In real life, motherhood isn’t a series of cute Facebook photos
Amy Wu says while advances in medical science have made having a baby easier, the choice involves a lot of hard thinking best done away from the influence of sentimental and unrealistic social media posts
Maybe it is my impending birthday, the big 4-0 that is around the corner, but lately my girlfriends of a similar vintage all seem to have jumped on the baby bandwagon.
It is nothing new that the biological clock has kicked up a notch, but the same friends say that, thankfully, we are coming of age (middle age to be precise) at a time when science and medicine are advanced.
Yes, it has never been easier to have a baby. The journey to motherhood has been extended, thanks to advances in IVF.
No wonder there are a record number of births through in vitro fertilisation in the US.
But the procedure is pricey. The cost of one round of treatment in the US is about US$12,000, and in reality women who take that route often need more than one attempt.
But here’s the good news, my friends say. At least 13 states in the US require insurance companies to cover the cost of IVF. Arguably, the US is one of the best places to achieve motherhood; in Hong Kong, IVF is not legally permitted for singles and unmarried couples.
Also, physicians from the Cleveland Clinic in the US have just announced that a uterus transplant is in the pipeline, potentially offering more women the chance of a pregnancy.
This is matched with good news on the fertility front halfway across the world: Beijing has scrapped the one-child policy in favour of a two-child one. This can be good and bad news for women, some of whom may be perfectly content with one child or no child.
The majority of my friends, single or taken, have leapt on the IVF bandwagon. Most of us are in our late 30s or early 40s. We spent the majority of our 30s climbing career ladders and trying to find Prince Charming. Some of us succeeded, others didn’t.
Now the conversation over coffee focuses on hormone injections, egg freezing and egg transfers. Some friends have been trying to conceive for years, and spent as least US$30,000 on their quest. But, for the most part, insurance covers it and it’s pretty straightforward.
So why am I not jumping on board?
Don’t get me wrong, I would like to have my own child, but having kids is nothing to be blasé about. There is age. There is the lack of a willing partner. And one would need to figure out the finances of potentially raising a child solo.
And it is the banter around the baby quest that most bothers me. Having a child is sounding as simple as, say, acquiring a car.
I’m concerned that my friends appear more eager to have a child in the spirit of achievement or, worse, to show off. Motherhood seems a lot rosier through social media where lives are boiled down to a steady flow of filtered photographs and posts.
Social media has become a platform for flaunting parenthood, and making motherhood look like a must.
It’s no wonder that women are feeling the intense pressure of having a child.
On any given day, my Facebook newsfeed is packed with updates of friends’ children dressed in cute outfits, eating ice cream, posing with their favourite toys and blowing out birthday candles. Smartphones have made it simple to capture all moments with a click and a swipe.
It is cute in the right doses, but the message that it sends out is a one-sided Disney-like fantasy that motherhood is easy and achievable.
Yes, some women just do it alone, which is fine if they are OK with it. But, again, motherhood, or single parenthood for some, is easily glamourised, too.
The Hollywood and Facebook versions of the baby quest lead people to assumptions rather than realities. There is the assumption that, given the ease of having a child, all women should achieve it in the similar spirit of getting a college degree or corner office.
On the one hand, it is refreshing that options have swiftly expanded for women who want to have a baby, but it’s also as critical for women to seriously consider why they want a baby. Better to think before simply taking a leap where there is a point of no return, for better or worse.
Amy Wu is an American-born Chinese writer and commentator