As superstar Janet Jackson dominates the headlines with news of her first baby at 50, I look at why views are so divided on motherhood in later life.
While the news of Janet Jackson’s baby has received a mixed reaction across news and social media channels, she certainly 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, who had a baby at 50 and Halle Berry, who was 47 when she had her boy.
While some might claim that celebrity pregnancies over 40 give other women ridiculous expectations, the age for what’s considered ‘too old’ has most definitely gone up in recent years.
With figures from the Office of National Statistics UK showing that more women over 40 are having babies compared to those in their early 20s – there needs to be more understanding and acceptance for any woman who chooses that path. The fertility rate for women over 40 has trebled since the early 80s. Yet despite this, there is still very little support on offer for older mums.
Before I became a midlife mum, I hid my pregnancy from social media for fear of being ridiculed for doing the UNTHINKABLE. I cried at night and asked my husband many times, “Do you think I’m too old?” Not so long ago forty-year-old mums were front page news and in the headlines because they were REALLY OLD, so getting pregnant was not a decision I took lightly.
I knew the older I got, the more health risks I’d face and there were a whole host of things to think about. Gestational diabetes, thrombosis, the odds of having a C-section, high blood pressure, birth defects, my BMI, stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage were all in the mix. 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 consider myself VERY lucky that I did not have a problematic pregnancy. While I worried about the results of my Maternal Serum Screening for Down’s Syndrome, 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.
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. It’s worth remembering that the same is true if you drink or smoke during pregnancy, are overweight or have a family history of complications. I was tired and ached during my nine months, but no more than any of the ladies half my age with swollen ankles.
It’s fair to say that while I was monitored more closely during pregnancy in terms of ultrasound scans and classed as ‘high-risk’ due to my age, I only saw my hospital consultant three times in nine months. When I quizzed her on why I hadn’t had more appointments, she pointed out that a lady’s chronological age did not necessarily equate with her biological age or health and that everyone was different.
While there are bona fide reasons to deliver early, my health was not at risk, the placenta was still working perfectly and I wasn’t expecting twins. I was therefore taken aback at being asked if I wanted a C-section because of my AGE. I declined. I was eventually bullied into induction by a doctor’s scare tactics on stillbirth, although despite being anxious I held out until my due date.
Before you Google other stories on what it’s like to be a midlife mum, 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 either. I’m also relishing the chance to run around after a toddler because I see it as going the extra mile to keep the weight off.
I know I’ll do battle with my hormones in a few years, but like so many things in my life, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. I know I may or may not get to see my children or grandchildren grow up, but I am expanding the family tree for the future. Yes, I have ageing parents and have to depend on childminders/ a nursery to look after my son, but I know younger mummies with similar circumstances.
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 and 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. While I don’t think any one would have the guts to tell me I was selfish to my face, I know the thought has crossed their mind. Fact is, I’ve a thick skin these days, so I don’t care!