Not all women are born to be mothers. Some can’t, some won’t but most see it as a natural part of their life journey. Here four women talk candidly about their experiences and what motherhood means to them.
Y editor Penny Fray, 36, explains why, despite being of childbearing age, she’s opted out of motherhood
I can see it in my mind’s eye. Somewhere between midnight and 4am – me crying in a mess of tears and talc on the nursery floor, screeching ‘I can’t do it!’ And I’d be right. I couldn’t.
That’s why I’m joining a growing tribe of NoMos (non-mothers) who refuse to spawn. Not that anyone’s taking any notice of me. The pressure from family, friends and even complete strangers to have children is escalating on a daily basis. Scare-mongering fertility articles say I should “probably get started”. My long-suffering boyfriend says the same and keeps hassling me to settle down, offering a couple of carats as a carrot. But the reality is that I’ve yet to reach the point in life where I feel ready.
The idea of becoming a slave to a little bundle of screaming baby scares me. I wish I could tell you why but I can’t. I’m not afraid of responsibility, stretch marks or even rising school fees. It’s just that I’m hard of hearing when it comes to the tick-tick-ticking of my biological clock. My mum says it’s because I haven’t found the right man.
My friends say it’s because I’m too fond of my freedom. And research suggests that I’ve been educated out of the natural reproductive function. None of the above applies. But what I can say is that I’m not particularly fond of pain (and let’s not beat around the bush here – childbirth hurts); I like sleep (and deprivation makes me angrier than the Incredible Hulk); plus, I have plenty of interesting things to do with my time (none of which I’m prepared to swap for pushing a pram or changing nappies).
Also, I may have been psychologically damaged as a toddler by the trauma of seeing a woman giving birth. Apparently, my father had to kick down the bathroom door after hearing my screams. When asked what was wrong, I replied that I was having a baby. It was the last time my mother left me in front of daytime TV unsupervised.
It was also the last time I took an interest in having a baby. Will I change my mind? Am I going to get bludgeoned over the head by the realisation that my life is meaningless without children? Who knows. But I’m not going to get married and start breeding on a ‘just in case’ basis. If the old biological ticker did spring into action, however, I’d have to be knocked out cold, given a C-section and hire a small army of nannies to look after what would be a very much wanted child.
Nicholla Henderson-Hall, 36, mum to three-year-old Jessica, talks about how motherhood has changed her for the better.
I always wanted to have children but it was never the priority. When I was younger, it was all about finishing school, going to university and finding a job. I wanted to make money and climb the corporate ladder. I grew up in Dubai and met my future husband Justin when I was 19. We didn’t marry until 2008, we were just having too much fun, enjoying the Dubai lifestyle, and I had a good job in marketing.
When we decided to start trying for a child, I fell pregnant almost straight away. We moved to Muscat with my husband’s work before Jessica was born. I was excited about becoming a mother but also nervous. I approached it with my business head on and started reading all I could about pregnancy.
I found this great book, The Baby Whisperer, which leads you through the whole process and it worked for me. Being honest, when I first met my daughter, I didn’t love her immediately, that maternal instinct didn’t come naturally for me.
But when Jessica was a few months old, I was watching a programme on television about a mother who had given up her child and it suddenly hit me, the realisation I could never do that, I could never give up Jessica because I had such love for her.
In the beginning, I didn’t work and we also had help, a nanny, but I’m not the sort to sit around doing nothing. I’m now involved in social media and do radio work.
I would like to have another baby, as I don’t want Jessica to be an only child, but it’s expensive to have children and you have to be smart. I look at it with the mindset that you are building a company; it’s about having the structure in place, the admin and the finances.
If you are going to recruit a new person, you have to plan for it. Justin does call Jessica our ‘little investment’!
Jessica has taught me a lot, a new way of loving and opening my mind to the possibility that anything is possible. I have learnt so much from having her. I understand people better; I feel that I can read people better now.
We are very much a team, my husband and I, and Jessica. My thinking has changed, the way I see people and the way I make decisions has changed. My character has grown.
Is having a child the best thing that I’ve ever done? No. I love having Jessica but I don’t want to just be defined as a ‘mum’. The things I’m doing now in my life along with having Jessica are my greatest achievements.
Banan Suwaid, 18, a student at Middle East College studying human resources, says children are part of her future plans but not for a while.
I definitely want to have children but not until I’ve graduated and been working for a few years. I’ll look at it again when I’m 23 or 24 and it’s possible that’s when I’ll get married. I want to wait before becoming a mother, as there are so many opportunities for me. I’m still developing and therefore I would rather wait and take my own path. My friends feel the same; I think everyone of my age feels the same. Obviously, different generations have different perspectives and women in the past had children earlier.
There are also a lot more open-minded people and that’s the reason why I’m happy to delay having children. It is a very personal thing in the end and I would never judge a woman who didn’t want to have children, she will have her own reasons.
I think certain families wouldn’t understand if the woman decided that she didn’t want children but I don’t think my family would have an issue, they would understand that I have my own valid reasons. Things have changed in Oman over the last 10 years. People are getting more educated, girls in particular, and understand that everyone has the right to their own perspectives and way of thinking. Having children is an amazing blessing but it might not happen. If I couldn’t have children, I would adopt. I would become a mother some way or the other.
If I didn’t have the time, if I was busy with my job, I wouldn’t have children. Being a mother you need to make sacrifices at some point. Having children is part of my long-term plans but, like other girls my age, I’m lucky in that I have more choice about when that might be.
Y writer Kate Ginn, 44, left motherhood too late and is now facing the prospect it may never happen.
My friends call me the ‘baby monitor’ because I can hear a small child a mile away. It’s a joke but only partly. It’s true that whenever a baby or toddler is in the area my senses seem to be heightened, attuned to the cry or laugh of a little one. My friends think I’m a little mad. I know I’m just hormonal.
When I was younger, I always assumed that motherhood would occur at some point, fitting into my whirlwind career at a time convenient to me. It never happened. My biological clock has been ticking increasingly loudly since my early 30s but I was having too much fun to care, believing that my all-consuming job was enough self-fulfillment. I was in pursuit of my own selfish pleasures. Then my mum died and everything changed. Suddenly, my job and the lifestyle seemed so hollow and empty. I had just turned 40 and I was seeing everything, including my life, with new eyes. Losing my mum was like a seismic shift inside me, changing my perspectives and bringing my own mortality into focus. Having a family became the most important thing to me. My desire to have a child left everything in its wake, including my job and relationship. It became as all consuming as my career had once been. The trouble is, as one female doctor curtly informed me, babies cannot be conjured up to order. I was emotionally ready to become a mum but my body wasn’t so sure. Fertility dips past the age of 40. The chances of a healthy woman over 40 conceiving naturally in any one cycle is just 5 per cent compared to 25 per cent for a woman in her 20s. The figures for older women using IVF, or assisted reproduction, to have a baby make even more depressing reading. I should know. I became an expert on it. One round of IVF, more than RO5000 and lots of tears later, I was 42 and still childless.
Two years on and nothing has changed. Friends think I should have come to terms with it by now and accept I may never achieve my dream. I can’t. To give up would be crushing. I have a nephew and two godchildren, who I adore, but my longing for a child of my own remains as strong as ever. My body seems to sense this could be our last chance and has turned up my maternal feelings off the scale.
Wherever I go, children seem to seek me out as if they can smell the wannabe-mummy hormones emanating wildly off my body. A baby smiles and my heart melts and breaks a little. I have seen more than a few mothers look in alarm as I bear down on their child like a heat-seeking missile.
It’s a running joke with my friends now. One even refused to visit an orphanage with me while on holiday in India, fearing that I would get carried away and take one away with me.
In my darkest moments, I inwardly rant at my younger self for not having had a baby years ago when my body and ovaries were willing and able, in their prime. Will I give it one last roll of the dice with IVF?
Or there’s always adoption. I’m single now so the options are running out as fast as my eggs. All I do know is that if I never become a mum, by whatever way it may be, I’ll live to regret it.