So what’s it really like to have a baby in your forties – and do you ever really get used to being called a ‘geriatric mum’? SL spoke to Mandy Bond, who gave birth to her son Taylor at 41, to discover the ups and downs of parenthood as an older mother.
Having a baby in my forties wasn’t necessarily my choice… If everything worked out as it was meant to, my husband and I would have been parents in my mid-thirties. But I had a lot of fertility treatment, and a flare up due to my Crohn’s disease meant I had to have bowel surgery, so it was a culmination of events that lead to me being 41 when my son Taylor was born.
My husband and I had a cut-off point… We’d completed six rounds of IVF treatment and this was our final go. We had our first round when I was 39, and I was likely going to be pushing 40 if we were lucky enough for it to work. We’d already decided that we’d need to draw the line somewhere. The clinic we used was very realistic with the chances of success and we thought it probably wasn’t going to work, so when we found out our final go was successful we were over the moon. At the time I didn’t think to myself, “Damn, you’re going to be 41 by the time he’s born”.
My age didn’t really sink in until I went to antenatal classes… My husband, who’s nine years older than me, felt it more than I did. We attended NHS antenatal classes, and I would say out of the 20 people in the class, most of them were in their mid-twenties. I tried not to let it worry me, but it was a bit of an eye opener. I began thinking, “Am I going to be able to manage? Is it going to be too difficult?” But then I spoke to my friends who were a bit older, and they reassured me everything was going to be fine.
Thinking about my age can be hard sometimes… My husband has two grown-up children, and that was probably at the forefront of his mind – he knows it’s hard to have children no matter what age you are. I’d never had children before, so I couldn’t even imagine how hard it would be. But the reality does sink in. When Taylor was born I thought, “Oh God, what if something happened to us? Who would look after him?” We, of course, do have provisions in place should something terrible happen. It’s always going to be on your mind; we’re always working out how old we’re going to be by the time Taylor goes to university. We do have those conversations, but it’s not worth worrying about.
I had five rounds of IVF before it worked… All in all, I had my six rounds of IVF over the space of two years. Because of my age we had to cram it in – we didn’t have time to wait six months between cycles. Friends of mine have been through one cycle and said it was just too stressful, but I was so determined and desperate to have a child that I didn’t notice it was affecting me. I had two rounds of IVF locally at an NHS hospital. It was standard – it wasn’t tailored to my medical history, it just is what it is. Then we went to a clinic in London and it was the most intense process. I needed to live in London for two weeks and I had to go in for blood tests twice a day. It was like a factory; there were just scores of women. It was awful, and cost so much money. Two rounds of that were unsuccessful, and then someone showed me an article about Create Fertility, who were offering a more natural IVF. It was kinder on the body, and was tailored towards older women, too. They were honest about my age and medical history, and the doctor told me, “You probably want to draw the line, I’m not going to keep taking your money,” whereas the other place was more than happy to. We’d given ourselves two goes at every other clinic, so we thought we’d try one last time.
IVF was both physically and mentally draining... Every time a round doesn’t work, you’re grieving. I started to think, “Well, I’m 40 now, maybe I’m just not meant to be a mum.” And that’s a really hard thing to try and come to terms with. It was a stress on our relationship, too – every round of failed IVF we were both devastated, but I’d think, “Well, you can’t be as devastated as I am,” because my husband already had children of his own. It was a really tough couple of years, but I think we’re both pretty strong to have gone through that and come out the other side.
The worry doesn’t stop once IVF ends… Create signed me off at eight weeks and I started my appointments with an NHS midwife. With the age I was, I was classed as a ‘geriatric mum’ (anything over 35 is classed as such), so they did keep an extra eye on me. Plus, with my Crohn’s, I’d had two lots of surgery in the past, so that was always a worry irrespective of my age. I had some bleeding halfway through and then I got sick, so had to go into hospital at 28 weeks in case the baby came early. They were trying to slow things down and pumped me full of steroids to make sure his lungs were developed; it was just so stressful. They were worried about me because I was older – it can be common for women to go into premature labour, and Taylor was premature in the end, born at 36 weeks.
I ended up having an emergency caesarean… Once I knew I was in labour and it was more than a viable pregnancy, I just wanted him to come out. We’d been through all this stress, and I just wanted him here with me. I went through 14 hours of labour but didn’t fully dilate, so they just had to get him out. Speaking to my younger mum friends, some of them had babies that just flew out, while others had C-sections, like me. So was mine because I was older? I’m not sure, but it felt like it at the time.
Taylor ended up being a perfectly healthy baby… He was born 6 pounds, 6 ounces. I have friends whose children were full-term and lighter than that. We did spend a week in hospital because he had jaundice, but that’s quite common in babies born early. There had also been some complications with my C-section due to my earlier bowel operations, so I had to stay in anyway. That was hard, though – I saw women coming and going with their babies the same day, and I was hobbling down to the neonatal intensive care unit to feed Taylor.
People still ask me about baby number two… I’m like, “You must be joking!” I’m 47 years old now, although some people say that’s still young. But having a baby in my fifties? That’s just too much hard work for me. We were lucky enough to have one, so we just count our blessings.
I don’t regret being an older mum… My husband and I have lived full lives. Because we’re older, we’re more established in our careers, and we feel like we have so much to offer Taylor in terms of experiences and things we can do as a family – we’ve just come back from a two-week holiday in the Maldives, and we’ve also taken Taylor to Disneyland Paris. And obviously he’s got older siblings, so that’s cool for him to say. He’s in year 1 at school now, and he’s six going on sixteen. Every stage at this age is just absolutely amazing.
Professor Geeta Nargund, Lead Consultant for Reproductive Medicine at St. George’s Hospital and Medical Director of Create Fertility says:
“Although we often see women in the media falling pregnant in their forties, the reality is that as a woman gets older, the quantity and quality of her eggs declines and often help is needed in order to conceive. The chance of a mother conceiving a healthy baby with her own eggs is significantly reduced, as women are born with a finite number of eggs and these are healthiest in a woman’s twenties and early thirties. If you are considering having a baby later in life, then taking a fertility test can be helpful in providing insight into what stage your fertility timeline is at, and how long you may realistically be able to wait if you want to naturally conceive.”
To find out more about Create, visit CreateFertility.co.uk
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