Motherhood in later life and rising to the challenge

Views are divided on motherhood in later life, as superstar Janet Jackson dominates the headlines with news of her first baby at 50.

motherhood in later life

While news of Jackson’s baby has received a mixed reaction across social media, she won’t be the last older woman to get pregnant.

Jackson follows in the footsteps of other mums, such as 42-year-old actress Eva Mendes who gave birth to her second baby with partner Ryan Gosling. Sophie B. Hawkins had a baby at 50 and Halle Berry was 47 when she had her boy.

More understanding needed

The age for what is considered ‘too old’ has gone up in recent years. And some might claim that celebrity pregnancies over 40 give other women ridiculous expectations.

Statistics show more women over 40 are having babies now compared to those in their early 20s. So there needs to be more understanding and acceptance for women who choose this path. The fertility rate for those choosing motherhood in later life has trebled since the early 80s. Yet despite this, there is still very little support on offer for older mums.

Before I became an older mum, I hid my pregnancy from social media for fear of being ridiculed for having a midlife crisis. I cried at night and asked my husband many times, “Do you think I’m too old?” Not so long ago 40-year-old mums were front page news and in the headlines because they were really old.

Big considerations

I knew the older I got, the more health risks I’d face and there were a whole host of things to think about. There was Gestational diabetes, thrombosis, pre eclampsia and C-sections on my mind. Then there was also high blood pressure, birth defects, my BMI, stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage. I had to consider them all. I was more than a little freaked out by all of this and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t keep me awake at night.

Despite websites suggesting that my fertility would fall off a cliff at 4-0, I got pregnant naturally and I’m lucky. I worried about the results of my Maternal Serum Screening for Down’s Syndrome, but my risk was estimated at lower than 1 in 10,906. To put things into perspective, on average a 20-year-old woman has a risk factor of 1 in 1,500, while a woman aged 40 has a risk of 1 in 100.

Risk factors

Statistically there are higher risk factors from the age of 35 and those risks do increase as you get older. However, it’s not that childbirth is safe for younger women, and dangerous for older women. The same is true if you drink or smoke during pregnancy, are overweight or have a family history of complications. I ached during my nine months, but no more than any of the ladies half my age with swollen ankles.

While I had more ultrasound scans and was classed as ‘high-risk’, I saw my consultant three times in nine months. When I quizzed her on the number of appointments, her words made me feel better. She pointed out that a lady’s chronological age did not necessarily equate with her biological age. Everyone is different.

Bullied into induction

While there are bonafide reasons to deliver early, my health was not at risk. The placenta was also working and I wasn’t expecting twins. I was taken aback at being asked if I wanted a C-section because of my age. So I declined.

I felt bullied into induction by scare tactics on stillbirth. Although despite the doctor making me anxious, I held out until my due date.

Before you Google other stories on what motherhood in later life is like, first know this. I didn’t feel old at my antenatal classes and I don’t feel like the odd one out at baby group. I’m relishing the chance to run around after a toddler.

Battle with hormones

I’ll do battle with my hormones in a few years, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I may not get to see my children or grandchildren grow up, but I am expanding the family tree. Yes, I have ageing parents and have to depend on a nursery to look after my son, but that’s normal.

Becoming a midlife mummy has not been a NEGATIVE experience. I gave birth to a very healthy baby boy of 8lb 40z and for that I thank God. I am confident, feel stronger and have more energy than ever before. I’m healthier because I exercise more and don’t drink or smoke.

I have found myself rising to the challenge and appreciating midlife mummy-hood in a way I never thought was possible. I don’t think any one would have the guts to tell me I was selfish to my face. However I know the thought has crossed their mind. Fact is, I don’t care!

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