I REALLY didn’t want to write this post. To be honest, I didn’t see what I could say that would actually add anything to the reams of newsprint and fuck-tonne of pixels that have already been devoted to supporting/denigrating her and her argument – and my view on that hasn’t really changed. But it’s just not gone away. Nearly a week later and people are still going on about it. Sigh. So I thought I’d write something.
If you’ve been living in the mountains of Tibet, or Jupiter or something, you might not know that last week Bryony Gordon interviewed TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp for the Telegraph and, among the stuff she said was that “Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward.”
She also said that if she had a daughter she’d say to her “Darling, do you know what? Don’t go to university. Start work straight after school, stay at home, save up your deposit – I’ll help you, let’s get you into a flat. And then we can find you a nice boyfriend and you can have a baby by the time you’re 27.”
So much of what I would say on this topic has been far more amusingly and eloquently expressed by Hadley Freeman in the Guardian – particularly the idea about where these stats come from and the fact that humans have a vested interest in validating their own choices.
(On which note, I’m bound to say that I’m prouder of my university degree than I am of almost anything else in my life because I feel it’s the one thing I achieved entirely on my own merits and nobody can take away from me. I passionately believe that the education that I benefited from should be available free to anyone who has the intellectual ability to benefit from it – ideally when you’re young when your brain is more plastic. And I think that John Major’s decision to get rid of polys and make them universities, followed by Blair’s ridiculous pronouncement that 50% of school leavers should go to university, are two decisions that have done a massive disservice to education and young people – but this is for another soapbox…)
The thing is though that all of this – the original interview, the comment pieces that followed, every one of them is just another bit of salt that rubs in the wound of every woman – single, married, with children, without, university educated, or otherwise. Another little poke that asks “have you made the right choices?” or “would you have been happier if you’d made different choices?” And of course, life’s not like that – you can’t peek at the parallel universe where you took the left path rather than the right, or whatever. And maybe it’s part of the human condition to always doubt – to a greater or lesser extent – the decisions you make.
But sometimes you don’t make the decisions, sometimes they get made for you. And that’s really hard to stomach. Especially if they’re not the choices that you would have made for yourself. And to bring this post back to what this blog is meant to be about, that’s fundamentally why I’m choosing to freeze my eggs. I didn’t choose to be in the situation I am in now. I fervently don’t believe that I chose my career over children or a relationship – I have many female friends who went to university, and established brilliant careers which they juggle expertly with children and a relationship. It’s not an either/or choice. But it’s also not something that’s entirely autonomous. It requires someone else to make decisions that support yours. And sometimes that comes down to luck.
I don’t believe I’m an ‘unlucky’ person. But sometimes shit happens. And when it does, you can either lie down and take it, or you can take steps that may, in some small way, help to mitigate that shit. Maybe those steps won’t help at all, but the one thing that they can do is make you feel like you’re making a choice again, rather than having choices made for you, like you’re doing all you can to keep your options open. And for me, that’s what egg freezing is – I’m not in denial about fertility declining with age (although I’m not convinced it “falls off a cliff at 35”) but nor am I being suckered in by a branch of medicine that’s preying on the insecurities of me and women like me. I’m just doing what I believe every woman, whatever her situation, does – I’m trying to make the best of things in the best way I know how.