Older but wiser? or just old …
I overslept this morning. Hope was wide awake from midnight til nearly 4am suffering with toothache and over tiredness poor thing, she just couldn’t settle and managed to eat me out of house and home before dejectedly turning away from my empty sagging breasts and finally, exhausted, giving into the sleep she craved and refused at the same time. So yes, I overslept, and when I did get chatted awake by Hope (I love how she does that) at 9.30 it was to find 5 missed calls on my phone from an unknown number and two messages from a researcher at national radio station BBC 5 Live.
The ONS published some statistics today saying that last year some 30,000 women over the age of 40 had first babies. Ten years ago it was only 10,000, the inference that was taken from the figures was that women are leaving having babies later in order to pursue their careers. Radio 5 had found me as a result of the Mummy Bloggers conference I went to a few weeks back. At 10.50 this morning I found myself being interviewed, alongside Cari Rosen the very young (to me!!) author of the delightful ‘ Secret Diary of A New Mum (Aged 43 ¼)”, by Victoria Derbyshire.
if you listen at 55 minutes and 53 seconds … or thereabouts!
It got me thinking about being an older Mum … if I’d had my way I would have had a baby years ago, but it wasn’t to be for me with several very sad miscarriages… and the story of Hope’s arrival is laid out in this blog for all to read.
Do I think there are advantages to being an older Mum? Yes of course, it’s all I know, and I guess I’m more pragmatic and less phased by the change she has brought into my life. Perhaps I’m more self aware and also know how precious she is, having had to wait until the age of 47 to give birth. I’m not so bothered about the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ side of having a baby, I do have a shiny new Cath Kitson changing bag which Hope’s Godmother gave me, but everything else has come from a second hand shop or from friends. I’m less concerned by looking tired and unmade up than I would have been 10 or 20 years ago, and I’m more confident in taking my baby girl to meetings and on trips with me.I breast feed with absolute joy, I think earlier in life I would have been more self conscious about it all …
That brings me to the disadvantages; for me the idea that, all being well, I will be 77 when Hope is 30 and the fact that my mother (already 85) will be 100 by the time she’s 15 does make me fearful (I can’t even contemplate my mother not being around). She was an older mother at a time when it really was socially peculiar, again not through choice but circumstance. I remember sitting (horrible children that we were) with my brother and discussing the importance of having younger parents; more cool, able to join in on sports day and more into fashion and able to understand new maths and new money and so on … he succeeded in having 4 children younger, and I’ve totally failed!
Poor Hope will have the oldest mother at the school gates, I will be the one in the old lady shoes due to my cronky knees and I am sure I’ll come last in the egg and spoon race … BUT she will be utterly loved and have a mother determined to share the world with her, to take her on adventures, to give her exciting, calming, fulfilling, relaxing, challenging and compelling experiences and who will clap rapturously when she achieves anything be it her first steps, a degree, changing a car tyre, climbing Everest or making her first cup cake.
I didn’t wait until I was financially secure to have a baby … quite the opposite!! I am more impoverished now than I’ve ever been, being a self employed mother isn’t easy especially in a time of cuts which have affected almost all of my clients, but I forge onwards optimistically … so no waiting until I was wealthy didn’t happen (not that it was ever a driver for me!!). I have spent too much time being utterly absorbed with work over the past 15 years, that probably distracted me from having a baby … and I always remember my father rather wistfully wondering if he would ever have grand children and me replying, “that can be arranged” and him saying, “not until you’re married young lady” … so seeing as I was only married 4 years ago I didn’t wait that long!! Just sad Daddy never got to meet Hope.
The flip side of the ‘older mother’ label is that I don’t consider myself old… I know that medically I was considered a ‘geriatric mother’ when I was pregnant and chronologically I’m probably more than half way though my life (a rather annoying thought), but I don’t feel old. I still paddle in the sea in the middle of winter, sleep on pavements all night to watch a rock legend from the very front row and I have still not learnt to cook well (or even make proper cakes and crumbles). I don’t spend my time watching other people’s lives on television, I do spend my time living my life as best I can … and I hope that is something that one day Hope will value. There is the old adage about being as old as you feel which must make me about 15 and a gawky teenager at the same time as being 72 with a good amount of life experience behind me. I’m sure 48 is the new 30!!
Someone asked me the other day, having spent 5 minutes pulling smiley faces at Hope, how old my grand daughter was. That made me run home and peer anxiously in the mirror and has encouraged me to reach for the mascara again, and I guess it’s something I’ll have to get used to with all the other yummy Mummy’s at the school gate being (probably) at least 20 years younger than me.
So … here I am, an older mother … and very proud and thrilled to be. I am fortunate, blessed and, well, so thankful … I know I look shocking in the mornings now and the bags under my eyes that have been getting to near suitcase proportions but, you know what, I don’t care … not really … if I have to I can dig out my make up and put my hair up. I do need to get my eyebrows done and my roots are white not grey anymore but really all that matters, in my opinion, is what’s in your heart and how much of yourself you are willing to give. Hope has my heart and almost all my energy and will continue to do so … remind me of that if she has terrible twos or teenage tantrums and I’m threatening to change the locks!!
Being an older mother means I have lots of friends to turn to for advice and multiple potential baby sitters in all their children! I asked 8 (count them 8) friends to be Hope’s godparents … they are all younger than me and will all help hold me together as I age and will always be there for my girl. So … I am not alone, I have friends and Hope has a huge extended family (even her own virtual friends and family online). I have times when I feel sad that I probably won’t be there for her 50th birthday but you never know what is round the corner anyway, I’ve lost very dear friends in recent years in their 30s and 40s so, so I just live the life I’ve been given with gusto and passion and am determined to do all I can to make Hope’s world a safe, happy and exciting one while I’m in it and beyond.
I’d encourage people to start thinking about having children earlier, fertility declines dramatically beyond 35 (almost directly in proportion with the amount that the cost of IVF seems to go up), and it means the world to have family involved so therefore the longer they can be a part of a new person’s world the better … I’m not sure there is ever a ‘right time’ to be a parent, but on balance I think it is better to do it before you’re 40 and ‘old’, but if, like me, circumstances have conspired against you then, you know what, you might be a better parent if a little more weary and wrinkly than some of the others!!
I know without a shadow of doubt that as a geriatric and very old first time mother I’m going to enjoy sharing and getting the most out of every minute that Hope and I have together and so far I know that she has too (apart from the whole vest issue)!
Right then… I’ve got to be up before long so time for this old lady to take her false teeth out and hang her wig up on the back of the bedroom door, put on her night-cap and bedsocks and hit the hay.