Childfree – a choice not a loss

Earlier this year I hosted a chat with some fabulous colleagues and the indomitable Maxine Trump, producer of To Kid or Not to Kid.

Not only was it a great big sisterhood shot in the arm, but it was also the beginning of a plight that one childfree film-maker and three mother-doctors decided could not end there!

Earlier this month we completed our collaborative letter to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to ask them to do two things. Firstly, kindly read our letter and consider changes the medical profession could make to how a childfree woman is managed in a clinical setting. For example, encourage/educate doctors to move away from any talk of ‘regrets’ and instead lean more into personal choice and shared management plans, with a focus on what the woman wants, rather than what the woman should want according to societal pressures and norms. It is clear we still have some way to go with this when we listen to childfree voices. Secondly, we are asking the Royal College if they will consider hosting an event around Max’s wonderful film.

Personally, what struck me most about it, watching both as a doctor and a mother, was the balance. I feel it must be very hard to create a film that is both utterly compelling, but at the same time totally devoid of coercion. This film does that.

But don’t listen to me. The film says it all. Please watch it. Or just take a few minutes to watch the trailer below.

Thank you to Dr Amy Kerstein (GP) and Dr Georgina Fraser (Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist) for their work both on the night of the panel and contributions to our letter in support of the childfree woman.

Happy? Earth Overshoot Day. August 22nd 2020.

Sometimes we need a sobering thought. Without any wokey word crafting.

Earth Overshoot Day. Is this concept as new to you as it was to me? Like many things associated with the  environment, what is known cannot be unknown. No amount of pretending or posturing or looking the other way can detract any of us from an issue that is wholly, intimately and intrinsically linked to our very existence.

A definition in a language I can understand:

Earth Overshoot Day lands on August 22 this year, 2020. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. For the rest of the year, we are maintaining our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

At a time of established economic recession on the back of an established global pandemic, we are suddenly faced with a depressing platter of consequences akin to the witchetty grubs crunched between celebrity teeth.  Do they choose that or the kangaroo testicle? Much like the tragic thread that joins grub to testicle to celebrity, thankfully a visual circus we can turn off (before actually being sick!), there is another less erasable thread that joins planet to pandemic. For the non-science buffs among us, did we know that the more humans that encroach onto the environment of animal and plant species, the more likely we are to be impacted by zoonoses like covid-19 (viruses originated in non-humans that jump to humans making them ill)? The more species we eradicate by our crawly encroachy (my word) behaviour, the less these non-human species can eradicate the viruses in their own kingdoms, meaning these viruses are more likely to invade ours. The human kingdom is being quietly, tirelessly, thanklessly protected by an army of animals and plants and yet we do so little to protect them in return?

This makes me fearful of covid-20.

UNLESS. UNLESS. We slow down.

And I don’t mean harp back to the days of horses tugging ploughs (sigh) or travelling everywhere by foot and bike (however we know we could all walk, run and bike more?). I mean learning to obtain more from less. The current situation is highlighted below using maths I can understand, taken from the Population Matters website (


With one million people being born across the globe every 4-5 days and an estimated 1/2 to 2/3 of these children unwanted or unplanned, what on god’s earth are we doing?

CHOICE is key here. And for those who are not given choice, through no fault of their own, it is the capitalist world’s DUTY to clear as much space and time as possible to facilitate choice. Just take a look at the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation bringing millions of women in developing countries contraception and family planning education, or their work on vaccines, to see the good that vast wealth (and immense energy and vision) can deliver. I can also recommend Melinda’s book ‘Moment of Lift.’ An enlightening account of how simply throwing money at problems isn’t the answer to long term empowerment of local communities.

Listen to the voice of Nina Steele who dispels the ‘myth’ that having children protects you in later life as they will always look after you. This is already proven to be nonsense as so many of our elderly in this country are isolated and relatively forgotten by their children, who are too busy to look after them as they had hoped, or lack the wealth to support them in the way they’d prefer to. That is not to say that the good intentions aren’t there in the most part and we are all doing our best. But we need to look at the reality.

Yes, we can do some most excellent things like sign up to the plight of the brilliant Anna Hughes, author, cyclist, campaigner and director of ‘Flight Free’.  I salute you Anna and all your flight free comrades. Make the pledge to be flight free in 2020 or 2021?

But if like me, you are a weaker mortal and don’t feel this is something you can keep up life long (I can and do however, now think much more carefully about any flight and will seek an alternative where humanly possible), then please join the mission for only the ‘wanted child.’ Let us not sentimentalise large families going forward. Something that can pile pressure on women and most definitely, the planet. A small family need not be any less happy or supportive than a large one. Implying anything other than this, in this day in age when medicine is so good, life is so long, money is harder to make and natural resources and plant/animal species are rapidly dwindling (already decreased by 60%), is surely questionable?

And to finish on a man who can say more eruditely in one sentence, something I could never match in a hundred..

“All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”

– Sir David Attenborough, Population Matters patron

WATCH THIS VIDEO (7 minutes)