Family & Education

I was a geriatric mum …now I’m looking back

Cari Rosen's JC column more than a decade ago turned into a book - and now it's been updated


According to the midwife I am a geriatric mother … When I first started writing my column for the JC more than 10 years ago I realised that by outing myself as a ‘midlife’ mum, I was laying myself bare to the judgments, preconceptions and prejudices that surround older motherhood.

But at least I had a chance to tell it as it really is, which was no bad thing; I was sick of reading tabloid headlines screaming that every woman who left it till their late 30s and beyond was “selfish” or “career-obsessed”. It was circumstance that led me to motherhood rather later than intended, and my research showed that it was similar for others in the same boat, the Good Ship Stretchmark.

So I felt it was important to set the record straight — especially given the fact that tens of thousands of women over the age of 40 give birth in the UK every year.

Of course, there is older motherhood and really much, much older motherhood. The former finds late 30/early 40 somethings — such as myself — eliciting the odd raised eyebrow, but not deviating too far from what nature intended (indeed if nature had not intended my stomach to be swollen with child, placenta and rather too many bags of bisli, surely my womb would not have been coerced into cooperation with quite so much ease?)

And the latter? Well a pensioner aiming for pregnancy will require an entire truckload of medical, even divine intervention. That’s not to say I have anything against assisted conception but the whole senior citizen thing? Not for me.

“I agree it’s a little distasteful,” said a shul-going friend as we discussed the latest documentary on procreating pensioners, ‘but what people seem to forget is that it’s been happening since time began. If God is OK with it, who are we to judge?”

A quick flick through Bereshit and it seemed she was right. “And Abraham fell upon his face and laughed and said in his heart ‘shall a child be born unto him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah that is 90 years old bear?’ And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.”

I felt greatly cheered that Sarah made it through all that begetting business when she was more than double my age. Though how she coped with schlepping the baby afterwards I wasn’t entirely sure.

When my daughter was born I was lucky to have many friends who were also older mums, but most of my new ‘baby’ friends were younger — much younger — than me.

While I got direct mail about calcium supplements and bone density scans, they got offers of clubbing holidays in Ibiza. My new friends knew nothing of Jimmy Osmond and his long-haired lover from Liverpool. They had never eaten Spangles or bought a record (as one of them asked me, “is it really true that they play on both sides?’)

But take away the cultural disparities, a fine set of bingo wings and a stone or two and were we really so very different? On a day-to-day basis our lives were very much the same. We got thrown up on (and worse) on a regular basis. We coped with everything from nappy rash to nursery angst. Did I get tired? Yes. But show me any working mum of an active toddler and I can promise that she would sell her soul for a couple of hours’ kip.

When I wrote a book about all this a decade ago I was delighted by the feedback it received. There was the time that I found myself at number 2 on Amazon’s books-humour-doctors-and-medicine bestseller list (although given that the book at number 3 was entitled “A Little Fart” I figured I shouldn’t let it go to my head)

My daughter’s reaction, however, was more sanguine; as she said to a visitor — remember those? — at the time, ‘Look, this is mummy’s book. She wrote it about me … It’s very boring.’

Now my book is out in the world once again, updated from those early years to look at what happened next. Puberty meets peri-menopause meets pandemic is a heady mix — but our darling girl continues to bring us more joy than I could ever have imagined.

The Secret Diary of a New Mum (aged 43 1/4) is published by Duckworth

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