After being told I was too old for Mother and Baby magazine, perhaps I’ve finally been made sensitive to the fact that I’m an older mother … defensive almost, which is rather irritating, but, and maybe it is me, it really seems that big swathes of the media this week have it in for mothers in general, not just older mothers but mothers more broadly.
A piece on being looked down on for breastfeeding in public by a young TV presenter appears to apologise for it and infer that it really shouldn’t be done … saying she feels ‘looks’ and disapproval … maybe it is all in her mind, but I feel that writing such stories doesn’t help the situation. I guess some would argue that if someone as lovely and widely recognised as Edith Bowman gets disapproving looks then what hope do ‘normal’ mothers have … I think it more likely that people are looking twice simply because of who she is. I have never had a negative look or comment (other than once from a member of my own family) about breastfeeding publicly … and me an older mother too. Lordy the taboos I’m breaking at the moment! I am discrete, generally wearing fairly baggy clothes that she can sneak under or a huge diaphanous cardigan which I can wrap round my hungry little limpet. I love the intimacy and closeness it brings particularly in a public place where we are in our own little world. I am lucky, I can breastfeed and I have been able to make the decision to carry on … and that, as far as I’m concerned is OK. It’s also OK that friends decided not to even start breastfeeding in the first place … we are fortunate in this world to be able to make that choice. When you are pregnant you are given facts and figures about breastfeeding, about benefits, how it works, why it is good for mother and for baby and also (at least I was) facts about the law surrounding breastfeeding in public… based on all that you are told or choose to listen to and your own circumstance you are free to make your own decision as to what works best for you and your baby.
Today the press is full of stories on co-sleeping, SIDS and cot death … many presented in a very insensitive way to those who have been through the harrowing experience of loosing a child. The BMJ has published research which infers that there is a fivefold greater probability of babies that share a bed with parents (whether or not the parents smoke, drink, take drugs) dying of SIDS …the press release I found from BMJ open, having read the article on the BBC website has the very woolly, confusing and unsupported phrase, “The authors of this analysis estimate that around 88% of all SIDS deaths while bed sharing would not have occurred if bed sharing had been avoided.” They can’t know that as they don’t know what causes SIDS, nobody does … are they saying that dangers of suffocation or being squashed are higher from bed sharing … that may well be the case but surely those deaths don’t count as inexplicable grim cot death? Those of us following the harrowing story of the death at 9 months of Matilda Mae (who wasn’t sharing a bed with her parents at the time she died in her little cot) have learnt, at what at times feels like first hand, how a parent will question and blame themselves, the anguish of loosing a child in inexplicable circumstances. Ill presented and even more poorly reported findings like these only serve to worsen the pain and the blame. Jennie and her family have been incredibly brave in sharing their story and so many people, in their turn, have offered them love and comfort, my thoughts and prayers have been with them all over the last few months.
After child birth, new mothers are given leaflets on the risks of co-sleeping and recommendations on how to do it safely and when it is safe from … from then it is their decision (and I’m referring to the non drinking, non smoking, non drug taking mothers). Again, educate, raise awareness and then allow people to make an informed decision. For me I had Hope swaddled in her little basket and then cot bed by the side of my bed until she was about 10 months and wouldnt’ settle back into her bed after a night feed. That has worked for us, every night she starts the night in her bed but often around 5am she comes into bed with me, it often means I end up sleeping sideways at the bottom of the bed with the covers on the floor as I am paranoid about her getting smothered in her sleep, but as a general rule, we sleep well and it means she is close if she has a bad dream, teething pain or needs to feed … and for someone inherently lazy like me it is much easier than having to get out of bed and go into another room. I have friends who have taken the controlled crying approach and their child has slept every night in another room … again whatever works for them. We are not all Gina Ford … we all do things differently, and we should all be sensitive to passing judgement on one another.
There is a constant undercurrent in the press about older mothers … selfish harridans that we are … career obsessed, wealthy mothers who offend passers by with their audacity at having children later in life. This week that undercurrent seems to have risen to a flow … there was a YouGov survey that said rather oddly, 70% of women over 55 are opposed to the idea of other women having children over the age of 40. I am sure that there are also polls that talk about women being opposed to other women having children when they are younger … this survey has generated a flurry of self righteous bile. What it doesn’t highlight is the fact that for most women having children older it isn’t a life style choice, but simply the cards they have been dealt, the way circumstances have transpired for them. Perhaps someone couldn’t find the right partner, was unable to have children younger and spent years having tests, wasn’t in a position to have children, or had been with a partner who didn’t want children … everybody has a different story. My generation was encouraged to get a career and not to have a child until we were married, other friends found themselves in a whole variety of circumstances some able to conceive early, others able to conceive late with no problem at all … the idea of saying that women oppose other women taking a decision to have children when it is right for them seems plain rude to me and really a rather strange finding. Yes people might express surprise (one or two friends laughed when I told them I was pregnant in a “sooner you than me”) way but they all were, without exception, supportive and subsequently joyful and loving toward Hope and I. I had incredible treatment on the NHS … yes I had a few more scans than other younger mothers but the pregnancy ran smoothly (other than when I tripped up and fell over and had to be monitored to ensure the placenta wasn’t coming away and when I was involved in a taxi accident in London and the baby stopped moving inside me) … I had to be checked out after those two mishaps but neither were age related issues. Other friends, almost 20 years younger than I spent full months of pregnancy in hospital … I didn’t, I walked every day, I took obsessive care of myself and look where I am now … blissfully happy with Hope.
The thing, however, that has annoyed me the most this week and I think is a shameful way of marketing is a campaign by a pregnancy test brand to, “Get Britain Fertile”. I find that condescending in the extreme. The campaign is a cynical marketing exercise and the website has nothing there at all in the way of support or advice. I do believe that it is important to discuss declining fertility after the age of 35 and make sure that knowledge about fertility is part of both boy and girl reproductive education. I think it is worth featuring on daytime and evening TV from time to time … it is a fact that fertility declines and it is also a fact that some people simply presume that if they need IVF it will work. This isn’t always the case as so many people know … again spread the knowledge and allow people to make informed decisions. Now, back to the ill thought out ‘Get Britain Fertile’ campaign … it is using a poster of an ITV presenter who herself had children in her mid 40s … but it isn’t showing her radiant and curving from when she did become pregnant in her 40s, she has been made up to look almost 70 and is sporting a bump that looks smooth and almost full term. The image is wrong on so many levels. It incites disdain toward older mothers, it says that old is ugly that being an older mother is an ugly thing … what it doesn’t show is that younger women can have issues with fertility just as their partners can … perhaps better to show a whole range of young people and say something like ‘Nobody knows which of these people will be infertile’. Infertility is not something to be looked down on, it is a serious condition that affects many thousands of lives. Tell us the facts and let us make our own decisions …
I had a meeting in a week or so back and the self-professed stupendously successful stiletto’d stunner that came in to address the meeting started by stating that she didn’t have a family so she had nothing to distract her from her work … once I’d recovered from the crass stupidity of coming out with something quite so insensitive (in the room were 3 mothers and a father) and arrogance, I actually felt pity for her. Sad to be so convinced that it is impossible to have a successful job and to have children … at the time I so wished I’d had Hope there to charm her, to break her icy perfection and also to get sticky finger prints over her immaculate suit. I hope in time she realises that she won’t just find happiness in business … but, it is her decision to make and her journey to travel on.
Right then, I had better clamber down off my soap box and put it back in the cupboard … but I really did feel the need to stand up and say, “Hurrah for mothers”, our own mothers and for us …
I have met remarkable women and fallen in love with womanhood since getting pregnant and having Hope. My respect for other women is enormous and my utter pride and delight in the achievements of my fellow playgroup Mummys in juggling washing, babies, work, husbands, income, bills, in laws, parents, gardens, rain, allergies, teething, sleep deprivation, spots, jabs, tantrums etc etc etc is absolutely unbounded.
Us multi tasking mothers really are amazing …
Sisters ARE doing it for themselves! Now just let us get on with it… and please stop responding to surveys expressing disapproval at other mother’s good fortune to be able to have a child, show some solidarity.
Stand up for Mothers!
PS the fact that I’m shouting about mothers doesn’t mean I don’t think, “Hurrah for fathers” too … it’s just that all the recent media attention has been pretty down on mothers … that’s all : )
her new words keep on coming … tonight, after a particularly nasty run in with teething and alot of gumming of a drinking beaker and then blissfully contented jelly eating, tonight she sat and played in her pyjamas not having had much to eat as solid food seemed to make her gums hurt … and just before she fell asleep she crawled across her little bed and said, “jelly mmmmmmmmm”. Then she smiled, then she stuck my little finger in between her poor sore gums and bit down hard and said something that sounded like “tooth”. I yelped, she grinned, crawled off and went to sleep.
I love my girl … I so wish she could be like some other small people and get all her teeth in a big rush, hers seem to be taking months to creep out, one by one.
So … now we know, an early evening trip to the swings, and then bedtime spoonful of jelly fresh from the fridge help the pain go away and make a small person happy.
The jelly helped with my sore throat as well (oh the joy of a summer cold) .. but. I couldn’t fit onto the small person swings!
The whole issue of my age as relating to be a mother has never really bothered me, it is a miracle that I have Hope in my world and that both of us are healthy, happy and having such a wonderful time getting to know each other and day to day life runs smoothly.
I don’t think of myself as an ‘old mother’, simply as a mother, and as such I strive to be the best mother I can be. That’s it really nothing more complex just doing my best for an amazing little girl and doing all I can to ensure that she has a secure and happy life. I think that’s as much as any mother can do and generally what most mothers, old, young or inbetween aim for.
I was asked a few weeks ago to do an interview for a parenting magazine, via a writer, not just any old journalist but a very established and wonderful author. The piece wasn’t about age or parenting, but about writing, it was to feature me talking about this blog and what I do and don’t talk about and what it may mean to Hope in later life. I was one of, I think, 3 or 4 case studies.
I wanted to ‘do it’ properly as I was proud to have been asked to be involved so spent about a third of one of my precious ‘work days’ (when Hope is with her lovely child minder and I try to cram in everything from paperwork to washing to work to writing to charity work to local volunteering to thank you letters and mending broken toys or holes in clothes) … that day I set about answering all the emailed questions in as much detail as I felt was appropriate and forwarded it to the author. She was delighted and thanked me and said she’d let me know if the magazine needed photography or if they had any further questions.
A couple of days later after she’d thanked me publicly on Twitter along with a delightful and very well known TV psychologist and another case study, the writer sent me an email saying that she’d been contacted by the magazine, “to say that I can’t use your case study in my piece, as you are ‘older than the demographic’ of the magazine. They need mums aged 27-37.” She went on to thank me again and apologise for the wasted time I’d spent.
Last night, my girl wasn’t feeling too bright, she didn’t want her supper and had a bit of a temperature, so we had a bath together and then she went to bed early… an hour later, I crept in to check on her and felt she was very warm and clamy so took off her little (sheet thin) blanket and undid teh top button of her pyjamas so I could feel how hot she was … she woke up and probably would have gone back to sleep but I thought I’d take her temperature as she did feel hot and I was concerned it might be a recurrence of the UTI she had a few weeks ago.
The under arm thermometer must have been cold to touch and it woke her right up … she got (understandably) very cross with me but a little cuddle and some milky helped calm her down. Temperature of 39 1/2 degrees … I called the nursing station in A&E where we’d had to go a few weeks back to ask whether I should take her in or what to do, they said to give her some brufen and see if that helped … I did, with the mouth syringe … she went bonkers. We had some more milky and another cuddle, and then, maybe it was the sugar (I think there is sugar in the suspension) she started rampaging around the bed, picking up her teddy and throwing it about, then standing up in her cot and banging the sides, and then just standing staring at me rubbing her eyes and sucking on her pyjama sleeve. We had a kind of stale mate like that for about an hour and then she got very cross, I was so concerned to not disturb her grandmother that I picked her back up out of the cot and gave her some paracetamol … another hour passed and she stood on my bed banging the headboard and shouting “Row Row Row Boat”, and then had some more milky and then just did standing up practise … every time I tried to get her to settle she went bonkers and arched her back and howled and thrashed around.
About 3.45am she lashed out when I tried to give her a hug and scratched me, and here is where the confession comes in, and then, I swore … not at her specifically but in her general direction and not bad bad swearing but not what a mother should do in the night to calm a fractious over tired infant. She looked at me and said, “Marmi” and then cried again … I felt terrible … an hour later she finally went to sleep … about an hour before it was time to get up.
I will not become one of those women that swears at their children, I loathe that and I struggle with the lack of control … and there I was, ‘fishwife’ mummy in the middle of the night.
She’s right as rain today, just tired but happy enough playing with two little friends … I have a headache, my eyes are throbbing and I feel shivery with tiredness … and I feel sad that I snapped at my girl …
if this is the start of her terrible twos then I need to get with it and find some zen with which to deal with her feisty confidence and mischief … I’m sure there will be far harder things to cope with than singing and standing practise (oh and mountaineering over me and back) from 12.30 til almost 5am…. oh and she did well in the end and stood unaided for long enough to applaud herself.
Bad mother me … sigh … I hope we both sleep better tonight!
I must remain calm
I must remain calm
I must not become ‘shouting at your child’ kind of mother or paranoid ‘my child is sick’ kind of mother
I must remain calm
bloody hell I’m knackared
aaaggghhhhhh see now it’s becoming compulsive.
Hope has so many things to say now, most of them still tumble out of her in fluent, often intense, sometimes a bit cross but generally joyful Hopeish but she is now becoming bilingual and able to put a few of her own thoughts, needs and wants into English.
So many friends can’t recall what their children’s first words were so I’ve decided to make a note (when I get round to it) of what she’s saying … I love how some of the words are totally unexpected and other things that relate to her day to day life are still in Hopeish.
In the last few days she’s added the following words to her list
olives (said with a lisp whilst waving one on the top of her finger during supper)
fish (my necklace and her favourite food)
bumble bee (a picture in her book)
hat (well actually she said ‘at)
hair (whilst brushing it with a crayon)
pasta pesto (only I seem to be able to understand this but I did hear it clearly!!)
broccoli (pronounced “brolly”)
blueberries (pronounced “oooobriesh”)
she now regularly says “thankyou” (I’m an old bag as you know and don’t like “ta”) and Please (“plis”)
no generally means yes but has started to mean NO
hallo (hello with a Norwegian accent after our recent trip to Oslo)
row row row means please sing Row Row Row
ra ra ra means please sing Do the Hokey Kokey
Baa Baa means Baa Baa Black Sheep
up a ba means up above and therefore please sing Twinkle Twinkle
UP means pick me up
gaan gaan means again
sssssss (said with finger to lips) followed by ‘op ‘op ‘op means sing Sleeping Bunnies
and I’m sure there are many more …
I love that she speaks with intonation … I mean it’s logical that she would depending on who is talking around her but the way she picked up the Norwegian accent (which is very close to Hopeish to be fair) and if I say, “Bear” in a slightly reprimanding or hurry up kind of a way to her father she immediately sits back and says it over and over and over with a huge grin … she also managed “Clare” in the same voice when her lovely Godmother was staying with us.
She uses, “ere is” emphasising the is for ‘where is she’ or ‘where is it’ and “ere is” for ‘There she is’ or ‘here she is’ when we play hide and seek or peekaboo.
I love hearing her say Marmi and Daddi … but hearing the new words come thick and fast delights me and also makes me want to eat a dictionary so that her vocabulary will be as wide as possible. We read a French picture book at bed time and she knows that dog is chien and barks in a “wooooooooof” way when you say either.
Where she hasn’t yet found the word she uses her hands … and often mimes Incy Wincy Spider when she is sitting playing.
Yup … absurdly proud Mummy … and in the face of all sorts of real world difficulties and hassles these magical words keep my heart joyful and me happy.
I’ve had time to come down from the ceiling now after my nomination and subsequent (wonderful miraculous humbling and very exciting) shortlisting in the Inspire category of the Brilliance in Blogging awards.
I am so proud, and have been utterly overwhelmed at the response my shortlisting has had on friends and family and followers of the blog, also delighted by the support that the local Cambridge media have shown me in a ‘local girl does good’ kind of way. I was featured on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and in the Cambridge News and also again in the Cambridge News online … somehow the positive message that it is OK to be an older Mum seems to have touched people and this shortlisting supports that … us older mothers (well other than me) are not aged crones with withered breasts struggling to keep up with technology and fashion (yes I said apart from me), most of us are perfectly capable, loving, able mothers who (often) have more time for their children not because we don’t work or have saved a fortune, what I mean is we (maybe) do want to make more time for children and are less worried about going out without them, women who breastfeed, who sing ‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’ and ‘Baa Baa Blacksheep’ with absolute delight, and who can and do lead inspiring exciting lives. We are mothers who like all mothers just strive to be the best mothers we can be. It is possible to be blissfully happy with a child ‘later in life’ and for that child to joyfully thrive (I know … you shouldn’t split infinitives but it’s been a long day) and succeed in life.
I’ve been so touched by the messages I’ve received since I started writing my ramblings from older mothers, from would be older mothers, from those older women who wish they had become or dared to try to become older mothers all saying thank you for my inspiration. Actually, I’ve been flabbergasted and deeply moved that anything I write could touch anyone, but maybe that’s what it takes, one fool standing on a box, or rather sitting infront of one and saying that it is ok and it is possible and to wear their heart on their sleeve about their fears and concerns. One lady contacted me recently to say that her child had just been born and that reading my blog had given her the courage to go through with her journey at the point where she was about to give up, I’m so grateful that she told me that and that I have in some way been able to play a positive part in someone else’s life.
So there it is …
I have never been more broke, more tired first thing in the morning, more un-made up, less ironed (ok I’m lying about the ironing, I never did any anyway) and I have never been happier or felt more secure. Every penny matters in a way it never has before, I have Hope’s future to invest in and to help build a foundation for and I have the most remarkable little person in my world … and we are so very lucky to have so many incredible friends and the support of our wonderful family … and our virtual friends, the ones we’ve made here and elsewhere online who have supported us through this journey.
I looked up the word ‘inspire’ in an online dictionary …
… looking at the list of other shortlisted writers I am inspired by so many of them and overwhelmed by others … and I am so so proud and happy to be listed amongst them and to be able to be considered to ‘inspire’ others. My daughter inspires me … as do the many wonderful ‘older mothers’ who I’ve met… but in particular my own mother, herself an “older mum” inspires me … she and Hope are my inspiration as are Hope’s godparents.
If after looking at this list of writers you still want to vote for me and my Mush Brained Ramblings I’d be so so grateful.
I type publish on this post on the same date that two years ago an A grade 5 day old embryo was transferred into me … I never dared dream that day that I’d have a healthy wonderful daughter 10 months later let alone that I’d start a blog that would one day inspire people…. and by an utter miracle, 2 years on, here we are.
The Inspire (Category 5) Shortlist comprises the following wonderful blogs (and mine!). Voting closes at midnight at the end of Sunday 12th May.
A Year Without Supermarkets
Anecdotes of a Manic Mum
Crazy with Twins
Downs Side Up
Just Bring the Chocolate
Mummy from the Heart
Mush Brained Ramblings
Our Life with Leukaemia
The Oliver’s Madhouse
The Real Supermum
Thank you so much to the team at BritMums for holding these awards and giving me the chance to glow with gratitude and pride … I think I’ll implode with happiness if I get to the final 6 … and if I don’t I’ll just continue to glow with pride and be thrilled for the incredible bloggers that do … there are some superb stories being told in that line up.
To vote for Mush Brained Ramblings click on the BiBs button below and find us in category 5.
Right then, I have supper to make for a little girl and her grandmother who has been playing with her to give me time to write this.
Fingers crossed … and thankyou
I was having lunch with the yummiest mummy I know (12 years younger than me, slender, funny, beautiful, passionate, warm hearted, sorted, poised, elegant, 2 children, successful and with a meaningful career and flawless make up – yes – AND she’s a wonderful person) the other day and I got all excited because a girl came into the cafe where we were wearing something a bit floaty but mainly just very pretty with a flowery pattern, buttons, a collar, long sleeves and cuffs.
“Ohhh Annie”, I said, “don’t look behind you right now but when you can just turn casually in a nonchalant kind of a way and just look at the blouse the girl sitting behind us is wearing”. My excitement caused her to do the only uncool thing she’s ever almost done and she very nearly choked on her sparkling water and then said something along the lines of “you can’t say that”. “What?” I wondered … was being excited and too loud about something somebody else was wearing not a good thing to be?
“You can’t say blouse” “It’s top or shirt” “nobody says blouse any more”.
Clearly as a youthful impeccably turned out (often in things I’d refer to as blouses) fashionista she knows what’s what in drapery dialogue but … “hang on”, I thought, “hang on … my mother wears blouses all the time … oh but she’s in her 80s … but isn’t my flowery top a blouse … oh no it’s a top … hmmmmm”
So I started on a survey of friends … starting with mother who of course said blouses exist and are women’s shirts with buttons … often short sleeved.
I asked a friend of 43, she said that to her a blouse was something wafty and baggy and a very specific item. I asked one of Hope’s godmothers (the glamorous one) she said that a blouse can have long or short sleeves and is a feminine shirt, less tailored and fitted … I asked a younger neighbour and a total stranger in the park, they both said, “oh no, it’s a top, a blouse is VERY old fashioned”, I asked a friend’s daughter in her teens … she looked at me as if I was mad and said, “a what?”
So … is it RIP the word blouse? Are we dumbing down the English language and loosing wonderful terms, blouse, jerkin, blouson, and so on just to be stuck with the all encompassing ‘top’ … I hate that and I so hope not … I am rubbish at describing things succinctly (yes I know you already know that), particularly clothing … and need a wide range of terms to give me some kind of idea what I’m talking about.
Did my gentle friend herald the death knell (one that everyone under the age of 40 has long since heard) for the word blouse?
Hope’s godmother was incensed and has decided to use the word ‘blouse’ more often and encourage her US friends to do the same … so, a vote for old fashioned, for non vintage but genuine “blouses” everywhere … and one for uncool and generally fairly dishevelled mothers (particularly those who, until it was used and everyone got in trouble for it on Comic Relief, had absolutely no idea what vajazzled meant).
I sit here typing this in my blue knitted tunic, I have several blouses to choose from tomorrow depending on the weather and whichever one I choose I shall wear it with pride.
Oh and by the way we were so busy discussing the matter that by the time she did turn round, the girl with the blue flowery blouse on had long since disappeared!!.
Right … off to choose which bustle to put under my kirtle, and to fish out my farthingale…. it’s my age you know.