Being an older mum has its advantages but it also has some downsides. Writer and editor Anniki Sommerville shares her honest (and rather funny) thoughts about embarking on motherhood, aged 40…
I’d never planned on being an older mum and I guess that’s the problem. I didn’t plan anything. I hate to admit it and I feel like the awful ‘Daily Mail’ doom and gloom merchants but I should have planned and I definitely should have started trying for a child earlier than I did. But dwelling on what might have been isn’t very useful, is it?
I’d just turned forty when I finally got pregnant. Whilst most people were throwing lavish parties, getting Botox and squeezing out their last bursts of hedonism, I was going to bed early and drinking fizzy water. I’d had two miscarriages and felt like I was walking on eggshells atop more eggshells. I spent a lot of time lying down, waiting to feel the baby move. I rushed to hospital one day because I had terrible cramps and then realised, to my embarrassment, that I just needed a poo.
There are frequently times when I wonder if pregnancy would have been more fun if I’d been younger. The thing is I feel we’re all a bit neurotic nowadays (self-imposed/peers/societal) so perhaps age doesn’t come into it. And I won’t bore you with the birth details – giving birth is hard work whatever your age -BUT I will say that age meant that I had less physical resource. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck and then stood up and been hit by another one.
Now I’ve had three years of being an older parent I can see there are few things that make it different. I’ve compiled a short list just in case a) you’re an older parent and crave a bit of camaraderie b) you’re a younger parent and want to feel a bit better about not leaving it so bloody long.
You’re set in your ways
This is a toughie. Some might say that you’ve had the time to go bonkers and get all that Carpe Diem out of your system. Yes, on the one hand you feel READY at forty, but the downside is that you might be more rigid. You know how they tell you not to date men who are bachelors in their forties? Well it’s a similar thing. You get used to living life in a certain way, with a structure and routine in place and a child comes along and BOOM! You see the older you are, the more your jelly has set (and the more upset you become when it’s hurled on the floor and oozes between the floorboards). Age also means you’re not so great at dealing with compromise – and we all know compromise is the name of the game when you become a parent.
You get very tired
This seems like an obvious point but I feel like we’ve become so ‘age is just a number’ these days that we ignore the fact that OUR BODIES AGE. Three hours sleep a night when you’re thirty is different to when you’re forty. During those early days, I had one or two people come up to me to specifically tell me how terrible I looked (they weren’t good friends by the way). I felt like saying – YES I AM FORTY-ONE AND HAVE HAD NO SLEEP FOR SIX WEEKS NOW! Tiredness is all relative though and how can you tell if you’re more tired than the next person? (though if you’re in your thirties, I’m telling you I was definitely more tired… okay?)
You may have to stop at one
This obviously depends on the woman but fertility declines dramatically after forty. I never thought I’d care whether I had one or two but it turns out I REALLY DO. This has been a source of a lot of heartache this year as I’ve realised that it’s not going to happen. My face doesn’t look so bad (now that the sleep has returned) but my eggs are buggered. They’re like those extremely rare duck eggs that look pretty but are useless if you want to make a baby.
I wandered into a Chinese medicine shop last week to enquire about ‘fertility herbs’. When I told the woman how old I was she tried to look optimistic but failed miserably. Now and then I’ll Google ‘donor eggs’ but I know my partner isn’t keen. And to be truthful, there’s also a part of me that thinks having another child is irresponsible. Yes I know Janet Jackson just had a baby and she’s fifty but she’ll get a LOT OF HELP. And I’m guessing being super rich and an older mum is a different kettle of fish.
Okay so this sounds negative and many of you may be thinking – why the hell did she even bother if it’s so tiring etc.? Well the thing is, it’s also been glorious. The love I’ve felt has been unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Motherhood has taught me many things. It’s taught me how to change and how to make new friends. It’s shown me what I’m capable of. It’s made me less self-absorbed (and I needed to be).
The thing is… being a mum is beautiful. It’s also frustrating, puzzling, relentless, worrying and funny. It’s all of these things and more – whatever your age.