Amber Heard has had a baby girl. “Who cares?” you might ask. Ordinarily, not me. However, while strangers reproducing isn’t top of the lists of things I normally think about, the actor’s baby announcement got my attention because she is part of what seems to be a growing trend of women becoming single mothers by choice. Heard is in a relationship with the cinematographer Bianca Butti, but is reportedly the sole legal parent of her daughter and decided to get pregnant before meeting Butti.
“Four years ago, I decided I wanted to have a child,” Heard wrote in an Instagram post on Thursday. “I wanted to do it on my own terms. I now appreciate how radical it is for us as women to think about one of the most fundamental parts of our destinies in this way. I hope we arrive at a point in which it’s normalised to not want a ring in order to have a crib.”
It’s sad, but Heard is right: there is still something newsworthy about a woman choosing to have a child on her own terms instead of waiting around for the right man to come along and bless her with sperm. That is changing though. Statistics point to an increase in the number of IVF cycles undertaken by single women in the UK, and celebrities such as the musician Natalie Imbruglia have helped to normalise women conceiving alone.
Of course, fertility treatments are expensive, and choosing to have a child alone is not something everyone can afford to do. I also don’t want to act like choosing to have a kid on your “own terms” is automatically some kind of radical feminist act. Paid surrogacy, for example – increasingly popular among celebrities – can bring up complicated ethical issues. Still, like Heard, I hope society progresses to a point where it is totally normal “to not want a ring in order to have a crib”. Perhaps more ambitiously, I hope we progress to a point where women aren’t expected to automatically want to get married or have babies in the first place. Now wouldn’t that be radical?