Joanne McNally's Baby Hater Addresses The Elephant In The Room
With the title Baby Hater, last night’s TV3 documentary was always going to fall into the click bait sort of category.
But Joanne McNally’s refreshingly honest and funny piece was addressing the very large elephant in the room.
Often the question is WHEN you are having kids? Not do you actually want them. Because generally it’s assumed you do. You get used to hearing you granny ask the same old questions -
When are you getting married?
Then it’s when are you having a baby?
Then it’s when are you having another one?
It’s exhausting, but it doesn’t really come from a bad place. Often your elderly relatives just want you to be married and have kids because they see it as ‘safe’ and ‘normal’. It’s probably exactly what they did and they just assume it’s the right path for you too.
Beyond our own families well-meaning, but misplaced interrogations, in our wider circle of friends or in society generally, if you see a couple who don’t have kids, then you automatically think it’s because they can’t; not that they’ve made a conscious decision not to. People get so het up when they discover a woman or couple have decided not to have kids. Eyebrows are raised. Whispers of ‘selfish’ and ‘strange’ are bandied about.
The documentary looked at the debate from a few sides. First Joanna’s. She’s a 34 year old comedian who’s 80% sure she doesn’t want kids. She also would admit, she doesn’t know much about kids or has that googlely-eyed feeling many new mums get when they look at their newborn.
I see a lot of myself in Joanne. We’re of very similar age and up until I had my son in 2016, I like her was not exactly what you’d call a natural ‘baby person.’ Don’t get me wrong, I had nothing against these little bundles of cuteness, but I didn’t have this drive to want to pick one up either. I didn’t go weak at the knees when I saw one. In fact, I knew more about looking after a puppy than a I did a baby.
That said. I did always envision having kids…. one day.
You know, one day when I was grown up…. Then boom, I realised I’m in my 30s and I actually was grown up, even though in my head I still felt 21!
It’s incredible how that bloody biological clock can suddenly change a woman’s mind the closer she gets to 40.
I don’t think there is every a ‘good time’ to have a baby. You’ll always find reasons to put it off and honestly I don’t think you’re ever ready for the life-altering shock of your first child. But the bottom line is that kids aren’t something you can undo; it’s the biggest change and commitment in your life. You will never be the same again and neither will your life and even though it’s a change that for me was ultimately for the better, the change itself was still hard.
I found it tough to reverse 30 odd years of seemingly ‘selfish’ behaviour overnight, but that’s what happened, the moment my little dude was thrust onto my chest and hey presto I was a mum.
My life shifted on its axis.
And I struggled. I really struggled at the start. I suffered with huge feelings of being overwhelmed and anxiety and I while part of was unquestionably driven by hormones, a part of it was by fear.
Do I regret my decision to have a baby? Some days when I'm exhausted from being a SAHM who works from home and need cocktail sticks for me eyes because he woke up at 2 in the morning, I do secretly wish for my old, easier life back. But it's fleeting. Sort of like wishing you were back on that amazing holiday you took years ago. It's a dream, a look back. It's not reality. And then when he lets out a huge belly laugh and I'm back in the room. I hold my baby boy and I feel something indescribable. It really is that clichéd ridden, awesome love you never thought possible.
Joanne spoke to a friend of hers called Brigid in the documentary who had triplets. They were at the crawling and wobbler stage and I looked on in awe of this amazing woman. I complain and lament how hard it is to look after 1 toddler, but I cannot image 3. Just the logistics alone, the super wide pram, the three high chairs, the feeding, the sleeping. I nearly hyperventilated at the thoughts of it. Yet Brigid had it all together and happily accepted that her life was now totally different, but that was the trade-off when you decide to have kids.
Brigid also made such another fantastic point, that I’ve been banging on about for months. Namely, it’s that you often don’t bond with your baby from the second you lay eyes on them. It takes time and it’s something we need to start talking about more and more, so that new mums don’t feel inadequate for not feeling this supposed instant bond.
Joanne also spoke Holly Brockwell who at 24 fought with the NHS in the UK to get sterilised. She explained her feelings to Joanne and why she knew she didn’t want to have children and decided to take permanent steps to ensure she didn’t not. The abuse she received was staggering and more than that, the hoops she had to jump through were immense. This was a grown woman, of sound mind making a decision about her own body and she was met with roadblocks and vitriol.
Is it really any of our business?
No it’s not.
Would a 24 year old man who wanted a vasectomy have gotten the same reaction?
I doubt it.
The fact is, the concept of 20 something woman choosing to get sterilised is jarring with society at large. It attacks all the established social norms we take for granted. It’s this permanent decision that goes against the ‘natural order’. It’s the ‘other’ and the ‘other’ is always something to fear, right?
I think the documentary just goes to further highlight the way in which women are viewed in society. We’re told what to think and feel in relation to our bodies and our own decisions about them. If you don’t want to have kids, then you are automatically vilified and viewed as some ‘kind of weirdo’.
‘You’re dead inside.’
I think the decision to have kids is one each woman and each couple have to decide for themselves. Take infertility out of the equation here. I’m talking about the bare bones decision as to whether you want children or not. If you do, then that’s great and if you don’t, that’s equally great. It’s frankly none of anyone’s business what another woman decides to do with her body.
End of story.