Dear Doctor Walters,
……. Or can I call you Barry?
Not happy. Rather cross with you actually. Why could this be? Well, there I was thinking that we were, to quote Little A, ‘done, done’ with all the pigeonholing of older mothers as ‘self interested, career obsessed women’ when I came across your simplistic views in the ‘Western Australian‘. We are clearly not ‘done, done’ it seems. Apparently I am ‘selfish and self centred’ for becoming a mother in my late thirties. According to your estimations I will be on the scrap heap with an abundance of geriatric ailments by the time Little A reaches her 20’s and 30’s thus unfairly ruining my daughter’s life. Bad, bad, bad mummy.
So good to see that age related prejudice is still alive and kicking. Gotta love ya Mister Walters. It’s opinions of your ilk that drove me to spend hours, and I mean hours slaving away over a little known site and blog going by the name of Older Mum. To add insult to injury you then go on to add in a follow up article that your comments were intended ONLY for those over 40 but then reminding us AGAIN that it’s downhill all the way from 35. Great stuff.
Unsurprisingly alot of Australian women are now very miffed with you. Cue commentary backlash. I also see that your employer, The King Edward Memorial, has also distanced itself saying that the ‘opinions expressed by Dr Walters were his own personal views and not those of the hospital’. Good.
What are we going to do Barry? Right now I think it’s the naughty step for you while I get a few things off my middle aged chest which nowadays resembles a mountain glacier heading undeterred towards my
feet navel. Ugh. Oh come on be honest, my ‘bangers’, thank you Gok Wan, were never on a gravity defying mission to mars.
So Dr Walters. Sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin …. and you are not allowed to interrupt. BE-have.
1. Medical Risk. Well I don’t disagree with you, of course pregnancy comes with more potential risk the older we get; miscarriage, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, longer labours, downs syndrome….. the list goes on. But when I finally pulled my socks up and announced ‘yes! I am finally ready for a baby’ at the tender age of 38, there was nothing more off putting than constantly reading all the dire warnings about age, fertility, health complications blah blah blah broadcast by doctors, obstetricians and journalists jumping on the latest medical research.
Look, us elderly primigravidae aren’t completely stoopid you know. Many of us are all too aware of the gamble we take by having children later in life. Contrary to the rather patronising belief held by some quarters of the medical profession we don’t all need continually educating about the dangers. So just occasionally nudge us about the risks in a gentle way. Not in the scary ‘PANIC, PANIC, PANIC you need to STOP surfing the web and PROCREATE NOW lest to avoid the most AWFUL things happening to you and your baby’ kinda way we’ve been so used to.
And not to forget that younger women can experience problematic pregnancies too. AND why is all the focus always on women? After all fertility also declines in men after 40. Research has shown links to older fathers and an increased risk of autism and schizophrenia in their children.
2. Burden on maternity units. I smell a rat here Dr Walters. Judging by your profile I distinctly get the impression that you are heading in the direction of retirement and would rather not be imposed upon by the hoards of 40 something mothers gracing your consulting room. Anyway after reading your ‘medical opinion’ I doubt many will be swinging by now. According to you older mothers are ‘bloody hard work’. I get the feeling you want an easy life. Buckle up you have to earn your keep you know. And anyway don’t you want a fresh challenge to keep you on your aging toes? Surely all those problem free pregnancies must get boring?
3. Right time baby? According to you women should ideally have this procreation nonsense done and dusted by 37 because life really is that straightforward. NOT. Back on planet earth our lives are rather more complicated than you suppose from your medically imposed timetable. What’s a woman to do if she’s hit 36.5 and there’s no suggestion of baby gros on the horizon? Go out, grab and bonk the first man she sees on the street? That’s hardly an ideal scenario.
The fact is there is no ideal time to have a baby. We are allowed to pursue our personal dreams before we settle down you know. We do have our careers and lives to establish. It can take years finding the right responsible partner and not to forget we may not feel ready for a baby until later on. Yes. READY. That one very important ingredient. Not necessarily 100% ready but ready enough. What kind of parent would I’ve been if i’d had a baby when I didn’t feel right about it? Probably an unresponsive, resentful one. Nice. I needed to feel physically and emotionally prepared for motherhood.
4. Selfish and self centered. Please see point 3. There is nothing selfish in laying the practical, financial and emotional groundwork for parenthood. And this can take time. I spent years on the couch trying to work out whether (a) I wanted a baby, and (b) to clear away the cobwebs of my past so I could be a more conscious parent when the time came.
And as for your view that I’m going to be completely over the hill by the time Little A is an adult is quite frankly limited. Okay so when she’s in her 20’s I will be in my 60’s and when she’s in her 30’s I will be in my 70’s. Of course I really worry that I’m not going to be around for as long as I would like to be. But I’m not going to feel guilty over the choices I’ve made. They were the right decisions. I’m a good, responsible and very loving parent. And I intend on staying as sprightly and robust as long as I can.
Anyway Dr Walters you are also forgetting that a child born to younger parents can still sadly suffer the untimely death of one or both parents through illness or accident. For better or worse life happens. Sometimes we just don’t have the choice in the way things work out.
Now that I have addressed my points I am also pleased to see that many of your peers don’t share your views. Apparently they say that it isn’t the job of doctors to tell people when to get pregnant and that there are pros and cons to pregnancy at any age. Yes older women can be more medically challenging but with the sophisticated techniques now at our disposal they can be taken care of in pregnancy.
You know it’s has just dawned on me that I had a choice about opening and reading your commentary. I could have saved myself from feeling so rankled and uptight. I’m going to make a pledge to myself. I’m not going to read anymore articles that intend to scare, pressurise, generalise and stereotype older mothers. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.
So then Dr Walters I’m off to make myself another cuppa chamomile. You meanwhile you can stay in time out for ten more minutes.
Older ‘calming down’ Mum.