79 weeks and 6 days | To a 40 something ‘new mum’…

I read an article the day before yesterday.

It was one of those sponsored link things on Facebook — ‘you might find this interesting’, kind of thing — and I did find it interesting. And immensely irritating.

It was a piece by Dr Pixie McKenna, for The Telegraph; the title being

I had my first baby at 40. Would I do it again? Don’t ask…‘.

Hmm.

In the first para it states that ‘older mums have it hardest of all’. What??

It goes on to say that ‘older’ mums can find it harder to adjust; it changes the dynamic of your life and ‘it’s only when the bump becomes a baby that the hard slog begins’.

I found this article infuriating.

None of the points raised really had anything to do with age.

Surely every woman — regardless of age — finds the arrival of their first born a massive culture shock? Nobody’s born with an inherent ability to morph into an Earth Mother as soon as they’ve popped out a baby! Motherhood is a steep learning curve — admittedly some women take to it like ducks to water whilst some struggle — and ultimately it will change the dynamic of your ‘old’ life. These are not age related issues at all — they’re just standard issues faced by every new mother. Regardless of whether she’s 20 or 40.

I bloody hate these satirical articles. Especially when it comes to child-rearing. Often they’re written in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way but in this instance — although the piece was laced with black humour — it is pretty obvious that Dr McKenna didn’t enjoy her introduction to motherhood half as much as I did.

She says ‘Thinking you can jostle a baby, a job and still enjoy a social life is to be seriously misinformed.’

Pah. Speak for yourself Pixie. I run my own business; I had 6 weeks off when the twins were born but have been juggling motherhood and work ever since. Admittedly, I work from home, but I work — and work very hard — nonetheless.

And as for still enjoying a social life…?

The arrival of The Twinkles hasn’t impeded our social life one iota. We — and all our friends — have an incredibly hectic, colourful social life and, to be honest, having the babies has only added to this. Granted, you have to plan in advance a little more and impromptu get togethers just need a little creative thought to make them viable — especially when baby sitters are few and far between — but it is possible.

She goes on to say…

‘You evolve from being the ‘girl about town’ to the ‘girl in the dressing gown’. Even the midwife sometimes looks at you a condescendingly, presumably thinking you’re a ‘selfish career woman’ who put the big lights and late nights first – before considering a family.’

Really? These thoughts may have been going on in your head but not in mine.

A neighbour came round shortly after the Twinkles were born and was incredulous that I’d got make-up on.

‘Jeesh’ — she said — ‘I didn’t manage to get out of my dressing gown for the first 6 months, let alone bother with any slap…’

She was in her early 30’s when she had her baby so, again, this isn’t an age thing. It’s a state of mind.

Personally, I don’t feel human some days unless I have a bit of lippy on plus when the babies arrived I wanted to do anything to make things feel vaguely ‘normal’. Putting a bit of make-up on and getting dressed each morning was incredibly empowering. I could face whatever life threw at me because I was feeling prepared. Plus, I associate staying in my nightclothes all day with being ill. No wonder people feel out of sorts if they choose to loll around in their PJs when their new additions first arrive.

And I never — for a second — felt as though the midwife was ‘looking at me condescendingly’. If anything, the opposite. She said on a couple of occasions that she was in awe of how I was handing everything. And I’m not blowing my own trumpet but I had two babies to deal with Dr McKenna, not just the one.

The article goes on and on… some of the points made me smile but most I couldn’t relate to at all.

I have LOVED my experiences of motherhood. My lovely boy is one of the reasons why I have had an easier ride than some; when you have a partner who takes the lion’s share of the early shifts, it’s easier to start the day in a good frame of mind.

But why shouldn’t he? He is their father, after all, and the childcare should be shared. Where does it say that it’s the sole responsibility of the mother to do the night shift/early feeds?? If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, fair enough, but we weren’t.

I guess everyone’s experiences are slightly different.

It’s not often I feel like writing a response to something I’ve read but the points in this article really resonated with me. And not in a good way.

I felt that it was really negative — and ‘ageist’ — and for any pregnant forty-something woman reading it, she would have been scared witless about what’s to come.

Well, to that woman, I say ‘don’t worry’.

Some things about being a new mum are going to be incredibly hard — and tiring — but others will be so much easier than you anticipated. Just take each day as it comes. Put the baby down for a nap in the morning, go and have a shower then put some lippy on. AND GET DRESSED. You’ll feel so much better for it :)

None of the points in that article are anything to do with being an ‘old mum’, they are everything to do with being a ‘new mum’.

Regardless of your age.

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10 thoughts on “79 weeks and 6 days | To a 40 something ‘new mum’…

  1. I know the type of article you mean, and its the sort that is only funny if you can relate. You are in a very fortunate position to NOT relate, I have say! Ok, i got dressed and got out and about as much as poss, but having a baby hit me like a bulldozer as my first had colic (undiagnosed by health professionals for 4 weeks) and hardly slept during the day. There’s no way I could have worked. I did return after 7 mths, but stopped when pregnant with my 2nd as i couldn’t do both jobs without stress to me and my eldest (my OH was starting his own business, so that’s another reason….) All our stories are different, that’s the point. And yes, becoming a mum is a huge adjustment no matter your age, we all have to learn on the job. But I do have to disagree with you a bit about the age thing. All my friends who had their first 5-10 yrs younger than me (i was 33) say they had so much more energy than later, that their bodies adapted quicker etc. And it is documented that our bodies find it harder to adapt to less sleep at 40 than 25. That said, the issue could well be more about fitness levels. I wasn’t as fit as i could have been as I had SPD and couldn’t take much exercise in my pregnancy, and i know someone who had a third aged 40 who’s super fit and was totally fine, like you!

    • Thanks so much for reading Siobhan — and for your reply! :)

      As I said in my post, ‘I guess everyone’s experiences are slightly different’.

      This post was as a direct response to the one I recently read: ‘I had my first baby at 40. Would I do it again? Don’t ask…’ – Telegraph http://ow.ly/BXuKp

      and especially to the line: ‘older mums (whatever that means) have it hardest of all…’.

      My feeling is, regardless of age, women can experience difficulties when their newborns arrive or — like me — have a relatively easy time. I don’t think that ‘older mums’ necessarily have it ‘hardest of all’.

      As a pregnant forty year old woman, I spent a lot of time scouring the internet, looking for pearls of wisdom and advice from other 40-somethings, who had been in the same position as me.

      The Telegraph article would have filled me with dread!! To read an article by a GP — and a prominent media doctor at that — of that nature, would have been incredibly disconcerting. And negative. Especially at such an impressionable, emotional time.

      I was trying to redress the balance a little bit; particularly for that forty year old pregnant woman who is looking for a little bit of encouragement.

      I know that I am fortunate not to be able to relate to Dr McKenna’s article and thank my lucky stars every day. My boy and I waited for more than seven, long years to meet our babies. We went through much heartache and upset to get to the point we’re at now. So potentially, my positive frame of mind is a direct result of that. For whatever difficulties or upset came after their arrival, not having them would be a million times worse.

      And thankfully, you’ve totally corroborated my point that it isn’t necessarily ‘new mums in their 40’s’ who have a hard time when their newborns arrive. You mentioned that you were thirty-three when you had your first. A whole seven years younger than Dr Pixie and myself. Again, just illustrating that we’re all different.

      A blanket statement, that women over forty have a tougher time than younger mums is just a bit misleading. Fitness levels, state of mind, circumstances — plus a whole spectrum of other things — have an impact on our experiences. Not just age.

      Caro xx

      • Oh my word – I hadn’t noticed that article was written by a medical doctor! That is shocking. And yes, you’re right, totally discouraging to older mums and way too much of a blanket statement. Agreed absolutely. Loads of younger mums have a tough time, and older ones like you don’t (which i think is wonderfully, by the way). PS I totally forgot to say how well written your post was. Loved the passion behind it too. x

      • Thank you – that’s really kind of you to say!! 😃

        I have never been fired up enough to write in response to someone else’s article before. It’s such an emotive subject though… and one really close to my heart. Becoming a new mum is hard enough, without being scared half to death by a satirically comedic doctor, before your baby even arrives.

        Dr McKenna’s article will be pretty uncomfortable reading for any pregnant 40 year old woman. I hope that my response to her article redresses the balance a little bit xx

  2. It’s so refreshing to read about someone like yourself…who just gets on with life! I too have twins, and yes, it’s hard VERY HARD! But I love the chaos – I wouldn’t want anything else! And I agree about the ‘older issue’ – it isn’t actually an issue at all. I know so many friends who are post 40+ have had a baby and are no different to anyone else. I love your attitude and am glad you’re enjoying all those moments with your GORGEOUS twins x x

    • Thanks lovely ☺️ I love the chaos too!!! Life is so precious – there’s no point complaining about the difficult times – better just to put a positive spin on it and get on with things! You and I are lucky girls – twins are such a blessing!! 😄

  3. I truly appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thanks again!

    • Thanks gorgeous — I have never felt the need to write an open letter to someone before but I felt incensed when I read the original article. I feel so sorry for any older mum who happened to stumble across it whilst pregnant!! That’s the last thing you want to be reading — especially when it’s been penned by an established GP, in the media. You want to feel hopeful for your future — not terrified!! XX

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