I’ve had two babies, one in my late twenties and the other in my late thirties. The second time I sat in a grubby antenatal clinic in a London hospital and stared at the chromosome chart on the opposite wall. After the age of 38 the line indicating the possibility of a chromosome disorder shoots up vertically, as though poked with an electrical stick. Whoooooo – up it goes – a salutary warning to anyone selfish enough to get pregnant after the allotted window of time (in between finding a father, your job, enough money) which seems to be between 20 and 25 ish. I was 39.
Later I spoke to a Man in a Suit. ‘She’s looking very well isn’t she?’ he said to the midwife. I was in the same room. And even later when he ascertained my advanced age and the fact I’d just had two miscarriages he added, ‘I know it’s not what you want to hear but the optimum time to have a baby is late teens or early twenties.’ Transfixed by that chart I’d decided to have amniocentesis where a needle is injected into the womb to find out if your baby has Downs. ‘But in my early twenties I was dating cold, critical arseholes’ I bleated, deciding not to add, ‘ . . . just like you.’
They’re at it again – the fertility timebomb. There is an epidemic of middle age pregnancy shrieks The Royal College of Obstetricians making it sound like a Pregnancy Plague. Yes I know you can’t mess with biology. And yes some women (and men) are too cavalier about pregnancy and forget that it does get harder to get pregnant as you get older. BUT I also know how bad I was at parenting when I was in my twenties.
I had an easy pregnancy followed by a traumatic and terrible birth, two major operations and a period of post natal depression. In all the books I read, nobody told me that it really helps to have a secure sense of who you are before you start messing with another small, helpless life. My marriage crumbled under the stress of depression, and lack of money. Yes you can have a baby young but to be any kind of a parent you need stability, security, confidence.
I had my second baby after a couple of miscarriages. This time I was determined. I took my temperature, I knew when I would ovulate. Poor Husband was treated like a Porn Fluffer. ‘Right – I’m ovulating! Get it up!’ was the only foreplay he had. But I knew that I was running out of time. I also asked for and got Clomid a fertility drug that basically kicks your eggs up the arse. (Please don’t ever order it on the Internet by the way and they won’t give it to anyone with a history of ovarian cancer – it can overstimulate cells.)
Got pregnant ten years after the last one. Yes I was ten years older. But I was in a completely different place (uggh sorry about the LA jargon but it’s true). I felt good, I was writing – we had more money – I had stopped smoking – did loads more exercise and most of all I felt CONFIDENT. And confidence is what makes for good parenting. I just ignored the advice and endless blah and got on with it.
To anyone who is over forty and wants to get pregnant, no it’s not easy and my suggestion is – get your fertility checked out if you’re thinking seriously about having a baby. You might have to get on with it on your own, but hey – if you want a baby that much, it’s not the end of the world. There is help out there. And the women I know who want a baby a bit later – well they really really want one. It goes beyond a feeling that a baby is a right – it becomes a serious need. They really want to be a mother. And that can’t be bad for a baby.