I have been having an interesting and somewhat heated debate with my husband which was prompted by a storyline that is currently running in The Archers. Is it acceptable for a woman to have a baby by IVF if she has no partner and no intention of getting one?
It is an emotive subject for me as a woman because there, but by the grace of God, go I. I was fortunate to meet my soul mate at precisely the time in my life when I was looking for one. We then followed the traditional path – we got married and had children.
But what if I hadn’t met someone? What if I had found myself in my mid or late thirties with no partner and my biological clock ticking so loudly that I couldn’t ignore it?
This is the very situation that Helen Archer finds herself in and she has decided, albeit for slightly complicated reasons, to go ahead and have a child on her own. And so follows our debate. Is it selfish to bring a child into a single parent family intentionally, knowing how hard that will be on the parent, their friends and family and potentially the child? Or will a child born in those circumstances be offered more opportunities because a decision about their birth has been so very carefully considered in advance?
Surely, as so many children are brought up beautifully by single parents, it is accceptable to start out with that intention. Is it any better to have an absent father (and I assume here that it would be the mother who would do the parenting although I know that that isn’t always the case) who leaves post-birth than no father at all? It’s not ideal, I can see that. Bringing up a child is incredibly difficult when there are two parents to share the burden. It must be almost unimaginably hard by yourself. But should that difficulty prohibit someone from trying?
I think my husband and I disagree because of something that I believe he cannot feel or understand – the hormonal drive to have a child which in some women is amazingly strong. If I had not had my traditional set up, I suspect that I would have thought very long and hard about going it alone. But I am not sure that I would have been able to accept that being a mother was not for me. And with that in mind, I cannot dismiss the actions of Helen Archer as those of a selfish woman, even though her motives may be suspect.
Fortunately for me, it was not a theory that I have had to test. But if my girls came to me with a similar dilemma I think I would try to support them.
Of course, The Archers isn’t real. ( No, honestly, it isn’t!)But it is a real enough issue for plenty of people and it gave me something different to think about on Mothering Sunday.