We are becoming a nation of older mothers. The average age at which a woman has her first child is now 30, a fifth reach 45 without having a baby and the usual busybodies are in a flap. The government, which had anyway decided on compulsory relationship classes, thinks the answer lies in more of the same. If we only explain to 11-year-olds how hard it is to conceive at 40, the creep towards geriatric motherhood can be reversed. Expect your small daughter to bring home fertility awareness posters designed in PSHE, perhaps papier-mâché models of a deteriorating human egg.
The busybodies aren’t wrong to worry. I first set about trying for a family just as youth was crumbling into middle-age and it was a very boring business. Three years of blood tests, referrals, Harley Street; an endless uncapping of Mont Blanc pens and popping of pills. But in the end, my son.
I’m all for sparing future generations this sort of expensive angst, but the more I look about, the more I’m sure the government has it quite wrong about the causes of late motherhood. Girls aren’t clueless about biology. The very same study (by the Fertility Education Initiative) that set off the fuss, also reported that most young people, nine out of ten of them, are already well aware that it’s trickier to conceive over 30.
Nor do I buy the usual millennial complaint that they don’t earn enough to support a family. That FEI study found that most women, whatever their income, are keen to have kids before they turn 30.
I hate to kick men when they’re down, ducked beneath the parapet for fear of angry feminists, but I suspect the real problem here isn’t ignorant girls but unwilling boys.
I have several female friends in their early thirties who’ve wanted a baby for a while.