Beyond Childlessness

 Beyond Childlessness by Rachel Black and Louise Scull (Rodale £12.99)

The fact that this book has attracted such enormous media interest shows what a gaping hole in the market it is addressing. Research indicates that around 25% of women in Western society currently of childbearing age will never have children. This is put down variously to infertility, to leaving it too late or to not finding the right partner. Another reason could be the fact that when my generation was growing up in the 1960s, we were constantly being bombarded with articles about the dangers of overpopulation and told that if the human race continued to expand at the rate it was going, the planet would be unable to sustain it. The brainwashing obviously paid off to the extent that we failed to reproduce ourselves. Now, ironically, we are being saturated with articles about the dangers to the economy of an ageing population.

The co authors of Beyond Childlessness are the first to address the emotional issues involved. Both are childless women in their fifties and forties. Rachel Black always wanted children but married a man who did not. Louise Scull was never in the right relationship at the right time. Both have had highly successful careers and are financially secure, and it could be argued that their childlessness is, at least partly, their own choice. They have, however, interviewed more than two hundred childless women some of whose reasons for remaining childless are emphatically not voluntary and make heartbreaking reading.

Living, as we do, in the age of the quick fix, it is extremely hard to acknowledge that we have no control over our own fertility. Newspapers concentrate on the success stories, but the fact is that out of 100 cycles of In Vitro Fertilisation, 80-85% will not result in a live birth.

Powerlessness is often combined with guilt. As one interviewee says: "When you're thirty five, your fertility falls off a cliff, and I had no idea". This book is a brave and honest attempt to deal with the multiple issues surrounding childlessness. Chapter headings include: The Fertility Business, Coping Mechanisms and Dealing with Grief. They cover dilemmas from what to say when people ask if you have children to how to adopt.

Beyond Childlessness will surely become an indispensable handbook for every childless woman, as well as a consciousness expanding and deeply uncomfortable read for mothers.

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