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Kate Lawler: Sometimes I feel there’s something wrong with me. I’d love to feel not conflicted about having a baby

Kate Lawler and her fiance, who is known as Boj
Kate Lawler and her fiance, who is known as Boj Credit: Andrew Crowley/The Telegraph

Many subjects have been labelled “the last great taboo” at some point, but try being a happily coupled-up woman approaching 40 who really isn’t sure she wants children. Not just unsure, but brimming with reasons why starting a family holds precious little appeal. 

Kate Lawler, the former reality TV star turned broadcaster, knows exactly how that feels. And what makes her position all the tougher is that, not only does society think she probably ought to get on with it, what with the biological clock volubly ticking away, but that her fiancé, Martin (who she calls Boj), rather likes the idea of parenthood. He is “75 per cent sure” he wants a baby, while Kate is 75 per cent sure she doesn’t.

They decided the answer was to start a podcast. Called Maybe Baby, it’s a light-hearted look at the highs and lows of parenting, with a different celebrity guest each episode discussing a pertinent theme.

Stand-up Russell Kane, who became a father in his 40s, talks about newborns and the importance of routine; Helen Thorn and Ellie Gibson, better known as comedy duo the Scummy Mummies, discuss the highs and lows of pregnancy; TV presenter Alison Hammond talks about childbirth; and so on. 

And all the while, Kate, 39, and Boj, 35, ponder the big question: to breed or not to breed?

So, at risk of giving away any spoilers, have they reached a decision yet? “I’m so conflicted on a daily basis, and it’s all I think about,” says Kate. “There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about whether I want to do this or not.”

The Scummy Mummies (pictured) discuss pregnancy on Kate and Boj's Maybe Baby podcast Credit: Andrew Crowley/The Telegraph

I’m chatting to her and Boj over tea in the bar of a central London hotel and they want to know, first, whether I have children and, second, how I dealt with the sleepless nights. I tell them, possibly unhelpfully, I had always just known I definitely wanted to be a mother. 

Not every woman feels the same. Last week, the actress and TV screenwriter Phoebe Waller-Bridge confessed to her own uncertainty in an interview with American Vogue. “I guess I’ve become quite a see-what-life-throws-at-you kind of person,” she said. “I think I would like to [have children].”

But if the dilemma can often feel like a taboo, that’s not to say it isn’t widespread. A fifth of British women today are childless in their early forties, according to a report published last year by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. In some cases, this won’t be by choice; in others, it will. As Kate says: “Maternal ambivalence is on the rise. Loads of women are choosing to freeze their eggs or have a career instead of having kids, or doing both.”

Yet there remains an expectation of women that the only natural choice to make is procreation. This message has been imparted loud and clear to Kate over the years.

“In my late teens and early twenties, friends and family or strangers who I spoke to said: ‘Oh, you’ll change your mind, you’ve got loads of time left.’ Then it was: ‘You’re clearly not in the right relationship, you haven’t met the right person.’ And now, everyone’s saying to me: ‘You don’t want to leave it too late because you don’t want to be an older mum.’”

The idea she might not want to be any kind of mum seems almost out of the question. But the response to Maybe Baby suggests there are many others out there silently railing against the expectation they were put on this planet to reproduce.

Like Kate Lawler, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (pictured) is not totally convinced she wants children Credit: David M. Benett/Getty Images Contributor

“I was really surprised by how many women got in touch telling me they felt exactly the same as me, so it’s been really heartwarming for me and reassuring that I’m not the only person,” says Kate. “Sometimes I’ve felt guilty, because there are women out there who have tried to conceive and can’t, who have had miscarriages, and I’m sitting here going: ‘Oh, I don’t want children’. Other times, I feel there’s something wrong with me. I’d love to feel not conflicted.”

In a sign of growing awareness of the issue, an industry of “maybe-baby coaching” now exists to help individuals and couples work through their feelings and reach a decision.

Boj, who runs a digital advertising firm and owns a podcast production company, is not-so-secretly hoping to convince Kate to change her mind himself. But he is also sympathetic to her viewpoint, and believes it’s important that the subject becomes easier to openly discuss.

“A lot of people feel [the podcast] has opened up the conversation for them,” he says. “There’s a perception that once you’re a mother, it’s a great thing and everyone should want to do it, and obviously there’s a lot of coverage around how terrible it is when people can’t conceive. But there’s never any conversation around ‘Do we want to do this?’ The feedback we get is ‘Thank God someone’s speaking like this, because we were so uncertain ourselves.’”

Boj has promised Kate he won't break up with her if she ultimately decides she doesn't want a baby Credit: Andrew Crowley/The Telegraph

He has promised Kate that he won’t end their relationship if she ultimately decides that children aren’t for her. Which is just as well, since she still sounds pretty opposed. Childbirth has long filled her with dread: “I either have to have my stomach cut open, or I have to push it out… I wish there was another way.”

But the birth is not the only part she regards with a lack of enthusiasm: “I consider every element of parenting and it never fills me with joy. The first six months with no sleep, the terrible twos, making packed lunches, school runs, stroppy teenagers – nothing excites me. I always think of the negatives.”

“Yeah,” says Boj, good-naturedly, “you don’t think of first steps, first words, seeing them play in the garden.”

Has the issue caused many arguments between them? “It’s certainly caused heated debates,” says Kate, who met Boj at a music awards bash when she worked for Kerrang! Radio. They will marry in Shoreditch, east London, on their seventh anniversary next June. Kate was clear from the start that she didn’t want children, but only since Boj proposed has the baby conversation gained a sense of urgency.

As for Kate and Boj’s parents, they sound a little divided themselves. “My mum really wants a granddaughter,” says Kate. (She has four grandsons already.) Boj’s mother “hasn’t got any grandchildren and would really like one”, she adds. “She’s never offended me, but she has said: ‘When are you going to give me a grandchild?’

“I firmly believe a woman can have a fulfilled and wonderful life without procreating. I’m nearly 40 and I still haven’t got a child, but I feel so happy with where my life is right now.” Still, she hopes that, by next year, she’ll be ready for motherhood. “Maybe on our honeymoon we can start trying.”

Though the odds on conceiving lengthen with age, Boj is prepared to await for Kate to catch up with him. “It’s not like there’s this overwhelming desire of ‘I need a baby now’, but I can see 10, 20 or 30 years down the line and want there to be someone else with us. I really love Kate and I think the combination of us would be an awesome little being.”

Oh, goodness, it’s enough to make you broody.

• To subscribe to the Maybe Baby podcast, go to podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/maybe-baby/id1472945975