More women than ever are choosing to not have children and yet, unlike men, many child-free women find themselves under a harsh spotlight, often being grilled by friends and strangers alike with deeply personal questions about their reproductive choices. And, thanks to books and films, we are constantly reminded of the fairy tale we all ought to be signing up to: get married, have a baby, live happily ever after.
But what if a baby isn’t part of your plans? What if, when you glance at those two pink lines in your pregnancy test, you aren’t immediately filled with that profound sense of joy we’re told we definitely should be feeling? Well, then you’re wrong, apparently. Sorry.
Which is why it’s so refreshing that Serena Williams – who is pregnant with her first baby – has shared her initial reaction to her own positive pregnancy test.
The athlete, who has been ranked world number one by the Women’s Tennis Association no fewer than six times, explained to Vanity Fair that she only took the test in the first place because her best friend kept pestering her to do so.
“I’ll take it just because (a) to prove you wrong and (b) because it’s fun, whatever,” she recalled. “It’s like a joke. Why not?”
Williams continued: “I put [the test] down. I went back to finishing hair and make-up, was laughing, talking. I was getting the styling done. An hour and a half later, I went back to the bathroom and I totally forgot about it because it was impossible for me.
“So I went back to get dressed and I went back in the bathroom and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that test.’”
But, as her friend shrieked in delight at the results, Williams felt something very different to joy.
“I did a double take and my heart dropped. Like literally it dropped,” she said.
Explaining all the thoughts that were running through her mind at that moment, Williams went on to say: “Oh my God, this can’t be – I’ve got to play a tournament.
“How am I going to play the Australian Open? I had planned on winning Wimbledon this year.”
Read more: “So, when are you going to have kids?”
Of course, Williams needn’t have worried: her baby absolutely did not slow her down, in any shape or form. In fact, the tennis champion was roughly eight weeks pregnant when she won the Australian Open in January.
But her point is valid: women often find themselves under a harsh spotlight when it comes to their reproductive choices.
If they make it clear that they’re not on board the baby train, they’re often dubbed selfish, or told that they will “regret it when they’re older” – and quickly come to learn that almost everyone around them will have their own opinion about what she should do with her own body, and where her career should fit into that.
Just like Williams, Adele has spoken up to address the enforced narrative of motherhood – and admitted that she admires the bravery of her child-free friends.
The mother-of-one said: “I think it’s the bravest thing not to have a child; all my friends and I felt pressurised into having kids, because that’s what adults do.
“I love my son more than anything, but on a daily basis, if I have a minute or two, I wish I could do whatever the f**k I wanted, whenever I want.
“Every single day I feel like that.”
Of course, Adele is absolutely besotted with her son, Angelo – and Williams, who is now a little more than six months pregnant, now feels positive about her impending motherhood.
However she has readily admitted that “it just doesn’t seem real. I don’t know why. Am I having a baby?”
She continued: “If you would have told me last year in October or November that I would have a baby, not be pregnant but have a baby, I would have thought you were the biggest liar in the world. This is kind of how I am right now. This is happening sooner than later, and it’s going by so fast.”
Williams later frankly added: “I don’t know what to do with a baby. I have nothing […] I’ve done absolutely nothing for the baby room.”
Bush Novak, Williams’ publicist, has confirmed that the tennis champion intends to sit out the remainder of the 2017 tennis season and return next year.
Main image: Rex Features