It's not right until there's a Mr Right

Show me the woman who puts matrimony and children on hold
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The Independent Online

Kate Garraway, the breakfast TV presenter, has allowed herself to be subjected to a prosthetic makeover so as to look 70 and pregnant, as part of a publicity campaign to make young women think twice before delaying pregnancy.

The effect is undeniably horrid – swollen belly, plus wrinkly hands and face – old and pregnant, yuk! It's the sort of thing you can only do if you're self-confident about your looks, though one disobliging online commentator did say that his first thought was that this was what TV presenters look like without slap; shame on him.

Ms Garraway's argument is simple: women should have babies at a younger age than they do and younger than she did. She had her two children, Darcy and Billy, at 38 and 42. The average age for a Brit to have a baby is 30, in the US, it's 25.

"I do look back now and realise that leaving pregnancy late can be a risky bet, as diminishing fertility can stack the odds against you," she says. "In some ways I wish I had had my babies younger. Now I would love a third child, but I've almost certainly left it too late."

Her argument is borne out by the survey behind the campaign she's fronting – from the pregnancy test people, First Response – which suggests 40 per cent of women of childbearing age delay having a baby to sort out their finances, while a third blame the lack of the right partner. At least that excludes the bogey who normally surfaces in these polls: the woman who delays having children in order to promote her career, only to find herself bitter and childless at 50.

It may be something to do with the friends I've got, but I've rarely encountered this creature who wilfully puts offers of matrimony and children on hold in the interests of professional advancement, though no doubt they're out there.

Not meeting Mr Right, now that rings true. I've got delightful girlfriends aged over 40, unaccountably single and involuntarily childless who haven't met a half-decent man to settle down with. That's a third of the respondents; the responsible third, I would say.

Perhaps they should have snapped up the offers that came their way in their twenties, but they didn't. And now they're counting the months as their ovaries empty; every period a missed opportunity. They could, of course, go down the Bridget Jones route and have a solo pregnancy – with the unfortunate circumstance in her case that she wasn't quite sure by whom – but it's not the ideal child-rearing scenario.

In fact, what's wrong with actually waiting until you've got a stable relationship before having babies? In happier days, we wouldn't even have asked the question. Ditto waiting to have children until you can provide for them: that was, you know, the norm for engaged couples once upon a time, though it must be said that in the Fifties they saved up for furniture rather than for a wedding worth half a year's salary and didn't have to wait a decade to save for a deposit on a one-bed flat.

Having said that, I'm behind Kate Garraway. I had two children after 40, because that's when I married, an age which 70 per cent of respondents to the YouGov poll regard as too old. I, too, go about like the Ancient Mariner, urging any young men and women who'll listen to gather the rosebuds while they may and go for it if they possibly can. Nature doesn't share our romantic idealism about waiting for Mr or Ms Right; she rewards with fecundity those who get on with procreation when they're most cut out for it.

And if it takes Kate Garraway looking like a pregnant hag to make this staggeringly obvious point, good for her.