I don’t know if I want kids. That’s code for: I don’t want children but most people tell me that’s only because I’m 27. It’s assumed one day some stand-out bloke will make me change my mind. Anyway, I always thought if I don’t “change my mind” over the next decade or so, I can safely scratch the option of children off the cards. Were I to want a baby at 40, it would likely be too late, my contract to childlessness signed, the decision wrenched from my hands by Mother Nature.
My problem has always been indecisiveness, goaded by this world of too much choice, Tinder and one-aisle-just-for-shampoo we live in. So the thought of having to make my mind up by a certain age was a strange comfort — it meant an end to my soul-searching over children.
A child-free life, as I understand it, is joyful — once you have shaken off society’s expectation you just should have children. And it’s surely easier to do that once you’re beyond childbearing age. Which is why the extension of egg-freezing storage limits to 55 years has freaked me out.
Long-term, Big Yellow-style storage opens the possibility I can spend my savings on shaking out my ovaries these next few years and get a packet of mini eggs in the freezer, sitting ready to whack in the microwave on the defrost setting should I decide in my mid-forties a child would make me feel complete.
Twenty per cent of women who freeze their eggs don’t know if they want children. There’s also the fact that, of course, egg-freezing success rates are highly variable and the cost is unthinkable for many. Increasingly though, as technology improves, fertility treatments give us male liberties; their confidence to roam around, non-committal to partners (until we lose our hair, seemingly).
I’ve always wanted what men have, so it’s strange this new-found freedom unsettles me. In life as I know it, female fertility “falls off a cliff” creating a tight magnetic field within which all other life events quietly anchor themselves; get into a permanent job, find a baby daddy, get a fixed-rate mortgage.
It’s odd to think even I, with the slight possibility I might want children, have such arbitrary deadlines floating around my head but I know however feminist my partner, biology might necessitate my getting out of bed first when the baby wakes screaming for milk. The thought that I could enjoy the infinite, lazy lifespan men operate on is bewildering, I’m so used to being the “girl in a hurry” women my age get labelled.
I suspect the possibility of egg-freezing will ultimately be liberating — what feels secure is so often the shackles that bind us. But I’m wary of believing that it will allow women to have it all when the truth is, regardless of gender, no human has ever had it all.
Look, I’m used to people of colour being mixed up — every party I go to, a person I’ve never laid eyes on bounces up to me saying: “Ayesha! It’s been so long.” But there’s something even more galling than usual about Gavin Williamson saying he had met Marcus Rashford instead of Maro Itoje the rugby player. Given Williamson is Education Secretary, Rashford is someone he should definitely have on his radar after the free school meals debacle. And given he literally met Itoje, it appears he genuinely thinks of them both as “black dude who plays sport”.