Sarah Dawnay writes at The Pretty Good Life, a blog about her life as a parent of two. She gave birth to her first child aged 36, and second aged 41. She has a big red bus in her front garden! Here, she talks about the differences between both her pregnancies.
CATCHING THE BUS.
We have a Routemaster in the garden. It is seriously old, rather large, yet if you appreciate a design classic, it is beautiful. The thing about buses is that you think that you leave the house on time, but once you get to the bus stop you wait for ever, when finally the bus arrives, it powers across London more efficiently than any Ferrari. The bus analogy would be better if I had triplets, but it still gives you an idea of my life as an older mum.
We got married when I was 32, then after a few years thought that it was ‘time’. I was relaxed as I knew that it could take a while before we heard the patter of feet, but even so after a year I was concerned. A visit to the specialists dictated that I loose weight: I was over weight (but by no means obese). I am not sure if it was the weight loss or the associated ultra healthy lifestyle, but the consultant said loose a stone and bingo, it was as simple as that, aged 35 I was finally pregnant. It was bound to happen, I had just got my dream job setting up and running a new high profile organisation.
I loved my pregnancy and felt great, if exhausted. We attended both hypnobirthing and NCT classes and I was ready for the perfect home birth. Then my blood pressure decided to play havoc with my plans; I ended up with a failed induction and an emergency Caesarian. I am not sure if my age (then 36) and high stress job had contributed to my pre-eclampsia but it had certainly helped me focus on my daughter not on her wayward arrival.
After a couple of years it was time to give the Pickle a sibling. I thought it would be easy, but the heartache was about to begin. I had a series of early miscarriages then nothing. We went back to the consultant and I was not eligible for IVF on the NHS, besides, having heard the gruesome stories I was unsure if I could go through it. Discouraged, I felt that we had run out of palatable options. To make matters worse I was on a deadline, the Hubster confirmed that he was fully mortal and that any babies should be born while he was still in his forties.
Our 90th birthday came and went, in a blaze of live music and bunting, celebrating his 50th and my 40th Birthdays. Still no sibling for the Pickle. Rationale told me that I was lucky, I had a wonderful daughter and husband that I adore – but inside I was a mess. I was struggling to mourn the miscarriages in a society when acknowledgment is not the done thing and I felt barren – a lesser class of woman.
By now desperate to give it one last chance we went back to the consultant; he suggested course of clomid to try to help me ovulate. Still, my body did not kick into action. Finally, as we were seriously considering IVF – despite our ages, the cost and the side effects – the Nursing Sister offered me a flimsy lifeline. She gave me a hormone injection that could work, but it was rated so dismissively by the consultant that he equated it to unscientific witchery. Scientific or not, it worked, I was pregnant aged 40!
At 20 weeks we were hauled in front of the consultant – it felt like the parental equivalent of being sent to the Head Master’s office. She peered over her spectacles and reached for her diary to book me in for a Caesarian at exactly 40 weeks.
Thanks in part to my long daily dog walks, I stayed healthy and my blood pressure behaved. 40 weeks came and went and I was ‘allowed’ to see if I could wait for a natural birth. Age again started to make decisions for me. To go over 42 weeks gestation as a 41 year old would have greatly increased the odds of having a still born. So after numerous uncomfortable sweeps – DB was firmly holding onto the birthing brakes – I was booked in for a planned Caesarian. DB was born, a healthy boy, and I fell in love again.
There are definite pros and cons to being older parents. I did worry about having a Downs baby, but I was not brave enough to take any of the screening tests. It can feel dispiriting being older than some grandparents at the school gate, and i can get caught out scoffing at the latest celeb Dad in his mid 50’s only to realise my own hypocrisy. But with age can come wisdom. I spent my twenties going out, so staying in and looking after children is a refreshing change and a joy, not a bind. I’m old enough to appreciate the difference between real friends and lovely acquaintances with whom the only thing I have in common is children of the same age. It has been physically tougher throughout the pregnancy and birth, but I am much more self aware than I was in my twenties and I (almost) never take my children for granted, I laugh lots and and judge less and that works for me.
Ultimately I have the miles on the clock, a few grey hairs and I couldn’t tell the difference between One Direction and a street sign, but I really don’t feel old. As I said, I left at the right time, the bus arrived a little late, but we are happily enjoying our very personal and special journey.