Fertility shaming

Last month we were all discussing teen pregnancy and the case of a 14 and 15-year-old who were fighting to get custody of their baby. Now, there is news of a 61-year-old woman who recently gave birth and the same argument is being had – is this an appropriate age to have a baby? People will always have an opinion when it comes to creating life and sometime it might just be that, an opinion. Every situation is different and we need to consider all the facts, but this incidence brings up some interesting points.

What is the right age to have children? We criticise a teenager, yet around that time a woman’s body is in her best to create life. We also criticise a woman at 61, saying she is too old or that she might not be around for the child’s life, yet parents pass away prematurely all the time, we have not guarantee. What about the 61-year-old’s energy? She might not be able to run around after children like a teen or young woman can, but how many older people do you know who keep fit? And does her knowledge, maturity and experience make up for not being able to kick a ball? Does a young woman or teen have the knowledge to raise a child adequately or still have more life to live?

And what about men? If a man who is older has a child with a younger woman, would we question it or say it shouldn’t be? No, because we are a backwards society when it comes to child rearing, still saying that because woman give birth to children, they are automatically the better primary care giver. So, we fight against the notion that woman should stay at home and make babies for our right to go out and work, but we haven’t recognised that some men can be just as capable and should have the same rights to raise a child that a woman does.

There is no correct answer to what age we should be having children. I have received criticism even about freezing my eggs and what age I might give birth. I have been told that if I wait too long will there be downfalls of being an older Mum. I’ve never wanted to wait too too long, but I would prefer to be in the best position I could be before I decide to bring life into this world. So many people have children in relationships because they feel now is the right time (or get into a relationship because their biological clock is ticking) only to end up soon after in divorce. If we criticise teen mums and older mums, why not criticise these people too?

Even the decision of when to have a child is a selfish one. We decide when we think it’s right or when it fits into our lives. But that is our right as potential parents. We are there to make decisions for someone who can’t and we can only do our best. Parenting doesn’t come with a mark of right or wrong.

We are a society that fertility shames. If you have a baby too young you are shamed, if you have a baby too old you are shamed, if you can’t or even if you don’t want to have a baby you are also shamed. Maybe we should just turn that shame into opinions and do what is best for you.

I love these stories because it encourages us to think, but we also need to be careful what we do with these thoughts. We are all entitled to an opinion, but it doesn’t mean that our opinions have to be right.

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