real life

What to expect when you're NOT expecting.



I am not lining up for tickets to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I’m busy working on its prequel What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting.

I’m 37, single and won’t be counting contractions anytime soon.  Not exactly a box office hit.  The leading lady is of course yours truly, but it’s the supporting actors and ensemble cast that really shine.

On a recent flight out of Sydney, a stranger advised me to freeze my eggs. Apparently it’s not just my tray table that needs stowing. Admittedly we’d been trapped on the tarmac for over an hour and were looking for ways to kill time. While I was ready to talk about the weather, 12A was ready to talk about my womb. As a former nurse she felt obliged to warn me that time was running out for me and my inconceivable baby. Granted, she meant well. However it did feel like an intrusion. My dear family and friends have never broached the subject and they know me better than anyone on QF544.

In the interest of full disclosure I should reveal I have discussed fertility with a specialist. Reproductive repercussions are a sidebar to a tricky thyroid condition I’ve been treating for years. Sadly my doctor has the bedside manner of a boxer. After some recent blood tests he was less than enthusiastic regarding my procreating prospects. “You’re flat out driving your own car, let alone pulling a caravan.” I do believe that’s what they call a TKO.

I know expectant Mums have their own battles to fight. For starters, they endure ongoing violations of personal space. Perfect strangers revel in uninvited belly patting and rubbing. Sometimes it’s equally frustrating for childless women. The invasion of one’s emotional space can be both unwelcome and unwarranted.

Although it may sound odd, there are days when the childless woman’s landscape jolts her headspace.  For instance, the expectant Mum doesn’t look out of place at a kiddy-friendly cafe. When a childless woman finds herself in said cafe, things can turn a little awkward.

Having said goodbye to a group of girlfriends with kids, I was just on my way out when I ran into an old school friend. We were lucky to recognize each other given our paths hadn’t crossed in over two decades. After introducing me to her toddler son and his little playmate, she looked around confused. She’d either developed a tic upon graduating or she was missing a child. “Where are your kids?” she asked.I looked around but I couldn’t find them anywhere. Heck, their father’s missing too.


I explained I hadn’t met “the one” and so I hadn’t delivered one and therefore here I am just one. We went on to talk about work, colleagues and the weather. After the obligatory exchanging of numbers we knew we’d never ring, we hugged goodbye. “Congratulations on your family,” I said and genuinely meant it. Desperate to reciprocate, she said, “congratulations on your….”  Pause. “Congratulations on your – career.” She genuinely meant it.

Sometimes it’s assumed us childless gals are so career orientated we wouldn’t know formula from forceps.  Alas, we are surprisingly well educated on bringing up baby. While our contemporaries are taking antenatal classes, we’re over at Pumpkin Patch looking for the perfect newborn onesie. Thanks to dozens of 000 purchases, my credit card has delivered some 000s of its own.

After a recent naming ceremony and the obligatory gifting of a onesie, I was invited back to the house for a high tea. Turns out no one was high, but the tarts and petit fours were delicious. After nattering with the dribbling guest of honour and her Mum, I mingled with a bunch of mothers I’d never met. I enquired after their children’s development.  “Is he teething?”  “How’s the potty training?”  “Are you still up all night or not so much now?”

My line of questioning was going smoothly until one of the Mums sighed in exasperation. “How do you know all this stuff – you haven’t got kids?”  That’s like asking a back bencher how come he knows so much about parliament? Had circumstance or gynecology been wired a little differently, the aforementioned Mum may well have found herself reading from my script.

Luckily my inner circle of family and friends is made up of wonderful women who have beautiful children I adore. Despite not being a card-carrying member, these Mums have always made me feel part of their club.  I’ve never been judged or excluded from a conversation. Quite the contrary, my input is welcomed and valued.  Our friendships aren’t forced or strained. Actually there’s not a stretch mark in sight.

Tonia Zemek has worked as a tv producer for over 15 years.  Her credits include MasterChef, Good Morning Australia, Big Brother and the TV Week Logie Awards. She’s gradually making the move from broadcast to print. Find her on Twitter here.