I’ve just sat down at my laptop and I am feeling cross. Moments ago I was cooking a chilli con carne and doing some kitchen dancing and my phone pinged. The ping was alerting me to an online article about older mums. I stopped stirring and read one of the most mum-shaming pieces I have seen in a long time. The article is in the Daily Mail and is linked to the news that Sienna Miller is pregnant at age 41 – congratulations Sienna! – but the online piece doesn’t come across in anyway congratulatory.
It has been written as a piece backed up by experts and the overall message is that celebrities such as Sienna, Hilary Swank, Michelle Williams, Naomi Campbell and others are giving women in their 30s and 40s false hope and that they are contributing to women choosing to delay having children AND causing a fertility crisis.
I’m sorry what!? Hilary Swank is responsible for women having babies later on in life?! Pah. I don’t buy it.
And, why is this article shaming older mothers?
Whilst fertility levels do decrease as we age, pinning this to celebrities is just stupid and irresponsible. The piece also urges women to seek professional advice on their fertility, ideally before the age of 36. It also mentions all the risks that come with having a baby older; high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, congenital abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome, an even miscarriage and stillbirth (taken from the article). Nowhere in the piece does it talk of the joys of having a baby over 40.
For context, I had my first baby at 34 (natural conception), second baby at 37 (natural conception) and third baby at 43 (natural conception). Not everyone has IVF and other fertility treatments, like the article suggests. In addition to that, it says that women are having kids later in life while they pursue careers.
I have met many older mothers over the last 5-years when my geriatric journey began and the reasons cited in the article for women having babies later on (IVF and career) are not the only ones. They are the most commonly used by those who don’t actually ask older mums why they had a baby aged 40 and over. Personally, I think it is lazy and basic. The reasons for having a baby over 40 are varied and sometimes sensitive, below are reasons from real people that are part of my ‘geriatric mum’ community:
I didn’t meet my partner until I was 41 which meant that it just wasn’t possible to have a baby earlier.
My husband died and it took a long time to meet someone new.
Didn’t feel ready until I was in my late thirties.
I was scared and kept putting it off.
I was caring for my elderly parents and I didn’t want to take on more responsibility.
I didn’t think about having kids until I was at least 40.
I went through a divorce and after meeting someone new we decided to try for a baby, I was 43.
I had to convince my husband to have another baby!
I didn’t feel maternal in my 20s/30s.
I waited until I was in love.
My boyfriend really wanted children and I didn’t. We finally started trying when I was 42.
These are the real reasons that women have babies later in life and I wish articles like the one I read today would stop jumping to conclusions and saying the same old stuff about why women have babies in later life.
I adore being an older mum and feel grateful and lucky I had my boy at 43. I really hope Sienna et al haven’t read the online article and only pay attention to those who are championing them.
Let’s stop shaming older mums and share some love instead. And, I wish everyone would stop talking about age as if it is a bad thing! It is life.
Right, back to the chilli con carne – I hope it isn’t burnt.
Lucy aka Geriatric Mum