Wednesday 25 January 2012

Guest Post - 'The Notes Read High Risk'

Ellen Arnison writes a witty, evocative and popular blog, In a Bun Dance. She is a professional writer and author. Her book, Blogging for Happiness, was published last December.

Enjoy ....


My final pregnancy culminated in a C section not long after my 42nd birthday. And so I was an older mum too.

My first child was born in 1999 when I was 32, the second in 2002 at 34.

The subsequent years saw me on my own for a while before I met and married second husband - the Panther of News.

The PoN was lovely with my boys and I really didn't have a huge urge to have more kids... so we plodded on.

Then my dad died a couple of months after our wedding and we had a bit of a seize-the-day conversation after which I had my IUD removed. Then I forgot all about it.

It was almost ten months later before I started to feel a bit odd. OMG, as they say. I can cheerfully say I hadn't really thought it through.

All was well until I miscarried at 20 weeks. A post mortem showed that I had Protein S Deficiency - a blog clotting disorder. This probably had much more of an impact on how things were than being older.

Now it was impossible to forget about it and we, ahem, applied ourselves to the business of conception. I paid close attention to my cycles and learns that the field window of opportunity often comes earlier and earlier in the 28 days as you get older.

Three months later I was pregnant again and this time my notes said HIGH RISK all over them in red pen.

Bring pregnant was reasonably horrible. I was injecting myself daily with blood thinners, I had sore hips, a low placenta and an irritable uterus. Oh and the little chap stubbornly stuck in the sideways (transverse) position the whole way through. It was a very, very long gestation.

However, Boy Three was delivered healthily by C section - all 9lb 2oz of him.

I did have PND but I think that was much more to do with having such a tense and scary pregnancy coming quite quickly after a miscarriage.

I bottle fed the hungry little fellow from the off and he thrived like a thriving thing. Being older made me much more comfortable with that decision after struggling miserably to breastfeed the other two.

As an older mum I am definitely much more relaxed. The boy ends up in our bed quite a few nights a week but we don’t really worry about it. We don’t have routines and in a way the whole family is bringing him up.

In danger of sounding like Old Mother Time, I would say that parenting for 12 years so far has taught me that, within obvious limits, it doesn't really matter how you do the job of being a mum.

I've seen hippy go-with-the-flow babies, rigid Gina Ford tots and everything in between. By the time they hit the middle of primary school you can't tell the difference.

So in the words of my toddler "be lax mummy it'll be fine”.

Ellen Arnison On Twitter

Thursday 19 January 2012

Guest Post - 'Older Mother's – Or how to sell The Daily Mail'

Rachel Selby writes a beautifully eloquent and honest blog, Midlife Single Mum, about her IVF journey, life in Jerusalem as a single mum, and some really delicious regional vegetarian recipes.

Enjoy .....


There's a lot of folk wisdom surrounding the whole Older Mother phenomenon. My favourite example was an article in The Daily Mail whereby a first-time mum in her 40s gave all the reasons why it was actually better to have your children later in life – better educated, more mature, more settled, financially secure, more patient, done her thing and got it out of her system, etc….

A few years later the same woman, I can't even remember her name, managed to sell another article by doing an about face and admitting she got it all wrong. Now the mother of a lively young child she felt she didn't have the energy she once had, all her friends are starting to enjoy their second age of freedom while she is stuck at home, she has little in common with the mothers at the school gate, etc…

You've got to admire her cheek. She managed to make money out of first-hand experience on both sides of the argument.

My own experience seems to defy much of the folk wisdom on both sides. And of course being an older mother is never an isolated factor. In my case much of my experience is due to also being single and living in a different country to all my family. Other older mothers may have other older children, step children, health issues, older husbands, or ailing parents. The possibilities for a complicated lifestyle are endless. And they can apply to younger mothers just as well.

I didn't choose to have my first child at the age of 46, it just happened. I actually chose to have about six children fathered by an extremely wealthy husband and all in my 20s. Would that becoming a mother were as easy as shopping for furniture.

I am more educated as I got my MA in my late 30s. I am more mature but probably don't have the patience I once had for young children. I thought owning my own home would be more secure than renting – it is of course but you still have to make the mortgage payments every month and that's a worry. I was financially secure until I gave birth, then the hours available for work shrunk by about half. As for having done my thing, I did a lot of things but actually I always shortened my horizons in favour of hanging around for Mr Right who never showed up.

On the other hand, although I am old enough to be the mother of some of the other parents at the nursery school, I don't feel the generation gap and have made some terrific friends there. Most of them are actually only a few years younger than me, especially where the pre-schooler is their final child. I have fun with my daughter and am excited for her at every stage in her development, I imagine in the same way a young mother feels. We dance and romp, play in the park and build dens. We don't sit down to afternoon tea with scones followed by a game of gin-rummy (although I do intend to introduce her to card games as soon as she's old enough to count to 21).

My friends are indeed seeing their children grow up and flee the nest. They are once again able to go out (and stay out) without prior arrangement, go away for weekends and holidays. They have started reading again as they can stay in bed most of the weekend to do so. I am stuck at home because a) you can't go out too often as the little one needs the security of her mother, and b) I can't afford babysitters. I don't mind because a) I have to put in extra hours of work in the evenings anyway when she's asleep and b) I have discovered blogging and the virtual community that comes with it so I don't actually feel alone or cut-off completely.

Some of my friends are depressed at the prospect of moving on to the next stage of life whilst others embrace it with the anticipation of an adventure. Some of them envy me, some of them look at what I have ahead and say, "thank God we're done."

The best advice I ever got was from my doctor who told me not to think about the details of being an older mother too much. "One thing I can tell you," she said, "is that no one I know who has gone ahead with having a baby in untypical circumstances has ever regretted it so there's no point in scaring yourself out of it."

Motherhood is all I have ever wanted and I waited a long time for it. It wasn't cheap and it wasn't an easy journey. If I'd realised my dream earlier I wouldn't have the daughter I eventually brought home. Am I a different mother to the mother I would have been in my 20s? Probably. Am I a better or worse mother because of my age? Absolutely not.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Guest Post - 'Less Risky Second Time Around'

By My Gorgeous Boys.

She writes a lovely honest warm blog about life with her two sons and hard working husband. The way she writes makes you feel like you are having a catch up over a cuppa with a good friend.

Enjoy .....


I didn’t plan to become a mum late in life and don’t really feel like I am “old”! In my 20’s I was focused on my career (in IT) and generally having fun with friends. I loved going to see live bands, shopping on Saturdays, exotic travel, out for meals and going to the gym. I bought my first house when I was 27 after living in rented accommodation for several years as a student and spent the years after continuing to live like a student but with a salary! I did work hard at my career, gaining a 1st class honours degree and then a MSc in Management Consultancy which I did part time whilst concentrating on my career. I couldn't really imagine having children but I think perhaps it also is about you being in the right place and with the person that you would want to have children with.

I met Gary when I was 31 and we got married when I was 34. I got pregnant very easily (on our honeymoon!) with a due date three months after my 35th birthday. The pregnancy went really well with no complications and I planned a home birth. Throughout the pregnancy I went to aqua natal and yoga for pregnancy classes for relaxation. I was starting to lose motivation in my career at this time, although I did pass the PRINCE 2 project management qualification when 6 months pregnant. The home birth, however, wasn't meant to be and I ended up having an induction when I was 12 days overdue. I had gone into hospital to be monitored but they said the baby’s heart rate was dropping so he was quickly whisked out with forceps (ouch!). But we had a healthy baby boy weighing in at 6lbs and 7oz and he was just perfect. I wouldn’t say I fell madly in love with him on first sight although I did feel protective towards him I remember sitting in the labour suite wondering what on earth I was supposed to do with him. Mother Nature didn't come calling naturally!

I did find the early days of parenting very hard. I was sore from breastfeeding (had mastitis twice) due to incorrect attachment and I generally didn't feel very confident in my role as a new mum. I was also shattered, as most new parents are and, typically, he fed mostly at night and slept in the day. When he was asleep I used it as an opportunity to do things I wanted to do (rarely sleeping was on that list!) like catch up with emails and reading (mostly parenting books as I was convinced I would find answers in them!). I was finding the learning curve of motherhood very sharp and very hard work.

We started going to our local Sure Start centre playgroups and I met up with lots of other mums with babies the same age. Before children I hadn't involved myself in the community where I lived at all so it was really nice to chat to other mums who were going through the same thing. Most of mine and Gary’s family live quite a drive away (at least an hour or so) and Gary works long hours in the computer games industry, so without this support my friends became like extended family. We took our babes shopping, swimming, to playgroups, on walks and it was these relationships that kept me going in the early months.

I had my second child two years later at 37 years old, he was born at home weighing 8lbs 13 oz and I was in love with him as soon as I saw him. He fed and slept regularly and I never had any sort of “baby blues” with him at all (didn't have the time!).

Interestingly, I had the nuchal translucency scan at 12 weeks with both pregnancies as this is standard in Nottingham hospitals to be offered to mums over 35 years. I can’t remember what the odds were but the funny thing was they were much lower in my 2nd pregnancy that with my 1st (which is surprising given I was 2 years older and statistically the odds should have been higher!). I put this down to me being more relaxed with my 2nd pregnancy that I was with my 1st and also possibly healthier and more relaxed!

For various reasons I didn't return to my job after children. Because I am older I know how quickly time goes and at the moment I don’t want to work and miss out on them growing up. With children you don’t have the same lifestyle so we survive on one wage. I do really miss earning my own money and having that financial independence though. Being a full time mum is definitely not what I would have envisaged myself doing before becoming a parent. Although it is incredibly hard work, it is definitely the fun option!

I don’t know if being an older mum has made me a better parent than I would have been if I had had children earlier although having life experience must have some effect on my attitude. I am relaxed in some ways, co-sleeping with them both when they were young as I found it the easiest way to minimise sleep deprivation! On the other hand I know I did, and sometimes still do, set quite high standards of myself subsequently putting myself under pressure. At times that can be very exhausting and destined to failure. Having time at home has reignited my love of writing, which led to starting up my blog writing about things we are doing and what we are going through and I love reading other blogs. This has been great for getting my brain working again and gives me a sense of focus and, even, achievement that being a mum can’t. I guess it is just that it is good to do something for myself when you feel so enveloped in the world of small, gorgeous but quite full-on, children!

My Gorgeous Boys On Twitter
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Thursday 5 January 2012

Guest Post - 'Diamonds, Pearls and Babies'

Harriet Kelsall runs a highly acclaimed bespoke design jewellery company specialising in engagement rings.  Her business has won many awards including the 2011 UK Jewellery awards and Harriet has been named as the Everywoman Retail ‘Woman of the Year’.  She juggles this with 2 young children (Thomas is 6 and Eleanor is 2) and talks about her journey into mother hood.


When I set up my business at 27 I didn't really consider that I might want kids in the future; I was just busy trying to scratch a living.  But the business flourished and I was soon taking on premises, employing people and carving out a niche making affordable bespoke jewellery.

At around 32 I realised that if we wanted kids I needed to plan how to manage it. I was I was working super-long hours starting at 8am and finishing at 11pm 7 days a week. Running a business also meant maternity cover wasn't a viable option. The only solution was to try to come back to work about 2 weeks after childbirth.

I started trying when I was 34. I got pregnant the first time we tried but sadly lost the baby at 11 weeks. It was a bit traumatic because I didn't realise you had to go through a teeny-tiny mini labour if you miscarried so early.  I suddenly realised that I wasn't that young and blamed myself terribly thinking perhaps I was working too hard.

My dad reminded me that many women in the world work a lot physically harder than me whilst pregnant and also that my great-grandmother didn't started her family of 4 until she was 42.

When I was finally pregnant with Thomas, the tiredness that I experienced being older pregnant mum-to-be certainly redefined tiredness all over again!  I had a really long pre-labour and labour with Thomas who took about 3 days to arrive.  (Actually he still seems to take about that long to get dressed in the morning). I was 35 when he was born.

I was determined not to have an epidural as somebody I know was very badly affected by one. So despite two nights without sleep Thomas was finally born on gas and air and a lot of will power!

I remember feeling completely amazed when they placed Thomas on my tummy.  Had that perfect tiny baby really grown inside me?  I couldn't sleep. When I got up onto the ward at 2am as I just couldn't stop looking at him in awe at his very existence.

The first 2 weeks were a bit of a blur.  I remember lots of tears and a strange lack of understanding between what was day and what was night.  I remember home visits from work colleagues calling with gemstones for me to price.  I struggled with breast feeding and ended up expressing for every feed at all hours.  It was just such a crazy time.

Then somehow I was back at work for three hours a day just two weeks after Thomas’ birth.  I remember worrying because the work was already really piling up and I couldn't bear to let anybody down.  But there was also no way I was going to compromise on the time I could spend with Thomas. I do think though that being an older mum helped me cope with this kind of extreme multi-tasking..

Thomas was really quite a challenge because he had what we thought was reflux (actually when he was 3 we discovered he was allergic to milk).  There wasn't much sleep to be had in our house for the first year of his life.

When I went along to my first toddler group, all of the other mums seemed so much younger than me.  I suddenly felt quite lonely as an ‘older mum’.  Many of my friends were at a different stage of their lives or I had left them behind in London when I moved away.  I wasn't sure I could relate to these younger mums as our lives were so different. However, I soon met a couple of mums of a more similar age to me at a different toddler group and we have since become good friends.

Sadly there followed quite a lot more miscarriages.  The specialist at the time said that it may well be happening because we are both a bit older (my husband is 6 years older than me).  But we had various tests and there was nothing specifically ‘wrong’.

That last miscarriage was quite upsetting for my husband. I had to be admitted to hospital and receive 4 units of blood and emergency surgery.  So we decided to give it one last try and if unsuccessful possibly consider adoption or Thomas would remain an only child.

Fortunately I found myself pregnant again and for longer than 12 weeks which was brilliant!

We had the usual scans but were told there was quite a high chance that the baby could have Downs Syndrome.  This was worrying and confusing because we didn't really know much about Downs.  I didn't want to have the invasive test because of the small chance it could lead to yet another miscarriage.  But we quickly learned a lot about Downs and decided that actually, if our baby this condition, then this would be OK and something that we felt we would be ready for.

When Eleanor was born she didn't have Downs.  But having come up so ‘close’ to facing a baby with Downs I feel I have a lot more understanding about it now. I view this syndrome very differently and more positively now.

By the time I had Eleanor at 38 I had worked hard to get the business functioning more independently from me. Consequently I managed to take 3 months off work with only e-mail/phone calls to attend to. This worked well especially as the business now 25 staff and a very good General Manager.

Now that Thomas is at school and Eleanor is 2, I am starting to feel a bit more human again and lots of my energy has returned.

It is impossible for me to look at my children and not remember that I am very lucky.

Harriet Kelsall On Twitter
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