Last week there was an attention-grabbing headline about a 55 year old Grandmother who gave birth to triplets (thanks to IVF). The same week there was a story about Janet Jackson cancelling her tour because she was 'starting a family' (she's 49). There seems to be a stream of female Hollywood celebrities who kick-start their families in their forties. It's not unusual to read of someone who is forty-six and having a bubs. When I read this stuff I feel conflicted. On the one hand, I think great - women should have a choice in terms of when they become mothers. Isn't it great that there is so much opportunity these days? It's tempting to put stuff off. And it's incredible that you can freeze your eggs and then warm them up all nice and cosy. And amazing that another woman can grow your baby for you. But another part of me feels worried. Putting parenting off indefinitely is risky. Science doesn't always provide the dream ending. Human biology is... cruel and a bit crap. Our bodies haven't quite caught up with our aspirations. In our modern, empowered, 'go for it' world, this truth can be hard to swallow. And we're taken aback when we can't get what we want.
If you don't want to be a Mum that's great. I hate all the patronising crap that says you have to have a child in order to be a real woman. Scratch that. I don't like the way every interview, with a famous woman, has to mention whether she has kids or not (and assume there's a secret heartbreak if she hasn't). But the key thing is CHOICE.
We have tired, infallible bodies and they do what they will.
I had my daughter when I was forty. And I constantly wish that I'd started a family earlier. Sometimes my daughter asks me to 'make that funny noise Mummy'. She is referring to my knees. They creak. This makes me feel crap. Okay I'm fairly competent (making it up as I go along as most parents these days) but I definitely have less physical stamina. But if I was a young woman reading all these stories about old women having children- what would I think? Would I think it's okay to put it off? Would I think that reproductive science would sort it all out? Maybe.
The truth is it's hard to get pregnant when you're forty. It's hard to stay pregnant as well. To date, I've had three miscarriages. That's not particularly unusual for a woman my age. Sometimes your eggs don't want to play ball. They've been waiting for you to get your act together and now you're FORTY and slightly interested in the concept of children!? I know Rod Stewart is fathering children and he's a hundred. I get it. But we women have the reproductive organs the sweet Goddess of fertility gave us. They weren't designed to keep working ad infinitum.
But forty isn't old anyway! I wear a denim jumpsuit from Zara and go to spin classes. I read Grazia and am planning to buy one of those M&S/Alexa Chung pie-crust shirts when they go on sale! I don't like to be a party pooper lady but your body is OLD. Those eggs are settling in for a big, long snooze (I'm not fully versed in the proper biological terminology but they're not the same as a twenty year olds okay?) When I think of my eggs I see them creeping around with walking sticks. They're watching Morse and drinking Salad cream through a plastic straw. They're prone to long naps and like nothing better than shoving their swollen feet into one those giant, electric blanket socks. Do you think I'll have another child at my age? Is it likely? What do you think!?
This may sound unsavoury and deeply unfashionable in a culture that prioritises staying green, clean and bouncy but it's true. The body gets old, it breaks down and eventually dies. No amount of Zumba can stop the clock.
So young women of the world- am I trying to send you into a wild panic? No. There's really little point in having a child with someone you hate/don't know just to get it out the way. I know there are a myriad of things that need to be considered. My only piece of advice is to THINK about it and don't just file it away till you're forty. Having kids in your forties is NOT the new normal. Those celebrities are getting hormone injections and taking steroids. They're having endless medical procedures and then paying someone else to do it for them. It's not pleasant. Don't rely on science. Forty is ACTUALLY OLD.
Much of what happens to us is out of our control.
Life is beautiful, sad and maddening.