on being an older mother

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I just read that Emily Symons, you know, Marilyn from Home and Away, is pregnant. At 45! How brilliant for her, she had been trying for years; all the IVF, heartbreak and major stress and finally when she had all but given up hope it happened for her. Couldn't be more pleased. There is something so special about a miracle 'didn't think it would ever happen' baby, a more profound level of joy for the uncommon magic of a late and unexpected child.

It got me thinking about the huge increase in older mothers, nowadays one in 25 of babies born are to a mother over the age of 40, and how life is different when you spawn in your later years. I know all about it, I was the lucky one in my 25 and I'm grateful that the odds were ever in my favour, every day, even the days when I'm picking bogies out of my hair. I'm not so starry eyed as to be blind to the huge change it requires in your lifestyle, for let's be clear here, the style of your life is pretty much set in stone by the time you are in your late thirties and if you haven't had children then it comes as a pretty big shock.

There are wonderfully good things about being an older mother; wisdom, skills, patience, kick ass attitude, cashflow, gratitude, a fucking brilliant wardrobe. And undeniably bad things about being an older mother; knackeredness, intolerance of other people's children (my pretend smile for other small people is lame), intolerance of your own child (for I am not a saint), reliance on red wine, knackeredness, knackeredness, when will I get some fucking sleep knackeredness! It is equal parts joyful, terrifying, relentless, hilarious and overwhelming. Parenting is not for the faint hearted.

Nobody tells you that the joy of finding out you are pregnant in your forties is soon smashed when you find out your risk figure for chromosomal abnormalities, or Downs Syndrome, ours was 1 in 42, they told us this was bad. We were then hurried through a set of procedures all of which carry huge amounts of risk, and statistics are flung around like candy; 1 in 42 chance of Downs, 1 in 200 chance of miscarriage if you have a CVS (chorionic villus sampling, the first test we had which didn't work), 1 in 250 chance of miscarriage if you have an amniocentesis (the second test we had which did work but due to a fuck up at the laboratory didn't deliver results for three weeks), you end up playing a hellish numbers game and making snap decisions through a haze of hot and heavy hormones. You don't dare eat or breathe, sleep or talk to anyone. You especially don't dare hope that everything will be okay, hope seems a far off fancy, instead a state of numbed acceptance cloaks you as you jump through weeks of hoops to get to a safe place in your pregnancy.

So I appreciate that every woman you see, hear or read about who has managed to get pregnant in their forties, every single one of them, famous or not, has had to go through months of worry and pain before they get to a point of being able to say to the world that they have been blessed and my heart goes out to all of them and even more so to the millions of women who are not so lucky. It seems to be the unspoken secret of the geriatric pregnancy world - yes geriatric pregnancy, any pregnancy in the over 35 (fuck!) - a dark and secret world that nobody talks about because you don't even want to know about the level of hideous decision making you would be faced with if your results don't come back with a rosy sheen.

So let's celebrate the older mother, for she is a warrior who has had to bear situations and statistics that any lesser mortal would run from. Instead of whining on about the rise in geriatric pregnancy the medical community should be doing more to make it an easier ride, in some American states only a blood test is needed now for chromosomal abnormality testing, it feels that this is something that should be made available here and really bloody soon too because the figures for geriatric pregnancy are going to rise and rise, we are not going away. The rise of the older mother, don't mess with her, she'll kick yo ass!

For my girls who are hoping to get pregnant soon, don't you dare give up hope, for this, this and this make for good reading.

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