Lucy Edge followed the liberal principle. She spent her 20s and 30s in pursuit of financial independence through a career. Love, marriage and motherhood could wait:
I suppose it is little wonder that it took me until the age of 41 to find the right man ... I'd spent most of my life dedicated to building my career.
By 24, I was a strategist at a leading ad agency. I drove a Golf convertible, wore red wool suits with gilt buttons, and thought I was Paula Hamilton from the iconic TV advert. I remained very single, but I told myself - and my concerned mum - that the mews house and engagement ring would come later.
My life didn't revolve around marriage and children. My friends and I were taking our time. We were big kids in shoulder pads, and life was about working, shopping, drinking and having fun.
When I stopped to think about it (which was never for very long), I could never imagine myself in my mother's shoes.
At 22, she'd had me to look after, whereas at the same age I was staying late at the office to check my secretary's typing or prepare for a meeting. At 30, when she spent her evenings cooking for a family, I was living on cigarettes and canapes.
Busy chasing financial independence, I let my most fertile years slip by, never allowing myself to doubt that the love and babies bit would take care of itself. And so I lost the chance to have a baby I didn't even know I wanted until it was too late.
In my 20s there'd been a lightness of touch in my office affairs (the odd kiss and cuddle behind the filing cabinet), but by my 30s my relationships were tinged with desperation.
I hadn't found him, and I was worried. Yet, I refused to prioritise the man-hunt - the idea seemed so old-fashioned.
Here we have a very typical pattern followed by the middle-class women of my generation. Love, marriage and motherhood weren't rejected, they were delayed and de-prioritised. What mattered was living a single girl lifestyle (working, shopping, drinking and having fun), living for the moment, and achieving autonomy and independence.
But finally at age 41 Lucy was ready to settle. She's a pretty woman who was able to find a loyal husband. But she hadn't counted on fertility issues:
Of course, we knew that women over 40 stood less chance of getting pregnant, but we had no idea that they might fail altogether.
I suppose it's a sign of the times that we believed we could have whatever we wanted. We wanted a baby and if we failed to conceive naturally, then IVF was our back-up.
It was the first time in my life I'd ever given motherhood any serious thought, and the yearning hit me like a thunderbolt.
I had spent the whole of my adult life as a London career girl, married to my advertising agency job, with no time or inclination to settle down.
Yet as soon as David, who has his own events marketing company, and I started trying for a baby, my whole perspective changed. I held my belly protectively and imagined myself walking down the Finchley Road heavily pregnant.
I looked at baby food in the supermarket aisles and noticed women with their children. I imagined the warming smell of my baby's head, the tiny fingers and perfect fingernails. I imagined having a small hand to hold as I walked down the street.
My world opened up with possibility.
"We believed we could have whatever we wanted". This idea sounds dumb, but remember that liberalism tells people that they have a right to self-create in whatever direction they choose, so liberal moderns have to either hopefully believe that there are no limits or else accept that liberalism itself is unworkable.
Note too just how radical the effects of liberal modernism are when it comes to the lives of women: Lucy claims that she hadn't seriously thought about motherhood until her early 40s. This is historically very odd; in most cultures motherhood is a core aspect of the lives of women.
Sadly there were to be no children for Lucy and David:
And yet you are not getting pregnant,' the doctor said, just as I was preparing to celebrate. 'The most likely explanation is age. When a woman reaches her 40s, we have to recognise that we're working with older eggs, and I am afraid their quality declines over time. The question is what we do next.'
What she said next shook me. A woman of 43 or 44 has a 13 per cent chance of getting pregnant through IVF and a 70 per cent chance of miscarriage. 'So Lucy, your net chance of delivering a baby with IVF is around four per cent. I'm really sorry.'
But all that was academic when it came to finding an IVF clinic. A second round of tests revealed that, in just six months, my hormone levels had changed, my fertility had dropped, meaning no clinic was prepared to take me on.
The odds of success were so slim that it was, they claimed, unethical to take my money.
She responded with anger to her loss:
I was angry - with anyone who had fallen pregnant accidentally, anyone who didn't realise how lucky they were to have a child.
I was angry at the ad agency for keeping me in the office throughout my childbearing years, and at the tobacco companies who had sold me the cigarettes I'd smoked throughout my 20s, and at the government for never having had a public health campaign on the subject of increasing age and decreasing fertility.
But, deep down, I knew I had no one to blame but myself. I had never stopped to think about the bigger picture.
Look at the consequences of all this. Lucy Edge sacrificed everything for an office job she eventually quit anyway. Neither she nor her husband will ever have children, so they won't be contributing any well-raised children to society. Lucy didn't take love or marriage seriously in her 20s, so she contributed to the demoralisation of the young men of her generation.
Autonomy as the sole, overriding good didn't work out so well. It changed the priorities of the general culture. Society took seriously the issue of female careerism, but relegated motherhood to the realm of "it will take care of itself at some indeterminate time in the future".
There's no balance in this. We have to move away from the reductive idea of autonomy as the organising principle of society, so that other important goods, such as love, marriage and motherhood, can be given due weight.