As a child it was constantly preached to me by my mum that I needed to stay in school, get my education and whatever I did, NOT to get pregnant.

My wonderful mum wanted more for me than she had had herself. She wasn’t allowed to finish her O-Levels and was kicked out of school when they discovered that she was pregnant with me. She wanted something different for me – she wanted me to see the world, be independent, achieve my dreams and not give it all up for a relationship.

She’s the reason that by the time I was in secondary school, I was so fiercely independent that I was dishing out condoms like the flying saucers in the tuck shop, warning my peers of the perils of getting pregnant. And in my late teens I could often be found on a revolving dance floor in Sheffield proudly singing along to Destiny’s Child “Independent Women” in an outfit I’d bought with my wages from my shelf stacking job.

I was ambitious and, even though we had absolutely nothing, I managed to get my A-Levels and a place at university. I worked full-time as a fitness instructor so I had a roof over my head whilst doing that degree and left with huge amounts of debt and a chip on my shoulder as I mingled with privileged students.

Since then, I’ve travelled the world and built an incredible career. As those lyrics in that Destiny’s Child song go: “the house I live in, I bought it. The car I’m driving, I bought it. I depend on me.” My mum’s words, coupled with the sexism and classism I experienced as a woman with a strong Yorkshire accent, made me fight. I achieved things that people said someone like me could never do and for such a long time I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

But then I turned 40 and something hit me. What about starting my own family, having children and a partner who I could share all this with?

I’ve been in relationships where kids and marriage were discussed, even engagement rings bought. But I always had that voice in the back of my head telling me that I needed to protect myself, to make sure I was secure and independent. I was also scared of repeating the past – there has been generations of abuse in my family as well as teenage pregnancies. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I have a great life being single, I’ve truly got to know myself, I do all things I love and want to achieve, have deep friendships that I can give time too and I can be as spontaneous as I like. I know many people that compromise their own needs yet are very lonely within their relationships.

But once I’d blown out the 40 shaped candles on my birthday cake over a year ago now, everywhere I looked I saw loving couples and their children, and every conversation seemed to highlight what I didn’t have.

I tried to reassure myself that times have changed, that women can “have it all”. I have a freedom that the women in my family before me couldn’t have, which I am so grateful for. Yet I soon realised that my desire to make the most of these freedoms left me with a completely different dilemma. I have put off having a family in favour of my career and it could be too late.

While the role of women in society has changed, our biology hasn’t. Everybody warned me off marrying and having children too young but nobody talked about the very real “biological clock”.

The harsh reality is fertility declines with age, as does egg quality, and as you get older the chance of miscarriage also increases – all of this even with the extraordinary technology of IVF, which isn’t the safety net it’s often advertised as. Accessing it on the NHS is a postcode lottery and privately, it’s expensive. I know some women who have got themselves into huge debts to pay for it. The drugs, repeated injections and the emotional rollercoaster of hopes and disappointments also takes a huge toll on women, and none of this guarantees a pregnancy.

Ideally I would love to find a partner to bring a child into the world with, but I’m also reconciling with myself that I may have to do this on my own. As much as there are incredible women out there that are single parents, albeit very different circumstances, my mum was a single parent for a time and I know how challenging that was for both her and myself.

I’m often called a career woman. But I didn’t realise that I was making a choice between career and children. I just thought it would happen and it seemed like I had all the time in the world.

I don’t regret a single thing in my career. I’m so proud of the girl from Sheffield that was told she wouldn’t amount to much. But I do wish I’d thought more about starting a family. I feel ready. I do want children but now that I am in my 40s having spent my life avoiding getting pregnant have I left it too late?

Ladies, it ain’t easy being independent.

Charlie Webster is a British broadcaster and campaigner. Her book Why It’s OK to Talk About Trauma: How to Make Sense of the Past and Grow Through the Pain is out now.

Spending… time with my mum and brothers. At the moment none of us live near each other so these times are more valuable than ever, plus a bit of banter with my brothers brings me right back down to earth! We all love food, so everything we do tends to centre on eating. We’ll have breakfast and then minutes later one of us will say “what are we doing for lunch?”

When we get together we also cook a big family meal. My brothers think I can’t cook. But I cooked this time, well with my brother’s interference anyway, and my mum made a cake to mark my book coming out. I feel for my mum’s boyfriend as we completely took over his kitchen and his house.

Talking… about mental health. My book focuses on the impact and recovery of trauma, and it’s mental health week starting 13 May. So I’ve been giving a lot of talks on mental health as well as checking in on myself and friends. Something that has consistently come up is how hard it is to sometimes reach out and talk about how we are feeling when things are tough. Anxiety, depression and trauma makes us lock it all up inside and feeling vulnerable will often mean we protect ourselves even more from the outside world. This isolation can make us feel like we are on our own and no one understands. If you can relate to this. You are not alone.

Dancing… to Jake Bugg. I’m normally found dancing with my arms up in the air throwing shapes at a DJ. I’m a dance head but my mum and her boyfriend had tickets to Jake Bugg so I decided to tag along. Any opportunity to see live music and have a little boogie. Music has always been a big part of my life. My mum and I used to dance around with hairbrushes singing at the top our voices. Not much has changed there. Last month I took my mum to see Gary Numan in the Californian dessert and we are actually going to Glastonbury this year. My first time! Life is a dance so why not dance to it.

QOSHE - I'm in my 40s and wish I had thought more about starting a family - Charlie Webster
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I'm in my 40s and wish I had thought more about starting a family

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03.05.2024

As a child it was constantly preached to me by my mum that I needed to stay in school, get my education and whatever I did, NOT to get pregnant.

My wonderful mum wanted more for me than she had had herself. She wasn’t allowed to finish her O-Levels and was kicked out of school when they discovered that she was pregnant with me. She wanted something different for me – she wanted me to see the world, be independent, achieve my dreams and not give it all up for a relationship.

She’s the reason that by the time I was in secondary school, I was so fiercely independent that I was dishing out condoms like the flying saucers in the tuck shop, warning my peers of the perils of getting pregnant. And in my late teens I could often be found on a revolving dance floor in Sheffield proudly singing along to Destiny’s Child “Independent Women” in an outfit I’d bought with my wages from my shelf stacking job.

I was ambitious and, even though we had absolutely nothing, I managed to get my A-Levels and a place at university. I worked full-time as a fitness instructor so I had a roof over my head whilst doing that degree and left with huge amounts of debt and a chip on my shoulder as I mingled with privileged students.

Since then, I’ve travelled the world and built an incredible career. As those lyrics in that Destiny’s Child song go: “the house I live in, I bought it. The car I’m driving, I bought it. I depend on me.” My mum’s words, coupled with the sexism and classism I experienced as a woman with a strong Yorkshire accent, made me fight. I achieved things that people said someone like me could never do and for such a long time I couldn’t imagine life any other way.

But then I turned........

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