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Monday, 10 October 2011

'Selfish' Older Mothers- really?

A West Australian doctor has recently slammed women over 37 for having babies.  He says these 'geriatric mothers' are selfish for burdening their offspring later in life by having the responsibility for looking after old parents just when they should be establishing their own lives.  This opinion has really sparked debate here in Australia especially as statistics say that approx 21% of all births here are to women over 37 (The Sun-Herald). www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/lateage-p

Personally, I had my children late, at ages 34, 35 and 39. I thought I was a late bloomer but when I discovered Facebook a year or so ago and got in touch with friends from school, many of them had only recently started families also. In fact, I have only a handful of friends who had children in their 20's like my parents did. My parents were just 23 when I was born, so how did so much change in a generation?  Looking at the lives of my friends and cousins, some worked overseas, studied, had several career changes. We seemed to be a generation enjoying ourselves and not in a great hurry to settle down.

For me, I didn't meet my husband until I was 30 and was 32 when we got serious.  We planned our first pregnancies.  We lost our first (and a fallopian tube!) to an ectopic pregnancy, and then fortunately had 2 children in under 2 years. Unexpectedly, Charlie came along 3 years later.  I was 39 when Charlie was born and it was a rough pregnancy. He was in fact a twin, but his sibling died at around 9 weeks gestation. Whilst struggling to come to terms with our loss we then found out Charlie was affected by Spina Bifida and hydrocephalus. Having conceived twins was due to my age (there are no twins in my family), however, spina bifida is not directly linked to the age of the mother. Late in Charlie's pregnancy I developed gestational diabetes and ended up on insulin 4 times a day and a very strict diet and exercise. It was a blessing when Charlie decided to arrive at 35 weeks. Although he was a little premature, he weighed in at over 3kg and, other than his obvious disability, he was robust and healthy.

Having a baby over 37 was very stressful for my body, but it was an exceptionally busy and extraordinary time in our lives that contributed to a difficult pregnancy. For instance, my husband changed careers, we moved to a new district and had to re-establish ourselves. We moved into a new house in Christmas week when I was 6 months pregnant. With the diagnoses of spina bifida the pregnancy became High-Risk and I then had to travel to a very large hospital an hour-and-a-half away to be seen at a special clinic to see a doctor I did not like or have confidence in. My eldest son then started Kindergarten which was also a big deal. I dont want to turn anyone off having a baby just because of age- because noone else will share the circumstances I had to endure during that pregnancy.

Was I selfish to have a child at 39? Although Charlie's conception had not been planned like his sibling's were, I was thrilled to be pregnant with him and everyday I miss his little twin. But it has been a consideration for my husband and I and we were always aware that we are significantly older parents to our brood, particularly to Charlie. We feel we are leaving our older children who are fully functioning the responsibility of caring for their younger brother who has a significant disability and will require medical attention for his entire life as well as the inability to walk unaided. But...
And it's a big BUT...
Would we have it any other way? No way. And will my older children feel burdened by their little brother - who knows? My husband and I plan to be very practical as we approach older age and to take responsibility for ourselves and how bring our children up. And if genetics are an indicator, my Grandmother is nearly 93, and my husband's Grandpa is 95, so who knows we may live to see Charlie turn 50!! So there Dr Walters!!

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