We really should talk more about how we enter the world, writes Violet‘s Kate Collins

Kate Collins

Having children isn't easy at the best of timesPixabay

“Don’t f*cking talk to me about adoption!”

My mum is quoting Yerma as we drive back from seeing the NT Live screening of it at the cinema. The play is a modern adaptation of Garcia Lorca’s original, which sees an unnamed woman’s attempts to get pregnant, spiralling into obsession and depression. Billie Piper shouts this line at her husband after unsuccessful rounds of IVF.

“I was spooked by that bit. Because I remember thinking the same thing when I was trying to get pregnant with you. People started to suggest it.”

This is something me and my mum don’t talk about often. We talk about lots of things. Whether or not Justin Timberlake was taking the piss with the call and response section of ‘Senorita’, for example. Babies, on the other hand – not really a topic we touch upon. Maybe there’s no reason that we should, but seeing this play (as good theatre should do- yes thank you very muchly so please) had started a conversation.

Both me and my brother were delivered by C-section. In my head, this is a horrific process - less ‘Lion King’, more ‘Gremlins’. I’m sure it’s not as bad as I imagine it to be, but the point here is that pregnancy, birth, maternity, and motherhood are all things that scare the living daylights out of me.

“Not everyone’s experience of birth is baby showers and tiny knitted hats”

Now, I don’t know if I want children. At the present moment, I feel very much like I could get by without having children. I listened to a Guilty Feminist podcast a while ago on this very subject. A panel of women who all didn’t want children were discussing how this is perceived, and it seems that there is still a stigma attached to a woman who says ‘no thank you’. Motherhood is an immense responsibility, it is expensive, it is tiring, it is time-consuming and it is difficult. It is also something that, for me at least, has been somewhat shrouded in mystery. It was never really covered in sex-ed; while I was told how a baby was made, I wasn’t told how it would come out, what happens if I changed my mind and didn’t want it to come out, or what to do with it once it did. The number of issues surrounding birth are endless, and none of them are simple.

The whole thing becomes even more complicated, of course, by the fact that I am a raging homosexual. And I don’t like to say ‘complicated,’ because it doesn’t feel like the right word. As a gay woman, I can obviously still have children, and people might be quick to point this out to me and shout, ‘complicated? You’ve got equality coming out of your ears!’ This is essentially untrue, but still I’m aware that all births are complicated. Even the ones that go relatively well.

A few years ago I was one of a group of young female artists creating an installation in response to the B!RTH festival in Manchester. The festival involved seven playwrights from across the globe writing a play about birth and healthcare provision in their home country. This included a playwright from Ireland tackling abortion rights, one from China exploring the one-child policy, and one from the US asking why America has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate of all the world’s high-income countries. In response, we interviewed a number of women from Manchester who had given birth under different circumstances. Some had given birth at 15, one had been in prison during her pregnancy, another was a refugee. Working on this project made me realise that, though birth is something that affects all of us (given that, presumably, we were all born at some point), we don’t talk about it nearly enough. And the less we talk about it, the less likely we are to make the kinds of steps that would make life better for literally everyone.


Mountain View

2018 Honours List

Not everyone’s experience of birth is baby showers and tiny knitted hats. A lot is at stake, and there are a lot of risks. Large numbers of women (especially gay women) are approaching unlicensed sperm donors (some of whom are just blokes out for unprotected sex). There is information out there (such as on the NHS and Stonewall websites), but it’s generally something that we should all (i.e. not just women) be talking about, and be comfortable talking about. Even if it takes a trip to the theatre, or a magazine article, or YouTube video to get us going. Therefore, use this column to get you going. I’m not saying we all have to aim for ‘Lion King’ (partly because that would be pretty weird, and it might not be the best idea to wave your baby over a cliff face, but that’s just me), but maybe something that is somehow seen as simultaneously messy, embarrassing, private, beautiful, empowering and painful might become a bit more demystified. Ask someone about it, share experiences and be sensitive