INTRODUCTION The essentialness of having children is a recurring issue of public debate. Over the past year there has been significant discussion of Australia’s declining fertility rate and what this might mean for future generations. Stories about why women are choosing not to have more children or why they are not having children are regularly presented in the popular press. The Prime Minister, John Howard, recently argued against same sex marriages on the basis that “Marriage, as we understand it in our society, is about children, having children, raising them, providing for the survival of the species …” (www\ABC online, Door stop interview, Darwin, 5th August 2003). What these public discussions reflect is how the ideal of having children is maintained and constructed as a central role for people, particularly women in our society. It would seem that no matter how strongly the dominant discourse of parenting is questioned, with individuals and couples making choices about parenting, it remains an extremely powerful set of messages. Therefore when couples can not fulfil society’s and their own expectations of having ‘a family’ it may be seen as a major life crisis involving a rethinking of the couple’s life and identity (Bergart 2000; Brown 1998; Aneu 1993; Daniels 1993).