Ten years after I had my daughter, NHS maternity wards are still as risky and midwives still as scarce. Good childcare is just as expensive, and as rare. Job security is, if anything, more tenuous than when I took my maternity leave in 2003. As for an affordable home (one in five childless 31- to 44-year-olds say they have delayed having kids because they can’t afford to buy or rent), property prices have rocketed in precisely those areas where jobs are most plentiful.
The only progress, in the decade since Garraway and I had our children, is in the technology that allows women to postpone having babies: the latest advance in IVF triples the chances of conception. No wonder that the number of women who choose to give birth in their forties has also tripled.
Having a child comes naturally for many women. For others, though, it is something over which we agonise, often for years. The women I know (admittedly, all professionals) didn’t put off having children as part of a carefully calculated programme. We felt unable (because there was no man, no money, or too much pressure) to take on the momentous task of raising a child at that moment in time.
Yet we were also terrified that by delaying pregnancy, we had jeopardised it. It was a painful time. I remember avoiding certain friends and certain places. At Sunday lunches, or in Peter Jones, children or women with bumps were always achingly visible. No one – except the fertility experts, who had a vested interest – helped us through that torment.
So if Kate Garraway wants young women to have babies earlier, she’ll have to change more than her make-up.