Another foolish woman who believed the feminist drivel about "having it all" -- and lived to regret it bitterly
Every now and then I feel a pang of loss and longing that takes me completely by surprise. I might be sitting in a cafe talking to friends, or wandering around the supermarket. Then I see a mother with her child and the realisation hits me, as if for the first time - that's never going to be me. If someone had told my 25-year-old self that I would end up here - aged 45, newly married and, sadly for us both, without a hope of ever getting pregnant - I wouldn't have believed them.
It would have seemed incredible that love would take so long to find me; that becoming a mother would ever matter so much; or that my fertility - a gift that, at the time, seemed more like an inconvenience - would plummet far beyond the point at which doctors could work their magic. Yet, it is a fact my husband David and I have spent the past year learning to accept....
I had spent the whole of my adult life as a London career girl, married to my advertising agency job, with no time or inclination to settle down. Yet as soon as David, who has his own events marketing company, and I started trying for a baby, my whole perspective changed. I held my belly protectively and imagined myself walking down the Finchley Road heavily pregnant. I looked at baby food in the supermarket aisles and noticed women with their children. I imagined the warming smell of my baby's head, the tiny fingers and perfect fingernails. I imagined having a small hand to hold as I walked down the street. My world opened up with possibility.
I suppose it is little wonder that it took me until the age of 41 to find the right man and tap into these unfamiliar feelings. I'd spent most of my life dedicated to building my career. As a nine-year-old, I was never happier than when I was playing secretary; answering calls, shuffling papers and wearing an appropriately smart outfit from my mother's wardrobe. By 24, I was a strategist at a leading ad agency. I drove a Golf convertible, wore red wool suits with gilt buttons, and thought I was Paula Hamilton from the iconic TV advert. I remained very single, but I told myself - and my concerned mum - that the mews house and engagement ring would come later.
My life didn't revolve around marriage and children. My friends and I were taking our time. We were big kids in shoulder pads, and life was about working, shopping, drinking and having fun....
Busy chasing financial independence, I let my most fertile years slip by, never allowing myself to doubt that the love and babies bit would take care of itself. And so I lost the chance to have a baby I didn't even know I wanted until it was too late...
When I was 36, my ever-thoughtful stepmother suggested I freeze my eggs to give myself the chance of 'an ice baby'. But I didn't - something I bitterly regret. Not only is it a rather expensive procedure to go through for the sake of an insurance policy, but it involves confronting the possibility that you might not meet the man of your dreams before your eggs 'run out'. Few young, single women can contemplate that thought. But take it from me: if you're young, single and not in a position to have a child, you should consider it. Those eggs will remain as young as you are today, and one day they might be your only hope....
The more time I spent in the country, the more I wanted a child - and the further away it seemed to be getting. We sought help at the Lister Hospital in London, where David gave a sample and I underwent a gynaecological MOT. When the results came in, all looked well. David's sperm was good, and my hormone levels normal.
'And yet you are not getting pregnant,' the doctor said, just as I was preparing to celebrate. 'The most likely explanation is age. When a woman reaches her 40s, we have to recognise that we're working with older eggs, and I am afraid their quality declines over time. The question is what we do next.'
What she said next shook me. A woman of 43 or 44 has a 13 per cent chance of getting pregnant through IVF and a 70 per cent chance of miscarriage. 'So Lucy, your net chance of delivering a baby with IVF is around four per cent. I'm really sorry.'
But all that was academic when it came to finding an IVF clinic. A second round of tests revealed that, in just six months, my hormone levels had changed, my fertility had dropped, meaning no clinic was prepared to take me on. The odds of success were so slim that it was, they claimed, unethical to take my money. 'Have a think about it and if you're interested in egg donation, we can do that up to the age of 50.' I didn't understand. What about all those fabulous, famous fortysomethings whose 'baby joy' stories were so often in magazines.
The actress Jane Seymour and model Iman both had children at 44, actress Mimi Rogers was 45, Susan Sarandon 46, Holly Hunter 47. Each headline seemed to confirm that, yes, it was possible to put having a family at the bottom of your priority list until you were good and ready. But here's the rub - a very high proportion of babies born to women in their 40s are conceived using donated eggs from younger women. It's a secret that many will never let you in on.
I had just assumed that because I was healthy - I exercised regularly, I didn't smoke (or at least, not since my 20s) or, in the main, drink too much - that my chances were as good as anyone's. But while you can look and feel as young as you like, you can't put anti-ageing creams on your ovaries. Your eggs are the age that they are, and when they run out, there's nothing you can do about it.
I was angry - with anyone who had fallen pregnant accidentally, anyone who didn't realise how lucky they were to have a child. I was angry at the ad agency for keeping me in the office throughout my childbearing years, and at the tobacco companies who had sold me the cigarettes I'd smoked throughout my 20s, and at the government for never having had a public health campaign on the subject of increasing age and decreasing fertility.
But, deep down, I knew I had no one to blame but myself. I had never stopped to think about the bigger picture. I had never had a life plan, or even a plan beyond what my secretary scheduled in my diary. I'd stuck my head in the sand, and this was the result...
My chance to experience the profound joy of motherhood has come and gone. But to the generation of career girls who are a decade or two behind me, I would say this: don't wait for a bigger house, a better job or a more expensive car, because if you do, you're a lot more likely to miss out on the most precious prize of all - a child.
THE NEW RIGHT, ER, LEFT
Mark Steyn on Britain and Europe
Are you getting just a teensy bit tired of the ol’ “Whither The Right?” navel-gazing? Even with our good friends at The New York Times, The Washington Post et al so eager to offer helpful advice, there’s a limit to how much pondering of conservatism’s future a chap can take. So how about, just for a change, “Whither the left?”
Exhibit A: The European parliamentary elections. The Continent’s economy has taken a far bigger clobbering than America’s: Capitalism is dead, declared Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. In France, President Sarkozy agrees, while being careful to identify the deceased as “Anglo-American capitalism”. And woe betide any Continental foolish enough to have got into bed with it: In Spain, the unemployment rate is 17 per cent and rising.
In theory, this ought to be boom time for lefties. As their jobs, homes and savings vanish, the downtrodden masses should be stampeding back to the embrace of the Big Government nanny’s apron strings. Instead, the Euro-left got hammered at the polls, the center-right survived, and a significant chunk of the electorate switched to the “far right” – the various neo-nationalist and quasi-fascist parties cleaning up everywhere from Northern England to the Balkans. My favorite of these new and mostly unlovely groupings is Bulgaria’s Attack party, mainly because of its name. I would suggest the Republican Party adopt it, but no doubt within a month or two the latest Bush scion would be claiming to stand for a Compassionate Attack movement, and governors of coastal states would be declaring themselves fiscally attacking but socially surrendering, and the whole brand would go to hell.
Perhaps it’s just as well. On closer inspection, Europe’s “far right” doesn’t seem to go very far at all. The British National Party’s parliamentary victories are a very belated breakthrough for Fascism, for which in Britain there were few takers back in the Thirties. So what do they stand for? Well, they won’t accept blacks or Asians as members. Typical right-wing racists, eh? Also, they want protectionist laws limiting the import of foreign goods. And they favor giving workers shares in their bosses’ companies. And they want to nationalize the public utilities, railroad companies and so forth. Economic protectionism. Worker cooperatives. State ownership. Boy, these right-wing nuts with their crazy ideas on free market capitalism.
If the British elections are beginning to sound like the dinner-theatre production of Jonah Goldberg’s book, you’re right – if by dinner you had in mind tripe, pork scratchings and mushy peas washed down with 14 pints of brown ale and a knife fight. Economically, the BNP is the Labour Party before the Blairite metrosexual makeover, and its voting base comes all but entirely from the old white working-class abandoned by “New Labour” in its pursuit of more fashionable identity groups. Of course, economic protectionism is not its principal appeal. But yoke economic protectionism to cultural protectionism, and you’ve got an electorally viable combination. These are bad times, but they’re not just bad economically. According to a YouGov poll, the average BNP voter is a manual worker with an annual household income of 27,000 pounds – or about 2,000 pounds less than the national median. Two thousand quid isn’t to be sniffed at, but it doesn’t explain why these voters were willing to take a flyer on an openly racist party universally reviled by the media and political class and banished from public discourse.
England has (or had) a three-party system: Labour, Liberals, Tories. But on any number of issues – the European Union, immigration, crime, the remorseless one-way multiculturalism under which what were homogenous white working-class communities 40 years ago Islamize ever more rapidly with each passing day – on all these issues, the big three parties plus the BBC and the rest of the elites are in complete agreement: We don’t want to talk about it. Since the election, the grand panjandrums of the Palace of Westminster have been competing to out-Lady Bracknell each other in professing how “horrified” they are by the BNP’s success. Such protestations are invariably accompanied by ostentatious recital of their own multiculti bona fides, nicely parodied by Ed West in The Daily Telegraph: “I was just saying how awful the BNP were to my Polish cleaner yesterday. She agreed, as did my Chinese nanny, Wen or Yen, or whatever her name is. My Brazilian catamite wasn't that bothered.”
If 15 per cent of the US electorate had voted for the American Fatherland Front or some such, you’d never hear the end of it from Le Monde and The Guardian and all the rest. But the Euro-elites have adjusted to the knuckledraggers’ lese-majeste, and are already congratulating themselves on holding the “far right”’s vote down to the low double-digits. It won’t be that low next time, but they’ll adjust to that, too. You can’t blame ‘em: It’s easier to do that than re-thinking your entire worldview, never mind trying to figure out anything you could actually do about these issues. I doubt the new kids on the block will be able to do anything, either. But, for a while, there will be votes in impotent rage, and the economic-&-cultural protectionism twofer will eat deep into the mainstream left’s base. They in turn will not change – for, in Britain and elsewhere, they have determined to celebrate diversity even unto societal death.
With insight unusual for a Leftist, Dahlia Lithwick argues below that accusations of racism and reverse racism often obscure much deeper and more pressing questions about how our differences matter and how they should not
Poke through any lawyer's bookshelf and you'll find the beige, dog-eared copy of To Kill A Mockingbird that forever altered the course of their life. I have one too. But the book that has most changed my thinking about both law and politics in recent years is Richard Thompson Ford's The Race Card.
Ford, who teaches at Stanford Law School (and was my professor there almost 10 years ago), explores some simple questions: How can America be beset by racism if there are so few racists? How is it that every national event that touches on "identity politics" is instantly cast in familiar patterns of innocent victims and bigoted haters? If there is anything useful to be learned from the instantaneous bile that spewed forth in the first days of Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court, it was that America's true racists are actually few and far between. Most of us are past the race talk of the 1960s and 1970s, even though the political discourse is not.
The Race Card was and is a surprising book from a progressive thinker who has, most recently, been a strong defender of Sotomayor's role in Ricci v. DeStefano, the 2003 so-called "reverse discrimination" case involving New Haven firefighters. This book is not so much an attack on the way liberals think about race as a call for more rigor and honesty. Ford doesn't contend that there's no such thing as racism or racists. But he does wonder whether reflexively flinging down the "race card" (broadened to include sexism, lookism, fatism, and every other -ism) has helped minorities or hurt them. Whether it is Oprah Winfrey's famous ejection from an Hermes store in Paris in 2005 or the post-Katrina claims by Kanye West that "George Bush doesn't care about black people," Ford asks directly if it's useful to rush to the conclusion that racism and bigotry are always to blame.
I have read this book four times, and each time I have come away both chastened and frustrated. That's sort of the point. Ford's larger argument -- that Jim Crow calcified into housing patterns and crime patterns that explain why it wasn't pure racism that made a cab driver refuse to pick Danny Glover up outside Columbia University in 1999 -- is indisputable. But there is still blatant racism in America and sometimes it's the simplest explanation for Sarah Palin's references to "real Americans" or former Rep. Tom Tancredo's grotesque analogy between the National Council of La Raza and the Ku Klux Klan.
Although I hardly agree with everything in it, The Race Card is the book I keep coming back to, after Barack Obama's Philadelphia speech on race and as the "identity politics" pot bubbled over yet again with the Sotomayor nomination. I come back to it because Ford is trying to reframe a conversation about race and gender that has grown predictable. The book is Obama-like in its effort to understand that name-calling ends important conversations before they begin. It has taken me years to understand what being called a racist at his confirmation hearings might have done to Samuel Alito. Ford helps remind us that accusations of racism are too potent to be pressed into daily rhetorical service. Today such accusations mean both so much and so little.
One of Ford's biggest complaints is about "racism by analogy" -- the push to cast everything, from animal oppression, to discrimination against the ugly -- as akin to racism. If everyone in America is throwing down the race card in outrage, everyone is a victim. We are so accustomed to viewing everything through the lens of privilege and victimhood, we fall back on it without even thinking. Ford reminds me, sometimes painfully, that the temptation to respond to every criticism and complaint from the defensive crouch of victimhood is enormous. That's why every philandering politician checks himself into rehab, and why every piece of angry reader mail can be dismissed as "sexist." Playing whatever version of the race card you may hold relieves you of the need to hear your critics. It is an intellectual screensaver that stops us from demanding more of ourselves.
Don't get me wrong. I love To Kill A Mockingbird. I hope my great-grandchildren inherit my copy some day and that it inspires them to stand up to bigots and bullies. But I don't want them to inherit this death spiral of angry politics that we appear to be locked into -- the accusations of racism, reverse racism, and (coming soon!) reverse reverse racism that obscure much deeper and more pressing questions about how our differences matter and how they should not.
British police harass the harmless again
While they ignore real crime like car theft and assault. A mother who left children playing in park is branded a criminal after being given no opportunity to defend herself in court
A Sunday school teacher was given a police record after she briefly left her own children playing together in a park while she popped to a nearby shop. The woman had left four of her children, the eldest of whom was nine, playing while she went into the shop with her fifth child. The unaccompanied youngsters were spotted by police officers who then spoke to the woman and logged the incident with the Criminal Records Bureau.
When she later applied for a voluntary job teaching in a Sunday school at her local church a criminal records check flagged her up as a risk to children. The woman, from Warminster, Wiltshire, who asked not to be named, said: "The police made a snap judgment on my parenting, that's all it is. I haven't committed any criminal offence. It's just a snap judgment after meeting me for a minute or two in the park. "They have logged this information on the database and I wouldn't even have known it was there if I hadn't applied for a voluntary job at the local church. "It just makes me wonder how many people out there are wandering around with information on them and they don't know anything about it."
The CRB, a Home Office agency, collects information on people who apply for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults. That includes so-called "soft information" such as police suspicions or incidents when someone has been questioned but released without charge. Teaching unions and civil rights groups claim that records of unproven claims disclosed by the CRB to employers can unfairly ruin people's careers or job prospects.
Anna Fairclough, legal officer for civil liberties group Liberty, said the Sunday school teacher had never even been told she was being placed on a criminal database. She said: "This woman was never given the opportunity to comment on the allegation that that makes her a risk to children. She's got virtually no ability to challenge it because the law at the moment doesn't provide safeguards for people in this position. "If we are allowing unproven allegations we need to make sure there are safeguards in place so people's careers aren't destroyed by unfounded gossip, rumour and speculation."
Over the past five years, according to figures obtained from the Home Office by the Conservatives, a total of 12,255 disputes over inaccurate CRB checks have been upheld. That includes people applying for jobs as teachers, nurses, child minders and countless volunteers.
Last year a report for Civitas, a think tank, said the increasing use of such checks had created an atmosphere of suspicion among parents, many of whom were volunteers at sports and social clubs, and who found themselves regarded as "potential child abusers".
From October this year a new body, the Independent Safeguarding Authority, will vet all individuals who work with children, even those just visiting a school such as an author or politician. It is estimated the new regime will result in more than 11 million adults being checked, one in four of the adult population.
The new body has been set up in response to the murders of 10 -year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham, Cambridgeshire in 2002. Their killer, Ian Huntley, had been able to get a job as a school caretaker despite being known to police and social services.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.