Guest post: the Monday blog tour

I am delighted to be hosting Katherine Baldwin’s post for the continuing Monday blog tour:

Thank you so much to Claire Musters for tagging me in the Monday blog tour (you can read her post here) and for accommodating this post on her site. Here are my answers to the blog tour’s questions:

What am I working on?

I am researching and writing a work of non-fiction called The Baby Gap: What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting. The book is about and for women of my generation who – by circumstance rather than choice – are childless, thinking they would like to be mothers, nearing the end of their fertile years and wondering what on earth to do about it. I am 43, I’ve had an incredible career in journalism that has taken me all over the world (you can read highlights on my website) and I’ve had many relationships of various lengths and levels of seriousness. But today I am single, without children and I’m wondering if I will ever have them. Increasingly too, I’m asking myself if motherhood is what I really want and if I could cope with it at this age. These are very big questions that take some figuring out.

Many women who grew up in the late 60s and 70s have found themselves in a similar position due to a combination of factors: the post-feminism context we grew up in; encouragement from family members, teachers and our peers to achieve our potential, focus on our careers, find personal fulfilment and attain financial security; and personal circumstances (in my case, an eating disorder and other compulsive and addictive behaviours that made it difficult to love myself for many years and therefore to love another). One in five women currently reaches menopause without children and it’s estimated this figure will rise to one in four for my generation.

My book looks at how we got here, what it feels like and what we can do about it. It tackles questions such as: how to date when you’re struggling with baby angst; whether to stay in a relationship with a man who’s a reluctant father or go in search of a more willing mate; whether to freeze your eggs; go it alone with donor sperm, co-parent or adopt on your own; and how to live a fulfilling life if it turns out you don’t have children. It combines my own story with the stories of other women and expert opinion and I hope it will be a lifeline to women who are struggling through this difficult phase and perhaps feeling lost and alone.

You can read more about the book at Baby Gap Blog, although I haven’t posted too often on that site. Separately, I write regularly about my personal journey through this stage of life on my blog, From Forty With Love.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I like to think no other work of non-fiction, at least not in the UK, has tackled this life stage in the same way I am trying to do. A number of women have chronicled their struggles with infertility and IVF or have written about choosing to be childfree or coming to terms with childlessness and finding a Plan B. A few writers in the United States have examined the social context in a similar way to me and traced their personal journeys, but the reality of their lives and their writing styles are quite different to mine. I believe the strength of my book lies in my personal story that seems to be representative, in some ways, of other women of my generation – in Britain and other parts of the world – and in my writing style, which is honest and straight from the heart. I’m also a seasoned journalist – of 19 years – who has collected friends all over the world and I bring those skills and those contacts to my research and writing.

Why do I write what to do?

I feel compelled to write, both my personal blog From Forty With Love and the book. Posts often come to me when I’m out and about, or when I’m struggling through a particularly difficult time. It’s the same for the book. I feel compelled to chronicle this age and stage of a woman’s life because it can be so tricky – trying to date, begin and end relationships, switch careers or think about one’s future can be incredibly hard when you’re struggling with baby angst and uncertainty about whether you’ll ever become a mum. This topic comes up all the time, in my friendship circles and with women I come across. How did we end up here? Should we relax and trust or try to take motherhood into our own hands? It’s an issue I can’t ignore. Whenever I think it’s too hard to write this book – I’ve had a number of rejections from top publishers – I’ll meet someone else who says she really wants to read it and that I have to carry on. It seems I have no choice.

How does my writing process work?

Unfortunately, it’s quite erratic. I juggle writing the book and my blogs with trying to make a living. Without a book deal or any guarantee of getting the book published, I find it hard to give it the time it deserves because I have lots of other work to do to pay the rent. Some weeks, by the time I’ve cleared the decks of other work and am ready to write the book, it’s Thursday or Friday and I’m running out of steam. That said, I can also be my own worst enemy – finding lots of other things to do (not work) when I could be writing or allowing my perfectionism to get in the way so I end up going around in circles. I know there’s a better way of working, however, and perhaps I’ll use this blog post to commit to dedicating my best working hours (first thing in the morning) to getting on with the book, at least twice a week. I hope I can stick to that!

To continue this blog tour, I’d like to tag Naomi Arabella Aidoo, whose blog is called Authentic Heart, and James Prescott to blog next Monday, May 19th. Thanks again, Claire!


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