Too often, women are told they must have certain things ticked off before they can have children. Heard's baby announcement feels radical – even though it shouldn't.
Being a woman in my early thirties, I’m often met with a sympathetic head tilt when I say, yes, I think about having children someday, but no, I’m not married or engaged yet. Maybe it’s an Irish thing; the slightly pained, tight-yet-sympathetic smile when they say, “You’ll find him.”
We know that marriage and children are celebrated above all else. And at that, there tends to be a very linear narrative. Partner first, children second. Rarely, do we openly have conversations about what happens when women don’t want to – or can’t – wait for a partner. Yes, things are changing, but Ireland, to me in 2021, still feels like a country that only truly benefits a couple, from children right down to parenting and the obscene cost of childcare.
And since the pandemic, I’ve heard countless stories of women freezing their eggs, weighing up the choice about a family – with or without a plus one. “It isn’t about waiting for a partner, a friend told me.” It’s about time being taken away that will make my decision to have children harder.”
It’s why actress Amber Heard’s surprise baby announcement feels so momentous.
The first-time mum shared that she had welcomed a baby girl (reportedly via surrogate) on April 8, 2021.
“Her name is Oonagh Paige Heard,” she wrote alongside a photo of the now 12-week-old. “She’s the beginning of the rest of my life.” Oonagh of course is an Irish name, and Paige was chosen after Heard’s mother.
Heard was apparently told by doctors she could not carry a child herself, and the 35-year-old decided to find another way to have her longed-for baby. The key thing here, is that she explained she “did it all on her own terms” and spoke out wanting to normalise the process for other women.
“Four years ago, I decided I wanted to have a child. I wanted to do it on my own terms.” She went on to explain, “I now appreciate how radical it is for us as women to think about one of the most fundamental parts of our destinies in this way.”
“I hope we arrive at a point in which it’s normalised to not want a ring in order to have a crib.”
It shouldn’t feel revolutionary when a woman decides she’s taking full control of her fertility on her own – and it isn’t – but we never hear Heard’s words enough. We never really celebrate the stories of the women who made the same choice to parent by themselves. Or who parent solo as it is. Both situations aren’t given the same applause as the wedding that typically comes before it.
We’ve seen in the devastating case of Britney Spears just how frighteningly easily a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body can be taken away, perhaps this is why Heard’s actions do indeed feel radical when they should just be treated as par for the course.
More of these stories, please.