Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she decided to speak about her pain at miscarrying a baby in the hope of challenging some of the “assumptions and judgments” made about women who do not have children.
The SNP leader has revealed how she and husband Peter Murrell, the party’s chief executive, lost a baby when she was 40, shortly before the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election campaign spell, when she was deputy leader.
Ms Sturgeon, 46, was in the early stages of her pregnancy and preparing to share the news when the miscarriage occurred.
She told Mandy Rhodes, the author of a new book, Scottish National Party Leaders, that instead of dealing with her grief at home she attended on January 3 2011 the 40th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster, in which 66 Rangers football supporters were crushed to death.
Ms Sturgeon, who has never spoken about her loss before, has been previously hurt by assumptions that she put her political career before having a family.
Speaking after extracts of the book were published in The Sunday Times, Ms Sturgeon said: “This was obviously a painful experience for Peter and I and while Mandy has known about it for some time, she has always respected our decision not to talk about it publicly.
“I gave her the go ahead to make reference to it now in the hope that it might challenge some of the assumptions and judgments that are still made about women - especially in politics - who don’t have children.
“There are many reasons why women don’t have children. Some of us simply don’t want to, some of us worry about the impact on our career - and there is still so much to do, through better childcare, more progressive working practices and more enlightened attitudes, to make sure we don’t feel we have to choose.
“And sometimes, for whatever reason, having a baby just doesn’t happen - no matter how much we might want it to.
“For me, as for many women, all of these things have been true at different times of my life - the point is that judgments and assumptions shouldn’t be made about what are personal choices and experiences.”
In extracts from the book in The Sunday Times Magazine, Ms Sturgeon said she is uncertain if she could have been a mother as well as leading Scotland’s devolved government.
She said: “If the miscarriage hadn’t happened, would I be sitting here as first minister right now? It’s just an unanswerable question. I just don’t know.
“I’ve thought about it but I don’t know the answer. I’d like to think ‘yes’, because I could have shown that having a child wasn’t a barrier to all of this, but in truth I don’t know.
“Having a baby might have so fundamentally changed our lives that things would have taken a different path, but if somebody gave me the choice now to turn back the clock 20 years and say you can choose to start to think about this much earlier and have children, I’d take that.
“But if the price of that was not doing what I’ve gone on to do, I wouldn’t accept that, no.”
Ms Sturgeon later tweeted: “Thanks for all your kind messages this morning. @PeterMurrell & I really appreciate it.”