The headline of today’s Mirror screams “Meghan Markle will become a mum for the first-time next spring – at the grand old age of 37.” God, I‘d love to be 37 again. It certainly isn’t grand and old – 37 is a excellent age to become a parent. You’ve got a tonne of life experience under your belt, probably a career, probably a partner and probably a roof over your head. All that is a good start.
You’re more than ready to reduce your social life significantly now that Deliveroo and Netflix have replaced eating out and talking and what late 30-something gets FOMO over Glastonbury? With the average age of first-time UK mothers rising steadily – 28.8 at last count with the number of 35-plus women having children higher than ever – the term ‘geriatric mother’ could do with a makeover.
I spent the majority of my 30s either being pregnant or having a baby. I was 32 and 36 when I had my older two girls, Lily and Bluebelle and 39 when I got pregnant with my third child, Juno – 40 when she was born. There were four years between each child, but this wasn’t particularly planned. I knew after I had my second that I wasn’t quite done with breeding.
I think if circumstances had been different that I probably would have had the breeding part of my life done and dusted by around 35, but only because I always wanted children from my early 20s. By the time I got to 40, I was feeling pretty good about how I’d mentally cope with a newborn. I knew what I was doing this third time around and bringing a new addition to our family was an exciting prospect. If anyone said anything irritating I didn’t notice. I just don’t think it’s a big deal having a baby in later life.
I actually really like being pregnant. I finally get an excuse to go to bed at 8pm (which when you have two other small children is a total godsend). Aged 39, I was more tired and had trouble eating at the beginning but that could have been an issue at 30 or 40. I’d had an emergency C-section with my first daughter, a planned one with my second (gestational diabetes) and was told unconditionally that I would have to have a C-section with my third due to my age and my previous C-sections. I just wanted the safest option. I wasn’t prepared for the sterilisation lecture I received. I’m not sure why I didn’t take up the offer back then, but in my hormonal state I didn’t want anyone touching my ovaries.
I think the only real difference about being pregnant in your late thirties compared to your early thirties or twenties is energy. When you’re younger you simply have more. You’re more able to burn the candle at both ends. If I have a late night, it takes me at least a day to recover and a good few days to get back to normal coping levels. Every pregnancy is different. I think your mental state is always going to affect how your pregnancy goes, if you’re stressed out it’s not going to help. When I was preparing myself mentally for my third C-Section, from out of nowhere, I became obsessed that I wasn’t going to survive my surgery. I know now it was the beginning of a long battle with anxiety that developed significantly after I had Juno.
It’s not the pregnancy or birth that I find so exhausting – it’s the running around after a toddler when the real work starts. My mother was 45 when she had her sixth baby and I wonder how the hell she coped. I was 40 when I had my third and sometimes I have a Lethal Weapon moment, ‘I’m getting too old for this shit’, because those cute little bundles are your responsibility for the next 18 years. But that feeling passes. My advice to any woman about to have children in later life would be to take a breath and enjoy every day with them, because regardless of your age – they grow up fast.
One of the great things that does develop over the years, or at least it has for me, is a capacity for patience. This may have come with 12 years of parenting rather than age, but I do feel with age comes the ability to listen as much as talk. I am doubtlessly more confident about parenting (at least I hope so as I host a parenting podcast). That said, I have endured the judgemental eye rolls and gossip in the past regarding the way I bring up my kids and while it’s never nice, I genuinely don’t value anyone’s opinion but my family’s.