thermomix is, apparently.
There will be long gaps between catch ups, but that's okay because in amongst that there will be a social media post every six minutes of photos of the kids, or asking you to vote for them in the Baby Bonds comp, or complaining (jokingly...maybe?) about how tedious motherhood is. If I see one more 'two kids for sale' posts, I'm deleting Facebook.
I know that there are really awesome and rewarding things about being a parent, but there are also really awesome things about not being a parent if you don't want to be one. And I'm okay with that. My friends with the kids understand that too and we respectfully appreciate each other's opinion, despite the ribbing about me being soon to own 18 cats.
I'm just really quite surprised that I haven't made my mind up as yet, but thanks to egg freezing I've got time on my side. The next time I'm asked if I have kids, I'm going to reply 'no, I'm far too young to have babies just yet'. Because I am.