One of the most important decisions many of us will face is whether or not we want to have children. Even outside of the usual factors—namely, finding the right partner at the right time—women are facing a whole new onslaught of barriers. It’s a difficult decision that is more complicated than ever, with the rising cost of living, climate change, and the desire to ‘get ahead’ in a career without missing the dreaded fertility window.
This is the question Gina Rushton, journalist and author, explores in her debut book. The Most Important Job in The World. Rushton has been a key reporter in Australia on abortion and reproductive right issues for years. She tells the stories of the constant power struggle between state & uterus.
The Sydneysider at 29 was always certain she didn’t want kids. Until an emergency operation to remove a cyst in one of her eggs almost cost her her freedom. Gina set aside nine months to examine why she believed she didn’t want children.
Rushton stated, “It was one of those things which felt very poetic at that time, but then I was on deadline and thought, this is really stupid.” ELLE Australia. “But it worked in the sense that people made this decision not at all and then they did it all at once. I like the fact that the book has a little bit of a frenetic feel to it. [energy]. I like the fact that it gained momentum after nine months.
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The “old dilemmas,” such as having children, are not the only ones. Everything from your career status to whether you have a partner who is willing to ‘babysit’ your child, Rushton discusses the ethical dilemma of having children during the climate crisis.
Rushton stated that he had a tendency to believe that the reasons I didn’t want kids were intellectually sound and rational. He was also interested in different forms of collapse. “But the thing that’s embarrassing about questions like these is that they are really emotional.”
“A lot of my interviewees answered the question [of having kids in the climate crisis]Rushton stated that it was a personal, individual choice, where there was a lot guilt and shame about considering adding another carbon footprint.
“And I have got to say, the interviews with climate experts who have children really challenged that. It made me feel that the question of family planning, climate change, and family planning should be about governments and businesses, and not individuals deciding what they want for their family.
“I interviewed all the climate scientists who were looking into whole species dying out and sea levels rising, they were mapping floods or fires, but still had kids. “I think there is something to that.”
In other words—to use the phrase of the moment—the vibe had shifted.
Modern workplace and egg freezing
The flip side of deciding whether or no to have children is the energy, time, and money that you spend on making sure that it doesn’t happen. It’s a cruel fact for women that our biological clocks haven’t caught up to our politics, and while there’s a million reasons we might not be ready to have kids till our mids 30s—career! Societal pressures Dating app fatigue!—the truth is that fertility windows begin to close somewhere between our mid to late 30s.
Enter: egg freezing.
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Rushton devotes a whole chapter to the medical procedure. Eggs are frozen at a fertile stage and stored. This allows you to use your eggs when you’re ready financially and emotionally to have a baby. (Disclosure: Egg freezing does not guarantee a successful pregnancy.
But egg freezing can be costly. It can cost as much as $7,000 per cycle to freeze eggs in Australia. And there is no way of knowing how many cycles it will take to get enough eggs to give you a good chance at having a baby. Companies have had to deal with the dual forces of not wanting your fertility window to miss and the social factors that make it difficult. Some companies offer egg freezing as a work perk.
Rushton stated that all of these perks look really cool on their face. “But I don’t think it’s sinister unless it’s run alongside an amazing parental leave policy and conditions to support anyone with care responsibilities, then it is.
Rushton interviewed one woman who froze eggs for her employer while she was working for her company.
Rushton said, “It adds to a strange layer where something profoundly personal is beholden your employer.”
“I think it speaks volumes about a workplace that wants employees to be productive and to delay having children. This is not what we want for our future work. It also plays into another idea about the consequences of all the things we hold dear outside of work being woven into it. It feels very American when companies offer non-economic perks to attract people, sometimes in place of good wages or conditions.
Rushton will tell you more, but it is worth reading the book. Rushton says that Rushton was unable to say much because he had dismissed motherhood. This meant that he hadn’t really considered it. This led me to consider what I am really scared of.